Jun 30, 2007
Not that these viciously vied for blunt propaganda assets are going to swing targeted psyches any which way but ignored & bored - but what the heck, let the Crazies dream on. -M1
As the administration of US President George W Bush struggles through its last two years in office, it appears that the agenda of neo-conservative ideologues has finally lost its appeal among strategic parts of the US foreign-policy apparatus.
But as their influence has waned at the Pentagon and State Department, neo-conservative hawks have taken charge on the battlefield of public diplomacy.
Intent on fixing what American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Joshua Muravchik termed President Bush's "public diplomacy mess", right-wing hawks have gained control of the weapons in the "war of ideas" - US government-funded and supported media outlets such as Voice of America (VOA), Al-Hurra, and Radio Farda, which broadcast to the Middle East and aim to offer an alternative view of the news.
The recent appointment of Jeffrey Gedmin, a veteran neo-conservative polemicist, as the director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE), and a smear campaign that led to the recent resignation of Larry Register, Al-Hurra's former news director, appears to herald a turn toward more ideologically rigid programming.
As a result, viewers and listeners of US-supported media in the Middle East are being exposed to a tougher ideological line that endorses the hallmarks of the neo-conservative agenda - regime change and interventionist policies in the region.
"No group other than neo-cons is likely to figure out how to do that," wrote Muravchik in a December 2006 article in Foreign Policy magazine titled "Operation comeback", a reference to the declining influence of neo-conservatives in the Bush administration. "We are, after all, a movement whose raison d'etre was combating anti-Americanism in the United States. Who better then to combat it abroad?"
In a widely circulated e-mail memo sent to White House adviser Karl Rove last July and obtained by Inter Press Service, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, also criticized the State Department's inability to manage the information campaign advocating US foreign-policy interests in the region.
He called on Karen Hughes, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department, to "run the information operation aimed at delegitimizing Syria, Iran and Hezbollah every day".
This year, a report authored by Ladan Archin, head of the Pentagon's Iran directorate who, in the run-up to the Iraq war, worked in the Defense Department's controversial Office of Special Plans, charged that both VOA's Persian TV service and Radio Farda, a Persian-language radio station that broadcasts from Prague and Washington, were too soft in their criticism of Iran's regime.
Archin's report, which was obtained by the McClatchy Newspapers Washington bureau, complained that while VOA's Persian TV service "often invites guests who defend the Islamic Republic's version of issues, it consistently fails to maintain a balance by inviting informed guests who represent another perspective on the same issue".
With the neo-conservative drums beating inside the Washington Beltway, the reshuffling of key positions at RFE and Al-Hurra came as no surprise.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced in February a major initiative to promote democracy in Iran, including US$50 million to increase Persian-language television broadcasts.
Congress also appropriated $21.4 million to expand VOA's Persian television programming to 12 hours a day, and $14.7 million more for Radio Farda (which means "tomorrow" in Farsi).
Early this year, Broadcasting Board of Governors chairman Kenneth Tomlinson named Gedmin, a former AEI fellow and a founding member, along with Vice President Dick Cheney and former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, of the Project for a New American Century, as RFE's director. Gedmin's new job gave him control over Radio Farda and Voice of America. Some listeners have since noted changes in the tone and content of their programming.
A June 14 VOA broadcast in Persian, for example, featured an original interview with AEI fellow and leading neo-conservative Richard Perle on the future of democracy in Iran, as well as a roundtable discussion with Shahryar Ahi, chief organizer of a conference of Iranian opposition groups in Paris. Ahi, an informal liaison during the 1970s between the shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and the White House, currently works with the late shah's 45-year-old, Washington-based son, Reza Pahlavi.
Radio Farda has featured three exclusive and well-publicized interviews with Perle, Michael Rubin, yet another AEI fellow, and Pahlavi, according to Hossein Derkhshan, an Iranian blogger whose weblog, Hoder.com, is widely read.
As the Bush administration ramps up its offensive against Iran's regime through VOA and Radio Farda, neo-conservatives have also taken aim at Al-Hurra, a US-sponsored Arabic-language satellite television station that broadcasts to 22 countries across the Middle East on an annual budget of more than $70 million.
Early this month, Register resigned from Al-Hurra after less than six months on the job, in the wake of a series of public attacks against him and the station's allegedly anti-US content by neo-conservative columnist Joel Mowbray in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal.
Mowbray complained that Register was directly responsible for most Al-Hurra broadcasts that, among other things, carried Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's December 2006 anti-Israel speech in its entirety, reported uncritically on last year's Holocaust conference in Iran, and referred to the establishment of Israel in 1948 as al-Naqba, which means "catastrophe" in Arabic.
"Our taxpayer-financed Arabic network was set up to counter Al-Jazeera, not echo it," Mowbray wrote.
Since its launch in 2004, Al-Hurra had served as the centerpiece of Washington's "aggressive post-[September 11, 2001] courtship of the Arab world" and was "fulfilling its mission" until it hired Register, according to another Mowbray column.
Yet Register's predecessor, Moufac Harb, resigned a month after a scathing report from the US Government Accountability Office found that Al-Hurra lacked "a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan" and criticized its reported audience statistics.
Register, a veteran producer and vice president who worked at CNN for 20 years, was supposed to boost the profile of Al-Hurra, win audience share and generate political debate. But his attempts to appeal to an Arab audience ostensibly went against the goals of the neo-conservative establishment in Washington.
"The conservative crusade against Register demonstrates one of the great difficulties facing any official American broadcasting in the Middle East," Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University whose blog, Abu Aardvark, on Arab media and politics is widely read in Washington, wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
"To be a free and credible media outlet means allowing critics of American policy to speak and covering news that might make America look bad," he noted.
From part three of Roger Morris' series on Robert Gates and his legacy. (See part one: If That Peace Of Mind Don't Stay... and part two: "Hysteria about the enemy as a patriotic duty")
The very post-Vietnam détente-restraint of most of [President Jimmy] Carter's advisors -- and the President's own inner hawkishness -- opened the way for his presidency to become (contrary to conventional wisdom) a precedent-setting period for covert intervention. And Gates, as Brzezinski's hard-line staff officer for Soviet affairs, and later his personal outer-office assistant in the White House West Wing, was at the center of it all.
In his 1996 memoir, he would write contemptuously (and, in the case of Secretary of State Vance, falsely), "Because Vance was unwilling to use diplomatic leverage against the Soviets, and [Secretary of Defense] Brown and others wanted no part of U.S. military involvement in the Third World, their standoff gave Brzezinski an enormous opportunity to put forward covert action -- which was under the purview of the NSC -- as a means of doing something to counter the Soviets."
Gates and Brzezinski promptly impressed upon Carter that, "It is his CIA," as Gates described it. Within weeks of his inauguration, at the urging of the national security advisor and his Soviet affairs specialist, the new president approved the first covert actions inside the USSR. These operations were aimed at inciting religious discontent in Soviet Central Asia by smuggling in tens of thousands of Korans, as well as radical Islamic literature. In that and other actions to come, it would be Jimmy Carter who first fanned Islamic fundamentalism -- which would have devastating consequences in our own era. ...
But with predictable alarm bells ringing in Iran, Pakistan, and Russophobic China, Carter's covert interventionists at the NSC saw an irresistible "opportunity," as Gates put it, "to counter the Soviets." Three weeks after the Kabul coup, Brzezinski was in Beijing discussing, among other matters of state in his Kissingeresque debut as a diplomat, the "Soviet peril" in Afghanistan.
Gates memoir dutifully notes the ensuing stream of bland speculations by the CIA's Soviet analysts about what the Soviets might next do in their tortured relationship with a faltering, needy, yet independent Afghan communist regime. But he spares us the covert actions the CIA carried out, amid a stream of memos Brzezinski and he sent Carter about the Soviet "threat" in South Asia -- an intervention kept secret from their hated rival, Secretary of State Vance, and the rest of government.
