"The elimination of counter-revolutionaries is a struggle of opposites as between ourselves and the enemy. Among the people, there are some who see this question in a somewhat different light. Two kinds of people hold views differing from ours. Those with a Right deviation in their thinking make no distinction between ourselves and the enemy and take the enemy for our own people.
For half of the last century, Arab nationalists, socialists, communists and others were locked in a battle with the Muslim Brothers for hegemony in the Arab world.—Tariq Ali 
By Stephen Gowans
The Jihadists who toppled the secular nationalist Gaddafi government—and not without the help of Nato bombers, dubbed “al Qaeda’s air force”  by Canadian pilots who participated in the bombing campaign—are no longer disguised in the pages of Western newspapers as a popular movement who thirsted for, and won, democracy in Libya. Now that they’ve overrun the US consulate in Benghazi and killed the US ambassador, they’ve become a “security threat…raising fears about the country’s stability” —exactly what Gaddafi called them, when Western governments were celebrating the Islamists’ revolt as a popular pro-democracy uprising. Gaddafi’s description of the unrest in his own country as a violent Salafist bid to establish an Islamic state was doubtlessly accepted in Washington and other Western capitals as true, but dismissed in public as a transparent ploy to muster sympathy. This was necessary to sanitize the uprising to secure the acquiescence of Western publics for the intervention of their countries’ warplanes to help Islamic guerillas on the ground topple a secular nationalist leader who was practicing “resource nationalism” and trying to “Libyanize” the economy– the real reasons he’d fallen into disgrace in Washington. 
The uprising of militant Muslim radicals against a secular state was, in many respects, a replay of what had happened in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, when a Marxist-inspired government came to power with aspirations to lift the country out of backwardness, and was opposed by the Mullahs and Islamist guerillas backed by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China.
An Afghan Communist explained that,
“Our aim was no less than to give an example to all the backward countries of the world of how to jump from feudalism straight to a prosperous, just society … Our choice was not between doing things democratically or not. Unless we did them, nobody else would … [Our] very first proclamation declared that food and shelter are the basic needs and rights of a human being. … Our program was clear: land to the peasants, food for the hungry, free education for all. We knew that the mullahs in the villages would scheme against us, so we issued our decrees swiftly so that the masses could see where their real interests lay … For the first time in Afghanistan’s history women were to be given the right to education … We told them that they owned their bodies, they would marry whom they liked, they shouldn’t have to live shut up in houses like pens.” 
That’s not to say that Gaddafi was a Marxist—far from it. But like the reformers in Afghanistan, he sought to modernize his country, and use its land, labor and resources for the people within it. By official Western accounts, he did a good job, raising his country’s standard of living higher than that of all other countries in Africa.
Gaddafi claimed that the rebellion in Libya had been organized by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which had vowed to overthrow him and return the country to traditional Muslim values, including Sharia law. A 2009 Canadian government intelligence report bore him out. It described the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of eastern Libya, where the rebellion began, “as an ‘epicenter of Islamist extremism’ and said ‘extremist cells’ operated in the region.” Earlier, Canadian military intelligence had noted that “Libyan troops found a training camp in the country’s southern desert that had been used by an Algerian terrorist group that would later change its name to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”  Significantly, US officials now believe that the AQIM may have plotted the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. 
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the Libyan rebellion’s most powerful military leader, was a veteran of the U.S.-backed Jihad against the Marxist-inspired reformist government in Afghanistan, where he had fought alongside militants who would go on to form al-Qaeda. Belhaj returned to Libya in the 1990s to lead the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was linked to his al-Qaeda comrades. His aim was to topple Gaddafi, as the Communists had been toppled in Afghanistan. The prominent role Belhaj played in the Libyan uprising should have aroused suspicions among leftists in the West that, as Western governments surely knew, the uprising was not the heroic pro-democracy affair Western media—and those of reactionary Arab regimes—were making it out to be. Indeed, from the very first day of the revolt, anyone equipped with knowledge of Libyan history that went back further than the last Fox News broadcast, would have known that the Benghazi rebellion was more in the mold of the latest eruption of a violent anti-secular Jihad than a peaceful call for democracy. 
“On Feb. 15, 2011, citizens in Benghazi organized what they called a Day of Anger march. The demonstration soon turned into a full-scale battle with police. At first, security forces used tear gas and water cannons. But as several hundred protesters armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails attacked government buildings, the violence spiraled out of control.” 
As they stormed government sites, the rampaging demonstrators didn’t chant, “Power to the people”, “We are the 99 percent”, or “No to dictatorship.” They chanted “‘No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah’.”  The Islamists touched off the rebellion and did the fighting on the ground, while U.S.-aligned Libyan exiles stepped into the power vacuum created by Salafist violence and Nato bombs to form a new U.S.-aligned government.
Syria’s Hafiz Asad, and other secular nationalists, from his comrade Salaf Jadid, who he overthrew and locked away, to his son, Bashar, who has followed him, have also been denounced as enemies of Allah by the same Islamist forces who violently denounced Gaddafi in Libya and the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party in Afghanistan. The reason for their denunciation by Islamists is the same: their opposition to an Islamic state. Similarly, Islamist forces have been as strongly at the head of the movement to overthrow the secular nationalists in Syria, as they have the secular nationalists in Libya and the (secular) Marxists in the late 1970s-1980s Afghanistan.
