Etiket arşivi: war

The Marikana Massacre and the South African State’s Low Intensity War Against the People

The massacre of the Marikana/Lonmin workers has inserted itself within South Africa’s national consciousness, not so much through the analysis, commentary and reporting in its wake. Instead, it has been the power of the visual images of police armed with awesome fire power gunning down these workers, together with images of bodies lying defeated and lifeless, that has aroused a national outcry and wave of condemnation. have also engendered international protest actions outside South African embassies. In themselves these images communicate a politics about ‘official state power.’ It is bereft of moral concern, de-humanized, brutal and at odds with international human rights standards; in these ways it is no different from apartheid era state sponsored violence and technologies of oppressive rule. Moreover, the images of police officers walking through the Marikana/Lonmin killing field, with a sense of professional accomplishment in its aftermath, starkly portrays a scary reality: the triumph of South Africa’s state in its brutal conquest of its enemies, its citizens.

At the same time, the pain and suffering of the gunned down workers has became the pain of a nation and the world; this has happened even without the ANC government declaring we must not apportion blame but mourn the dead. In a world steeped in possessive individualism and greed, the brutal Marikana/Lonmin massacre reminds us of a universal connection; our common humanity. However, while this modern human connection and sense of empathy is important, it is also superficial. This is brought home by a simple truth: the pain of the Marikana/Lonmin workers is only our pain in their martyrdom. They had to perish for all of us to realise how deep social injustice has become inscribed in the everyday lives of post-apartheid South Africa’s workers and the poor. The low wage, super exploitation model of South African mining, socially engineered during apartheid, is alive and well, and thriving. It is condoned by the post-apartheid state. This is the tragic irony of what we have become as the much vaunted ‘Rainbow nation.’

New Faultline is Revealed

Moreover, the spectral presence of the Marikana/Lonmin massacre speaks to us about another shadow cast by the ‘Rainbow’ fairytale. It forces us to confront the hard edge of violence fluxing through our stressed social fabric. At one time, violent crime – car jackings, robberies, rapes, murders – defined our everyday understandings of violence. Our narration of these violent events constructed a sense of criminal violence as a major fault-line running through South African society. Such violence spreads fear, racial division and a sense of siege. It has been our undeclared civil war. However, the social geography of violence changes with the Marikana/Lonmin moment. A new faultline is revealed. Such a faultline has been in the making deep inside South African society through xenophobic attacks, violent police attacks on striking transport and municipal workers (over the past few years), violence against gays and lesbians especially in township communities, and police complicity in thwarting legitimate protest actions in poor communities and informal settlements. Through a failure to act decisively (in some instances like during xenophobic violence or by failing to provide policing in informal settlements) or through orchestrated violence the South African state is at war with the working-class within its borders; it is a ‘low intensity war.’ More specifically, such a war spans shootings, intimidation, failure to allow communities to lay charges, failure to investigate crimes perpetrated against poor communities, failure to be responsive to the safety needs of poor communities, fabrication and smear campaigns against local leaders, complicity with goons linked to local politicians (particularly the ANC) and a failure to act knowing that innocent lives are in danger.

A few examples of police orchestrated low intensity warfare working in cahoots with ANC goon squads or local politicians against communities illustrates this more clearly. This is based on testimony received from activists. First, after Abahlali Basemjondolo (Shack Dwellers movement) successfully challenged the Slums Act in the Constitutional Court, ensuring community participation to determine whether there can be relocation from an established community they became the target of police-ANC violence. In early 2010 an ANC goon squad violently removes Abahlali from Kennedy Road informal settlement. This is also captured in a documentary entitled Dear Mandela. The police carry out arrests of Abahlali leadership on trumped up charges and public violence which are eventually kicked out of court. Abahlali is not able to return to Kennedy Road informal settlement.

Second, a more recent example in Umlazi township Durban also shows this police-political party nexus working in insidious ways to suppress community demands. The local Unemployed Peoples Movement (UPM) and Ward 88 residents demanded a recall of their ANC councillor and a democratization of the ward committee. In their perception the ANC ward councillor was corrupt, failing to deliver and engaging in clientelistic control of development resources. This unleashed a series of reprisals. On 23 July the leader of the UPM was arrested under false charges. The complainants turned out to be incited by the councillor working in cahoots with the station commander at Umlazi police station. These charges could not stick but they held the leader of UPM for a day. It would seem these trumped up charges were meant to prevent him from leading a community meeting being held on the same day. This story has many twists and turns with the police-ANC apparatus constantly trying to intimidate the UPM and residents of Ward 88 in the course of this struggle.

What is striking about these examples is their challenge to mainstream academic and media explanations of community based violence as being merely reducible to intra-ANC battles. In all these instances a conscious awakening and challenge by communities and movements to the ANC state unleashes a low intensity destabilization of these community forces through the police-ANC state nexus.