By summer 1978, the old insurgent training camps in Pakistan were open again and thronged with Islamic radicals. They were eager to fight a regime pushing land reform and education for women, while establishing a secular police state. By fall 1978, more than a year before Soviet combat troops set foot in Afghanistan, a civil war, armed and planned by the U.S., Pakistan, Iran, and China, and soon to be actively supported, at Washington's prodding, by the Saudis and Egyptians, had begun to rage in the same wild mountains of eastern Afghanistan where U.S. forces would seek Osama bin Laden a little more than twenty-three years later.
In April 1979, with arms and agitators paid for by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence (the Shah fell in January ending SAVAK's role), a radical Islamic uprising in Herat in western Afghanistan led to the slaughter of thousands on both sides, including more than 200 Russian military and civilian advisors and their families. Even so, the Soviets stoutly refused to intervene militarily. They even made their refusal absolutely plain to Washington by pointedly conducting telephone conversations with the Afghan leadership en clair for the Americans to intercept. But Gates, Brzezinski, and Carter were having none of it in what had become a deliberate plot to "suck" the Russians into Afghanistan.
The old Great Game was now in cynical full swing. In the sort of mad plan not even Rudyard Kipling could have imagined, they plotted to personally "give the Soviets their Vietnam," as Brzezinski was fond of saying.
The ceaseless machinations and bloody civil strife culminated, of course, in the December 1979 Soviet invasion. The Politburo had resisted it for more than a year and hesitated, even at the eleventh hour. It is, by any measure, one of the more dramatic, and chilling, stories in the annals of world politics. By now, Brzezinski and Gates had essentially created a new foreign policy for the United States and put it into action in secret with few co-authors and no parallel.
By the time they and their co-conspirators are through, a course will have been set that will take the Afghans into a nightmare universe in which a million-and-a-half of them will die, millions more will become homeless (in what the UN will call "migratory genocide"), and, for more than a quarter-century, their country will be a continuing catastrophe beyond any other in the history of nation-states. In part, it is his own work that Gates now faces as secretary of defense.
When Webster retired in 1991, Bush nominated Gates again as director, and for a time it seemed, as a Senate staffer put it, "smooth sailing." Then, suddenly, he found himself facing what one old colleague called a "virtual insurrection" of current and former CIA officers, who trooped to Capitol Hill to testify with unprecedented candor and courage to his record of corruption of intelligence.
It was an extraordinary rebellion against what the New York Times called Casey's (and, by extension, Gates') "dark legacy." In the end, there would be an unprecedented 33 Senate votes against confirmation. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren had to conduct "his own covert action" to secure the nomination, as one witness described it. ("David took it as a personal challenge to get me confirmed," Gates would write.) An Oklahoma Democrat with wealthy backers and presidential ambitions, as well as a personal reputation long the subject of Washington whispers, Boren soon shocked constituents by a hasty retirement to a sinecure presidency at the University of Oklahoma. Boren's chief aide and legacy to the world of intelligence would be a former lobbyist for Greek-American interests, George Tenet.
As director at last, Gates would convene some 14 committees on reform and reorganization, shift budgets from the Cold War to the new targets of terrorism and economic espionage, and pursue other changes national security historian John Prados would find "laudable and energetic." But in his little more than a year in office, there would be no substantive changes in the enduring culture of the Agency. "After all that had happened, after all we knew," one ranking officer said of the flurry, "no one was listening."
Gates would remain under the new president, Bill Clinton, just long enough for one final disaster, providing what Prados called the "initial architecture" for the outgoing Bush regime's "humanitarian" invasion of Somalia, and so paving the way for Clinton's disastrous Black-Hawk-down episode in the streets of Mogadishu. It was a fitting exit, the Rangers bleeding and dying under the guns of gang lords who had once been in the pay of the CIA.
Jun 29, 2007
Iran's state broadcasting company is launching an English-speaking satellite television channel to counter the West's influence in covering news, the network's Web site said.
The 24-hour PRESS TV news channel said its goal was to "break the global media stranglehold of Western outlets," and "show the other side of the story" in the Mideast.
A taste of what viewers can expect from the station is already evident on their English news Web site, which has been operational for a number of months. According to Alexa, the Press TV web site is ranked 75,143 for traffic usage. This means that only .0023 percent of internet users have been on the site.
Still, the numbers are going up, with a 180% increase in the last three months, according to Alexa. And the Press TV site is already more popular in Western countries then it is in Iran. Some 32.9% of its viewers come from the United States and 8% from the United Kingdom, while only 7.6% were from Iran.
The Chinese state comes extremely well prepared for one of the key attributes of great-power status: controlling the terms of debate on issues of any consequence.
For decades, the Communist Party has told Chinese people in very direct terms what they can and cannot think. That tradition has softened during the current era of economic opening and fast growth, but the government still enjoys a striking amount of sway over the parameters of discussion of everything from world history to current affairs, defining for the public what is good, bad, right, wrong, true and untrue.
This great thought-orientation machine has been gearing up in recent weeks for a major new challenge, and one that won’t be going away anytime soon. According to a study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China has just surpassed the United States as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, a year ahead of the earliest projections, putting this country in a position that its propaganda bosses have never been willing to countenance: the role of villain. It doesn’t help that the issue in question, global warming, is one that has the entire world’s attention right now.
According to well established rules of the propaganda game, China, as a nation, must never be at fault. But the ugly fundamentals of environmental degradation here are becoming increasingly obvious and increasingly grave, and for those who must spin the global warming issue, this has all the makings of an immense headache.
The country is becoming a world beater in many things, the less celebrated of which include dirty, high-energy-consuming industries - from steel, which it produces in immense quantities, often from antiquated plants, to cement, of which China produces 40 percent of the world’s output.
China is building one to two coal-fired power plants every week, with plans for more than 500 new ones currently on the books. Even now, the country consumes more of this dirtiest of fossil fuels than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. Indeed, China consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world.
The industrial side of the ledger looks bleak, but as important as it is, it is only one piece of a disturbing picture. The passenger vehicle is in its infancy in China, but it, like so many things here, is growing by leaps and bounds. Each year, seven million new cars hit the road in a country that is enthusiastically mimicking America’s wasteful experience, pushing toward a vision of a country blanketed with highways, with a car in every garage, and with an automobile industry second to none.
Urbanization is a related problem. New and bigger cities are being created at a speed never before seen in human history. The purpose, as in just about everything here, is to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and to create a shot at prosperity for all of the country’s citizens.
It is not hard to sympathize with Chinese planners in this, but that does nothing to suspend questions about the wisdom of their approach or to allay fears about the consequences. As Elizabeth Economy, a leading expert on China’s environmental problem, wrote recently: “With plans on the books to urbanize half the Chinese population by 2020, energy consumption will soar. City residents in China use 250 percent more power than their rural counterparts.”
So far, Beijing’s message to the world on all of this could be neatly summed up as “bug off.” One could hear this in the voice of Chen Feng, the chairman of Hainan Airlines, who told a panel at the recent World Economic Forum in Singapore that the West deserved the blame for environmental problems, adding pointedly that Westerners were “robbers and bandits before you became right-minded people.”
The substance of the Chinese argument is unassailable. Cumulatively, China, a newcomer to mass industrialization, has contributed far less to global warming than, say, the United States, and even today, on a per capita basis, produces only about a quarter of the carbon dioxide that the rich states in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development do.
This line is part of a game of hardball, still in its early innings, that pits China and a loose coalition of developing countries against the already rich and long-polluting West. This game consists of racing as far ahead with the current mode of development as possible and relying on the West to win a “better” deal for China within the framework of a new global agreement on greenhouse gases.
The Pentagon’s “Early Bird”, a computerized daily compilation of dozens of defense- related articles from the U.S. and some from the foreign press that is widely distributed across the national-security bureaucracy, appears to be in a state of serious transition from the Rumsfeld era to that of Robert Gates.
