Archive for the ‘U.S.A.’ Category

Child poverty in the U.S. is among the worst in the developed world

April 16, 2015

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By Christopher Ingraham October 29, 2014

A man walks with two children outside the Poverello House homeless shelter Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Scott Smith)
The United States ranks near the bottom of the pack of wealthy nations on a measure of child poverty, according to a new report from UNICEF. Nearly one third of U.S. children live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income in 2008 – about $31,000 annually.

In the richest nation in the world, one in three kids live in poverty. Let that sink in.

The UNICEF report pegs the poverty definition to the 2008 median to account for the decline in income since then – incomes fell after the great recession, so measuring this way is an attempt to assess current poverty relative to how things stood before the downturn.

With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthy countries included in the UNICEF report. By contrast, only 5.3 percent of Norwegian kids currently meet this definition of poverty.
More alarmingly, the share of U.S. children living in poverty has actually increased by 2 percentage points since 2008. Overall, 24.2 million U.S. children were living in poverty in 2012, reflecting an increase of 1.7 million children since 2008. “Of all newly poor children in the OECD and/or EU, about a third are in the United States,” according to the report. On the other hand, 18 countries were actually able to reduce their childhood poverty rates over the same period.

The report finds considerable differences in childhood poverty at the state level. New Mexico, where more than four in ten kids live in poverty, has the highest overall rate at 41.9 percent. In New Hampshire only one in eight kids lives in a poor household, the lowest rate in the nation. Poverty rates are generally higher in Southern states, and lower in New England and Northern Plains states.

Map: Childhood poverty rates, by state
“Between 2006 and 2011, child poverty increased in 34 states,” according to the UNICEF report. “The largest increases were found in Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii and New Mexico, all of which have relatively small numbers of children. Meanwhile Mississippi and North Dakota saw notable decreases.”
There are some limits to the usefulness of benchmarking poverty in relation to a country’s median income. The median income in the U.S. is going to be very different than that in say, Estonia. So it means something very different to say that a given person is making 60 percent of median income in the former as opposed to the latter.

It’s also important to note that a household income of $30,000 puts you in roughly the richest 1.23 percent of the world’s population. The report doesn’t deal with the type of extreme poverty you see in the poor and developing worlds, where roughly 2.7 billion people are trying to get by on less than two dollars per day.

But UNICEF’s relative poverty measure is still useful in that economies are relative, too. Thirty thousand dollars goes much, much further in Eritrea than it does in Kansas. And while you might be able to get by – barely – raising a family on $30,000 in rural Kansas, try doing that in any of the nation’s pricey urban and suburban areas, where many of America’s poor actually live.

For the richest country in the world to also have one of the world’s highest childhood poverty rates is, frankly, an embarrassment. Like our high infant mortality rate, child poverty in the U.S. reflects the failure of policymakers to seriously grapple with the challenges facing the most vulnerable members of society.
Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

What if US & UN Sanctioned Israel Over Its Nukes the Way They Did Iran?

April 4, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu giving speech about danger of Iran's nuclear program at UN. (photo: Don Emmart/AFP/Getty)
Benjamin Netanyahu giving speech about danger of Iran’s nuclear program at UN. (photo: Don Emmart/AFP/Getty)

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

04 April 15


here is a lot of talk about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and the ways in which an Iranian bomb would provoke Saudi Arabia and others to acquire nuclear warheads of their own.

But for decades, the primary impetus to a nuclear arms race in the region has been Israel, which probably had an atom bomb by about 1970. It was helped behind the scenes by France and Britain– which actively proliferated nuclear weapons to Israel.

It was Israel’s bomb that, in part, impelled Iraq to go for broke. Iraq’s nuclear weapons program of the 1980s in turn convinced some in Iran that Iran needed at least a nuclear break-out capacity if two of its enemies were going to have bombs. Since Israel destroyed an Iraqi light water reactor, OSIRAK, in 1981 (which had been built by the French and could not easily have been used to produce fissile material), when Iran began its experiments in uranium enrichment, it kept them secret lest Tel Aviv send out F-14s.