COSATU’s Challenge

Contrary to Zwelinzima Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU, who believes South Africa is poised to experience the shock of a ‘ticking time bomb’ rooted in deep inequality and unemployment, this bomb is already exploding in various locales. However, the response of the ANC state has been about a recourse to low intensity violence. The Marikana/Lonmin massacre merely brings this trend into sharp relief. The challenge to COSATU is simple: does it want to remain a democratizing force, with a proud history, and take a stand with the wider working-class or does it want to be complicit in the low intensity war against the broader working-class and citizenry?

At a mass meeting on 22nd August at the University of Johannesburg the Marikana workers and community passionately appealed for solidarity. Such solidarity actions are congealing into but not limited to:

  • calls for a national and international day of solidarity action with Marikana workers (including 3 minutes of silence on August 29th at 1pm as a symbolic reference to the 3 minutes it took the callous South African Police Services to mow down the 34 workers on 16 August 2012);
  • support for solidarity strike action emerging within the platinum mining industry;
  • a call for an independent ‘peoples commission of enquiry’ to ensure full transparency, testimony and justice for the Marikana workers and communities afflicted with state-ANC violence;
  • calls demanding the withdrawal of all charges and the immediate release of miners held in police custody;
  • calls for the dismissal of the Head of the National Prosecuting Authority and the Minister of Police to be dismissed for trying to cover up the police killings of the miners by utilizing a common purpose provision in apartheid legislation to charge the workers for murder and calls for an end to the police siege and harassment of the Marikana communities.

Marikana as a defining moment in post-apartheid politics is essentially about galvanizing the battle to reclaim South Africa’s democracy from below. It resonates with and expresses the desire of the majority to end the ugly reality of South Africa’s deep seated and racialized class based inequality that has been widening under ANC rule. •

Vishwas Satgar is a founding member of the Democratic Left Front and a member of the DLF national convening committee. This article first appeared on his blog

Afghanistan’s Base Bonanza. Total Tops Iraq at That War’s Height

Afghanistan may turn out to be one of the great misbegotten “stimulus packages” of the modern era, a construction boom in the middle of nowhere with materials largely shipped in at enormous expense to no lasting purpose whatsoever. With the U.S. military officially drawing down its troops there, the Pentagon is now evidently reversing the process and embarking on a major deconstruction program. It’s tearing up tarmacs, shutting down outposts, and packing up some of its smaller facilities. Next year, the number of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition bases in the southwest of the country alone is scheduled to plummet from 214 to 70, according to the New York Times.

But anyone who wanted to know just what the Pentagon built in Afghanistan and what it is now tearing down won’t have an easy time of it.
At the height of the American occupation of Iraq, the United States had 505 bases there, ranging from small outposts to mega-sized air bases. Press estimates at the time, however, always put the number at about 300. Only as U.S. troops prepared to leave the country was the actual — startlingly large — total reported. Today, as the U.S. prepares for a long drawdown from Afghanistan, the true number of U.S. and coalition bases in that country is similarly murky, with official sources offering conflicting and imprecise figures. Still, the available numbers for what the Pentagon built since 2001 are nothing short of staggering.

Despite years of talk about American withdrawal, there has in fact been a long-term building boom during which the number of bases steadily expanded. In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) claimed that it had nearly 400 Afghan bases. Early this year, that number had grown to 450. Today, a military spokesperson tells TomDispatch, the total tops out at around 550.

And that may only be the tip of the iceberg.

When you add in ISAF checkpoints — those small baselets used to secure roads and villages — to the already bloated number of mega-bases, forward operating bases, combat outposts, and patrol bases, the number jumps to 750. Count all foreign military installations of every type, including logistical, administrative, and support facilities, and the official count offered by ISAF Joint Command reaches a whopping 1,500 sites. Differing methods of counting probably explain at least some of this phenomenal rise over the course of this year. Still, the new figures suggest one conclusion that should startle: no matter how you tally them, Afghan bases garrisoned by U.S.-led forces far exceed the 505 American bases in Iraq at the height of that war.

Bases of Confusion

There is much confusion surrounding the number of ISAF bases in Afghanistan. Recently, the Associated Press reported that as of October 2011, according to spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Olson, NATO was operating as many as 800 bases in Afghanistan, but has since closed 202 of them and transferred another 282 to Afghan control. As a result, the AP claims that NATO is now operating only about 400 bases, not the 550 to 1,500 bases reported to me by ISAF.

This muddled basing picture and a seeming failure by the U.S. and its international partners to keep an accurate count of their bases in the country has been a persistent feature of the Afghan conflict. Some of the discrepancies may result from terminology or from the confusion that can result from communications in any international coalition. ISAF, NATO, and the U.S. military all seem to keep different counts. Mainly, however, the incongruities appear to stem from fundamental issues of record-keeping — of, in particular, a lack of interest in chronicling just how extensively Afghanistan has been garrisoned.