Articles from the Murdoch press are becoming somewhat more sparse, and the selections from the Likudnik Jerusalem Post (formerly owned by Conrad Black) seem to have disappeared altogether.
So has the “Corrections” section – an apparent attempt to embarrass newspapers like the NYT deemed unsympathetic to the administration — that began leading off the “Early Bird” in the latter part of the Rumsfeld period or the outraged “letters to the editor” by Rumsfeld’s long-time spokesman (and former Heritage fellow), Lawrence di Rita, and his even more-aggressive successor, Dorrance Smith, who apparently qualified for the job in part for his publication in the Wall Street Journal of an op-ed in which he accused the broadcast networks and the cable news networks of being in “partnership” with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Smith was out the door virtually the minute Rumsfeld resigned.
It was Wednesday’s “Early Bird” first edition, however, that really caught my eye to the changes in the publication’s regime. At the edition’s very end – the space reserved for op-eds and almost never any letters – appeared four blistering letters to the editor published in the NYT in reaction to an article by an op-ed by the chief prosecutor in the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions, Morris D. Davis, entitled “The Guantanamo I Know.” The column was a paean to the prison and the commission process, concluding:
“Guantánamo Bay is a clean, safe and humane place for enemy combatants, and the Military Commissions Act provides a fair process to adjudicate the guilt or innocence of those alleged to have committed crimes. Even the most vocal critics say they do not want to set terrorists free, but they scorn Guantánamo Bay and military commissions and demand alternatives. The facts show the current alternative is worth keeping.”
The letters — from Jennifer Daskal, the senior Counter-Terrorism Counsel at Human Rights Watch; Marc Falkoff, an assistant professor of law at Northern Illinois University; J. Wells Dixon and Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, staff attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Priti Patel, an associate attorney at Human Rights First – were blistering, to say the least – and their appearance strategically placed as the coda to the morning’s “Early Bird” suggested, at least to me, that Gates really does want to close down the prison and doesn’t think much of Col. Davis’ military commissions either.
It's not like the universe of possible suspects is inexhaustible.
A mystery surrounding the deaths of five French fishermen in a trawler accident three years ago deepened yesterday when a judge said that the boat was probably sunk by an unknown submarine spying on NATO exercises.
Richard Foltzer, a French investigating magistrate, made his ruling after a campaign by relatives of the dead men to break through what they describe as a wall of silence put up by France, Britain and other NATO members.
They have always believed that a submarine caused the sinking of the Breton trawler Bugaled Breizh off Cornwall in January 2004, and that officials have covered up the truth.
They claimed to have been vindicated when Judge Foltzer told them that the most plausible theory was that one of the trawler's cables had been caught by a submarine which then dragged it under water.
"The legal system first talked about a submarine nautical event, then an exogenous force and now they are pronouncing the word submarine," said Maître Christian Bergot, the lawyer representing the fishermen’s families. "The judge has made striking progress."
Judge Foltzer appears to have ruled out claims that the accident was caused by a British or Dutch submarine participating in the joint NATO and Royal Navy exercise.
Documents submitted by the British authorities say that HMS Turbulent – accused in a French television documentary of involvement in the sinking – was tied up in Devonport while HMS Torbay was 100 miles away. The Dutch vessel, Dolfinj, was nine miles away.
After meeting Judge Foltzer, Maître Bergot said: "The submarine expert designated by the judge has put NATO's submarines out of the area.
"If it's not one of those, it can only be a spy submarine," he said the judge told him.
He welcomed judicial backing for what relatives claim to be the most likely explanation for the loss, but said that it would be very difficult to trace the submarine allegedly responsible.
Rémi Gloagen, whose brother Patrick died in the sinking, said: “We were happy that the word 'submarine' was pronounced but when the spy submarine was mentioned we said to ourselves, 'We're at a dead end'."
Jun 28, 2007
EU and US negotiators have struck a deal on sharing information about transatlantic flight passengers.
No details are officially available*, but EU sources say data will be kept by US security agencies for 15 years.
Under agreements reached after the 9/11 attacks, European airlines must provide 34 pieces of information about passengers flying into the US.
The latest deal expires at the end of July. A replacement agreement must be approved by the EU's 27 member states.
Wednesday's deal was reached in talks between European Union Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.SOME THINGS US CUSTOMS KNOWS
- Your history of missing flights
- Your frequent flyer miles
- Your seat location aboard
- Your e-mail address
- The US and the EU have differed on ways to balance security needs with concern for passengers' privacy.
A previous deal lapsed last October. The two sides failed to agree on terms for a full renewal and only reached an interim agreement.
Earlier, EU officials approved a separate agreement giving US counter-terrorist investigators access to details of international money transfers processed by the Brussels-based Swift network.
Washington says it needs the information to track and block terrorist funding, but EU regulators ruled that the original arrangement broke the union's privacy laws.
*"No details are officially available", but loyal SMC readers get the real scoop. According to the summary record of the relevent EU committee (pdf), these are the negotiated details:
Ministers Schauble and Secretary Chertoff have agreed on the following, which according to the Commission is fully consistent with the negotiating mandate adopted by the Council :
- Structure of the deal : an Article 24/38 TEU agreement would be concluded between the EU and the US, supplemented by an exchange of letters acknowledging the unilateral undertakings that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is ready to adopt to protect the PNR data through a Statement of Record Notice (SORN). The precise nexus between the two is not agreed yet (the US side wants to avoid that the exchange of letters amounts to an agreement).
- PNR data would be kept for 7 years as "active" data and 8 years as "dormant" data.
- DHS would get access to PNR data and not only the Customs and Border Protection Department (CBP).
- The number of accessible data is reduced from 34 to 19.
- There would be a clear commitment to a PUSH system.
Many elements remain open though :
- Where to install the filters to delete the sensitive data (in the EU or in the US) ?
- The oversight mechanism : the Commission suggests to use the figure of the "eminent person" as in the SWIFT file.
- Reciprocity : the US wants to redefine the safeguards if a Member State or the EU were setting up a PNR system with more lenient safeguards.
Jun 27, 2007
In 1992 U.S. commandos “stormed” the beaches of Somalia in what was known as Operation Restore Hope. The United States was invading Somalia to, as was told to the public, restore law and order to a country devastated by anarchy, and to feed the population. As then-President George H. W. Bush told the nation in a televised address on December 4, 1992:
“I want to talk to you today about the tragedy in Somalia and about a mission that can ease suffering and save lives. Every American has seen the shocking images from Somalia. The scope of suffering there is hard to imagine. Already, over a quarter of a million people--as many people as live in Buffalo, New York--have died in the Somali famine. In the months ahead, five times that number, 1.5 million people could starve to death…There is no government in Somalia. Law and order have broken down--anarchy prevails.”
Here seemed to be another worthy humanitarian cause. But why would Bush, who spent an entire career in public office untroubled by poverty and hunger at home and abroad, suddenly be so moved to fight famine in Somalia?
Across Africa similar crises were causing mass devastation, yet U.S. Marines were not dispatched to deal with these humanitarian crises. For instance, Human Rights Watch reported on Mozambique:
“…The disappearance of any form of effective government throughout most rural areas of the country has appeared to draw closer by the month. The severe drought of 1991-1992 undermined the unified command of both armies, as soldiers turned to looting and pillaging to provide for themselves. Relief agencies are already describing Mozambique as ‘the next Somalia.’”
So why was Somalia the chosen country? The mainstream media applauded the administration’s efforts at humanitarian intervention, and seemingly not a critical murmur was sounded as to why Somalia was chosen over Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola or countless other nations.
A 1993 Los Angeles Times article offered a clue. This article was completely ignored by other media outlets, yet gave critical insight into an important resource Somalia had – oil. According to the article, “Nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown..." This article also called into question Conoco’s cozy relationship with the U.S. government, pointing out that the U.S. had leased its de facto embassy from the corporation.