Ideally, the whole Middle East should be an atomic bomb- free region. The area has enough horrible problems without a weapon of mass destruction. But the UN Security Council has treated Israel very differently from the way they treated Iran. For centuries, Europeans have been held to different standards and different rules than have peoples of the Global South. Israel as a “European” country was allowed to get a nuclear bomb, indeed was helped to do so, and no sanctions were ever applied to it. Iran was targeted for economic warfare just for having an enrichment program.

Now that Iran is being constrained by a strict inspections regime and limitations on centrifuges from ever weaponizing its civilian enrichment program, what if the United Nations Security Council turned its attention to decommissioning Israel’s stock of several hundred warheads?

If Britain, France, Russia, China and the USA decided Israel would have to give up its nukes, as a means of ensuring non-proliferation in the Middle East, how would they proceed?

On analogy from the sanctions imposed on Iran, we could see the UNSC pass a resolution demanding that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as Iran has).

Then they demand that Israel allow inspectors in to Dimona.

Then they demand that Israel destroy its stockpile of atomic bombs.

When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu loudly and cheekily defies the world body, the UNSC moves to the next stage.

The European Union, with which Israel does a third of its trade, begins boycotting Israeli-made goods and Israeli companies.

China joins suit, drastically reducing its imports from Israel and curtailing contracts to Israeli firms.

As Netanyahu’s defiance grows louder and more strident, and he begins threatening the five permanent members of the Security Council, the UNSC takes a dim view of his bluster.

Israel is kicked off the SWIFT bank exchange and excluded from the alternative Chinese one. Israeli foreign trade plummets as sellers find it impossible to receive shekels for the goods they send to Israel. It is difficult to buy Israeli products because there is no easy way to pay Israeli businesses for them. Buyers turn to other producers of similar products in other countries.

Israeli exports are cut in half. The country is forced to trade with some poor Asian and African countries that do no care about the UNSC, but must barter for their inferior made goods.

The shekel falls from roughly $.25 to only an American dime. The Israeli middle class can suddenly no longer afford to vacation in Europe or the United States. Egyptian and Turkish beaches are off limits because those countries joined the boycott, hoping for a denuclearized Middle East.

Haaretz runs an editorial pointing out that Israel has an American nuclear security umbrella and asking why the country needs its own stockpile.

Netanyahu stages a photo op standing atop stacked nuclear warheads, waving a cowboy hat above his head in imitation of Slim Pickens in the film, “Dr. Strangelove.”

The shekel falls to five cents against the dollar. Israelis find it difficult to afford some important medicines because of their high cost, and some patients die as a result. Many Israelis begin moving to France, Germany and Sweden, tired of trying to scrape a living together in an increasingly dilapidated Tel Aviv, beset with potholes and crumbling buildings.

In new elections, Isaac Herzog becomes prime minister and announces a willingness to negotiate with President Michelle Obama’s Secretary of State.

The Security Council insists that Israel sign the NPT and accept wide-ranging and surprise IAEA inspections. The destruction of its stockpile of atomic bombs begins.

Other Middle East states, having seen what happened to Iran and Israel, affirm that they have no interest in nuclear weaponry. Most now in any case get their power not from reactors but from solar farms, which generate electricity at 2 cents a kilowatt hour. Cheap power and fewer military expenses have made them prosperous. They implore Israel to join their ranks and also to accept the 2002 Arab League peace plan.


Comment: We must be freed from the most imminent threat of nuclear holocaust (by accidents, mishaps, failures, terrorism, wars) by treating every country equal (free zones in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, and America. We need the natural cyclical Indra-net culture (cultivation with 5 blisses: awakening/freedom/equality/love/peace) to stop the artificial uni-directional pyramidal civilization (urbanization for matter/power with moneyism/militarism/me-ism with 5 calamities: delusion/bondage/discrimination/exploitation/extermination).