In January 2010, for example, Colonel Wayne Shanks, an ISAF spokesman, told me that there were nearly 400 U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan, including camps, forward operating bases, and combat outposts. He assured me that he only expected that number to increase by 12 or a few more over the course of that year.

In September 2010, I contacted ISAF’s Joint Command Public Affairs Office to follow up. To my surprise, I was told that “there are approximately 350 forward operating bases with two major military installations, Bagram and Kandahar airfields.” Perplexed by the apparent loss of 50 bases instead of a gain of 12, I contacted Gary Younger, a public affairs officer with the International Security Assistance Force. “There are less than 10 NATO bases in Afghanistan,” he wrote in an October 2010 email. “There are over 250 U.S. bases in Afghanistan.”

By then, it seemed, ISAF had lost up to 150 bases and I was thoroughly confused. When I contacted the military to sort out the discrepancies and listed the numbers I had been given — from Shanks’s 400 base tally to the count of around 250 by Younger — I was handed off again and again until I ended up with Sergeant First Class Eric Brown at ISAF Joint Command’s Public Affairs Office. “The number of bases in Afghanistan is roughly 411,” Brown wrote in a November 2010 email, “which is a figure comprised of large base[s], all the way down to the Combat Out Post-level.”

If the numbers supplied by Olson to the Associated Press are to be believed, then between November 2010 and October 2011, the number of foreign military bases in Afghanistan nearly doubled, from 411 to about 800. Then, if official figures are again accurate, those numbers precipitously dropped by nearly 350 in just four months.

In February of this year, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs told me that there were only 451 ISAF bases in Afghanistan. In July, the ISAF Joint Command Press Desk informed me that the number of bases was now 550, 750, or 1,500, depending on what facilities you chose to count, while NATO’s Olson and the Associated Press put the number back down at the January 2010 figure of around 400. TomDispatch did not receive a response to a request for further clarification from a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan before this article went to press.

Reconciling the numbers may never be possible or particularly edifying. Whatever the true current count of bases, it seems beyond question that the number has far exceeded the level reached in Iraq at the height of the conflict in that country. And while the sheer quantity of ISAF bases in Afghanistan may be shrinking, don’t think deconstruction is all that’s going on. There is still plenty of building underway.

The Continuing Base Build-Up

In 2011, it was hardly more than an empty lot: a few large metal shipping containers sitting on a bed of gravel inside a razor-wire-topped fence at Kandahar Air Field, the massive American base in southern Afghanistan. When I asked about it this spring, the military was tight-lipped, refusing to discuss plans for the facility. But construction is ongoing and sometime next year, as I’ve previously reported, that once-vacant lot is slated to be the site of a two-story concrete intelligence facility for America’s drone war. It will boast almost 7,000 square feet of offices, briefing and conference rooms, and a large “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” operations center.

The hush-hush, high-tech, super-secure facility under construction is just one of many building projects the U.S. military currently has planned or underway there. While some U.S. bases are indeed closing down or being transferred to the Afghan government, and there’s talk of combat operations slowing, as well as a plan for the withdrawal of American combat forces, the U.S. military is still preparing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kandahar and Bagram, a gigantic air base about 40 miles north of Kabul. “Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bagram Office told Freedom Builder, a Corps of Engineers publication, last year. “We’re transitioning… into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base.”

According to contract solicitation documents released earlier this year and examined by TomDispatch, plans are in the works for a Special Operations Forces’ Joint Operations Center at Kandahar Air Field. The 3,000-square-meter facility — slated to include offices for commanders, conference rooms, training areas, and a secure communications room — will serve as the hub for future special ops missions in southern and western Afghanistan, assumedly after the last U.S. “combat troops” leave the country at the end of 2014.

Thus far in 2012, no fewer than eight contracts have been awarded for the construction of facilities ranging from a command and control center and a dining hall to barracks and a detention center at either Kandahar or Bagram. Just one of these contracts covered seven separate Air Force projects at Bagram that are slated to be completed in 2013, including the construction of a new headquarters facility, a control room, and a maintenance facility for fighter aircraft.

Improvements and expansions are planned for other bases as well. Documents examined by TomDispatch shed light on a $10 to $25 million construction project at Camp Marmal near Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh Province on the Uzbekistan and Tajikistan borders. Designated as a logistics hub for the north of the country, the base will see a significant expansion of its infrastructure including an increase in fuel storage capacity, new roads, an upgraded water distribution system, and close to 150 acres of space for stowing equipment and other cargo. According to David Lakin, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, a contract for work on the base will be awarded by the end of the year with an expected completion date in the summer of 2013.

Base World

Even before the new figures on basing in Afghanistan were available, it was known that the U.S. military maintained a global inventory of more than 1,000 foreign bases. (By some counts, around 1,200 or more.) It’s possible that no one knows for sure. Numbers are increasing rapidly in Africa and Latin America and, as is clear from the muddled situation in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been known to lose count of its facilities.