The secular nationalists’ rise to power in Syria was a heavy blow to the country’s Sunni Islamic militants who resented their society being governed by secular radicals. Worse still from the perspective of the Islamists, the governing radicals were mostly members of minority communities the Sunnis regarded as heretics, and which had occupied the lower rungs of Syrian society. From the moment the secular nationalists captured the state, Islamists went underground to organize an armed resistance. “From their safe haven deep in the ancient warrens of northern cities like Aleppo and Hama, where cars could not enter, the guerrillas emerged to bomb and kill.” 
In 1980, an attempt was made to group the Sunni opposition to the secular nationalists under an “Islamic Front’, which promised free speech, free elections, and an independent judiciary, under the banner of Islam. When militant Islamic terrorists murdered Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a year later in Egypt, Islamists in Damascus promised then president Hafiz Asad the same fate. Then in 1982, Jihadists rose up in Hama—“the citadel of traditional landed power and Sunni puratinism” —in a bid to seize power in the city. The ensuing war of the Islamic radicals against the secular nationalist state, a bloody affair which costs tens of thousands of lives, convinced Asad that “he was wrestling not just with internal dissent, but with a large scale conspiracy to unseat him, abetted by Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the United States.”  Patrick Seale, a veteran British journalist who has covered the Middle East for decades, described the Islamists’ movement against Syria’s secular nationalists as a “sort of fever that (rises) and (falls) according to conditions at home and manipulation from abroad.” 
Media accounts of Syria’s civil war omit mention of the decades-long hostility between Islamists and secular nationalists—a fierce enmity that sometimes flares into open warfare, and at other times simmers menacingly below the surface—that has defined Syria in the post-colonial period. To do so would take the sheen off the armed rising as a popular, democratic, progressive struggle, a depiction necessary to make Western intervention in the form of sanctions, diplomatic support, and other aid, against the secular nationalists, appear just and desirable. Today, only Trotskyists besotted by fantasies that the Arab Spring is the equivalent of the March 1917 Petrograd uprising, deny that the content of the Syrian uprising is Islamist. But the question of whether the uprising was initially otherwise—a peaceful, progressive and popular movement aimed at opening democratic space and redressing economic grievances–and only later hijacked by Islamists, remains in dispute. What’s clear, however, is that the “hijacking”, if indeed there was one, is not of recent vintage. In the nascent stages of the rebellion, the late New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid noted that the “most puritanical Islamists, known by their shorthand as Salafists, have emerged as a force in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, with suspicions that Saudi Arabia has encouraged and financed them.”
Secular nationalists, socialists and communists in Muslim lands have struggled with the problem of Islamist opposition to their programs, to their atheism (in the case of communists) and to the secular character of the state they have sought to build. The Bolsheviks, perhaps alone among this group, were successful in overcoming opposition in the traditional Muslim territories they controlled in Central Asia, and improving the lives of women, who had been oppressed by conservative Islam. Female seclusion, polygamy, bride price, child and forced marriages, veiling (as well as circumcision of males, considered by the Bolsheviks to be child abuse) were outlawed. Women were recruited into administrative and professional positions and encouraged – indeed obligated – to work outside the home. This followed Friedrich Engels’ idea that women could only be liberated from the domination of men if they had independent incomes. 
Western governments, led by the United States, have made a practice of inflaming the Islamists’ hostility to secular nationalists, socialists and communists, using militant Muslim radicals as a cat’s paw to topple these governments, which have almost invariably refused to align themselves militarily with the United States or cut deals against the interests of their own people to fatten the profits of corporate America and enrich Wall Street investment bankers. But whether Washington aggravates fault lines within Muslim societies or not, the fact remains that the fault lines exist, and must be managed, but have not always been managed well.
For example, no matter how admirable their aims were, the reformers in Afghanistan had too narrow a political base to move as quickly as they did, and they rushed headlong into disaster, ignoring Moscow’s advice to slow down and expand their support. The Carter and Reagan administrations simply took advantage of their blunders to build a committed anti-communist guerilla movement.
The leftist Syrian regime of Salah Jadid, which Hafiz Asad overthrew, did much that would be admired by leftists today. Indeed, Tariq Ali, in an apology apparently intended to expiate the sin of seeming to support the current Asad government, lauds Jadid’s regime as the “much more enlightened predecessor whose leaders and activists…numbered in their ranks some of the finest intellectuals of the Arab world.”  It’s easy to see why Ali admired Asad’s predecessors. Jadid, who lived an austere life, refusing to take advantage of his position to lavish himself with riches and comforts, slashed the salaries of senior ministers and top bureaucrats. He replaced their black Mercedes limousines with Volkswagens and Peugeot 404s. People connected with the old influential families were purged from government. A Communist was brought into the cabinet. Second houses were confiscated, and the ownership of more than one was prohibited. Private schools were banned. Workers, soldiers, peasants, students and women became the regime’s favored children. Feudalists and reactionaries were suppressed. A start was made on economic planning and major infrastructure projects were undertaken with the help of the Soviets. And yet, despite these clearly progressive measures, Jadid’s base of popular support remained narrow—one reason why the Soviets were lukewarm toward him, regarding him as a hothead, and contemptuous of his claim to be practicing “scientific socialism.”  Scientific socialism is based on mass politics, not a minority coming to power through a conspiracy (as Jadid and Asad had) which then attempts to impose its utopian vision on a majority that rejects it.