Your Money at War Everywhere

March 27, 2015
Published on

Military strategy? Who needs it? The madness of funding the Pentagon to “cover the globe”

‘Current levels of Pentagon spending may not be able to support current defense strategy,’ admits Hartung, but the answer to this problem is the simple one right before our eyes: ‘cut the money and change the strategy.’ (Image: Hawaii Independent)

President Obama and Senator John McCain, who have clashed on almost every conceivable issue, do agree on one thing: the Pentagon needs more money. Obama wants to raise the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2016 by $35 billion more than the caps that exist under current law allow.  McCain wants to see Obama his $35 billion and raise him $17 billion more. Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees attempted to meet Obama’s demands by pressing to pour tens of billions of additional dollars into the uncapped supplemental war budget.

What will this new avalanche of cash be used for? A major ground war in Iraq? Bombing the Assad regime in Syria? A permanent troop presence in Afghanistan?  More likely, the bulk of the funds will be wielded simply to take pressure off the Pentagon’s base budget so it can continue to pay for staggeringly expensive projects like the F-35 combat aircraft and a new generation of ballistic missile submarines.  Whether the enthusiastic budgeteers in the end succeed in this particular maneuver to create a massive Pentagon slush fund, the effort represents a troubling development for anyone who thinks that Pentagon spending is already out of hand.

Mind you, such funds would be added not just to a Pentagon budget already running at half-a-trillion dollars annually, but to the actual national security budget, which is undoubtedly close to twice that.  It includes items like work on nuclear weapons tucked away at the Department of Energy, that Pentagon supplementary war budget, the black budget of the Intelligence Community, and war-related expenditures in the budgets of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.

Despite the jaw-dropping resources available to the national security state, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Martin Dempsey recently claimed that, without significant additional infusions of cash, the U.S. military won’t be able to “execute the strategy” with which it has been tasked. As it happens, Dempsey’s remark unintentionally points the way to a dramatically different approach to what’s still called “defense spending.”  Instead of seeking yet more of it, perhaps it’s time for the Pentagon to abandon its costly and counterproductive military strategy of “covering the globe.”

A Cold War Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

Even to begin discussing this subject means asking the obvious question: Does the U.S. military have a strategy worthy of the name?  As President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it in his farewell address in 1961, defense requires a “balance between cost and hoped for advantage” and “between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable.”  Eisenhower conveniently omitted a third category: things that shouldn’t have been done in the first place — on his watch, for instance, the CIA’s coups in Iran and Guatemala that overthrew democratic governments or, in our century, the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.  But Eisenhower’s underlying point holds. Strategy involves making choices.  Bottom line: current U.S. strategy fails this test abysmally.

Despite the obvious changes that have occurred globally since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military is still expected to be ready to go anywhere on Earth and fight any battle.  The authors of the Pentagon’s key 2014Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), for instance, claimed that its supposedly “updated strategy” was focused on “twenty-first-century defense priorities.” Self-congratulatory rhetoric aside, however, the document outlined an all-encompassing global military blueprint whose goals would have been familiar to any Cold War strategist of the latter half of the previous century. With an utter inability to focus, the QDR claimed that the U.S. military needed to be prepared to act in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, the Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. In addition, plans are now well underway to beef up the Pentagon’s ability to project power into the melting Arctic as part of a global race for resources brewing there.

Being prepared to go to war on every continent but Antarctica means that significant reductions in the historically unprecedented, globe-spanning network of military bases Washington set up in the Cold War and after will be limited at best. Where changes happen, they will predictably be confined largely to smaller facilities rather than large operating bases.  A planned pullout from three bases in the United Kingdom, for instance, will only mean sending most of the American personnel stationed on them to other British facilities.  As the Associated Press noted recently, the Pentagon’s base closures in Europe involve mostly “smaller bases that were remnants of the Cold War.” While the U.S. lost almost all its bases in Iraq and has dismantled many of its bases in Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s base structure in the Greater Middle East is still remarkably strong and its ability to maintain or expand the U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn’t be underestimated.

