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TBR News May 20,2016

May 20 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 20, 2016: “Now that the remains of the Egyptian commercial airliner have been found, trust it that the lunatic bloggers will rush to their computers and invent legions of stupid conspiracy stories to amaze the few and entertain the many. I note that whenever a disaster happens, the bloggers always have a story they made up while on the toilet and publish it with glee. And their readers are stupider than they are and there are many of them, enough to fill the entire state of California. In point of fact, the entire population of California is strange or latino-surnamed-mestizos. It is truly a land of Fruits and Nuts.”



The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

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

His name was Heinrich Müller.

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 15 November 1949

This has been a very busy few days so I will catch up here.

There is to be a large exhibit at the National Gallery here of art “on loan” from the museum in Vienna. Truman went to a special showing several days ago and I made the effort to be there when he went through.


This exhibit, which was very well attended, ran from November 20, 1949 through

January 22, 1950.

Of course he knows who I am and I was able to get the necessary clearances to be in the building when he was there. I managed to get just ahead of the party and then turned and greeted him. He recognized me and I will try to put down what happened because I feel it will be very important.

We were standing by the “Artist in His Studio” by Vermeer and I leaned across and told him that I would like to pass on some very private and serious information to him. He looked at me in some surprise and then motioned his people to give us a few moments.

I said, “I shouldn’t bother you at all but this is so important.”

Making sure that no one could hear me, I at once told him about the meeting with Dulles and Wisner and what was said. He looked very intently at me and kept nodding for me to go on. I then told him that this gang had put a listening device onto his telephone at which point he really made a bad face and glared at me. “You are not joking with me, are you?” I told him I was not and then I went on with the gist of the meeting. Very quickly and with a low voice.

He said to me, “I do not trust those sons-of-bitches at all.” and he was very angry but tried not to show it. Then he said, “I do not like either of the Dulles brothers. It’s too bad this one wasn’t in his house when it burned down.” I knew nothing of this, I must confess, and I wondered if the President wanted Dulles dead but that was neither the time nor the place for that. Later, perhaps. Of course if one were to shoot Dulles, one would need armor-piercing bullets because his skull is so thick.


Allen Dulles’ home on Long Island burned down on Monday, November 7, 1948. It was never officially determined how the fire started but threats were also made against his brother, John who lived at Cold Springs Harbor on Long Island. Both of the brothers were put under guard.


I saw his people were interested in what was going on so I leaned over again, pointed to the picture and asked him to laugh. He looked at me for a minute and then did just that. So much for throwing the others off the track.

“I am inclined to believe what you say but what is to be done about it? I can have Hoover’s people check on it but then he would know and I don’t want that. I do not trust that man at all.”

The directors were becoming concerned at the President’s intense interest in the Vermeer and I could see one of the officious swine just twitching to get his nose into the conversation. “Well,” I said, “I do have a man whom you were kind enough to allow to come over here to help me. He is one of the best and I could have him check on this. After all, I am under your command, sir, and he is under mine. There will be no problems.” Then someone said, “Mr. President…” and I finished quickly.

“Let me think about that” he said, now smiling to everyone and obvious (to me at least) that he didn’t mean it at all.

As people began to come up I said, very friendly, to him, “You must come to my home for dinner one of these days. I have a first class chef and I will have some excellent piano music especially for you. And we can talk on this.”

“Yes,” he said, “I might find that interesting. After Thanksgiving, I will be on vacation at Key West. Perhaps we might get together there. We can do that then and I would enjoy paying you a visit later. And thank you for your comments on the painting.” He then shook my hand very warmly while looking me directly in the eye. “Thank you for your concern and your interesting lecture.”

And off he went, trailed by guards and others, some of whom kept looking back at me. I did enjoy the rest of the preview and decided that I have made a good step.

Saturday, 19 November 1949

Hiss is being tried again in New York. I am certain that this time they will convict him but one is never certain with the American jury system.

(Judge Harold R., ed.) Medina let all of the convicted criminals out of jail on bonds. These idiots have no idea at all what they are doing. The American Attorney General (J. Howard McGrath, ed.) has expressed some doubts about the legality of the convictions. There is some question about whether the American right to free speech is not in question.

Cannot these morons think about such issues before they commence to try the communists? Now (Judge, ed.) Medina is going to put off sentencing the communist lawyers. Whatever for? Are their friends inside the government going to get them off the charges? The Roosevelt people are still alive and have enough power to do things like this. I think that one ought to identify them, arrest and charge them if possible and make such terrible examples out of them that the other rats will think twice before putting up their heads.

I must say, all of the public protests about the hunt after authentic Soviet agents have only given us more names to work on. I suppose these loud assholes have been taking to the streets with their signs for years now and do not realize that the wind is blowing in the other direction.

We need more courts and I certainly could use a bigger staff but I neither can ask for one nor would I take any Americans because they have no idea at all about communists or how they infiltrate and burrow.

I will have to set up a meeting with Hoover about the British very soon now.

Tomorrow, I am off to Mass early and then I will be going back to the National Gallery for a preview showing of the Vienna collection. I have already seen it but I am invited and must go.

Irmgard has given up her pursuit of the gardener because I told the firm I have hired to take care of the outside of the house to replace him with someone else. She was very depressed for several days, having peeked at him working in the shrubbery, stripped to the waist. She no doubt imagined his sweaty body bouncing up and down on top of her down in the cool and damp cellar. Such fantasies!

Now, she is being nice to Heini again, which is far safer than having pillow conversations with a stupid Portuguese gardener.

Monday, 21 November 1949

Next Sunday, the President will be traveling down to Key West, Florida for a vacation and I will go down the next day, spending the night in Miami and then driving south out into the ocean along an elevated highway. I have a week to prepare my presentations and am compiling a paper on the activities of Messers Dulles and Wisner.

Truman will be there for three weeks and I expect to have the good part of one day talking to him. At least it will give me a chance to see the tropical world I was once promised by Kronthal.

I had a visitor after Mass who delivered some material and whom I invited to stay for a little luncheon.

General conversations:

He told me about a colonel who sued Truman to get a promotion. Am told the officer ran an American prison camp in England during the war where soldiers were badly tortured and beaten by the guards. This at the orders of the camp commandant. Some soldier who saw all this reported it to the press and a great deal of trouble was caused. There were court-martials of a number of men but the Army saw to it that nothing happened to the professional officers.

Finally, Truman had to intervene to get some rudimentary justice performed. The officer was a lieutenant colonel and last year, he was to be promoted to a full colonel but Truman saw his name and denied the promotion.