Newly-declassified State Department documents [The Conoco Somalia Declassification Project] offer more evidence concerning the significance of oil behind the intervention. The documents, released in response to two Freedom of Information Act requests [by Keith Yearman], highlight the role Conoco played in the years leading up to the invasion and also briefly highlight Conoco’s support for U.S. government operations in the country.
Civil war brought the downfall of Siad Barre in January 1991. The conflict prompted the U.S. and most other nations to close their embassies, and for most oil companies to cease exploration efforts. On July 27, 1990 Conoco suspended operations briefly when its security captain and a fuel truck driver were shot and killed. By April 1991 Conoco notified the State Department it was ready to restart operations. The economic gains would have been great – perhaps even surpassing Hunt Oil’s windfall in Yemen (which was pumping some 200,000 barrels per day in the late 1980s). According to a June 20, 1991 cable from Richard Barrett, then-U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, “[A source] claims to have seen an internal document of Conoco (Somalia), which states that sites in the Garoe – Las Anod area are capable of producing 300,000 barrels of oil per day…A confirmed strike could pre-empt moves toward reconciliation…It could also set off battles between clans for control of land where drilling is expected.”
Conoco had long been providing support to State Department missions, from providing space on corporate aircraft traveling to Mogadishu, to housing and feeding State Department and other government employees, to even arranging security for government personnel. Some examples of Conoco’s support:
• From a May 21, 1991 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi: “Two USG [U.S. government] employees would travel to Mogadishu several days after Conoco re-occupies its offices on June 4…USG employees would be welcome to stay with Conoco and would be protected throughout their stay by Conoco’s private guard service.”
• From an October 9, 1991 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi: “Embassy is in daily contact with Conoco (Somalia), Ltd...During four visits by USG officials to Mogadishu over the past several months, Conoco (Somalia), Ltd. has provided the following security: USG officials are met at the airport by armed guards and escorted via convoy to the Conoco residence…USG officials move about Mogadishu as little as necessary. When they do, they are provided with armed guards. USG officials sleep and take their meals at the Conoco compound. When they leave Mogadishu, they are again escorted to the airport via convoy under armed guard…The aircraft…is in constant radio contact with the Conoco compound while in flight, which further facilitates security…”
• From an October 11, 1991 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi (discussing plans for an assessment mission to arrive the following week): “Conoco, a non-USG entity, has basically given the ‘green light’ for this mission. It is not Conoco’s call to do so. Conoco security is excellent. Their guards are well-paid and well-armed…” Concerned that the security situation might deteriorate, Deputy Chief of Mission E. Michael Southwick warned “someone could get hurt. If the latter be the case, Conoco, which has no legal responsibility to protect official USG personnel, will say ‘we tried our best’ and the USG is faced with both an embarrassing political and legal dilemma. A mission of this importance may warrant the use of U.S. military or DS [Diplomatic Security Service] Security assets.”
The assessment mission visited Mogadishu from October 17 – 20, 1991, ostensibly to evaluate the political and security situation in Somalia. The U.S. Embassy had been closed due to civil unrest, and the delegation was tasked with reviewing properties for a small diplomatic mission. According to the October 22, 1991 summary of the delegation:
"There are, at present, few American citizens in Somalia. Conoco (Somalia), Ltd., however, anticipates re-commencing oil exploration work in southern Somalia within the next several months. According to Conoco, this would involve the introduction of 50-60 Amcit employees into Somalia. If the security situation does not deteriorate, it would be realistic to project a total presence of around 100 Amcits in southern Somalia by the middle of 1992. Such a community would justify a consular presence in Mogadishu.
"There are, at present, only two US firms (Conoco and Turnkey) operating in Somalia. Others, especially in the oil sector, are considering resuming operations. These firms will sometimes require the type of diplomatic support best provided by a permanent diplomatic mission.”
In early December 1992, the State Department leased Conoco’s headquarters to serve as the new diplomatic mission (technically the U.S. Liaison Office). The State Department would pay Conoco $41,260 for six months rent. As Michael Parenti noted in Against Empire, “U.S. taxpayers were paying for the troops in Somalia to protect Conoco's interests, and they were paying the corporation for the privilege of doing so."
By mid-December, arrangements were made for " a letter of appreciation from President Bush to the president of Conoco for the tremendous support that Conoco as a corporation and Raymond Marchand [of Conoco (Somalia), Ltd.] as an individual have provided here."
We know how Somalia turned out – with U.S. soldiers dragged through the streets, the U.S. withdrawal, and with oil companies still hungry for Somali crude. During the occupation of Iraq, with the president’s secret energy task force, high oil prices, and the unquestioned power and influence of the oil companies, both the reasons for and lessons from Somalia must be fresh in our minds.
In case you missed the link earlier in this post, The Conoco Somalia Declassification Project is available here and is posted online for the first time (published 2007-06-25).
As of now, no documents concerning the initial contact between Conoco and the US government concerning Operation Restore Hope have been made available. This initial contact came in at least 1991, as is demonstrated in the project's "Mogadishu Assessment Mission, Oct. 17-20: Preliminary Report"pdf (22 October 1991).
Hacked Excerpt Of An Article At NarcoSphere By Keith Yearman. Fine work, Keith!
Jun 26, 2007
The U.S. government propaganda agency Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) today released a report on the information operations being conducted by the Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
"Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War Of Images And Ideas" (76 page PDF) by RFE/RL regional analysts Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo.
■ Sunni insurgents in Iraq and their supporters worldwide are exploiting the Internet to pursue a massive and far-reaching media campaign. Insurgent media are forming perceptions of the war in Iraq among the best-educated and most influential segment of the Arab population.
■ The Iraqi insurgent media network is a boon to global jihadist media, which can use materials produced by the insurgency to reinforce their message.
■ Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgents' efforts, transmitting their message to an audience of millions.
■ The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy, or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and technologically adaptive.
■ The rising tide of Sunni-Shi'ite hate speech in Iraqi insurgent media points to the danger of even greater sectarian bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
■ The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world. An alternative, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand.
■ There is little to counter this torrent of daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, and even television channels.
■ We should not concede the battle without a fight. The insurgent media network has key vulnerabilities that can be targeted. These include:• A lack of central coordination and a resulting lack of message control.
• A widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliated
The RFE/RL report is really well done, with lots of unusually detailed information about the various insurgent groups, with screen captures of examples of their PSYOP products.
Jun 25, 2007
The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual "nodes" to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.
Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a "synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information", according to a concept paper for the project.
"SWS provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP)," the paper reads, so that military leaders can "develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners".
SWS also replicates financial institutions, utilities, media outlets, and street corner shops. By applying theories of economics and human psychology, its developers believe they can predict how individuals and mobs will respond to various stressors.
Yank a country's water supply. Stage a military coup. SWS will tell you what happens next.
"The idea is to generate alternative futures with outcomes based on interactions between multiple sides," said Purdue University professor Alok Chaturvedi, co-author of the SWS concept paper.
Chaturvedi directs Purdue's laboratories for Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulations, or SEAS - the platform underlying SWS. Chaturvedi also makes a commercial version of SEAS available through his company, Simulex, Inc.
SEAS users can visualise the nodes and scenarios in text boxes and graphs, or as icons set against geographical maps.
Corporations can use SEAS to test the market for new products, said Chaturvedi. Simulex lists the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and defense contractor Lockheed Martin among its private sector clients.
The US government appears to be Simulex's number one customer, however. And Chaturvedi has received millions of dollars in grants from the military and the National Science Foundation to develop SEAS.
Chaturvedi is now pitching SWS to DARPA and discussing it with officials at the US Department of Homeland Security, where he said the idea has been well received, despite the thorny privacy issues for US citizens.
In fact, Homeland Security and the Defense Department are already using SEAS to simulate crises on the US mainland.
The Joint Innovation and Experimentation Directorate of the US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM-J9) in April began working with Homeland Security and multinational forces over "Noble Resolve 07", a homeland defense experiment.