In addition to maintaining its huge network of formal bases, the Pentagon is also planning to increase what it calls its “rotational” presence: training missions, port visits, and military exercises.  In these areas, if anything, its profile is expanding, not shrinking.  U.S. Special Forces operatives were, for instance, deployed to 134 nations, or almost 70% of the countries in the world, in fiscal year 2014. So even as the size and shape of the American military footprint undergoes some alteration, the Pentagon’s goal of global reach, of being at least theoretically more or less everywhere at once, is being maintained.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has stepped up its use of drones, Special Forces, and “train and equip” programs that create proxy armies to enforce Washington’s wishes. In this way, it hopes to produce a new way of war designed to reduce the Pentagon’s reliance on large boots-on-the-ground operations, without affecting its strategic stretch.

This approach is, however, looking increasingly dubious. Barely a decade into its drone wars, for example, it’s already clear that a drone-heavy approach simply doesn’t work as planned.  As Andrew Cockburn notes in his invaluable new book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, a study based on the U.S. military’s own internal data found that targeted assassinations carried out by drones resulted in an increase in attacks on U.S. forces.  As for the broader political backlash generated by such strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, it’s clear enough by now that they act as effective recruitment tools for terror organizations among a fearful and traumatized population livingunder their constant presence.

At a theoretical level, the drone may seem the perfect weapon for a country committed to “covering the globe” and quite literally waging war anywhere on the planet at any time.  In reality, it seems to have the effect of spreading chaos and conflict, not snuffing it out. In addition, drones are only effective in places where neither air defenses nor air forces are available; that is, the backlands of the planet.  Otherwise, as weapons, they are sitting ducks.

A Pentagon for All Seasons

Washington’s strategy documents are filled with references to non-military approaches to security, but such polite rhetoric is belied in the real world by a striking over-investment in military capabilities at the expense of civilian institutions. The Pentagon budget is 12 times larger than the budgets for the State Department and the Agency for International Development combined.  As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has noted, it takes roughly the same number of personnel to operate just one of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carrier task forces as there are trained diplomats in the State Department.  Not surprisingly, such an imbalance only increases the likelihood that, in the face of any crisis anywhere, diplomatic alternatives will take a back seat, while a military response will be the option of choice, in fact, the only serious option considered.

In the twenty-first century, with its core budget still at historically high levels, the Pentagon has also been expanding into areas like “security assistance” — the arming, training, and equipping of foreign military and police forces.  In the post-9/11 years, for instance, the Pentagon has developed a striking range of military and police aid programs of the kind that have traditionally been funded and overseen by the State Department. According to data provided by the Security Assistance Monitor, a project designed to systematically track U.S. military and police aid, the Pentagon now delivers arms and training through 18 separate programs that provide assistance to the vast majority of the world’s armed forces.

Having so many ways to deliver aid is handy for the Pentagon, but a nightmare for members of Congress or the public trying to keep track of them all.  Seven of the programs are new initiatives authorized last year alone. More than 160 nations, or 82% of all countries, now receive some form of arms and training from the United States.

In a similar fashion, in these years the Pentagon has moved with increasing aggressiveness into the field of humanitarian aid.  In their new book Mission Creep, Gordon Adams and Shoon Murray describe the range of non-military activities it now routinely carries out. These include “drilling wells, building roads, constructing schools and clinics, advising national and local governments, and supplying mobile services of optometrists, dentists, doctors, and veterinarians overseas.”  The specific examples they cite underscore the point: “Army National Guardsmen drilling wells in Djibouti; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building school houses in Azerbaijan; and U.S. Navy Seabees building a post-natal care facility in Cambodia.”

If one were to choose a single phrase to explain why General Dempsey thinks the Pentagon is starved for funds, it would be “too many missions.”  No amount of funding could effectively deal with the almost endless shopping list of global challenges the U.S. military has mandated itself to address, most of which do not have military solutions in any case.

The answer is not more money (though that may not stop Congress and the president from dumping billions more into the Pentagon’s slush fund).  It’s a far more realistic strategy — or put another way, maybe it’s a strategy of any sort in which the only operative word is not “more.”

The Pentagon’s promotion of an open-ended strategy isn’t just a paper tiger of a problem.  It has life-and-death consequences and monetary ones, too.  When President Obama’s critics urge him to bomb Syria, or put more ground troops in Iraq, or arm and train the security forces in Ukraine, they are fully in line with the Pentagon’s expansive view of the military’s role in the world, a role that would involve taxpayer dollars in even more staggering quantities.