This was tried again and again; Truman used his pen on the name. Then the officer had the lack of character or shame to sue the President, demanding to be promoted. This was quickly sat on.

Interesting to compare this with our own army. Firstly, it was forbidden to beat soldiers and torture had been banned by the Old Fritz (Frederick the Great, 1740-1786, King of Prussia, ed.) nearly two hundred years before. In the second place, an officer who ordered or knowingly permitted such things to go on in the barracks would be sent to prison himself, or during the war, demoted to private and sent to the front in a penal battalion.

The concept of a disgraced and court-martialed officer suing the Commander in Chief of the Army to force him to promote the officer is simply not to be believed.


The officer in question was Lt. Colonel James A. Kilian who had been commanding officer of the U.S. 10th Replacement Depot, located at Lichfield, Staffordshire in England. This was a camp that processed replacement American troops and also housed a number of military prisoners. During its existence, over 6,000 prisoners had been processed.

Lt. Colonel Kilian instituted a brutal policy of physical harassment of these prisoners that eventually became a matter of public notice. Men were beaten, often in the same areas they had been previously wounded and a number were severely injured. When this was reported by a military witness, the Army attempted to punish the witness but eventually an investigation was launched. The investigation disclosed an ongoing, officially sanctioned pattern of sadistic brutality, but in the end, the officers convicted received small fines and no imprisonment while soldiers who filed complaints were severely treated while waiting to testify.

Kilian, who was an aggressive and very angry man (he once threatened to assault one of the court-martial officers in open court), was convicted of the charges of permitting his guards to assault prisoners and to initiate punishments specifically prohibited by U.S. Army regulations. He was fined $500 and officially reprimanded.

Before this happened, the obviously rigged court hearings were the subject of a very angry letter from President Truman which resulted in the removal of one of the judges who was a long-time personal friend of Kilian as well as a cessation of the harassment of the putative witnesses in the case.

In April of 1947, Kilian sought a promotion to Colonel and Truman promptly removed his name from the promotion list. True to form, Kilian immediately attempted to sue Truman to force him to grant the promotion. The case was dismissed in Federal Court by a judge who ruled that Kilian had no jurisdiction over the Commander in Chief.

Following his defeat in court, Kilian tried to submit his name again two weeks later, but again Truman struck his name from the list.

The revelations to the American public of this case forced Congress to drastically modify and improve the conditions under which soldiers could be court-martialed and almost all of the over 100,000 soldiers who had been subjected to court-martial during the war had their sentences significantly modified.

A furious Kilian finally resigned from the Army in 1951 and died in 1958.




Egypt finds belongings, debris from plane crash at sea

May 20, 2016

by Ahmed Aboulenein


Cairo-The Egyptian navy said on Friday it had found the personal belongings of passengers and other debris floating in the Mediterranean, confirmation that an EgyptAir jet had plunged into the sea with 66 people on board.

The military said it had found the debris about 290 km (180 miles) north of the port city of Alexandria and was searching for the plane’s black box flight recorders.

Egypt’s President Adbel Fattah al-Sisi offered condolences for those on board, amounting to Cairo’s official acknowledgement of their deaths.

The defence minister of Greece, which has also been scouring the Mediterranean, said Egyptian authorities had found a body part, luggage and a seat in the sea just south of where the signal from the plane was lost early on Thursday.

Although suspicion pointed to Islamist militants who blew up another airliner over Egypt seven months ago, no group had claimed responsibility more than 24 hours after the disappearance of flight MS804, an Airbus A320 flying from Paris to Cairo.

Three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo early on Friday to help investigate the fate of the missing plane, airport sources said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Thursday that it was too early to rule out any explanation for the disaster. The country’s aviation minister said a terrorist attack was more likely than a technical failure.

Friday’s announcement that debris had been found followed earlier confusion about whether wreckage had been located. Greek searchers found some material on Thursday, but the airline later said this was not from its plane.

A European satellite spotted a 2 km-long oil slick in the Mediterranean, about 40 km southeast of the aircraft’s last position, the European Space Agency said.


While there was no official explanation of the cause of the crash, suspicion fell on the militants who have been fighting against Egypt’s government since Sisi toppled an elected Islamist leader in 2013. In October, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian jetliner that exploded after taking off from an Egyptian tourist resort. Russian investigators blamed a bomb smuggled on board.

Last year’s crash devastated Egypt’s tourist industry, one of the main sources of foreign exchange for a country of 80 million people, and another similar attack would crush hopes of it recovering.

While most governments were cautious about jumping to conclusions, U.S. Republican candidate for president Donald Trump tweeted swiftly after the plane’s disappearance: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant?”

Later in the day, his likely Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, also said it appeared to be an act of terrorism, although she said an investigation would have to determine the details.

Officials from a number of U.S. agencies told Reuters that a U.S. review of satellite imagery so far had not produced any signs of an explosion. They said the United States had not ruled out any possible causes for the crash, including mechanical failure, terrorism or a deliberate act by the pilot or crew.

Amid uncertainty about what brought down the plane, Los Angeles International Airport became the first major U.S. air transportation hub to say it was stepping up security measures.


The plane vanished just as it was exiting air space controlled by Greece for air space controlled by Egypt. Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the Airbus swerved radically and plunged from 37,000 feet to 15,000 before vanishing from Greek radar screens.

According to Greece’s civil aviation chief, calls from Greek air traffic controllers to MS804 went unanswered just before it left Greek airspace, and it disappeared from radar screens soon afterwards.


France has tightened Paris airport security since attacks

May 19, 2016


PARIS (AP) — French authorities have tightened security at Paris airports since last year’s attacks in the city with thousands of border police officers, custom personnel, soldiers and private guards patrolling daily in the three airports serving the French capital.

In addition to thousands of police, army and customs members, some 5,000 security guards working for private contractors are assigned to the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports, according to Paris Aeroport, the authority in charge.

These forces are responsible for ensuring security both in the airports’ public areas and in reserved areas, such as boarding areas, baggage sorting sections and tarmac areas where only passengers with boarding passes and airport staff with special red badges are allowed.

At the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, a few hours after learning a Paris-Cairo plane went missing approaching Egypt, Salama Kordeya, a 66-year-old business traveler, shrugged off questions about whether he was comfortable stepping on to the next EgyptAir flight to Cairo.

“Thousands of car accidents (happen every day) and we use cars,” he told journalists waiting outside departures. “I’m not afraid.”

Since the deadly attacks last year in Paris, several security-building measures have been put in place in the city’s airports.