Jadid backed the Palestinian guerrillas. Asad, who was then minister of defense, was less enamored of the guerrillas, who he saw as handing Israel pretexts for war. Jadid defined the bourgeoisie as the enemy. Asad wanted to enlist their backing at home to broaden the government’s base of support against the Muslim Brothers. Jadid spurned the reactionary Arab regimes. Asad was for unifying all Arab states—reactionary or otherwise—against Israel. 
Asad—who Ali says he opposed—recognized (a) that a program of secular nationalist socialism couldn’t be implemented holus bolus without mass support, and (b) that the government didn’t have it. So, after toppling Jadid in a so-called “corrective” movement, he minimized class warfare in favor of broadening his government’s base, trying to win over merchants, artisans, business people, and other opponents of the regime’s nationalizations and socialist measures. At the same time, he retained Jadid’s commitment to a dirigiste state and continued to promote oppressed classes and minorities. This was hardly a stirring program for Marxist purists—in fact it looked like a betrayal—but the Soviets were more committed to Asad than Jadid, recognizing that his program respected the world as it was and therefore had a greater chance of success. 
In the end, however, Asad failed. Neither he nor his son Bashar managed to expand the state’s base of support enough to safeguard it from destabilization. The opposition hasn’t been conjured up out of nothing by regime change specialists in Washington. To be sure, regime change specialists have played a role, but they’ve needed material to work with, and the Asad’s Syria has provided plenty of it. Nor did Gaddafi in Libya finesse the problem of mixing the right amount of repression and persuasion to engineer a broad enough consent for his secular nationalist rule to survive the fever of Salafist opposition rising, as Patrick Seale writes, according to conditions at home and manipulation from abroad . The machinations of the United States and reactionary Arab regimes to stir up and strengthen the secular nationalists’ opponents made the knot all the more difficult to disentangle, but outside manipulation wasn’t the whole story in Gaddafi’s demise (though it was a significant part of it) and hasn’t been the sole, or even a large part of the, explanation for the uprising in Syria.
The idea that the uprisings in either country are popular, democratic movements against dictatorship and for the redress of economic grievances, (a) ignores the significant history of struggle between secularist Arab nationalists and the Muslim Brothers, (b) mistakenly minimizes the role of Salafists in the uprisings, and (c) turns a blind eye to Washington’s longstanding practice of using radical Muslim activists as a cat’s paw against Arab nationalist regimes that are against sacrificing local interests to the foreign trade and investment interests of Wall Street and corporate America. With Islamists lashing out violently against US embassies in the Middle East, their depiction by US state officials and Western media as pro-democracy fighters for freedom may very well be supplanted by the labels used by Gaddafi and Asad to describe their Islamist opponents, labels that are closer to the truth –“religious fanatics” and “terrorists.”
Reactionary Islam may have won the battle for hegemony in the Muslim world, as Tariq Ali asserts, and with it, the United States, which has often manipulated it for its own purposes, but the battle has yet to be won in Syria, and one would hope, never will be. That’s what’s at stake in the country: not a fragile, popular, egalitarian, pro-democracy movement, but the last remaining secular Arab nationalist regime, resisting both the oppressions and obscurantism of the Muslim Brothers and the oppressions and plunder of imperialism.
1. Tariq Ali, “The Uprising in Syria”, http://www.counterpunch.com, September 12, 2012.
2. Stephen Gowans [A], “Al-Qaeda’s Air Force”, what’s left, February 20, 2012. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/al-qaedas-air-force/
3. Patrick Martin, “Anti-American protests seen as tip of the Islamist iceberg”, The Globe and Mail, September 13, 2012.
4. Gowans [A]
5. Rodric Braithwaite. Afghantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989. Profile Books. 2012. pp. 5-6.
6. Gowans [A]
7. Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous, “U.S. probing al-Qaeda link in Libya”, The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2012.
8. Gowans [A]
9. David Pugliese, “The Libya mission one year later: Into the unknown”, The Ottawa Citizen, February 18, 2012.
11. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1988, p.324.
12. Seale, p. 333.
13. Seale, p. 335.
14. Seale, p. 322.
15. Anthony Shadid, “After Arab revolts, reigns of uncertainty”, The New York Times, August 24, 2011.
16. Stephen Gowans [B], “Women’s Rights in Afghanistan”, August 9, 2010. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/women%e2%80%99s-rights-in-afghanistan/
By Tom Burke
May 21, 2012
Chicago, IL – In the largest anti-war protest ever held in Chicago, 15,000 people took to the streets marching against the NATO military summit. Inside McCormick Convention Center, politicians, generals and bankers discussed the faltering U.S./NATO war and occupation in Afghanistan. They also forged agreements that set the stage for destabilizing and overthrowing independent governments in places like Syria and Iran.
Outside, in the streets of Chicago’s South Loop however, waves of protesters marched in contingents with a message against NATO and G8, opposing war and poverty. Protesters were chanting and singing, surrounded by police on all sides. They were in high spirits and feeling their power, knowing their message of opposing war and poverty was reaching across the world to people suffering from NATO wars and occupations.
The day began with music and poetry at Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park, a park famous for 1960s protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Rebel Diaz, Tom Morello, David Rovics and hip-hop poets performed, with an appearance by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). As the crowd began to grow, many taking shelter in the shade of nearby trees, protesters listened to speakers from scores of groups and movements that built for the protest against NATO.