In August, the agencies will shift their crises scenarios from the East Coast to the Pacific theatre.
JFCOM-J9 completed another test of SEAS last year. Called Urban Resolve, the experiment projected warfare scenarios for Baghdad in 2015, eight years from now.
JFCOM-9 is now capable of running real-time simulations for up to 62 nations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and China. The simulations gobble up breaking news, census data, economic indicators, and climactic events in the real world, along with proprietary information such as military intelligence.
Military and intel officials can introduce fictitious agents into the simulations (such as a spike in unemployment, for example) to gauge their destabilising effects on a population.
Officials can also "inject an earthquake or a tsunami and observe their impacts (on a society)", Chaturvedi added.
Jim Blank, modelling and simulation division chief at JFCOM-J9, declined to discuss the specific routines military commanders are running in the Iraq and Afghanistan computer models. He did say SEAS might help officers determine where to position snipers in a city square, or to envision scenarios that might emerge from widespread civil unrest.
SEAS helps commanders consider the multitude of variables and outcomes possible in urban warfare, said Blank.
"Future wars will be asymetric in nature. They will be more non-kinetic, with the center of gravity being a population."
The Iraq and Afghanistan computer models are the most highly developed and complex of the 62 available to JFCOM-J9. Each has about five million individual nodes representing things such as hospitals, mosques, pipelines, and people.
The other SEAS models are far less detailed, encompassing only a few thousand nodes altogether, Blank said.
Jun 24, 2007
An excerpt from the next installment of Roger Morris' lengthy series on Robert Gates and the Cold War.
1976 would offer the funeral procession that signaled the arrival of a new right-wing order and, with it, Gates' further rise. That March, as part of Ford's defensive response to the Reagan assault, the president brought onto the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (FIAB), a traditionally toothless CIA oversight body, the man who would be the most important patron in Gates' career, a slightly seedy and indefatigably reactionary, Russophobic Long Island lawyer named William Casey.
It was an extraordinarily vulnerable political moment for the CIA, reeling from more than a dozen reports by Watergate-inspired Congressional committees. They had compiled a staggering (if very partial) list of the Agency's lawless abuses: multiple covert interventions, betrayals of clients, assassinations (involving bizarre, often schoolboy-level toxin and dart technologies), and domestic spying as well as mail opening. The revelations prompted the creation of Select Committees in both the House and Senate to oversee covert action, and extracted a Ford presidential order (subsequently renewed by President Reagan) prohibiting CIA assassinations -- "reforms" that would turn out to be far less than expected in both cases.
For William Casey and other members of what was already probably the most hard-line FIAB in history, the agenda was hardly to rein in the Agency's mandate for covert action, which they thought too limited, but rather to escalate the attack on arms control and détente. Supported by Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs, Casey led the Board in pressuring Ford to promulgate a "Team B," a group of outside "critics" who would critique and counter the CIA's assessment of Soviet strength and intentions.
Given Kissinger's still considerable personal prestige, the weakened CIA was obviously an easier entry point for Casey and his cohorts in the assault on détente. But there was grim irony in the charge underlying the formation of Team B -- that the Agency had somehow been "soft" on the Russians or prone to underestimate Soviet strength. Though Gates' 1973 NIE pushed conclusions well beyond the evidence, even the usual CIA assessments, including its analysis of Soviet strategic forces for the SALT talks (in which Gates participated), had not differed significantly from the Pentagon's hawkish ones.
If anything, as it joined the wider bureaucratic revolt against SALT II, the Agency regularly overestimated overall Soviet strength and misread the burden of the arms race on the Soviet economy. Even leaked to Capitol Hill, however, the CIA's cautions and qualifications did not lend themselves quite as readily to demagogic appeal as the counterrevolution now sought.
"Let her fly!! -- OK, G.B." was the flourish with which the new Director, George H.W. Bush, signed off on Team B, though later, when the episode became notorious, he would admit to an aide, "It wasn't my doing." Team B's right-wingers, including Paul Wolfowitz, were chaired, aptly enough, by Harvard's Richard Pipes. He had been handpicked by Richard Perle via Senator Jackson and came, like most of the others, with "little command of scientific [strategic weapons] matters," as Garry Wills put it. The group would form what even hard-line CIA analyst Ray Cline called "a kangaroo court of outside critics all picked from one point of view."
Predictably, their "findings" were a simplistic fantasy: The Soviet Union was intent on starting World War III and an American nuclear "window of vulnerability" made such a Russian attack plausible. This scenario required, of course, an inconceivably perfect Soviet first strike as well as actions and reactions precise beyond any war-planner's wildest dreams.
Once the Reagan regime -- filling posts with Team B members -- took office in 1981, the "window of vulnerability" would mercifully disappear, just as had the budget-plumping 1940s "bomber gap" and the 1950s "missile gap" (both authored, in part, by Paul Nitze). In 1976, however, Team B opened the window wide. News of it, duly leaked by Rumsfeld and others, was imbibed by the press, pundits, and Congress with the usual shallowness, inciting a public mood that Wills termed "hysteria about the enemy as a patriotic duty." (Much the same mood would reappear with the neoconservatives post-9/11, making Washington safe for Pentagon appropriations for generations to come.)
Jun 23, 2007
From a long essay on the Cold War in the form of a profile on U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by former NSC official Roger Morris.
The new mandate for intervention would lie with the innocuously titled "Office of Policy Coordination". After initial fumbling by men far too hesitant, it was handed over to Frank Wisner, a well-to-do southerner and fey Russophobe in the Lovett mold. He came to Washington in his bald, jowly forties by way of a Wall Street law firm, a wartime OSS liaison with Romanian royalty, and the requisite Manhattan and Georgetown society friends from whom he recruited the "old boys" who would give the early CIA much of its outer gloss and inner fatuousness.
Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, later Le Carre and others - a teeming genre - would portray the smug ignorance, incompetence, sleaze and self-ruin of spies' machinations. But the Wisner club's all-too-real version of life imitated, and improved on, art.
Funded by money skimmed from the Marshall Plan, their "operations" were grim previews - and parodies - of things to come, of a world that less than two decades later would be second nature to Gates. The code names were colorful; the realities dark. Bloodstone enlisted Nazi SS veterans, most of them war criminals, and placed them in key positions - from the founders of West German intelligence to CIA-paid advisers to tyrannical client regimes in Iraq, Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia, where they proved adept at organizing secret police and using Gestapo torture methods to deal with domestic democrats and Islamic devouts (wiping out the former while scarring and steeling the latter for a fierce evolution to our jihadist world).
Mockingbird employed Washington Post editor Phil Graham and other ready establishment collaborators to suborn the foreign press and American media. "By the early 1950s," wrote biographer Deborah Davis, "Wisner 'owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles."
Jun 22, 2007
From the Baghdad embassy grapevine:
Just another day at the office for our man in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Wednesday's confidential Situation Report over there said that the security office in Baghdad "reports 9 to 10 rounds of IDF" -- indirect fire, meaning mortar rounds or rockets -- "have hit the Embassy Baghdad compound. One round caused damage to the Embassy's north wing. There are no reported casualties.
"Further to Watch Alert 1241, Embassy Baghdad reports Ambassador Crocker's office window was damaged by one IDF round, sending shrapnel into his office. The Ambassador was in the room at the time of the attack, but there were no injuries."
We're told the windows were blown out and glass shards were in the office. But this, for Crocker, is par for the course.
Let's recall that the near-legendary diplomat was working in the embassy in Beirut in 1983 when a suicide bomber driving a delivery van of explosives rammed into the seven-story building, split it in two and killed 64 people.
Crocker was blown against a wall and bloodied but not seriously injured. He and his wife, who also worked there, got out of the building and he went through the rubble, searching for colleagues. ...
About six months ago, the Iraq Study Group noted that, of the 1,000 employees at the embassy in Baghdad, only 33 speak Arabic and six speak the language fluently, meaning at a 4 level. This puts the war effort "often at a disadvantage."