Of those 505 U.S. bases in Iraq, some today have been stripped clean by Iraqis, others have become ghost towns. One former prison base — Camp Bucca — became a hotel, and another former American post is now a base for some members of an Iranian “terrorist” group. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. But while a token number of U.S. troops and a highly militarized State Department contingent remain in Baghdad, the Iraqi government thwarted American dreams of keeping long-term garrisons in the center of the Middle East’s oil heartlands.

Clearly, U.S. planners are having similar dreams about the long-term garrisoning of Afghanistan. Whether the fate of those Afghan bases will be similar to Iraq’s remains unknown, but with as many as 550 of them still there — and up to 1,500 installations when you count assorted ammunition storage facilities, barracks, equipment depots, checkpoints,and training centers — it’s clear that the U.S. military and its partners are continuing to build with an eye to an enduring military presence.

Whatever the outcome, vestiges of the current base-building boom will endure and become part of America’s Afghan legacy. What that will ultimately mean in terms of blood, treasure, and possibly blowback remains to be seen.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the recently published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt). This piece is the latest article in his series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr.

WTF? – CIA enters WikiLeaks war

The CIA has set up a unique task force dedicated to assessing the impact of the recent deluge of leaked diplomatic cables and military files from the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Reports in the US media describe how the WikiLeaks Task Force – which has quickly earned the acronym “WTF” – has been established to provide an “extensive inventory” of all the information that has come out through a number of high profile leaks of classified information.

Julian Assange – espenmoe/flickr

The task force is thought to be involved in calculating the immediate effects of the releases, such as the US ability to recruit informants.

This new role was widely unexpected given that the CIA is one of the government agencies least effected by the leaks, whose source remains unknown despite the continuing imprisonment of former intelligence officer Bradley Manning.

A reluctance on the part of senior CIA staff to share their intelligence on the same platform from which the leaks were taken has meant that only a few files out of hundreds of thousands refer to CIA activities.

The CIA’s system has always been separate from “SIPRNET” – the Pentagon’s classified worldwide three million-strong network from which the leaks were taken – despite most of the reports having a similar secret-level status.

To some within the agency, the leaks have justified the policy of separation – one that came under severe scrutiny after failed inter-agency communications led in part to the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11 2001.

“[The CIA] has not capitulated to this business of making everything available to outsiders. They don’t even make everything available to insiders. And by and large the system has worked,” an unnamed CIA veteran WAS quoted in the Washington Post.

“The consensus was that there were simply too many people potentially who had access [to SIPRNET],” another source is quoted as saying.

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Wikileaks, remains on bail in the UK pending an extradition hearing in relation to an alleged case of sexual assault in Sweden.

Thomas Wolfe: Santimony and cant of war

Thomas Wolfe
From Look Homeward, Angel (1929)

As the war developed, and the literature of war-enchantment began to appear, Margaret Leonard gave him book after book to read. They were the books of the young men – the young men who fought to blot out the evil of the world with their blood. In her trembling voice she read to him Rupert Brooke’s sonnet – “If I should die, think only this of me” – and she put a copy of Donald Hankey’s A Student in Arms into his hand, saying:

“Read this, boy. It will stir you as you’ve never been stirred before. Those boys have seen the vision!”

He read it. He read many others. He saw the vision. He became a member of this legion of chivalry – young Galahad-Eugene – a spearhead of righteousness. He had gone a-Grailing. He composed dozens of personal memoirs, into which quietly, humorously, with fine-tempered English restraint, he poured the full measure of his pure crusading heart. Sometimes, he came through to the piping times of peace minus an arm, a leg, or an eye, diminished but ennobled; sometimes his last radiant words were penned on the eve of the attack that took his life. With glistening eyes, he read his own epilogue, enjoyed his post-mortem glory, as his last words were recorded and explained by his editor. Then, witness of his own martyrdom, he dropped two smoking tears upon his young slain body. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

The town and the nation boiled with patriotic frenzy – violent, in a chaotic sprawl, to little purpose. The spawn of Attila must be crushed (“exterminated,” said the Reverend Mr. Smallwood) by the sons of freedom. There were loans, bond issues, speech-making, a talk of drafts, and a thin trickle of Yankees into France. Pershing arrived in Paris, and said, “Lafayette, we are here!”, but the French were still looking…

Summer died upon the hills. There was a hue, barely guessed, upon the foliage, of red rust. The streets at night were filled with sad lispings: all through the night, upon his porch, as in a coma, he heard the strange noise of autumn. And all the people who had given the town its light thronging gaiety were vanished strangely overnight. They had gone back into the vast South again. The solemn tension of the war gathered about the nation. A twilight of grim effort hovered around him, above him. He felt the death of joy; but the groping within him of wonder, of glory. Out of the huge sprawl of its first delirium, the nation was beginning to articulate the engines of war – engines to mill and print out hatred and falsehood, engines to pump up glory, engines to manacle and crush opposition, engines to drill and regiment men.