The audience listened closely when Chicano leader and anti-war activist Carlos Montes took the stage. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a big banner reading “Justice for Carlos Montes” behind him. Montes said, “I am here in solidarity with you today, despite being on trial in Los Angeles as part of an FBI frame up. I am being persecuted because of my anti-war, immigrant rights and labor activism. I organized protests against the U.S. War in Vietnam in the ‘60s and I organize against NATO and the U.S. war in Afghanistan today. We were in solidarity with and inspired by the people of Vietnam in their struggle against U.S. imperialism and we act in solidarity with the struggles of the people of Colombia, the Philippines and Mexico today. I call for the U.S. out of Afghanistan and to no U.S. or NATO intervention in Syria and Iran.”
Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian-American, who is one of 23 Midwest anti-war activists subpoenaed to a grand jury investigation and had his home raided by the FBI because of his solidarity work, also spoke: “We are organizing toward the day when Palestine will be a free and sovereign nation, with the right to return for refugees. We call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and for people here to join us in demanding Palestinian liberation!” A big roar went up from the entire crowd.
Meredith Aby from the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee spoke about the need to get NATO out of Afghanistan and prevent future U.S. wars for oil and Empire. Aby is also one of the 23 who the FBI raided and she asserted, “Being anti-war is not a crime!’
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, from Chicago’s Operation PUSH and a former presidential candidate, called for an end to spending billions on war. He demanded the money be used to fund social services and end poverty. Jackson educated the crowd about poverty in this country, often portrayed in the media as only affecting African-Americans and other oppressed peoples. Reverend Jackson said, “The largest single category of poor people is white women who are single parents with children.” Reverend Jackson used the African-American call and response tradition in his speech, much to the amazement of Occupy Wall Street activists who use a similar technique.
All in all there were more than 40 speakers from students, labor, immigrant rights, war veteran, environmental, housing and healthcare groups. Speakers included Leah Bolger, the President of Vets for Peace, Larry Holmes of the International Action Center and Lisa Grab with Students for a Democratic Society. Many were interested to hear from the Afghan women for peace, and the International League of People’s Struggle representing many international movements for freedom.
There were dozens of international guests who came to the protest, particularly anti-NATO organizations from European NATO countries. The importance of this is not to be underestimated, as NATO is fragile and some countries have already pulled troops out of Afghanistan.
The afternoon march began with a group of Afghan women for peace joined by a large contingent of Iraq and Afghan war veterans marching together. The Coalition Against NATO and G8 (CANG8), the organizers of the march, held the lead banner, with the United National Antiwar Coalition F(UNAC) as a part of that.
A river of protesters stretched across four lanes of traffic and for nearly a mile on Michigan Avenue. Onlookers and whole families came out on apartment balconies and onto sidewalks to film and take photos.
When the march came to within a few blocks of McCormick Place, it was time for the war veterans to take command. In one of the most moving moments of any anti-war protest in a generation, U.S. military veterans made declarations against U.S. and NATO wars and occupations, throwing their medals off the stage and into the street. One war veteran describing his combat experience began choking back tears and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” to which thousands in the streets began chanting, “It’s not your fault! It’s not your fault!”
Other veterans gave impassioned speeches against wars for oil and U.S. imperialism, denouncing the 1% and the U.S. government, while throwing their combat service awards and other medals as far as possible down the street towards the NATO summit. Jacob Flom of IVAW dedicated his medals to Carlos Montes and the Anti-War 23.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) ended the day with an announcement for people to exit to the west, taking note that there was a tremendous build-up of police in riot gear and military-type uniforms. The official show of force was intimidating to people and clearly planned and funded months ahead of time.
The crowds of protesters were so large, however, that it appeared impossible for everyone to exit in time for the end of the permitted Veterans rally. It soon became a scene of police encircling and pushing and shoving a much smaller crowd of people, some who responded in kind and were beaten and arrested. Others were simply singled out for arrest or beaten at random, including a few journalists. The big business media took up this story and these images to attempt to quickly bury the largest and most successful anti-war protest ever held in the city of Chicago.
While the greatest purveyors of violence in the world were meeting inside the NATO summit, the anti-war protesters outside sent a message heard round the world: “Say no to NATO! Troops out now!”
By Jacob Flom
May 18, 2012
Chicago, IL – Dozens of U.S. military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plan to return their medals to the commanders they served under on Sunday, May 20. Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will lead thousands of anti-war protesters from Grant Park to the site of the NATO summit in downtown Chicago. Outside McCormick Place, the veterans and service members will return their medals to NATO commanders. Veterans of the U.S.-led NATO war and occupation in Afghanistan will march side by side with the group Afghans for Peace at the head of the march organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8.
“By returning my medals I can begin the healing process,” said Iraq veteran Zach Laporte, a member of the Milwaukee IVAW chapter. “The NATO commanders may not acknowledge us as we return our medals,” said Laporte, “but by making our presence felt in the media and on the ground people will know our story. They will know the real story that the NATO commanders do not want the public to know.”
Through their action on May 20, IVAW hopes to bring attention to the human cost of the NATO occupation in Afghanistan, as well as the continuing effects of the Iraq war. But for the veterans returning their medals, this is also a personal process of healing the wound caused by NATO and U.S. occupations. Speaking to Democracy Now!, Chicago IVAW member Aaron Hughes said NATO is, “perpetuating a failed policy and unfortunately we have to live with that failed policy on a daily basis, and we don’t want to be a part of that failed policy anymore.”