In the terminals, the number of patrols has increased in public areas, video surveillance has been strengthened with 9,000 CCTV cameras overall, bags and coats have been subject to random checks at the entrances, police dog teams who can detect explosives are patrolling, and “profiling” agents trained to detect “unusual behaviors” have been recruited.

Earlier this month, Christophe Blondel-Deblangy, an official with the special State representative in charge of the security at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport, said a “specific intelligence cell” made up of some 30 police, army and custom officers, will be assigned to CDG airport on a daily basis, starting next month

In Charles-de-Gaulle airport alone — the second biggest in Europe and the ninth in the world for passenger traffic — some 86,000 of the 100,000 airport staff — baggage handlers, airline boarding staff, duty free shop employees, maintenance workers, restaurant staff, firefighters, rescue workers, air traffic controllers — carry “red badges” that provide access to restricted areas of the airports. These badges are given for three years by local authorities, not by the airports, after several police investigations.

Last December, after the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the head of the Paris Aeroport authority, Augustin de Romanet, said that nearly 70 red badges had been withdrawn “for the phenomenon of radicalization,” and 4,000 lockers of personnel were searched.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the U.S., all luggage going in the hold is controlled, particularly to detect explosives, with the help of more than 150 specialized machines, the authority said. The Paris airports have 250 checkpoints with X-ray screening to check all the passengers, luggage, airport staff, goods and vehicles entering the restricted areas.


Elaine Ganley in Paris and Raphael Satter in Roissy contributed to this report.


Russia proposes US-led coalition to strike Syrian terrorists with Moscow – def minister

May 20, 2016


Moscow suggests that the US-led coalition fighting against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria should fly joint missions with Russia in Syria, the defense minister said.

“Taking such a step would help the progress of the peace settlement in Syria. Of course such measures have been agreed with the Syrian Arab Republic. Yesterday we started negotiating these measures with our colleagues in Oman and Geneva,” Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told journalists, referring to a US center for peace negotiations based in the Jordanian capital and the city in Switzerland, where UN-backed peace negotiations are under way.

“We suggest to the US… starting on May 25, joint action of the Russian Air Forces and the US-led coalition forces to plan and conduct strikes against the Al-Nusra Front, which does not support the ceasefire, as well as against convoys of arms and fighters crossing the Syrian-Turkish border,” he said.He suggested that the US and Russia should redouble their efforts to have moderate rebel groups pulled out from territories controlled by the terrorists, so that those rebels wouldn’t face Russian airstrikes.

Shoigu warned that, starting from next Wednesday, Russia would feel free to use its warplanes to attack any group that failed to back the ceasefire.

“Starting May 25, we reserve the right to unilaterally conduct airstrikes against forces of the international terrorist organizations and militant groups who didn’t join the truce,” the Russian minister warned.

He said that conducting joint missions would help eliminate the risk of inadvertently targeting civilians.

The suggestion puts the US in a difficult situation from a legal and public relations standpoint. Washington for years has been treating Syrian President Bashar Assad as an illegitimate figure, rather than Syria’s head of state. The airstrikes it conducts in Syria are illegal because the US has neither a mandate from the UN Security Council nor an invitation from Damascus to use force in a sovereign nation’s territory.

Moscow, for its part, was called upon by the Syrian government to help its army fight against terrorist forces. Joint Russian-US missions would technically require legal permission from Damascus to Washington, and asking for one would be a great embarrassment for the Obama administration and a serious blow for the Democratic Party, which would be exposed to Republican criticism in an election year.

The US and Russia are jointly backing the peace negotiations in Geneva. A ceasefire declared in Syria is part of the process, but it is not observed by some militant groups in Syria, including the terrorist organizations Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. Attacks on government forces and rebel groups, which pledged to observe the truce, happen on regular basis in the country, and on some occasions provoke violent responses from those attacked.


Merle Haggard vs. Eliot Cohen

I know which side I’m on

May 20,2016

by Justin Raimondo


Poor Eliot Cohen: one of the principal architects of the Iraq war, and chief ideologue of Bushism in foreign policy – remember the “freedom agenda”? – he’s miffed that “This campaign shows that the foreign policy consensus that has framed this country’s work overseas since 1950 is in peril.” His ire is directed at Donald Trump, but he’s more than a little annoyed at the left-wing of the Democratic party, which is also showing signs of messing around with the Sacred Consensus. How dare these miscreants challenge a “consensus” that brought us a whole series of outright military defeats, from Vietnam to the Iraq war, and cost us tens of thousands of lost lives and an incalculable amount in dollars! Egghead “intellectuals” like Robert McNamara and Cohen know a lot more about foreign policy than the denizens of flyover country, such as one Merle Haggard, who advised us in one of his ditties:

Let’s get out of Iraq and get back

 on track

 And let’s rebuild America first.”

Of course, Haggard didn’t know that – as Cohen helpfully points out – he was invoking a “notorious movement” that “included not only traditional isolationists but also Nazi sympathizers.” It’s a good thing we have Cohen around to set us straight: otherwise we might all be turning into little Hitlers when we think we’re just opposing yet another chickenhawk-inspired war.

More seriously, Cohen’s vaunted “consensus” is an illusion. No one asked the American people if they wanted to be the world’s policeman. What Cohen means is that all the Serious People in the Washington Beltway, and the concrete canyons of New York City, agree that other peoples’ sons and daughters ought to be sent abroad to fight foreign wars in which America’s real interests are tenuous if not nonexistent. Outside of that circumscribed world, the “consensus” breaks down.

The politics of American foreign policy are governed by the tides of partisan warfare, the ebb and flow of the eternal struggle between “left” and “right.” Which means that, every decade or so, the political spectrum switches polarities: witness the transformation of the “isolationist” Old Right of the 1940s into the warmongering conservative movement of the cold war era. A similar case of role reversal occurred on the left in the 1990s, when the previously “antiwar” liberal wing of the Democratic party allied with the usual neoconservative suspects to bring us the US invasion of the Balkans – and it was conservative Republicans in Congress who threatened to withdraw funding from Bill Clinton’s conquest of Kosovo.

This news caught neocon grand strategist Bill Kristol vowing to walk out of the GOP if it succumbed to “isolationism”: for some reason, the end of the cold war did not possess most conservatives with the urge to “crush Serb skills,” as Kristol so memorably put it in the Weekly Standard.

9/11 derailed the developing anti-interventionist consensus on the right, no doubt about it, but the Republican ascendancy also played a role: with George W. Bush in the White House, and in the tender care of his neoconservative duennas, the stage was set for a solid decade of war.

