Afghanistan

Beyond Blackwater Massacre, Renewed Concern Over Rise of Mercenary Armies – Lauren McCauley

April 17, 2015

Following the sentencing of four private security guards convicted in the notorious 2007 massacre of innocent Iraqi civilians, attention has shifted to the growing role such private mercenaries are having on battlefields throughout the world. On Monday, three former employees of Blackwater Worldwide were given thirty-year prison sentences while one guard, Nicholas Slatten, who fired the first shot, was sentenced to life in prison for a shooting spree which resulted in the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians in Nissour Square. The accused say they will appeal. In a statement on Tuesday, human rights expert Elzbieta Karska, chair of the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries, said that while the group welcomed the sentencing, such examples of accountability are the “exception rather than the rule.” “The outsourcing of national security to private firms creates risks for human rights and accountability,” Karska said. The UN is calling for an international treaty to “address the increasingly significant role that private military companies play in transnational conflicts.” Critics of the military industrial complex have long-warned about the difficulties of holding private security firms accountable for rights violations in foreign war zones. As Karska notes, these four Blackwater security guards are merely the tip of the

New Silk Road Meets Eurasian Union – Pepe Escobar

April 15, 2015

Any — exceptionalist — wishful thinking that Russia and China will abandon their solid “win-win” strategic partnership, fully crafted to their mutual national interests, was dispelled by a crucial visit to Moscow by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In Moscow, Wang stressed both Russia’s Look East policy and China’s Go West — which essentially encompass the massive New Silk Road(s) project — “have created historic opportunities for docking the two countries’ development strategies.” And fully “docked” they are. Russia’s Look East strategy is not only about China. It’s as much about Eurasian integration as China’s New Silk Roads — as Moscow needs Asia-Pacific to develop Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. The always-evolving strategic partnership is not only about energy — including the possibility of Chinese-controlled stakes in crucial Russian oil and gas projects — as well as the defense industry; it’s increasingly about investment, banking, finance and high technology. The partnership’s reach is extremely wide, from Russia-China cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to the Russia-China stake in the new BRICS development bank, and to Russian support to the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Foundation. Beijing and Moscow, along with the other BRICS nations,

The Burden of Denial

April 10, 2015

It occurred to me the other day that quite a few of the odder features of contemporary American culture make perfect sense if you assume that everybody knows exactly what’s wrong and what’s coming as our society rushes, pedal to the metal, toward its face-first collision with the brick wall of the future. It’s not that they don’t get it; they get it all too clearly, and they just wish that those of us on the fringes would quit reminding them of the imminent impact, so they can spend whatever time they’ve got left in as close to a state of blissful indifference as they can possibly manage. I grant that this realization probably had a lot to do with the context in which it came to me. I was sitting in a restaurant, as it happens, with a vanload of fellow Freemasons.  We’d carpooled down to Baltimore, some of us to receive one of the higher degrees of Masonry and the rest to help with the ritual work, and we stopped for dinner on the way back home. I’ll spare you the name of the place we went; it was one of those currently fashionable beer-and-burger joints where the waitresses

Afghan Mission accomplished: more heroin for the world

April 9, 2015

The Guardian reports statistics on opium agriculture in Afghanistan (“Former Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high”): “…the US counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan stands out: opiate production has climbed steadily over recent years to reach record-high levels last year.” “Far from eradicating the deep-rooted opiate trade, US counternarcotics efforts have proven useless, according to a series of recent official inquiries. Other aspects of the billions that the US has poured into Afghanistan over the last 13 years of war have even contributed to the opium boom.” “In December, the United Nations reported a 60% growth in Afghan land used for opium poppy cultivation since 2011, up to 209,000 hectares…” “…the [UN] inspector general also noted that US reconstruction projects, particularly those devoted to ‘improved irrigation, roads, and agricultural assistance’ were probably leading to the explosion in opium cultivation. “'[A]ffordable deep-well technology turned 200,000 hectares of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land over the past decade,’ the inspector general found, concluding that ‘much of this newly arable land is dedicated to opium cultivation.’” Who’s kidding who? In Colombia, the US government proved it could eradicate coca and opium-poppy growing fields. One of the solutions was an herbicide

Push for Controversial Trade Deal Continues With Pitch From Defense Secretary

April 8, 2015

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Monday trumpeted the administration’s so-called Pacific pivot and urged passage of legislative power that critics say will allow a massive corporate-friendly trade deal to be rammed through Congress. Carter made the remarks during a speech at the McCain Institute of Arizona State University ahead of his inaugural trip to Asia, which begins with visits to Japan and South Korea. He emphasized that the U.S. is forging ahead with its Asia-Pacific focus “to secure our enduring interests” and said that the region’s growth represents “an enormous opportunity” for the United States. Carter outlined how he said the U.S. would be investing in areas relevant to the the region’s “complex and dynamic security environment”: These include high-end capabilities, such as a new, long-range stealth bomber and a new, long-range anti-ship cruise missile – just to name two…[…] We’re also working on new weapons like a railgun, which uses electromagnetic forces rather than high explosives to fire rounds at much higher speeds, lower cost, and with greater effectiveness. And we’re developing new space, electronic warfare, and other advanced capabilities, including some surprising ones. Carter also mentioned U.S. arms systems currently deployed in the Asia-Pacific, like Read