Returning service medals as an act of protest was popularized at the 1971 action Operation Dewey Canyon III, organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. At that event, over 800 combat veterans threw their medals toward the U.S. Capitol building in protest of the Vietnam War.
Sunday’s rally and march against the NATO summit will start at the Petrillo Bandshell on the corner of Jackson and Columbus in Chicago. Entertainment and speakers begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by the mass march to McCormick Place at 2:00 p.m.
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew,
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”
By Lizzie Phelan
May 4, 2012
Today it was reported that NATO’s insurgents, (insert western and GCC media terms: freedom fighters/revolutionaries) have sought advice from the so-called “Kosovo People’s Liberation Army”.
The link between the KLA and the insurgents in Syria however goes back much further. The presence of wahabi forces (insert the western media term “Islamists”) such as those who come under the banner of Al Qaeda today amongst those insurgents has been identified numerous times – see for example here, here and here . So how does this relate to Kosovo? In this video during the height of the war on terror, Hillary Clinton admits that the US government armed and financed the Mujahideen to fight against the Soviet backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of those fighters from North Africa, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the wider region, then joined the KLA who became NATO’s allies in the criminal war against Serbia in the late 1990s, which continues to cause catastrophic suffering to those people to this day. At the same time the Libyan Al Qaeda wing, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), was being formed. The LIFG, and its most notorious figures like current military commander of Tripoli Abdelhakim Belhaj, were one of the most important components of the Libyan rebels (insert western and GCC media terms: freedom fighters/revolutionaries) that mainly unsuccessfully did NATO’s ground work; hence the need for NATO to use more than 50,0000 missiles and bombs to wipe out the popular and military forces that were easily defeating those rebels.
The presence of such Libyan rebels in Syria has been well documented. However, also like in Libya, and as journalist Srdja Trifcovich says in the video above in Serbia before, in Syria the insurgents will depend wholly on NATO to employ its lethal airpower in order to even have a chance of achieving their aim of getting rid of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. While such airstrikes like in Libya and Serbia would cause widespread destruction and devastation for the Syrian population for many years to come, there are far from any guarantees that it would cause the demise of the popularly supported Syrian government.
The following article below was originally published by Press TV:
April 30, 2012
A radical American pastor has once again burned copies of Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, as well as a portrait of Prophet Mohamed in a Florida church.
US pastor Terry Jones along with another pastor perpetrated the sacrilegious acts in front of their church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, AFP reported.
Some 20 people attended the burning process.
In a statement issued late on Sunday night, the Iranian Foreign Ministry termed the act as part of failed plans by the West for war of civilizations, adding that it aimed to incite hatred and phobia against Islam.
The statement also said that the US government’s failure to act against similar acts of desecration in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons in Iraq and Cuba and the recent such sacrileges in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan had led to the blasphemous acts of Saturday.
On February 20, US troopers burned copies of the Holy Qur’an and other Islamic texts at the US-run airbase in the northern Afghanistan province of Parwan.
On March 20, 2011, American evangelical preacher Wayne Sapp, who was serving as Jones’ assistant at the time, torched a copy of Qur’an, claiming that the holy book had been found “guilty” of crimes and was therefore “executed.”
Jones was also present during the event.
The desecration sparked widespread protests in many Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and India after a video of the Qur’an burning was broadcast online. The protests turned violent in Afghanistan, leaving at least 12 people dead.
By James Petras
March 26, 2012
The March 11 Massacre of the 17 Afghan citizens, including at least nine children and four women, raises many fundamental issues about the nature of a colonial war, the practices of a colonial army engaged in a prolonged (eleven-year) occupation and the character of an imperial state as it commits war crimes and increasingly relies on arbitrary dictatorial measures to secure public compliance and suppress dissent.
After the cold-blooded murder of the 17 Afghan villagers in Kandahar Province the US military and the ever-complicit Obama regime constructed an elaborate cover-up, exposing the Administration up to charges of conspiracy to suppress the essential facts, falsify data and obstruct justice: All are grounds for criminal prosecution and impeachment.
This massacre is just one of several hundred committed by US armed forces according to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. It could ruin the Obama presidency, by putting him on trial for conspiracy to obstruct justice and arguably send him to jail for war crimes.
Obama’s deliberate lies about the events surrounding the massacre and the fundamental responsibility of the high military command for the crimes committed by its troops underscores the breakdown of the occupation of Afghanistan, the very centerpiece of Obama’s war policy. The President of the United States has personally played a major role in the cover-up. From a political vantage point, the executive conspiracy charge has wider and deeper implications than the massacre itself, as horrible as it is.
The Massacre, the ‘Official’ Story (1st version) and the Cover-Up
According to the US military command in Afghanistan and the Obama regime, at 3am on March 11, 2012 a deranged soldier walked off a Special Forces Base in rural Kandahar Province and without command authority entered two villages (two miles apart), shot and killed 17 unarmed civilians, mostly women and children and wounded an unspecified number of villagers; then he doused their bodies with gasoline, set them on fire and hiked back to base to surrender himself to his commanders. This ‘surrender’, the Pentagon claims, was recorded on video and no less than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, vouched for its authenticity as conclusive proof for the story of a lone, unbalanced mass murderer. The military command quickly whisked the initially unnamed murderer out of the Afghanistan to the maximum security federal prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and only then identified the madman as a 38-year old, multi-decorated, 11-year army veteran, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. The US has rejected all attempts by the Afghan President, the Afghan Army Chief and members of the Afghan Parliament to interview Sgt Bales, gather testimony and bring the suspect to trial in Afghanistan.