[T]he flares and rockets of the battle-fields cast their light across the plains as well. Young men from Kansas were going to die in Picardy. In some foreign earth lay the iron, as yet unmoulded, that was to slay them…

When he returned to the university for his second year, he found the place adjusted soberly to war. It seemed quieter, sadder – the number of students was smaller and they were younger. The older ones had gone to war. The others were in a state of wild, but subdued, restlessness. They were careless of colleges, careers, successes – the war had thrilled them with its triumphing Now. Of what use To-morrow! Of what use all labor for To-morrow! The big guns had blown all spun schemes to fragments: they hailed the end of all planned work with a fierce, a secret joy. The business of education went on half-heartedly, with an abstracted look: in the classroom, their eyes were vague upon the book, but their ears cocked attentively for alarums and excursions without.

The Spring advanced with a mounting hum of war. The older students fell out quietly and drifted away to enlistments. The younger strained tensely, waiting. The war brought them no sorrow: it was a pageant which might, they felt, pluck them instantly into glory. The country flowed with milk and honey. There were strange rumors of a land of Eldorado to the north, amid the war industry of the Virginia coast. Some of the students had been there, the year before: they brought back stories of princely wages. One could earn twelve dollars a day, with no experience. One could assume the duties of a carpenter, with only a hammer, a saw, and a square. No questions were asked.

…The war seemed to unearth pockets of ore that had never been known in the nation: there was a vast unfolding and exposure of wealth and power. And somehow – this imperial wealth, this display of power in men and money, was blended into a lyrical music.

Twice a week the troops went through. They stood densely in brown and weary thousands on the pier while a council of officers, tabled at the gangways, went through their clearance papers. Then, each below the sweating torture of his pack, they were filed from the hot furnace of the pier into the hotter prison of the ship. The great ships, with their motley jagged patches of deception, waited in the stream: they slid in and out in unending squadrons.

Eugene returned to Pulpit Hill in a fever of war excitement. The university had been turned into an armed camp. Young men who were eighteen years old were being admitted into the officers’ training corps. But he was not yet eighteen. His birthday was two weeks off…

By Christmas, with fair luck, he might be eligible for service in khaki: by Spring, if God was good, all the proud privileges of trench-lice, mustard gas, spattered brains, punctured lungs, ripped guts, asphyxiation, mud and gangrene, might be his. Over the rim of the earth he heard the glorious stamp of the feet, the fierce sweet song of the horns. With a tender smile of love for his dear self, he saw himself wearing the eagles of a colonel on his gallant young shoulders. He saw himself as Ace Gant, the falcon of the skies, with 63 Huns to his credit by his nineteenth year. He saw himself walking up the Champs-Elysées, with a handsome powdering of gray hair above his temples, left forearm of the finest cork, and the luscious young widow of a French marshal at his side. For the first time he saw the romantic charm of mutilation. The perfect and unblemished heroes of his childhood now seemed cheap to him – it only to illustrate advertisements for collars and toothpaste. He longed for that subtle distinction, that air of having lived and suffered that could only be attained by a wooden leg, a rebuilt nose, or the seared scar of a bullet across his temple.

Meanwhile, he fed voraciously, and drank gallons of water in an effort to increase his poundage. He weighed himself a half-dozen times a day. He even made some effort at systematic exercise: swinging his arms, bending from his hips, and so on.

And he talked about his problem with the professors. Gravely, earnestly, he wrestled with his soul, mouthing with gusto the inspiring jargon of the crusade. For the present, said the professors, was his Place not Here? Did his Conscience tell him that he Had to go? If it did, they said gravely, they would say nothing more. But had he considered the Larger Issues?

“Is not,” said the Acting Dean persuasively, “is not this your Sector? Is your own Front Line not here on the campus? Is it not here that you must Go Over The Top? Oh, I know,” he went on with a smile of quiet pain, “I know it would be easier to go. I have had to fight that battle myself. But we are all part of the Army now; we are all enlisted in the Service of Liberty. We are all Mobilized for Truth. And each must Do His Bit where it will count for most.”

“Yes,” said Eugene, with a pale tortured face, “I know. I know it’s wrong. But oh, sir, – when I think of those murderous beasts, when I think of how they have menaced All that we Hold Dear, when I think of Little Belgium, and then of My Own Mother, My Own Sister – ” He turned away, clenching his hands, madly in love with himself.

“Yes, yes,” said the Acting Dean gently, “for boys with a spirit like yours it’s not easy.”

“Oh, sir, it’s hard!” cried Eugene passionately. “I tell you it’s hard.”