Now that the partisan pendulum has swung the other way, however, and the Democrats control the foreign policy dashboard in the Oval Office, the anti-interventionist instinct encoded in the DNA of every authentic conservative is reasserting itself.

The seed was planted by Ron Paul and his movement, and is springing up in the oddest places. Remember when Kristol demanded that Michael Steele step down because the GOP chairman had dared call Afghanistan “Obama’s war”? None other than Ann Coulter replied:

“Republicans used to think seriously about deploying the military. President Eisenhower sent aid to South Vietnam, but said he could not “conceive of a greater tragedy” for America than getting heavily involved there. … But now I hear it is the official policy of the Republican Party to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest. What if Obama decides to invade England because he’s still ticked off about that Churchill bust? Can Michael Steele and I object to that? Or would that demoralize the troops?”

Okay, so Ann is a provocateur: it’s her nature. But what about Haley Barbour? A more solid pillar of the Republican establishment would be hard to imagine – so when he begins to voice doubts about our apparently perpetual occupation of Afghanistan, as he did way back in 2011, it was time to sit up and take notice: in answer to a reporter’s question about whether we need to downsize defense in general and our presence in Afghanistan in particular, Barbour said we should certainly consider it:  “What is our mission?” Barbour said. “How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission? I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy.”

Then came Obama’s Libyan adventure, when the reflexive interventionism of the right finally began to wear off, and a great many conservatives started coming to their senses, like drunks coming off a long  binge. Writing on Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Peace” web site, which was specifically created by the Internet media mogul to mock the peace movement during the Bush years, one Charles C. Johnson condemned the Libyan war as a war for oil – not for us, but for our French and British allies, who have duped us into starting a conflict that benefits us not at all:

“What does this have to do with America? Absolutely nothing. But don’t expect our government – or our media – to understand that. To defenders of our military adventurism that we have no national security or strategic interest is the very reason that we have to be involved.”

Ever since the first Gulf War, paleoconservatives defined themselves, in part, in terms of their opposition to our foreign policy of global intervention, particularly in the Middle East. The angular anti-interventionism of a Pat Buchanan, or Ron Paul, served to isolate them, at first, from the conservative mainstream – but now the tide has truly turned. This is why the Eliot Cohens of this world are beside themselves and he and his fellow neocons are readying themselves to migrate back to the Democratic party, where they started their ideological hegira so many years ago.

The Iraq debacle, the ten-year futile crusade in Afghanistan, and the Libyan disaster have discredited the neoconservatives and their dogma of perpetual war. We are back to where we were in the immediate post-cold war era: with conservatives reverting to their temperamental indifference to the fate of faraway peoples, and refocusing on the financial and spiritual crisis that threatens us on the home front.

To those of us who have been fighting this battle for years: it’s time to redouble our efforts. The interventionist consensus on the right has been broken, and conservatives are harkening back to their roots – to the Founders – for proper instruction in the foreign policy field as well as in matters domestic. As they used to say in the Sixties, it’s time to “seize the day” and take the fight to the enemy’s castle: this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.


Turkey to miss end-June deadline for EU visa-free travel: sources

May 19, 2016

by Gabriela Baczynska and Paul Taylor


Brussels-The European Union is set to miss an end-June deadline to grant visa-free travel to Turkey because of a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism law, barring an improbable sudden concession by President Tayyip Erdogan, EU officials and diplomats say.

The main reward for Ankara’s collaboration in choking off an influx of migrants into Europe may now come at the earliest in July but more likely not until the autumn, they say.

The 28-nation bloc is dependent on Ankara to enforce a deal, criticized by rights groups, that has sharply cut the number of refugees and migrants reaching Greece, giving EU leaders breathing space after more than a million arrived last year.

However, there is no sign for now of the deal falling apart.

Allowing Turks to visit Europe’s 26-nation Schengen area visa-free for up to three months is unpopular in many EU states, including France, where authorities fear it could be a gift to anti-immigration populist Marine Le Pen in elections next year.

Ankara has yet to meet five of the 72 requirements for visa liberalization, according to the executive European Commission, which proposed this month relaxing travel rules for Turks if Turkey fulfilled those benchmarks by the end of June.

But the European Parliament, which must approve the visa decision, has refused to start work on the proposal until Ankara meets the criteria in full. Parliament President Martin Schulz said he did not see that happening before the end of June.

“De facto a decision in June is not possible anymore,” said an EU source familiar with the negotiations. Lawmakers could still theoretically vote on the plan at their final plenary session on July 4-7, but more likely after the summer break.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who won the June target date as part of the wider migration deal in March, is being replaced after losing a power struggle with Erdogan, who has refused to amend anti-terror laws to meet the EU criteria.

Erdogan’s main priority is to change the constitution to secure extensive presidential rule and he has said October would also be acceptable for visa liberalization.

“An October scenario is possible, but also July. Let’s see how the Turks comply,” another EU source said.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to stop migrants leaving its shores and both sides have a vital interest in keeping the deal alive.


The EU says Turkey must narrow its definition of terrorist crimes, which leads to extensive application of the law against intellectuals, Kurdish sympathizers and critics of Erdogan, including dozens of journalists and academics.

Turkey has repeatedly declined to do so, saying the law is crucial to its fight with Kurdish and Islamic State militants.

The EU is now waiting to see what a new government will do on the outstanding criteria after a meeting of the ruling AK Party on Sunday picks a new prime minister, diplomats said.

“We’ve been through this before,” said another EU official with long experience of negotiating with Ankara. “It’s not the first time there has been quite provocative talk from the Turkish side, then we sat down and found a way forward.”

Sources in Brussels stress that the Commission’s report said Turkey should “better align” – rather than “fully align” – its counter-terrorism regulation with EU norms, including to bring in more proportionality in punishment for any violations. That offers room for compromise.

Keeping the migration accord on track is a key priority for several EU member states, especially the bloc’s biggest power, Germany, which took in most of the 1.3 million refugees and migrants who reached Europe last year.

The EU also promised revitalized EU accession talks and an initial 3 billion euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey in return for Ankara’s help on migration, and it has taken steps recently to speed up disbursement.

Turkey is only due to start issuing the advanced biometric passports required for visa-free travel in October. No Turks yet have the new generation of passports, EU officials say.

Given the European Parliament’s tough stance on human rights and public anxiety in several EU states about granting visa-free entry to a largely Muslim population of 79 million, the room for compromise is limited.

“We’ve got to get something that is more than a symbolic gesture from them on terrorism. The market will demand it,” the first EU source said.

(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Paul Taylor and Gareth Jones)


In Turkey, European travel hopes dissolve

Turkish nationals eager to travel to Europe untrammelled by wads of visa applications appear to have had their hopes dashed by a power struggle in the ruling party. Tom Stevenson reports from Istanbul.