Attempting to maintain a genuine global reach will, in the end, prove far more expensive than the wars the United States is currently fighting.  This year’s administration request for Iraq War 3.0 and Syria War 1.0, both against the Islamic State (IS), was a relatively modest $5.8 billion, or roughly 1% of the resources currently available to the Department of Defense.  As yet not even John McCain is suggesting anything on the scale of the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq, which peaked at over 160,000 troops and costsignificantly more than a trillion dollars.  By comparison, the Obama administration’s bombing campaign against IS, supplemented by the dispatch of roughly 3,000 troops, remains, as American operations of the twenty-first century go, a relatively modest undertaking — at least by Pentagon standards.  There are reasons to oppose U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria based on the likely outcomes, but so far intervention in those nations has not strained the Pentagon’s massive budget.

As for Ukraine, even if the administration were to change course and decide to provide weapons to the government there, it would still not make a dent in its proposed $50 billion war budget, much less in the Pentagon’s proposed $534 billion base budget.

Using the crises in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria as arguments for pumping up Pentagon spending is a political tactic of the moment, not a strategic necessity.  The only real reason to bust the present already expansive budget caps — besides pleasing the arms industry and its allies in Congress — is to attempt to entrench the sort of ad hoc military-first global policy being promoted as the American way for decades to come.  Every crisis, every development not pleasing to Washington anywhere on Earth is, according to this school of thought, what the Pentagon must be “capable” of dealing with. What’s needed, but completely dismissed in Washington, is of course a radical rethinking of American priorities.

General Dempsey and his colleagues may be right.  Current levels of Pentagon spending may not be able to support current defense strategy.  The answer to this problem is right before our eyes: cut the money and change the strategy.  That would be acting in the name of a conception of national security that was truly strategic.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2011). He is the co-editor of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War (Paradigm Press, 2008).


Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism

March 20, 2015

The Stone

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.


CreditPhilip Jones Griffiths/Magnum Photos

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Noam Chomsky, a linguist, political philosopher and one of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare,” with Andre Vltchek.

– George Yancy

George Yancy: When I think about the title of your book “On Western Terrorism,” I’m reminded of the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism, from random beatings to the lynching of more than 3,000 black people (including women) between 1882 and 1968. This is why in 2003, when I read about the dehumanizing acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison, I wasn’t surprised. I recall that after the photos appeared President George W. Bush said that “This is not the America I know.” But isn’t this the America black people have always known?

Noam Chomsky: The America that “black people have always known” is not an attractive one. The first black slaves were brought to the colonies 400 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that during this long period there have been only a few decades when African-Americans, apart from a few, had some limited possibilities for entering the mainstream of American society.

We also cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson feared the liberation of slaves, who had “ten thousand recollections” of the crimes to which they were subjected.

As is now known, they were highly efficient. Productivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture, as Edward E. Baptist demonstrates in his recent study, “The Half Has Never Been Told.” The achievement includes not only the great wealth of the planter aristocracy but also American and British manufacturing, commerce and the financial institutions of modern state capitalism.

It is, or should be, well-known that the United States developed by flatly rejecting the principles of “sound economics” preached to it by the leading economists of the day, and familiar in today’s sober instructions to latecomers in development. Instead, the newly liberated colonies followed the model of England with radical state intervention in the economy, including high tariffs to protect infant industry, first textiles, later steel and others.

There was also another “virtual tariff.” In 1807, President Jefferson signed a bill banning the importation of slaves from abroad. His state of Virginia was the richest and most powerful of the states, and had exhausted its need for slaves. Rather, it was beginning to produce this valuable commodity for the expanding slave territories of the South. Banning import of these cotton-picking machines was thus a considerable boost to the Virginia economy. That was understood. Speaking for the slave importers, Charles Pinckney charged that “Virginia will gain by stopping the importations. Her slaves will rise in value, and she has more than she wants.” And Virginia indeed became a major exporter of slaves to the expanding slave society.