According to an independent Afghan parliamentary investigation led by Sayed Ishaq Gillami, and initial investigations by General Sher Mohammed Karimi of the Afghan Army, who interviewed residents of the two villages, there are significant contradictions in the US military’s and President Obama’s “official story”. Eye witnesses have testified that up to 20 soldiers were involved, aided by a helicopter. What they described was typical of a US Special Forces’ night time raid, which involved the systematic breaking down of doors, rousing the sleeping families and shooting Afghan victims.
Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today, finds the villagers’ version of events quite plausible for the following reasons: The villages, where the murders occurred, were two miles apart, making it highly unlikely that a lone, fully armed solder could haul a multi-gallon jerry can of gasoline from his base to the first sleeping village, break down the doors of one or more homes, commit the murders, douse and burn his victims and then proceed on foot two miles further on to the second village, shoot, kill and burn the next set of unarmed villagers and then walk back to his base and surrender.
It makes far more sense that a heavily armed group of Special Forces troops, engaged in village ‘pacification’ operations, left their base in military vehicles, passed through the gate in the wee hours of the morning, on a routine official operation, authorized by the bases military command and something went wrong. What was supposed to have been a typical midnight assault on a “pacified” village in search of Taliban supporters, turned into the mass murder of children and their mothers in bed with virtually no adult males (husbands, fathers, uncles or brothers) present to protect them. Typically, all Afghan farmers keep weapons in their homes, but these villages had been disarmed by the Special Forces and the adult men had either been detained in earlier sweeps or were in hiding from just such brutal operations in the expectation that their wives and children would not be attacked.
Whatever triggered the mass murder of mothers and children in their nightclothes in those villages in Kandahar, one thing is clear: the President of the United States conspired with the US military command to obstruct justice in the cover-up of a heinous war crime, a felony punishable with impeachment.
When the implausibility first ‘official’ story became embarrassingly evident to the most superficial observer, the Obama ‘cover-up’ crew released a new version on March 26: According to the revised version of events, the lone, deranged Sgt. Bales committed the first massacre in the early morning hours of March 11, walked back to base for breakfast and lunch and then walked out again to a second village for another round of mass murder – before returning and turning himself in to his commander posing for the video.
Why the Obama Cover-Up: Military Demoralization and the Iran War
Why would President Obama engage in such a clumsy cover-up further eroding US relations with the Afghan President Karzai, the Afghan military and especially the Afghan people? Why would he risk charges of conspiracy to protect war criminals by insisting on an easily refutable cover-up?
The story of the alleged assassin, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, provides some leads about the larger crisis facing the imperial military. Bales is a ‘decorated’ soldier rewarded for his three tours of combat duty in Iraq and his more recent Afghan assignment where he would have participated in similar types of Special Pacification Operations among civilians in the countryside in Afghanistan. In the days after news of the massacre leaked out, a furious Afghan President Karzai claimed that “hundreds” of similar massacres had been perpetrated by US and NATO forces and had gone unreported in the Western media and unpunished. Karzai has repeatedly called for an end to US Special Forces’ night raids on sleeping villages. But, until now, there had been no need for a US Presidential cover-up up. With the approaching US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the growing expressions of militant Afghan nationalism, the Obama regime must hide the true nature of the occupation. Washington’s Afghan clients can no longer ignore US war crimes against innocent children and women and other non-combatants. This is especially true in the so-called ‘pacified’ villages where the adult Afghani men have already been arrested in sweeps or driven into hiding and with the few remaining, disarmed and ‘under the control’ of the US Special Forces.
Considering even the US official story, why would the Special Forces commanders in charge of the Sgt. Bales base ignore the loud bursts of gunfire and screams of women and children in a village within 100 meters of its perimeter at 3 am? According to their official version, the base command only became aware of the massacres when Sgt. Bales walked back to base, raised his hands high for a video-op and confessed to killing and desecrating the bodies of 17, mostly children and women.
Obama has tried to sell the ‘confession’ video as proof of the ‘official version’ of events to a skeptical Afghan President Karzai who contemptuously demanded the ‘alleged’ video be turned over for a detailed examination for authenticity. Obama’s refusal to release the video tends to confirm his role in the cover-up.
Obama’s contention that a ‘lone unbalanced gunman’ committed the crime is completely self-serving and exposes serious and deep structural problems with the war in Afghanistan. US combat troops in Afghanistan are demoralized and angry because their military commanders have marched them into a cul de sac – a dead end. They are engaged in a long, losing war where every dead US soldier is accompanied by scores who are maimed, blinded and mentally traumatized. In Obama’s war, the wounded are patched up and recycled back into the same meat grinder in an increasingly hostile environment, where rape, torture, maiming and murder become their only ‘recreation’. Sgt. Bales was coerced into multiple tours of duty in Iraq and then shipped off to Afghanistan, contrary to his expectations of a promotion and an end to overseas combat assignments.