“We must endure,” said the Dean quietly. “We must be tempered in the fire. The Future of Mankind hangs in the balance.”

Deeply stirred they stood together for a moment, drenched in the radiant beauty of their heroic souls.

A Frenzy of War Talk-Israel’s Outrageous Threats to Attack Iran

by Larry Everest

Over the past several weeks there has been an eruption of alarming reports, high-level meetings, and public debate over whether Israel is close to deciding—or has already decided—to launch a military assault on Iran before the November U.S. presidential election.

On August 10, Channel 2 News, Israel’s leading news program, stated that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak were on the verge of making a decision to go to war. "Insofar as it depends on [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak,” the Guardian UK, citing Israel’s largest daily Yedioth Ahronoth, reported, “an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran will take place in these coming autumn months, before the U.S. elections in November."

The week before, The New York Times reported, "In Israel, there remains feverish speculation that Mr. Netanyahu will act in September or early October." A former head of Israeli intelligence commented, "If I was an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks."

In the midst of these threats, the BBC reported that a document purporting to be an Israeli plan was leaked describing a "shock and awe, Israel-style" assault including a massive cyber-attack, barrages of ballistic and cruise missiles, and follow-on attacks by Israeli war planes.

The Outrage of War—and Threatening War

There is widespread debate and speculation over what’s really going on here. Is Israel actually preparing to attack in the coming weeks, calculating that on the eve of the Presidential elections it would be difficult if not impossible for the Obama administration to refuse to support or join such an assault? Are the threats by Israel’s leaders part of a high-stakes ploy aimed at forcing the U.S. imperialists to take an even more aggressive stance toward Iran, with an even more clear cut and near-term commitment to take military action against Iran in order to head off a unilateral Israeli attack as The New York Times and others are suggesting? Is it some combination of both, or another scenario entirely? In any case, there is doubtless more going on behind closed doors than is being aired in public, and in all likelihood no one outside the highest levels of the Israeli and/or U.S. governments can answer these questions with certainty at this moment (and there may be uncertainty at these levels as well).

But three things can be said.

First, whether bluff, actual attack preparations, or some other machination, this flurry of threats represents a further escalation of a very dangerous overall trajectory toward confrontation and possible war against Iran by the world’s main capitalist-imperialist powers and their creation and Middle East garrison state—Israel.

This dynamic has ratcheted up sharply in the past year and in certain ways the U.S., Israel and the European powers are already waging forms of war on Iran (sanctions, covert cyber-attacks, assassinations and the like). The stated and public focus of this clash has been Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, but this is part of a bigger battle by the U.S. and Israel to maintain their domination and control over the entire Middle East-Central Asian region, including their military hegemony.

At present, this battle for dominance is concentrated in their clash with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is posing an obstacle and challenge to the U.S. on many fronts. This is a clash between two reactionary, outmoded forces, with the U.S. and Israel posing the far greater danger to the planet. Stepped-up U.S. intervention in Syria, including possible military intervention, is linked to these efforts to weaken, isolate, and ultimately topple Iran’s Islamist theocracy. (See my analyses of the recent P5+1 negotiations with Iran, the accelerating U.S.-EU-Israeli campaign against Iran, and the role of Israel.)

Second, whatever Israel’s motives, the moves against Iran are still outrageous and must be condemned. Threatening preemptive war is itself a form of aggression. Let’s call it what it is: terrorism, aimed at terrorizing the people of Iran and the region. And it must be noted here that whatever differences do or don’t exist between Israel and the U.S.—the Obama administration has neither condemned these threats, nor stated categorically that it opposes an Israeli strike and would not support such an action. Instead, Obama officials have talked of Israel’s sovereign "right" to make its own decisions concerning its "defense."

And coming from Israel, the region’s only nuclear power, a country whose main backer, the U.S., is the only country in the world to have ever actually used nuclear weapons, there’s an implied nuclear threat here. This makes it all the more clear that Israeli and U.S. aggression is not aimed at lessening the nuclear danger, much less ridding the world of these horrific weapons of mass destruction. Israeli and U.S. threats—"all options are on the table"—are a form of using nuclear weapons—their nuclear weapons—against non-nuclear Iran. Their demand: that only they be allowed to possess and wield these doomsday devices, while Iran must not be allowed to enrich uranium or ever develop nuclear weapons know-how.

Third, what should our stand be towards all this? First, recognizing that any U.S. and/or Israeli attack would be a towering crime against the people, with the potential to escalate in unpredictable ways. Second, the need to act with urgency to mobilize mass opposition, in many forms and on many fronts, to the U.S.-European-Israeli aggression against Iran that’s taking place right now, and to any kind of military attack—right now. Third, the solution to this madness is not siding with either of the reactionary outmoded forces now at each other’s throats, but fighting to bring forward a whole other, liberating way—including here in the U.S. by actively opposing the threats and crimes of this government—election or no election, no matter who’s in office.