Well, we're happy to report, as we move along in the fifth year of the war, there appears maybe to have been progress since that report. The State Department, in response to a reporter's question, said Wednesday that now "10 Foreign Service Officers are at or above the 3 reading/3 speaking level in Arabic and five others test at or above the 3 level in speaking. A 3/3 indicates a general professional fluency level."
Hard to describe these levels with precision, but a 3/3 is the minimum fluency level, where you can get by quite well, give a reasonably correct speech but maybe not be able to read a contract or completely understand a rapid-fire chat among the locals.
Jun 21, 2007
Cheney's Iran-Arms-to-Taliban Gambit Rebuffed
A media campaign portraying Iran as supplying arms to the Taliban guerrillas fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, orchestrated by advocates of a more confrontational stance toward Iran in the George W. Bush administration, appears to have backfired last week when Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeil, issued unusually strong denials.
The allegation that Iran has reversed a decade-long policy and is now supporting the Taliban, conveyed in a series of press articles quoting "senior officials" in recent weeks, is related to a broader effort by officials aligned with Vice President Dick Cheney to portray Iran as supporting Sunni insurgents, including al Qaeda, to defeat the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S.-IRAN: New Arms Claim Reveals Cheney-Military Rift
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns declared in Paris Jun. 12 that Iran was "transferring arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan", putting it in the context of a larger alleged Iranian role of funding "extremists" in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq. The following day he asserted that there was "irrefutable evidence" of such Iranian arms supply to the Taliban.
The use of the phrase "irrefutable evidence" suggested that the Burns statement was scripted by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The same phrase had been used by Cheney himself on Sep. 20, 2002, in referring to the administration's accusation that Saddam Hussein had a programme to enrich uranium as the basis for a nuclear weapon.
But the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, pointed to other possible explanations, particularly the link between drug smuggling and weapons smuggling between Iran and Afghanistan.
Gen. McNeill repeated in an interview with U.S. News and World Report last week a previous statement to Reuters that he did not agree with the charge. McNeill minimised the scope of the arms coming from Iran, saying: "What we've found so far hasn't been militarily significant on the battlefield."
He speculated that the arms could have come from black market dealers, drug traffickers, or al Qaeda backers and could have been sold by low-level Iranian military personnel.
Jun 20, 2007
While the U.S. in recent months reportedly transferred large quantities of weapons to Fatah in Gaza, Hamas has won most [if not all] gun battles against the U.S.-backed militias. One Palestinian security [said] Fatah fighters today were "crying all day into their radios asking to be evacuated."
Hamas seized stockpiles of U.S. weapons when they took control of Fatah headquarters.[Hamas] also took possession of eight American armored personnel carriers provided to Abbas' Fatah party the last few years.
The U.S. had the past year given large quantities of weapons to bolster Fatah in clashes against Hamas. Hamas officials [have repeatedly said] they would seize any American weaponry provided to Fatah in Gaza. [and so they now have!]
Washington [has recently] sent diplomatic messages to the Palestinians that if aid were requested, the U.S. would bolster the Fatah organization in clashes against Hamas, including providing Fatah's Force 17 with weapons. Force 17 serve as de facto police officers in Gaza [(not any more!)] and the West Bank.
The last confirmed U.S. weapons transfer to Force 17 took place in May 2006 and consisted of 3,000 assault rifles, but multiple other later transfers were delivered to Fatah [according to unconfirmed reports], including a cache of 7,000 rifles in January and about 8,000 assault rifles in February.
Abbas [recently] petitioned Israel to allow more weapons and munitions – including assault rifles provided by the U.S. – to reach his fighters in the Gaza Strip to bolster them against Hamas, according to diplomatic sources.
[T]he weapons shipments awaiting Fatah include more than 1,000 American assault rifles and 1 million rounds of ammunition provided by the U.S. and coordinated by Keith Dayton, the U.S. security director for the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
-Hacked Excerpts From WND
I had been wondering why people who know precisely what constitutes "sophisticated Information Operations" are saying that a bunch of Iraqi insurgents who do not even have reliable access to electricity (much less to the panoply of assets that U.S. military Information Operations utilize) are beating us at our own game.
An article in today's Christian Science Monitor (not by one of the ex-military men I allude to above) indicates that the bunch of them are conflating the words "sophisticated" and "effective."
But there is a reason for their dishonesty.
In 2005 Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote a letter to the then top insurgent leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "[M]ore than half of this battle," he wrote, "is taking place in the battlefield of the media.... [W]e are in a media battle, in a race for the hearts and minds of our umma [people]."
As the struggle in Iraq between the insurgents on the one hand and US military and Iraqi security forces on the other reaches a climactic phase, it is clear that the insurgents, far from being a band of crude guerilla fighters, have taken the Al Qaeda leader's injunction to heart and have coupled the tactics of terror with a sophisticated knowledge and use of modern media.
Their command of the Internet, their use of television, their release and timing of material calculated to be picked up and used by Arab and Western TV outlets and news agencies, indicates a high degree of planning and professionalism.
When US forces stormed into Iraq bent on toppling Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon adopted a new and enlightened policy toward press coverage. US reporters were embedded into combat units and, with the aid of modern communications techniques, sent dramatic real-time coverage of a brilliant military campaign to millions of spellbound Americans back home. Journalists-turned-military-reporters shared the same hardships and dangers of the troops, some losing their lives in the process of reporting the story. Censorship was minimal, designed to keep sensitive information about troop movements from giving any help to the enemy. By contrast, the propaganda efforts of Mr. Hussein's information ministry were laughable, with "Baghdad Bob" continuing to proclaim victory even as US tanks were entering the Iraqi capital.
In the aftermath of the war, fewer US correspondents were embedded with US military units, and the story took a different direction. The focus was on attempts to build a democratic political system and repair an infrastructure both neglected by Hussein and then damaged even more during the fighting. Then came more negative stories of US mistakes and the Pentagon's unpreparedness for the enormity of problems in the postwar occupation. Finally, Iraq lapsed into violence, with car bombings and assassinations and hostage-taking providing a daily litany of horror. The occupying US soldiers began to take ever more casualties as did US and other foreign civilian workers and journalists, whose fatalities soon numbered more than in any other war.
They included brave Iraqi journalists and cameramen working for the Americans at great peril.
Critics in the Bush administration charged that images of chaos and violence were overshadowing stories of a more positive nature: of schools that were being opened, hospitals that were being rebuilt, and Iraqis who were coming forward to be policemen.
Now some US military officers, too, charge that a clever enemy media campaign is gaining traction and that the US is losing the war in information about battlefield operations.
A Marine officer whose credibility I trust cites an operation of success in the Fallujah region earlier this month that was reported as a disaster by US and British media companies. His unit had established a new precinct headquarters for Iraqi police, Army troops, and US Marines to patrol and protect a dedicated area. It was well received by the local populace and almost 200 Iraqis volunteered for police recruitment. Insurgents sought to disrupt it but were routed.
Meanwhile, in a separate firefight at a makeshift suicide vehicle factory, three separate suicide bombers were killed, two suicide trucks were discovered and blown up, and foreign and other fighters were killed or captured. On the defending side, one civilian and one policeman were wounded, with no US or other casualties. "The enemy was killed in his tracks; his best weapon was discovered before it could cause any harm," says the officer, "but Western media reported no enemy killed in these operations, 28 civilians killed, and 50 civilians wounded. We are getting demolished," the Marine officer says, "by nefarious enemy media outlets … 'reporters' or 'sources' for Arab and other news agencies either on insurgent payrolls or who have known sympathies with insurgent operations, and by collective Western media that are often being manipulated by enemy elements. What incredible economy of effort the enemy is afforded when US media is their megaphone. Why spend precious resources on developing your own propaganda machine when you can make your opponent's own news outlets scream your message louder than you could ever have hoped to do independently?"