America Being Crushed by a Mountain of Escalating Debt

April 7, 2015

America, without question, is drowning in a sea of debt, barely holding its head above water. There is the massive national debt of the U.S. government, personal/consumer debt, student debt, and an increasing number of U.S. cities and states that are in debt over their heads. America is literally destroying itself by the monumental debt that we as a nation, government and society have incurred. We are being consumed by this ever-escalating debt running rampant throughout this country. And we seem to be totally incapable of addressing the underlying problems and finding the ways to bring this situation under control. Massive debt is a destructive force, one that once it gains momentum is almost impossible to bring under control. When we use the word destroying to describe what debt is doing to America we can also use the word killing, in that debt kills creativity, innovation, and constructive endeavors. There is a complete lack of funding available for new, revolutionary initiatives for which America once was known and greatly respected. This country’s national debt has escalated from $5.7 trillion in the year 2000 to the current staggering amount of $18.2. That’s an increase of some 319% in just 14 years;

Afghanistan’s changing of the guard: ISIS recruits in Taliban territory

April 6, 2015

By Nick Paton Walsh, CNN Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)The flag is crude, handmade, but the message is clear — allegiance to ISIS in Afghanistan. And the timing — with America withdrawing, the Taliban fractured, young men disillusioned and angry — could not be worse. A group of fighters in Afghanistan agreed to be filmed by a CNN cameraman parading their ISIS flags in a valley not far to the south of Kabul, the Afghan capital. They are the first images of their kind shot by western media inside Afghanistan. The rise of ISIS is an issue that the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has termed a “terrible threat.” Read

The Oil Price War

April 6, 2015

In a stunning but little-known speech delivered in 2007, Gen. Wesley K. Clark claimed that America underwent a ‘policy coup’ at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He had documented the progress of that coup in a book titled Winning modern wars, Iraq, terrorism and the American Empire that Gen. Clark had published in 2003. He was not just the usual retired general. He had been Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, from 1997 to 2000.  In a 3 October 2007 video, he revealed that, right after 9/11, he was privy to information contained in a classified memo: ‘US plans to attack and remove governments in seven countries over five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran’. At the Pentagon he was told: “We learned that we can use our military without being challenged …. We’ve got about five years to clean up the Soviet client regimes before another superpower comes along and challenges us.” “This was a policy coup…these people took control of policy in the United States.   …” In an interview on 24 September 2012 General Clark linked three topics: oil, war and activism. He explicitly laid out the central role of oil in American military strategy, and advocated for increased use of clean

NATO is Building Up for War

April 6, 2015

The German city of Frankfurt is continental Europe’s largest financial center and host to the country’s Stock Exchange, countless other financial institutions, and the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) which is responsible for administering the monetary policy of the 18-nation Eurozone. The place is awash with money, as demonstrated by the plush new ECB office building which is costing a fortune. The original price of the bank’s enormous palace was supposed to be 500 million euros, about 550 million dollars, but the bill has now been admitted as €1.3 billion (£930 m; $1.4 bn).  This absurdly over-expensive fiasco was directed by the people who are supposed to steer the financial courses of 18 nations and their half billion unfortunate citizens. If the ECB displays similar skill sets in looking after Europe’s money as it has in controlling the cost of constructing its huge twin-tower headquarters, then Europe is in for a rocky time. Intriguingly, the Bank isn’t alone in contributing to Europe’s bureaucratic building boom. There is another Europe-based organization of equal ambition, pomposity and incompetence which is building a majestically expensive and luxurious headquarters with a mammoth cost overrun about which it is keeping very quiet indeed.

The Real Afghan War

April 6, 2015

The sky clotted gray and the winds gusted cold as the men crowded into an old roadside gas station. It was daybreak in Band-i-Timor, early December 2001, and hundreds of turbaned farmers sat pensively, weighing the choice before them. They had once been the backbone of the Taliban’s support; the movement had arisen not far from here, and many had sent their sons to fight on the front lines. But in 2000, Mullah Omar had decreed opium cultivation to be un-Islamic, and whip-wielding police saw to it that production was halted almost overnight. Band-i-Timor had been poppy country for as long as anyone could remember, but now the fields lay fallow and children were going hungry. With the Taliban’s days numbered after the U.S. invasion, the mood was ripe for a change. But could they trust the Americans? Or Hamid Karzai? An enfeebled elder, Hajji Burget Khan, rose to speak. A legendary war hero and a chief of the millions-strong Ishaqzai tribe, Burget Khan commanded respect that few present could rival. “He was an inspiring leader,” a tribal elder told me later, “as pure as the rain falling from the sky.” He was also a consummate pragmatist, having forged alliances
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