May 20, 2016


When the European Council released its report on May 4 recommending the European Union institute visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his negotiating team were celebrating. So too were thousands of Turkish nationals who looked forward to easier business and leisure trips to Europe.

However the celebrations were shorter-lived than any expected. The following day, the long-running tension between Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to finally snap and Davutoglu announced his resignation that evening.

From then on, things moved fast. First, Erdogan pledged that Turkey would not reform its anti-terrorism laws in order to satisfy the stipulations of the European Council’s recommendation, effectively rejecting the key condition of the deal.

By May 10, the European Parliament had announced that it had stopped work on the visa deal completely. Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Volkan Bozkir, said he was “losing hope” of seeing a deal done at all – a sentiment shared on the streets of Istanbul.

“At this point I fear the visa deal won’t happen at all and I hope that it doesn’t happen as part of this deal with Europe over refugees. It should happen of course but not like this – we should never have arrived at the point of putting the refugees on the table, it’s inhuman,” said Berin Erdem, who works as a chemist.

“It’s all about pride for Erdogan. He is working for himself: he doesn’t care about visas, he only cares that no one has the power to cross him,” he told DW.

End of the road?

Davutoglu’s departure appeared to herald the end for the visa deal along with the prospects of freer travel to Europe for Turkey’s citizens, and a fresh wave of nationalist sentiment emanated from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The visa deal was originally conceived as part of a wider agreement between Turkey and the EU that allows Europe to deport migrants who have crossed the Aegean sea back to Turkey – the latter acting as a gatekeeper against mass migration to Europe.

As the visa deal was collapsing, Burhan Kuzu, one of president Erdogan’s senior advisers, put out a statement to the effect that if Europe fails to offer visa-free travel, Turkey will “send the refugees.”

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was particularly critical of the EU’s demand that Turkey reform its counter-terrorism laws. “Telling us to change our anti-terror law at a time when we are fighting against the PKK and Daesh [the “Islamic State” group] amounts to supporting terrorism. We will never give into such impositions,” Cavusoglu said earlier this week at a meeting of Turkish businessmen in Vienna.

The pro-government Turkish press has also changed its position on the EU visa deal. “Those who failed all tests against a humanitarian crisis are trying to create areas of weakness in Turkey’s struggle against threats targeting the country’s integrity. They are attempting a sinister intervention aimed at paving the way for terrorism, making room for terror organizations,” wrote Ibrahim Karagul, a prominent commentator for the Yeni Safak daily with links to the AKP.

Getting it right

“The condition of narrowing the definition of what constitutes terrorism in Turkey is important because at present the definition is very broad,” said Ozan Sarkar the Managing Director of Descartes Capital Advisors, a private firm that works with international investors in Turkey.

“The problem is that if someone were deemed a terrorist in Turkey but not in Europe then they would be able to seek asylum in Europe without getting a visa. Europe has argued that Turkey should put the rules in line with theirs, partly out of the fear of an asylum wave,” he said.

Thousands of political refugees sought asylum in Europe after the 1980 military coup in Turkey, and many still live in Europe to this day.

Sarkar points out that until the military coup, Turkish nationals didn’t require a visa to visit most European countries. Initially there was little political will to change this as many politicians had access to a superior class of passport that was not subject to the visa restrictions.

However successive Turkish governments have been working to lift the restrictions since Turkey entered into a customs union with the EU in 1995.

“Of course gaining visa-free travel would be a massive political gain for any Turkish politician, whoever was in power. Erdogan said before that he was negotiating it and Davutoglu came and stole some of the limelight,” Sarkar told DW.

Erdogan is widely considered to have been working to consolidate his power within Turkey and within the AKP over the past two years.

“Constitutionally speaking, Erdogan has been stretching the position of president beyond what it has meant historically,” Sarkar added. “He is the first directly elected president of the country, however removing a prime minister who was elected only last November was an unexpected stretch.”


Chinese officials ‘create 488m bogus social media posts a year’

Harvard researchers say leaked documents show bureaucrats fabricate positive posts to distract from criticism of government

May 20, 2016

by Tom Phillips

The Guardian

Beijing-The Chinese government is fabricating almost 490m social media posts a year in order to distract the public from criticising or questioning its rule, according to a study.

China’s “Fifty Cent Party” – a legion of freelance online trolls so-named because they are believed to be paid 50 cents a post – has long been blamed for flooding the Chinese internet with pro-regime messages designed to defend and promote the ruling Communist party

However, the study by Harvard University researchers (pdf) claims many of those comments are not posted by ordinary citizens, as previously thought, but by civil servants who double as online stooges.

An analysis of nearly 43,800 posts found that 99.3% were the work of government employees working for more than 200 agencies, including tax and social security and human resources bureaux.

The researchers believe such comments are usually posted in “bursts”, timed to coincide with politically sensitive periods, such as Communist party meetings, outbreaks of unrest and public holidays.

For example, hundreds of pro-Beijing messages were posted after the outbreak of deadly ethnic rioting in the western province of Xinjiang in June 2013. A similar deluge of positive messages emerged during a major political summit in Beijing in November the same year.

The study, based on a cache of documents leaked from a government propaganda office in eastern China, claims about half of the 488m propaganda messages posted each year appear on government websites. The remainder are fed into the social media networks of a country which has about 700 million internet users.

But while much of the online propaganda was previously thought to involve attacks on unwelcome ideas or the defence of government policy, the study suggests most pro-party stooges are not expected to engage in debate or argument at all.

“They do not step up to defend the government, its leaders, and their policies from criticism, no matter how vitriolic; indeed, they seem to avoid controversial issues entirely,” the study’s authors write of members of China’s “enormous workforce” of online propagandists.

Instead, most are about “cheer-leading and positive discussions … which, we infer, is a strategy designed is to actively distract and redirect public attention from ongoing criticism, other grievances, or collective action.”

The explanation, the authors write, is that “distraction is a clever strategy in information control”.

“An argument in almost any human discussion is rarely an effective way to put an end to an opposing argument,” it concludes. “Letting an argument die, or changing the subject, usually works much better than picking an argument and getting someone’s back up (as new parents recognise fast).”