The CSM article is part of an wider American Info-Op, the aim of which is to point to the Western media as a big part of our problem in Iraq.
There are nine distinct missions for Army special forces, including: unconventional warfare, direct action, counterproliferation, foreign internal defense, psychological operations, and "special activities," which is the DoD euphemism for covert action.
"Special activities fall under Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities," according to the Army field manual. "They require a presidential finding and congressional oversight. ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces] conduct them abroad in support of national foreign policy objectives, but in a manner that USG [US Government] participation is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged."
The 200-page Army field manual, which remains in effect, was issued in 2001.
Jun 19, 2007
The survival of Iran’s fragile pro-democracy movement is being threatened by the US administration’s continuing attempts to fund the country’s civil society, leading activists have warned.
Prominent NGOs say the US funding for opposition groups, and Iranian suspicions that the money is designed to create the conditions for a “soft revolution”, have helped President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad justify a crackdown on their activities.
The recent arrests of four Iranian-American dual citizens – two on charges of espionage – have sharpened what was already a fierce debate in Tehran and Washington on whether the lack of transparency in identifying the recipients of US funding makes local activists vulnerable to action by the regime.
After hesitant progress during the eight years of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, a third of Iran’s 8,000 or so NGOs, ranging from women’s rights groups to those campaigning on environmental and religious issues, are believed to have either completely halted or downgraded their activities since the election of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad in 2005.
“Activity for civil society has become even more costly than political activity due to US funding,” says Sohrab Razzaghi, head of Koneshgaran-e Davtalab, which trains civil society activists but was closed down by the judiciary in March without reason. “The government now sees us as the Trojan horse who function as the enemy’s fifth column.”
Although Mr Razzaghi was not accused of receiving US money, he blames the suspicion surrounding the US funding for the organisation’s closure.
The US allocated $66.1m (€50m, £34m) in 2006 to promote democracy in the Islamic republic. Most of the money was for organisations outside Iran including the Washington-based Voice of America TV but $20m was earmarked for activities inside the country. Recipients remained anonymous unless they chose to reveal the funding themselves.
Critics in Tehran and Washington, including some within the US administration, allied governments and prominent NGOs, say this secret funding is damaging Iran’s NGO movement and the few US organisations working openly with Iranians, such as the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Open Society Institute.
The husband of Haleh Esfandiari, one of those arrested on espionage charges, is among those seeking more transparency.
“There is a general agreement among Iranian intellectuals inside Iran and academics outside that the loose talk of regime change and allocation of money supposed to advance democracy in Iran has done a great deal of harm to Iranian academics, intellectuals and re-searchers,” Shaul Bakhash told the FT. “It also feeds the pa-ranoia of the Iranian regime of American intentions.”
Ms Esfandiari works for the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center.
But there is no sign the US administration will retreat. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, made clear last month the US would not be deterred from funding pro-democracy efforts in Iran by requesting a sharp increase in spending to $75m for “civil society and human rights projects in Iran” in 2008.
A senior State Department official who asked not to be named dismissed the criticism and rejected such calls for transparency. The identity of recipients was kept classified for their own safety, he said.
He described the recent arrests as a new tactic aimed at the billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Institute and argued that they were part of a long-running campaign of repression of civil society that began years before the Bush administration’s democracy spending.
One insider in Washington said some officials had even welcomed the backlash from Tehran, arguing that it would clarify the divisions between the Iranian government and “opposition”. He said that Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary leading Iran policy, was a keen proponent of the funding programme, seen as another lever to use against Tehran.
Critics of the programme in Washington said the state department was under severe pressure, especially from Congress to spend money and that projects were approved without proper vetting and oversight.
Asked if the funding added up to an attempt at “soft revolution”, as claimed by the Iranian government, a senior State Department official replied that the US was supporting Iranians who wanted to decide the course of their country’s future. The policy was in line with President George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda”, he said.
“This US interference can lead to the death of civil society at a young age” said Mr Razzaghi. “The US should let societies like Iran practice democracy themselves. This may take longer but it will last longer.”
Twenty-six students spent 10 weeks writing their own wiki-based "National Intelligence Estimate" on the subject of global disease and its possible strategic impacts, addressing the "key estimative question" posed by the project coordinator assigned to the group: What are the most important and most likely impacts on, and threats to, U.S. national interests resulting from infectious and chronic human disease originating outside our country over the next 10 to 15 years?
The students were given telephone access to analysts within the intelligence community, and the Office of the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis set up a private wiki for the students to use, but they worked independently of any government office.
The end product contains more than 1,000 individual pages, assesses the strategic impact of disease across the globe and draws on a wide range of publicly available sources, such as World Health Organization reports, media reports and government publications.
The Mercyhurst INSIGHT (Identifying National Security Implications of Global Health Trends) Wiki.
Jun 18, 2007
Are the leaders of the pro-Western "color revolutions" fulfilling the freedom-loving aspirations of their people, or are they merely servants of a NATO plot to dominate the world, with key support from Britain's Financial Times newspaper?
Until a few weeks ago, the answer to that question depended on whose propaganda you believed: the West's, or the Kremlin's.
But then the Ukrainian press got a hold of secretly recorded telephone conversations between Ukraine's pro-Western president Viktor Yuschenko, who led the Orange Revolution and his pro-Western counterpart in Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, leader of the Rose Revolution.
Not since the salad days of Russia's "kompromat wars" have we been treated to such an unobstructed view into how Powerful People in this part of the world talk to each other. In fact the last time something this juicy was leaked, it was when former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma was taped swearing like a lowlife thug to his security chiefs to "do something" about journalist Giorgi Gongadze, whose headless corpse was subsequently discovered in the Dniepr River in 2000.
So how different are the pro-Western leaders from those they overthrew? The Yuschenko-Saakashvili tapes aren't as overtly evil as Kuchma's, but if you're a Westerner, they do kind of turn your world upside down. They're also quite funny in how they reveal the enduring spirit of sovok. For one thing, it takes forever for Yuschenko's secretary to negotiate the labyrinth of bad phone lines and the heavily-accented Georgian secretaries before connecting her boss to Saakashvili. For another thing, the two anti-Russian leaders communicate in the only language they're both comfortable in: Russian.
Here is how it starts:
YUSCHENKO'S SECRETARY: Good afternoon, this is Ukraine calling.
SAAKASVHILI'S SECRETARY: Yes, hello.
YUSCH SECTY: Good afternoon. Is it you who talked with us, or was it someone else?
SAAK SECTY: No, no, I didn't speak with you today.
YUSCH SECTY: Well maybe, well, it was also a woman's voice that spoke to us.
SAAK SECTY: Yes, well, so what are you calling about, excuse me?
YUSCH SECTY: Well the presidents wanted to discuss... Mr. Saakashvili wanted to speak with Yuschenko.
SAAK SECTY: Ah, President Yuschenko? With Yuschenko our president he wanted to speak?
YUSCH SECTY: Yes, yes.
SAAK SECTY: And you this morning spoke with our people?
YUSCH SECTY: Well the thing is your side called ours several times this morning but our president wasn't available.
SAAK SECTY: No, it wasn't from us. Maybe it was from the President's secretary's office, if you hold on I'll find out. Just one minute please...
From there the tape lapses into long pauses as secretaries are put on hold, transferred to other secretaries for another round of comedy-of-hijinx, like something out of a Voinovich satire from the 1970s, until finally, after several long minutes, the two great hopes of the former Soviet Union are finally connected.
This is where the tape goes from light comedy to what-the-fuck paranoia fuel. Remember, so far no one has denied the authenticity of the tapes, they've only accused the enemies of the pro-Western leaders, namely The Kremlin, of trying to discredit them. In the great kompromat days, this was how victims of leaked conversations used to essentially confirm the tapes' authenticity: by blaming the leak on their enemies, rather than denying that the conversations ever took place.