Larry Everest is a correspondent for Revolution newspaper (, where this article first appeared and author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage 2004). He can be reached via

‘The lost war in Afghanistan

by Afshain Afzal

US Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to flee the country to save his life when Afghan Taliban carried out attack on US’s controlled highly protected Bagram Air Base on August 21, 2012. General Dempsey escaped an attempt on his life but his aircraft which was directly hit got damaged.

Then General Dempsey immediately fled to some unidentified location in Indian Ocean or Middle East in another aircraft. The official statement from the Pentagon claimed that the strike was not aimed specifically at Dempsey’s plane. However, the statement admitted hitting General Dempsey’s plane in which two personnel of the Air Base were injured while General Dempsey’s C-17 plane and an Apache helicopter were damaged.

A report by a local commander claimed that Bagram Air Base remained under Afghan Taliban control for more than five hours. General Martin Dempsey and group of senior officers were immediately airlifted to save their lives. This is not new that Americans have fled away from the battlefield to save their lives as even the US President George Bush went underground for complete ten days after 11th September attacks on Pentagon and World Trade Centre due to fear of renewed attacks.

Taliban’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement immediately after the incident claiming that General Dempsey’s aircraft was targeted by Taliban using exact information about its whereabouts. After the attack, the morale of US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan is ever low and there is lack of willingness by the combatants to serve in Afghanistan.

It is pertinent to mention here that the personnel from 101 Airborne Division, Fort Cambell, 1 Armored Division, Fort Bliss and 10 Mountain Division, Fort Drum that will be deployed in Afghanistan within two months or so have shown reluctance to serve at the War Zones. Unconfirmed reports reflected that the personnel serving in Afghanistan were critical of lack of intelligence input against Taliban. Some personnel referred personnel serving in Afghanistan as blid sitting ducks. The criticism was brushed aside by the senior commanders but within their complaint proved to be correct when a barrage of missiles welcomed US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and made him to flee the country along with top senior officers.

If we recall, similar attacks were carried out during the visits of US President George Bush and Barack Obama. These attacks are the symbols of hatred towards Armed Forces and Governments of US and allied forces. In fact, there was a spark of renewed hatred for every foreign personnel in Afghanistan after the unfortunate incident of burning of hundred of copies the Holy Quran at the US controlled Bagram Airbase.

“Death to America” shouted the group of 8/9 years old Afghan boys. They shouted “We will kill every foreign soldier and war veterans who has killed our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and other innocent Afghan nationals. The Americans have disrespected our Holy Quran; we will take revenge as revenge is in our blood.” It is interesting to note that the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies have compiled a book, “No Easy Day” by Mark Owen, Penguin Group (USA’s) Dutton imprint, which will be released on 11 September 2012. The book has focused on a number of allegations on Pakistan and Afghanistan and highlighted killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Although, it is open secret that Osama bin Laden was not in the house where US agencies claim to have attacked. Ironically, the video of Osama bin Laden in that house, which is claimed to be proof of Osama’s presence in that house is also not resembling him in physcique, age, style of beard, flesh on shoulders and hands, etc.

It is pertinent to mention here that in a recent conference held in the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, US Marine Lieutenant General Richard P. Mills, disclosed, “I can tell you that as a commander in Afghanistan in the year 2010, I was able to use my cyber operations against my adversary with great impact,” Mills said. “I was able to get inside his nets, infect his command-and-control, and in fact defend myself against his almost constant incursions to get inside my wire, to affect my operations.”

The remarks have been taken as a joke because why a US General would try to take credit for an international offence which happened two years back and falls within the perview of his duty. Today, US has pulled out bulk of its combatants from Afghanistan and relying on Afghan National Army and Police. One wonders how can US and allies fight war against Taliban without involving its own combatants, who are sitting in Bahrain, Iraq, Australia and CARs states? It seems that the propaganda and drama of credits and discredits is almost over as US has lost the war.

Can the War Israel Wants With Iran Be Averted?

by Danny Schechter

For more than a year now, the drums of war emanating from Israel have become louder and louder with weekly news leaks, and threats including the disclosure of alleged attack plans. The whole exercise seems designed to create a sense of alarm and inevitability.

These warnings have been amplified by statements by American politicians that seem to be occurring with greater frequency.

The escalation of the war on and in Syria, with some spread into Lebanon, only makes the scenarios for regional conflict seem more scary and realistic.

For the most part, in the media at least, Iran has appeared isolated and even crippled by US sanctions while being targeted by noisey statements from Western countries orchestrated by Israel’s backers.

Nations faced with agression often seek alliances, support and solidarity, and Iran is no exception. The meeting of the non-aligned nations in Tehran, and the decision by UN Secretary General Ban Moon to attend, is raising hackles among western warriors and propagandists.