Secret Armies, Shadow Wars, Silent Unaccountability

Politicization, Militarism, Dirty Deeds, Unclean Hands

May 20, 2016

by Gregory D. Foste



  • Headline: “Obama Embraces Special Operations Forces”
  • Headline: “Did U.S. Forces Commit Atrocities in a Key Afghan Province?”
  • Headline: “US Special Forces Kill ISIS Commander and Capture Wife in Syria Raid”
  • Headline: “Failure to Rescue Foley Shows Special Ops Limitations”
  • Headline: “US, Somali Commandos Nab Valuable Al-Shabaab Figures, Spokesman Says”
  • Headline: “US Special Operations Forces Screwed Up in Mali”
  • Headline: “US Special Forces Raids Target Islamist Militants in Libya and Somalia”
  • Headline: “U.S.-Backed Forces in Syria Accused of Human Rights Violations”

We live today in an era of postmodern war. It’s a two-front war – the first being the virtual front of threats, posturing, and arms buildups we persist in waging, Cold War-style, against state-based mirror-images of ourselves (Russia and China); the second being the dirty front we wage in the shadows against irregular, non-state thugs and pygmy tyrants who use their weaknesses as strengths, asymmetrically, to turn our strengths into weaknesses.

The first front is the martial opiate that self-satisfied, complacent politicians and bureaucrats (civilian and military) impose to their own advantage on the unsuspecting, addicted masses. It is the vehicle for perpetuating the dead myth of America’s preferred way of lethal, destructive war, along with the gluttonous defense spending and antediluvian institutional prerogatives that go with it.

The second front is the more serious, proximate arena of conflict, the moral equivalent of a crack epidemic that should, but doesn’t, command our attention. The weapons of choice America’s political and military decision-makers have chosen to employ for this purpose are essentially three – special operations forces (SOFs), private military and security companies (PMSCs), and drones – though it is the first of these – SOFs – that most seriously threatens much of what America professes to stand for and thus warrants our singular attention, here, now.

The Postmodern Earthscape

The era of modern, industrial war took us from the Civil War (with discontinuous detours through various banana republics and the Philippines) through World Wars I and II to the Korean War. The Cold War introduced us to the two fronts of the postmodern era, the first front having now occupied us, thanks to arms merchants, unimaginative bureaucrats and politicians, and the institutional inertia of the national security establishment, for the past 70 years; the second front having silently matured over time to full adulthood today.

The key features of the postmodern era that define us, set the contours of our political discourse, and motivate our political masters are several:

  • Due largely to the planetary shrinkage wrought by telecommunications and transportation technologies, the world we inhabit has become a global battlefield of sorts, in which there no longer is anything to distinguish the tactical from the strategic. Virtually every action, event, or circumstance, however seemingly obscure, insignificant, or remote, can and does have almost instantaneous strategic ramifications at many temporal and spatial removes from its point of occurrence. Think the Pat Tillman friendly fire death, or Blackwater cowboys gunning down civilians, or a drone strike raining death on a wedding party. Think Haditha, Abu Ghraib, Blackhawk Down, My Lai.
  • No longer are there wars of necessity; only wars of choice. The wars we face – real in reality, if unreal officially – are inherently unwinnable, practically speaking, though subject to the rhetorical deceptions of soulless public affairs deconstructionists whose strategic messaging enables politicians to claim success where it doesn’t exist and deny failure where it does exist.
  • We have consigned Constitutional war powers to the dustbin of irrelevance. We are far along a slippery slope that has taken us from Constitutional holy writ; to the Korean War’s artful circumvention via UN Security Council resolution; to the Vietnam War’s duplicitous Tonkin Gulf Resolution; to the 1973 War Powers Resolution (which, rather than reaffirming congressional prerogative, gave Congress a cowardly escape from its responsibilities); to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force that licenses perpetual war against all comers of dubious provenance; to the 2011 air war against Libya, with its wholesale denial of any war powers consultation requirement; to today. Today, faced with inertial divided government, the name of the game is to circumvent congressional consultation altogether, whenever possible. The military doesn’t need it; politicians don’t particularly want it; and the public is comfortably indifferent.
  • Shameless, unrestrained politicization now permeates all things, domestic and international. We have forsaken altogether the doctrine long attributed to former Senator Arthur Vandenberg that “politics must stop at the water’s edge.” Now there is nothing, however strategically significant, that isn’t politicized as a matter of course.wisdom expressed by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in the famous Truman-era Youngstown Sheet & Tube case has been lost to posterity: “While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity.”
  • Finally, the military we expect to represent and serve us is now a professionalized force, the citizen-soldier a distant vestige of our idealized past. Professionals expect unfettered discretionary license to perform their jobs as only they – skilled, trained, credentialed experts – see fit, uninhibited and unscrutinized by meddling civilian amateurs. Elite professionals expect this even more.
  • Similarly, the checks and balances and separated powers envisioned by America’s founders as an antidote to the tyranny of concentrated power have been completely displaced by political loyalties that override institutional responsibilities. The

SOFs: Machismo Fulfilled

“Macho, macho man/I gotta be a macho man/Macho macho man/I gotta be a macho. . . .”

– Village People, “Macho Man” (1978)

In Jean Larteguy’s probing 1963 novel about the French counterinsurgency experiences in Indochina and Algeria, The Centurions, paratroop Colonel Raspeguy, the novel’s central character, muses:

I’d like . . . to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.

Given voice in fiction, grounded in reality, Raspeguy’s words were, and remain, a timeless, universal clarion call for advocates of special military operations. This is the very line of argument that has led so many to believe that only irregulars – specially skilled, specially trained, unconventionally oriented – can defeat enemy irregulars (guerrillas, insurgents, terrorists) who, by definition, don’t play by “the rules.”

That’s why those in power – civilian and military, executive and legislative – have become so infatuated with, even addicted to, such irregular formations and activities. Irregulars have a long tradition in this country – from Rogers’ Rangers in pre-Revolutionary colonial America; to Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion in the Revolutionary War; to the Mosbys, Forrests, Quantrells, and Cushings of the Civil War; to the Devil’s Brigade, Merrill’s Marauders, and Darby’s Rangers of World War II; to the formation of the Green Berets (Special Forces) in 1952, the SEALs in 1962, Delta Force in 1978, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 1987.

There is of course no demographic profile available to show us who serves in special units today. It’s safe to say, though, that they’re predominantly guys – white guys; young white guys (average age, we’re told, 29 for enlisted personnel, 34 for officers). That means that, whatever other characteristics s they may possess, foremost among their traits is that they’re hormonally supercharged. That’s why the discipline these “elite” troops claim to possess is in constant tension with the indiscipline their nature endows them with.