There is a huge gap between the world of the political warlords in Washington and their accomplices among the warmongering ‘lobbies’ and that of the soldiers who risk their lives in imperial wars of occupation. These dispensable soldiers are repeatedly deployed to brutal colonial wars thousands of miles from their homes to confront an ‘enemy’ they cannot possibly understand. They end up brutalizing the families, friends, neighbors and compatriots of the elusive Afghan anti-colonial fighters – who are everywhere. Back in the Washington none of the political war-mongers ever experience the pain and suffering of a prolonged war, which for any soldier on the battlefield, is ever present, everywhere. Soldiers, like Sgt. Bales, operate in a very hostile environment where, a roadside bomb or a grenade thrown from a motorcycle, or even a ‘trusted’ Afghan ally, who might turn his gun on his US ‘mentors,’ are omnipresent threats to their ever returning home in one piece.
Obama has to conspire with the Pentagon in covering up this mass murder, defending the officers in charge of these ‘pacified’ villages, because there are no alternatives, no back-ups, no new recruits eager to engage in the 12th year of war in Afghanistan. There are only the re-cycled killers, willing to pursue their career in ‘Special Forces’ involving ‘kill and destroy’ operations. Furthermore, Obama cannot rely on the international allies who are rushing to withdraw their own troops from this quagmire. And Obama has a problem with his allied Afghan warlords and kleptocrats, who managed to run off with over $4.5 billion dollars in 2011 (half of the entire state budget) (Financial Times, 3/19/12, p. 1). President Obama cannot allow an entire garrison, including their commanding officer to be put on trial for the war crimes in this massacre. Holding anyone, besides the hapless Sgt. Bales, accountable for the massacre would incite a general rebellion within the armed forces, or, at a minimum, further demoralize the elite Special Forces who are expected to man these long-term engagements after the regulars withdraw, which in the case of Afghanistan could last until 2024.
This issue has implications far beyond Afghanistan: Obama has developed his entire new counter-insurgency strategy centered on the easy entry and bloody exits of US Special Forces targeting over seventy-five countries. The Special Forces figure prominently in Obama’s military preparations for Syria and Iran, which have been developed at the behest of his Zionist overlords.
In the final analysis, the entire imperial military apparatus of the Obama regime, while formidable on paper, depends on the ‘Special Operations’ formations. As such, they are the centerpiece of the new imperial warfare, developed as a response to the demands for reduced ground forces, budgetary constraints and growing domestic discontent. Their ‘actions’ are designed to leave no witnesses and no embarrassments. They may be the butchers of children, women and unarmed civilians but they are the White House’s butchers.
Despite all their crimes and cover-ups, the Obama regime’s priority is to defend the empire with whatever personnel is available at his disposal. So while Sgt. Bales is in Leavenworth, the Afghan elite cry injustice, the families in Kandahar mourn their dead and the Taliban plan their revenge.
On the domestic front, Obama faces strong popular opposition to the costly unending wars, which have destroyed the US economy, and growing anger and demoralization in the armed forces. As a result of the massive popular discontent among the American people with politicians of both parties who have recklessly sent troops into anachronistic colonial wars, which serve the interest of foreign powers, the President has issued an executive decree, allowing him to assume dictatorial powers in order to militarize the entire economy, its resources and its work force. On March 16, 2012 Barak Obama issued an Executive Order-National Defense Resource Preparedness in order to sustain the global empire.
Clearly prolonged colonial wars cannot be sustained through the consent of the citizens and such wars cannot be prosecuted according to military manuals and the Geneva Conventions. At this point, only Presidential ‘rule by decree’ can secure compliance of the citizens at home and only massacres and cover-ups can sustain the colonial occupations abroad. But these are desperate and temporary: When the extreme measures have run their course there will be nothing to fall back on and nothing can save the president of a collapsing empire from the revolt of its citizens and soldiers.
March 13, 2012
Gruesome new details are surfacing after 16 Afghan villagers including nine children were shot in their houses by at least one US serviceman. Witnesses to the atrocity now say that several drunken American soldiers were involved.
Neighbors at the village where the killings took place said they were awoken past midnight by crackling gunfire:
“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” Reuters cites Agha Lala, a villager in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district.
Lala’s neighbor Haji Samad lost all of his 11 relatives in the rampage, including children and grandchildren. He claims Marines “poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them.”
Twenty-year-old Jan Agha says the gunfire “shook him out of bed.” He was in the epicenter of the horrible shooting, witnessing his father shot as the latter peered out of a window to see what was going on.
“The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared,” the young man told reporters.
Lying on a floor, Agha says, he pretended to be dead.
He added that his brother was shot in his head and chest. His sister was killed as well. “My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognizable,” he said.
The Afghan parliament said the incident was barbaric and demanded justice. Both NATO and US officials condemned the violence, promising a swift investigation.
US ‘fundamental strategy’ in Afghanistan won’t change – Pentagon
The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, George Little, said on Monday that there was “every indication” that the perpetrator, whose name he refused to disclose, had not been accompanied by any other soldiers. He also said that the mass killing would not change the “basic war strategy” in Afghanistan.
“Despite what some are saying, we’re not changing our fundamental strategy,” Little said.
Also on Monday NATO reacted to the massacre of Afghan villagers, with spokeswoman Oana Lungescu saying the shooting was an ”isolated incident.” She emphasized it would not affect the timeline of the previously discussed withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Earlier a preliminary official report said the unnamed culprit, identified as a member of the US army staff, had acted alone and is now in custody after turning himself in at an American base.
US troops in Afghanistan have been put on high alert as the Taliban has issued a threat vowing “to take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.”
The statement published on the group’s website said that the US is “arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenseless Afghans.”
Afghan officials, fearing possible violent demonstrations, have deployed extra police and troops in and around Kandahar.