He is defying the wishes of those nations who insist that his presence will give comfort to the Islamic Republic Israel and the US are furious with his decision to “legitimate” Iran, even though you can expect him to speak critically of the government there to appear “balanced.”

Foreign Policy notes, “U.S. and Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, objected to Ban’s attendance on the grounds that it frustrates their efforts to isolate Tehran. "Your visit will grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.”

The UN is an institution was designed to using its good offices to stop war. Its failure to do so effectively at the time of the US invasion of Iraq on the pretext of curbing non-existent WMDs tarnished its own credibility. It must try to avert a conflict likely to be disastrous, while at the same time, using its diplomatic influence to press Iran to stop any threatening behavior on its part.

Instead of imagining how war with Iran can be contained or avoided, we have websites and TV networks inventing excited scenarios to sell war, not avert it. Armchair generals at think tanks and policy wonks can’t see to wait for the bombs to fly.

Here’s one example: speculating on what a war would look like:

“The war began as planned. The Israeli pilots took off well before dawn and streaked across Lebanon and northern Iraq, high above Kirkuk. Flying US-made F-15 and F-16s, the Israelis separated over the mountains of western Iran, the pilots gesturing a last minute show of confidence in their mission, maintaining radio silence.

Just before the sun rose over Tehran, moments before the Muslim call to prayer, the missiles struck their targets. While US Air Force AWACS planes circled overhead–listening, watching, recording–heavy US bombers followed minutes later. Bunker-busters and mini-nukes fell on dozens of targets while Iranian anti-aircraft missiles sped skyward.

The ironically named Bushehr nuclear power plant crumbled to dust. Russian technicians and foreign nationals scurried for safety. Most did not make it.”

This is the latest form of dramatized saber rattling that sounds like some alarmist reality TV show, videogame or a Fox News wet dream. These scenarios always make it seem as if a war will be swift and surgical, with no retaliation, and no consequences.

It brings you back to the Neocon fantasies about the “cakewalk” they expected in Iraq, the war that never went as planned, and took a decade to lose before the US was, in effect, tossed out. (Today there are reports that Iraq is actually defying the financial and oil sanctions imposed on its neighbor.)

This doesn’t stop those who seem to be looking forward to the fight they believe is coming. Here’s another site:

“In recent weeks, all indications have pointed to an increasingly imminent Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Whether it be the account of the reporter who was granted access to observe the Israeli Air Force prepare for a strike and subsequently recounted his belief that Israel is now “closer than ever” to mounting an attack, or the former prime minister warning, “If I were Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” Israel has made no attempt to hide the contents of its short-term agenda.”

At least this site is not salivating, also noting: “The fatal flaw of an Israeli assault is that some of the facilities lie underground and out of reach. Worse, many, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, fear the “unintended consequences” an Israeli strike could sow. The American Security Project, among others, points out that an attack — which would only amount to a flesh wound — would unite Iranians around hardliners and would not only guarantee further nuclear production, but also legitimize it even in the opinion of Iranians previously opposed to the nuclear program.”

Former CIA Station Chief Robert Greniew has another take. He believes that Iran and the US are calling Israel’s bluff. He says so on AlJazeera:

“Israeli President Shimon Peres, reflecting the concerns of many, said a few days ago that "It is clear to us now that we cannot do this alone. It is clear to us we need to work together with America." That view, we are told, is widely shared within the Israeli defense and intelligence establishments. The military people charged with conducting a preemptive strike on Iran are the most likely to resist starting something that they know they cannot finish on their own. They are the ones who realize, despite the uninformed and wishful thinking of some civilians, that long-range air attacks on Iran are unlikely to have more than a marginal impact on its nuclear program unless they are sustained. Israel cannot sustain these attacks. Only the US can. 

“But the Americans have made clear that they want to wait. It is at least part of Netanyahu’s calculation that credible threats of an Israeli strike during the US presidential campaign season and the Bema administration’s desperate desire to avoid it will motivate the US to trade Israeli assurances of near-term forbearance for a more credible and irrevocable US commitment to employ military force if and when evidences of the failure of economic sanctions and the imminence of a hardened Iranian nuclear weapons capability converge. 

…That is more than understandable, because the only really effective military action to be taken would have to be taken by the US, and the main point of an Israeli attack would be to precipitate it. Though it may not have been their conscious intent, the Americans have in effect called Netanyahu’s bluff. If he doesn’t realize it, he soon will.”

Let’s not forget that American airpower, while deadly, is not always effective. Remember “shock and awe” over Baghdad or the bombings of Hanoi? They were devastating, but did not achieve their militarily goals. All of this is war-gaming has to be predicated on the assumption that rationality will prevail on all sides. But as the American political campaign heats up, inflated rhetoric can be expected. Some currently unanticipated high-profile incident or covert provocation could change the equation creating some 911-type pretext for conflict. We live in a dangerous world.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothon. He hosts a show on Comments to dissector


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