The SOF culture is a physical one, not an intellectual one; totally tactical, not in the least strategic. SOF personnel are clearly physically mature (probably at the peak of their physical prowess). Given that they may well have deployed, on average, 4-10 times over the past decade and a half, frequently with less than 12 months at home between deployments, it could be said that they’re experientially mature (in the narrow sense that they’ve been there before, on the ground, and thus aren’t newbies who’ve never heard a shot fired in anger). But it’s highly questionable that they’re socially or culturally mature (most, we may safely speculate, coming from provincial, unworldly backgrounds), even less likely that they’re emotionally mature (think of bear cubs wrestling), and almost certainly the case that they aren’t intellectually mature. Big-picture thinking just isn’t what they do. Even though the tactical things they do have potentially immense strategic consequences, these guys typically aren’t given to strategic reflection; that, they dismissively think, is for somebody above their pay grade to attend to.

grade to attend to.

We know generally, if not specifically, how many they are – roughly 70,000 at last count, up from 42,800 in 2001. That’s roughly the equivalent of 4½ Army divisions; roughly equal to the entire defense force of Denmark or Norway; larger than the militaries of some 88 countries. Each armed service, plus the Marines, has its own special operations command, with the general composition of the force being about 54 percent Army, 25 percent Air Force, 16 percent Navy, and 5 percent Marines. Roughly 30 percent of these 70,000 – or about 21,000 – are actual “operators.”

We know generally, maybe even specifically, how much they cost – now about $10.7 billion a year, up from $3.1 billion in 2001. That’s a piddling 1.7 percent of the total US defense budget. But it’s more than the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, four times the defense budget of New Zealand, three times that of South Africa, more even than the gross domestic products of some 36 countries.

We know generally where they could be – in as many as 147 countries over the course of a year, 70-90 countries at any one time. But we don’t know specifically where they are. Each of the six regional combatant commands (including the US Northern Command) has its own SOF command, as do US Forces in Korea. Considering that US Africa Command covers 54 countries, US European Command 52 countries, US Southern Command 31 countries and 15 territories, US Pacific Command 36 countries, and US Central Command 20 countries, SOFs could be deployed almost anywhere, in any numbers, in any capacity, in any guise. Reportedly some 7,200 of them were deployed abroad in 2014 (up from 2,900 in 2001): 69 percent in the CENTCOM area of operations, 10 percent in PACOM, 10 percent in AFRICOM, 6 percent in EUCOM, 4 percent in SOUTHCOM, 1 percent in NORTHCOM. So, many questions remain: Are they in such countries as those widely considered to be both most fragile and least peaceful (like Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Sudan, and Pakistan, for example)? Are they in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea? Somebody knows, but not us. Somebody cares, but apparently not us.

We know generally what they do – direct action, special reconnaissance, countering weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, security force assistance, hostage rescue and recovery, counterinsurgency, foreign humanitarian assistance, military information support operations, civil affairs operations. But we don’t know specifically what they’re doing. Are they just gathering intelligence, advising and training, building relationships, supporting resistance movements, rescuing hostages, and the like? Or are they engaged in extralegal assassination, extralegal kidnapping, extralegal destabilization of hostile governments? Are they engaged in targeted drone killings? Are they winning hearts and minds or antagonizing and alienating people in whose countries they have homesteaded? Are they performing provocative acts of aggression inside the sovereign territory of other countries? Are they providing support to foreign autocrats and tyrants? Are they even engaged in policing, surveillance, and infiltration of “dissident” groups here at home? They’ve done such things in the past, so it’s not unreasonable to fear that they might conceivably be doing them now.

The Web of Complicity

“We’re on a mission from God.”

– Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd), The Blues Brothers (1980)

Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense reminded us of the blindingly obvious: that there are “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns.” About SOFs, there are an unknown number of unknown unknowns, but we presume there are many. There are a number of major known unknowns – like exactly where they’re located, what they’re doing, how well or not they’re doing it, to what effect, with what direction and guidance from whom. There are, nonetheless, some important things we do know – the most notable of which is the almost total cloak of secrecy in which SOFs operate as a matter of course. It is secrecy on steroids, the elevation of the military’s congenital obsession with secrecy to a fetish. It’s why there are so many known unknowns and presumed unknown unknowns.

A second thing we know we know, accordingly, is that such secrecy has become what those in power consider a necessary counterpoise to the total politicization of our national security affairs. A third known known, therefore, is that this is why SOFs have come to occupy such a place of centrality in our strategic posture.

The expansion and expanded use of SOFs is a newfound blessing for the military that offers it a double dividend. First, SOF operations provide unending reaffirmation of the military’s sense of self as the nation’s first line of protection. This continuing march to the sound of the guns in turn reinforces the felt need to perpetuate massive military spending in order to maintain a “strong defense.” What politician in his right mind, after all, can afford to deny the military its wishes in time of war?

Considering that SOCOM has been charged by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with leading the fight against international terrorism, the increased reliance on SOFs, therefore, also gives added weight to the arguments of those who favor presumably decisive counterterrorism – hunting and killing – as a proper mission over slow, inconclusive counterinsurgency (which smacks of the nation building the institution has long resisted as an appropriate role).

The second big dividend SOFs offer the military is self-servingly bureaucratic. As SOFs expand in numbers and uses, units must be created that have to be commanded. These command opportunities represent new potential for rank, promotion, and institutional clout. Whereas special operators traditionally have taken a back seat in the competition for career advancement, now they have risen to mainstream status. SOCOM is commanded by a 4-star general or admiral, and its superstructure numbers an additional three 3-stars, four 2-stars, and three 1-stars. That’s 24 stars of bureaucratic heft. Moreover, by way of example, the Army Special Operations Command alone now has 13 colonel-level commands and 57 lieutenant colonel-level commands.

For civilian officials – executive and legislative – the SOF imperative is the answer to their political dreams. At the heart of the matter is the seemingly arcane distinction insiders make between clandestine activities – secret, not defined in law – and covert activities – legally and doctrinally defined as both secret and deniable, not attributable that is to the US government. To uninitiated outsiders, this seems a distinction without a difference. What’s secret is secret, after all, whether admitted to or not; and absent revelations from investigative reporting, whistleblowers, or outspoken aggrieved victims of undercover abuse, nobody knows the difference.

But bona fide covert activities – traditionally the predominant purview of the intelligence agencies – are subject to reasonably stringent legal prescriptions that require the President to submit a presidential “finding” (authorization) to Congress in writing  before such activities are undertaken; or, when circumstances dictate, to report to Congress in “timely fashion.”

By law, traditional diplomatic and military activities are exempt from consideration as covert (and thus not subject to such reporting requirements). Traditional military activities are considered those that remain under the purview of a military commander. Legalistic purists therefore say that these traditional military activities, when secret, are merely clandestine, passive intelligence-gathering, not active covert measures that seek to influence governments or political processes.