Also note that while the Ukrainian media, particularly the pro-Yanukovich media, made much of the tapes, the government-controlled Russian press largely ignored it, as did the free Western media. One reason might be the way that Saakashvili praises the Financial Times' role in the larger propaganda war, not so much the war between Russia and the West as the battle between Europe's democratic peaceniks who might recoil at Yuschenko's authoritarian tactics, and hard-asses like NATO, who want Yuschenko to win no matter what.
The conversation begins with the hotbutton issue in late May: Whether or not Yuschenko's attempt to dissolve Ukraine's parliament, a move which has been criticized as illegal and undemocratic, will gain the support of the West or not. Yuschenko was preparing to force new elections in September, and Saakashvili called him in order to provide Yuschenko with moral support and big-brotherly advice.
SAAKASHVILI: Hello? Hello, hello?
S: Greetings Viktor Andreevich.
Y: Misha, glad to hear from you.
Y: I think that everything will be all right.
S: I think that you're holding up great and, in principle, you're on the right track. I talked to them about that thing you asked me to. Most basically everyone support the idea of early elections [which Yuschenko forced on the parliament, a move criticized as illegal and undemocratic by many inside Ukraine and in the West]. Solana [Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy -Ed.] over there, like always, he started saying, "Maybe we should discuss..." You know Solana already ruined things for us during the revolution.
Y: Right now, Misha, I can tell you that after yesterday, after the decision of RNBO [Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council -Ed.], I think that we've managed to break the key players regarding early elections and everything is now official...
S: No, to go against the elections simply means the end of Ukraine. This is very obvious.
Y: That's why I think that there's about a 90% chance that there'll be early elections.
S: I also think that they [i.e.: Yanukovich and the pro-Russian opposition in Ukraine - Ed.] are psychologically prepared for this. I'd like to point out that they are already in a weak position. If the election takes place, they will lose. They know this, but they still are going along with it. This is just amazing! The only thing that worries me is all their hooligan shenanigans. If they get used to them, then it will have a lasting effect on things. There are various break-ins, takeovers, etc.
Y: I answered back at this with my new ukaz, and fired this guy [presumably Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun, who was fired in late May in a move that nearly sparked violent clashes - Ed.]...
S: I know.
Y: This means that there won't be anything bad. I mean for democracy. But these people, they are facing criminal charges.
S: Yes, that's very important. They must understand. You must set a precedent that they will be punished. An amazing thing happened. You brought people out. And they tried to bring people out, but couldn't. This was very apparent.
Note here, before reading on, the tone adopted by Saakashvili towards Yuschenko. Clearly the Georgian president is the topper in this relationship. What should strike readers and listeners as odd is the fact that Georgia's president seems to be guiding Yuschenko through his political crisis, at times encouraging him, at times praising him, but all the while essentially controlling the rather sheepish Yuschenko, who despite his age, talks like he's Saakashvili's baby brother. In other words, Ukraine's fate once again is being guided by outsiders, rather than by the will of its own people.
Now it gets even weirder.
Y: I told Yanukovich yesterday, because at 11PM at the building of the Secretariat of the President [The cabinet of Ukraine's president. - Ed.] there was supposed to be five to eight thousand protesters here, skinheads and the like... I tell the prime minister, "Victor Fedorovich, keep in mind that all the gates are going to be open..."
Y: "...and it would be nice if they would vandalize the first floor a little bit, break some windows or maybe something else too. Please, do what you want..."
Y: ".. but keep in mind that if this happens, if there will be violence from you, Kiev is going to answer you." I asked him to not do this. Let Kiev celebrate normally and put their trust into politicians to solve problems in a political manner.
S: No. What they did yesterday and the day before yesterday is clearly bringing Kiev's sympathy over to your side. This is obvious. The main thing is for you to be calm and fierce. This is something that people long for...
Y: Sunday showed this. You know, they bussed in 15,000 people. They counted 20,000. But in Kiev, there are 140... 140,000 came out simply because we sent out 1.5 million invitations.
S: Yes, and yesterday I talked to Hoop Scheffer. [Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is NATO's Secretery General - Ed.] He said that he'll call all the Europeans, but that they should all support the idea of early elections because elections are the only way out of this crisis in a normal democracy. There is no other way.
Y: The courts are powerless now. The courts are demoralized. They are in such shape that when the question became a political one, the Constitutional Court could not answer it. [Note: Yuschenko also fired three members of the Constitutional Court who opposed him, in another move whose legality has been highly criticized - Ed.]
S: But even if the court does something, it is because someone bribed it. It needs to be ignored. What is a court? What can a court decide in a political situation?
Y: Absolutely. The court is not an expert on political issues. It can decide questions of rights, but cannot answer political questions. This is what the government is for. It's hard for the courts.
You read that right, folks: Saakashvili and Yuschenko openly tell each other that in a democracy, what matters isn't their courts, since they don't know anything about politics, but rather, what NATO's secretary general wants. And if the head of the NATO military alliance supports a legally-questionable presidential decree calling for new elections that Yuschenko feels assured he'll win, then that's better for developing Ukraine's democracy than letting Ukraine's courts decide the legality of the matter.
At this point, as if subconsciously sensing their neo-Soviet villainy, the old Russia bogeyman makes a surprise appearance:
S: I think that... Hey, have you been watching Russian TV? They're showing crazy hysteria. They're showing some sort of...
Y: Well, have you read the [Russian] State Duma's statement?
S: No I didn't. But the propaganda is crazy.
Y: Anyway, they've issued a statement saying that I've issued an illegal order, that the [Ukrainian] parliament has been disbanded under my direct threat, etc.
S: Yesterday they were discussing the possibility of sending a peacekeeping force openly on Russian TV...
Y: They want an international initiative headed by Russia...
S: The Financial Times showed very good initiative, I mean by publishing that article. They are great. Shows that their team is working well. I think that even if Solana and some other Europeans are going to insist that we "work together" or saying something like "maybe let's live peacefully" [i.e., that Yuschenko negotiate with his opponents in the parliamentEd.], that the majority of Europeans will understand. Of course, we'll have to work on them a bit. The Americans understand the importance of elections. There [Apparently meaning Russia, not America. -Ed.] , my brother, the politics were precise. They knew before the elections they wanted Yuschenko's head on a platter. They had a clear plan, but you got them first. You've mixed up all their cards. This is for real.
That's right: Misha Saakashvili feels certain that the Financial Times team are doing their propagandist-best to ensure that crunchy tree-hugging democrats like Javier Solano won't force their version of democracy down Ukraine's throat, a version that relies on dialogue with the elected opposition and hippie peace; instead, the FT will help promote to its readers a more NATO-friendly, gangster-like version of democracy favored by Saakashvili, a version of democracy in which the toughest man with the biggest krysha wins. This begs the question: are the Kremlin rulers really cynical and paranoid, or is their cynicism and paranoia the result of listening to more conversations like this?
Y: That's why, Misha, we're going only forward. I'm about to meet with Yanukovich. My feeling is that Victor Fedorovich is already in favor of early elections There are of course some legal questions tied with the 60 day election period.
S: With financing and stuff?
Y: Not just that. It's about the meeting of the parties and official party lists. We have a proportional system, we need to work it through these procedures, these procedures are dictated by law... We need to carry them out. That's why in the next four days, all the parties need to meet.
S: But, the most important thing is to have decisive action. Your decisive actions are going to be supported by the people. This is obvious, even to an untrained eye. The main thing is to act decisively, to show your steely will. The other side is wavering all the time. This can be seen. One can sense that they are nervous. The more ruth-lessness you show, the better the results will be for you in the elections.
Y: Well, my own reading of the situation is that it's stable and good for me. From the point of development, it is all going fine.
S: Absolutely. Keep it up.
S: And seriously, this is the real Yuschenko, this is who he is, and the whole world likes him. Exactly.
Y: Thanks. Ok.
S: Ok. Hugs to you.
And somewhere in this sordid tale, there were the hopes and aspirations of the Ukrainian people.