The incident was one of the worst of its kind since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It comes just weeks after copies of the Koran were burned at a US military base, provoking mass riots in Afghanistan.
Slaying of 16 Afghan civilians ‘absolutely tragic and heartbreaking’ – Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama has said during an interview with Denver TV Station KCNC that the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier was “absolutely tragic and heartbreaking” but also noted that he was “proud generally” of what US troops had accomplished in Afghanistan while working under strenuous conditions.
In another interview, this time with Orlando-based WFTV, the president reiterated his stance in favor of a pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. He said the incident “does signal the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plans that Afghans are taking more of the initiative in security.”
Asked whether the incident could be compared to the infamous 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which US troops murdered up to 500 civilians in South Vietnam, Obama responded by saying it was not comparable. “It appeared you had a lone gunman who acted on his own,” he noted.
US defense secretary Leon Panetta said that the death penalty was a possible punishment against the soldier who perpetrated the massacre. He noted that officials will use the military justice system to try the soldier and that the shootings must not derail the military mission in Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Reuters quoted an anonymous US official who said that the accused soldier had been treated for traumatic brain injury after being in a vehicle that rolled over in Iraq in 2010.
By Richard Becker
January 26, 2012
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, 1998
“America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.” President Barack Obama, State of the Union message, 2012
President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union message is an object lesson in contemporary U.S. class politics. Obama came into office three years ago on a wave of progressive hopes and even euphoria, very understandable given the bitter history of racism in this country and the fact that he was taking the place of his widely despised predecessor, George W. Bush.
What the last three years as well as this speech have reaffirmed is that, regardless of the particular personality or characteristics of the person assuming the U.S. presidency, it is a job that comes with a specific job description: CEO of the imperialist ruling class.
For militarism and chauvinism, combined with empty liberal rhetoric, President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union message would be hard to beat. That it was lavished with uncritical praise by liberal Democratic Party units like MoveOn.org—an allegedly “anti-war” group—was just another reminder that 2012 is an election year.
The president began by hailing the U.S. war on Iraq, a war he supposedly opposed when he was candidate Obama in 2008. Back then he was perceived by millions as the “peace candidate,” a critical element in his election victory.
“Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq,” said Obama. “Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought—and several thousand gave their lives. We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.”
In fact, the war in Iraq largely destroyed a country that posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S. Millions of Iraqis were killed, wounded or forced into exile and its society torn to shreds. Not only did thousands of U.S. soldiers die in a war fought on entirely false pretenses, hundreds of thousands more suffered severe physical and psychological wounds. The total cost of the war will exceed $3 trillion—$3,000,000,000,000.
Obama portrayed the Afghanistan war as another impending success: “The Taliban’s momentum has been broken. …” Even his top advisers, however, view the war as a stalemate, one where the U.S.—despite more than three decades of inflicting devastation on Afghanistan—cannot achieve a military victory.
He lauded the NATO overthrow of the government in Libya and predicted a similar outcome in Syria. But, of course, not a hint of criticism of the absolute monarchies that rule Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries in the Gulf.
Continuing his triumphalist world tour: “Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al-Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.”
US targets China
“We’ve made it clear that America [sic] is a Pacific power.” The primary target of the U.S. military buildup in Asia is China. The anti-China campaign is economic as well: “We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration. Tonight I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China.”
Near the end of his remarks, Obama celebrated the damage that “crippling sanctions” are having on the Iranian people, and once again threatened Iran with military attack, including the use of nuclear weapons: “America [sic] is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”
Regarding the only country in the Middle East that actually possesses nuclear weapons, the president declared: “Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.” Not even the usual ritual mention of the Palestinians this time around.
In between his imperialistic international pronouncements, the president lamented about the difficulties of life for workers without jobs and students burdened by high-interest debt, and called on employers, universities and Congress to do better. He spent a good deal of time advocating a “fairer” tax system. But he projected no actual new programs.
When it came to helping Big Oil, it was a very different story: “Tonight I’m directing my administration to open up more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” In addition he expressed unambiguous support for “fracking,” the extremely hazardous extraction of gas from underground shale rock by blasting it apart using massive amounts of water and chemicals. Fracking has polluted water supplies, has sickened many people and recently has caused earthquakes in non-quake-prone areas.
While on the one hand calling for “comprehensive immigration reform” and something like the Dream Act, he boasted of stepping up the militarization of the border with Mexico: “That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.”
Financial crimes go unpunished
Following more lamenting about bad things done by Wall Street and the big banks that led to the financial/economic crisis, what seemed to excite loyal Democrats more than anything else was this announcement by Obama: “We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender.”
But these two sentences raise more than a few questions, starting with, “What took so long?” followed by, “What—there is no real penalty for financial firms that repeatedly violate major anti-fraud laws?”
President Obama took office as the biggest financial/economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s was breaking. Countless articles and whole books dissecting widespread fraud, particularly in the multi-trillion-dollar mortgage banking business, have been written. Virtually none of those who reaped immense profits from these fraudulent operations have gone to jail or even lost their fortunes. The famous exception is Bernie Madoff, who made the mistake of stealing mainly from the rich.
There is no particular reason to believe that three years later, the“Financial Crimes Unit” is anything but another election ploy. Under capitalism, all are not equal before the law. The “justice system” is administered by the rich against the rest.
Echoing the words of Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s war-mongering secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, Obama thundered: “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.” The implication, of course, is that all other countries and nations in the world are … dispensable.