Throughout the Cold War and immediate post-Cold War period, there was considerable emphasis on having CIA paramilitary capabilities to compensate for international sensitivities to intervention by regular military forces. Today, the emphasis is on the use of military irregulars to compensate for the domestic legal restrictions that have been imposed on CIA covert paramilitary activities. Thus, the growing, seemingly permanent role of SOFs and what SOCOM commanders have testified is their standing posture: “persistent engagement.”

Score: Centurions 1, Us 0

“From a distance you look like my friend,/even though we are at war/From a distance I just cannot comprehend/what all this fighting is for. . . .”

– Julie Gold, “From a Distance” (1987) (as sung by Nanci Griffith, Judy Collins, Bette Midler)

All of this, unbeknownst to most of us, exacts a terrible price, the ideals of representative democracy left hanging in the balance.

Consider accountability and oversight. America’s founders were clear-eyed and clear in their design. War was and was to be an exceptional undertaking, not the norm; emergency, not routine; temporary, not permanent. It was to be embarked upon only with the consent and approval of the people’s representatives, acting on the people’s behalf, after reasoned deliberation. It was to be prosecuted by a military of the people whose proper purpose was providing for the common defense (not projecting power or force). It was to be subjected to stringent oversight, not ignored out of neglect or indifference. During the Cold War, with the perceived threat of hair-trigger nuclear annihilation, we compromised on this sanctified ideal. Today there is no threat – certainly not terrorism – worthy of continuing such a grand compromise; yet, through SOFs, we face a state of perpetual war in the shadows.

Consider transparency and truth. Secrecy is antithetical to transparency – and to truly representative democracy based on the consent of the governed and popular sovereignty. Though we preach transparency as an ideal, we are perfectly willing to swallow the self-serving claims of those in power that secrecy is essential to security. Truth – the truth of intentions and actions, of success and failure (never easy to establish for special operations) – has been left totally in the hands of manipulative civilian and military officials to orchestrate for our consumption and for their purposes.

Consider debased ethics. As we did during the Cold War, we continue today to let our enemies dictate our behavior, to determine the rules of the game, to establish what is acceptable and proper. The underlying proposition, that the only way to fight fire is with fire, results in an ethical race to the bottom in which we willingly forsake our own principles and values. At the same time, those in power have shown themselves all too willing, even eager, to endorse dirty deeds on their political behalf while hiding behind the cloak of deniability to keep their hands clean.

Consider blurred boundaries. There is little disputing that the ways in which our political and military masters have chosen to employ SOFs have, by intentional design, blurred sanctified boundaries that absolutely need to be maintained: those that distinguish military, intelligence, police, and internal security activities from one another (the mere existence of a special operations command that supports the domestically oriented US Northern Command speaks for itself); and those that define sovereignty, territorial integrity, aggression, and intervention in accordance with the international rule of law.

Consider the wholesale undermining of civilian control. There is no greater threat today to the hallowed Constitutional precept of civilian control of the military than special operations and operators. Where the military operates in total secrecy, accountability is jeopardized by the freedom, the license, that such secrecy confers; and where those charged with responsibility for exercising oversight forsake that responsibility for intentional ignorance and deniability, civilian control is nothing but rhetorical artifice.

In the final analysis, all of us share blame for a state of affairs we don’t even recognize. Considering that only about one percent of us serve in the military today (and less than 19 percent of Congress have served), it is perfectly understandable that most of us have little to no appreciation of the realities of military affairs. Even more is that so with regard to specialized military affairs totally hidden from public view. Our “insight,” such as it is, comes from the movies we turn out in droves to get off on (Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty, American Sniper, Act of Valor among them). We are voyeuristic spectators, and special operations forces are the centurions-turned-gladiators who provide us vicarious outlet for our basest aggressive, violent impulses. They voluntarily do the work we have – and want –nothing to do with, and we’re perfectly content to muddle along, in blissful ignorance, our hands kept even cleaner than those who represent us.

The prosecution rests.

“The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest good.”

– Thomas Merton


Oklahoma legislators pass near-total abortion ban that criminalizes providers

Bill heads to governor and if it becomes a law, any doctor who performed an abortion – except to save a woman’s life – could face three years in prison

May 19, 2016

by Molly Redden

The Guardian

New York-A bill that would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by three years in prison passed the Oklahoma legislature on Thursday, shifting controversy surrounding the measure on to the state’s anti-abortion leader, Governor Mary Fallin.

The bill, which opposing legislators say is patently unconstitutional, is almost unprecedented in modern times: a near-total ban on abortion. If it becomes law, any doctor who performed an abortion, except to save a woman’s life, would face criminal prosecution and the loss of his or her medical license. Oklahoma currently has two licensed abortion clinics.Fallin, who is widely thought to be under consideration as Donald Trump’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, has not publicly indicated if she will sign the bill. Her office has said she does not intend to comment until it can review the legislation.

Without her signature or veto, the measure will become law in five days.

The bill has generated unease even in Fallin’s own party. In April, 33 members of the Oklahoma house, including many conservatives, abstained from voting on the bill. On Thursday, a handful of senate Republicans voted against it.

Abortion rights advocates immediately indicated plans to challenge the measure in court, if it becomes law.

“This obviously unconstitutional bill will never withstand legal scrutiny,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of the reproductive rights advocacy group Naral Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “It is a shameful new low for the anti-choice movement.”

The bill is in direct conflict with the US supreme court ruling in Roe v Wade, the 1973 case that established the right to abortion. Specifically, Roe v Wade forbids states from banning abortion outright until the fetus is viable outside the womb, at about 24 weeks.

State senator Nathan Dahm, the Republican author of the Oklahoma bill, has indicated that sparking a court challenge that ends with the overturning of Roe v Wade is one of the goals of his bill.

It would not be the first time in recent years that a state went to court to challenge the fundamental tenets of Roe v Wade. In 2013, North Dakota banned abortions after 12 weeks and Arkansas banned the procedure after six weeks – before most women realize they are pregnant.

Both measures were immediately blocked in court, and the states undertook expensive battles to defend their laws. Those disputes ended in January, when the supreme court declined to hear arguments to reinstate either law.

Conservative states and lawmakers have flirted with bans on abortion before, usually with little success. Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, now a US senator, introduced a bill when he was a state senator that would have banned nearly all abortions and sentenced providers to 12 years in prison. It failed.

In the 1990s, Louisiana and Utah made attempts to ban abortion that ended with resounding losses in court.


















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