Some of the slave-owners, like Jefferson, appreciated the moral turpitude on which the economy relied. But he feared the liberation of slaves, who have “ten thousand recollections” of the crimes to which they were subjected. Fears that the victims might rise up and take revenge are deeply rooted in American culture, with reverberations to the present.

The Thirteenth Amendment formally ended slavery, but a decade later “slavery by another name” (also the title of an important study by Douglas A. Blackmon) was introduced. Black life was criminalized by overly harsh codes that targeted black people. Soon an even more valuable form of slavery was available for agribusiness, mining, steel — more valuable because the state, not the capitalist, was responsible for sustaining the enslaved labor force, meaning that blacks were arrested without real cause and prisoners were put to work for these business interests. The system provided a major contribution to the rapid industrial development from the late 19th century.

That system remained pretty much in place until World War II led to a need for free labor for the war industry. Then followed a few decades of rapid and relatively egalitarian growth, with the state playing an even more critical role in economic development than before. A black man might get a decent job in a unionized factory, buy a house, send his children to college, along with other opportunities. The civil rights movement opened other doors, though in limited ways. One illustration was the fate of Martin Luther King’s efforts to confront northern racism and develop a movement of the poor, which was effectively blocked.

The neoliberal reaction that set in from the late ‘70s, escalating under Reagan and his successors, hit the poorest and most oppressed sectors of society even more than the large majority, who have suffered relative stagnation or decline while wealth accumulates in very few hands. Reagan’s drug war, deeply racist in conception and execution, initiated a new Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s apt term for the revived criminalization of black life, evident in the shocking incarceration rates and the devastating impact on black society.

Reality is of course more complex than any simple recapitulation, but this is, unfortunately, a reasonably accurate first approximation to one of the two founding crimes of American society, alongside of the expulsion or extermination of the indigenous nations and destruction of their complex and rich civilizations.

‘Intentional ignorance’ regarding inconvenient truths about the suffering of African- Americans can also be used to frame the genocide of Native Americans.

G.Y.: While Jefferson may have understood the moral turpitude upon which slavery was based, in his “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he says thatblack people are dull in imagination, inferior in reasoning to whites, and that the male orangutans even prefer black women over their own. These myths, along with the black codes following the civil war, functioned to continue to oppress and police black people. What would you say are the contemporary myths and codes that are enacted to continue to oppress and police black people today?

N.C.: Unfortunately, Jefferson was far from alone. No need to review the shocking racism in otherwise enlightened circles until all too recently. On “contemporary myths and codes,” I would rather defer to the many eloquent voices of those who observe and often experience these bitter residues of a disgraceful past.

Perhaps the most appalling contemporary myth is that none of this happened. The title of Baptist’s book is all too apt, and the aftermath is much too little known and understood.

There is also a common variant of what has sometimes been called “intentional ignorance” of what it is inconvenient to know: “Yes, bad things happened in the past, but let us put all of that behind us and march on to a glorious future, all sharing equally in the rights and opportunities of citizenry.” The appalling statistics of today’s circumstances of African-American life can be confronted by other bitter residues of a shameful past, laments about black cultural inferiority, or worse, forgetting how our wealth and privilege was created in no small part by the centuries of torture and degradation of which we are the beneficiaries and they remain the victims. As for the very partial and hopelessly inadequate compensation that decency would require — that lies somewhere between the memory hole and anathema.

Jefferson, to his credit, at least recognized that the slavery in which he participated was “the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.” And the Jefferson Memorial in Washington displays his words that “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Words that should stand in our consciousness alongside of John Quincy Adams’s reflections on the parallel founding crime over centuries, the fate of “that hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty…among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgment.”

What matters is our judgment, too long and too deeply suppressed, and the just reaction to it that is as yet barely contemplated.

G.Y.: This “intentional ignorance” regarding inconvenient truths about the suffering of African- Americans can also be used to frame the genocide of Native Americans. It was 18th century Swedish taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus who argued that Native Americans were governed by traits such as being “prone to anger,” a convenient myth for justifying the need for Native Americans to be “civilized” by whites. So, there are myths here as well. How does North America’s “amnesia” contribute to forms of racism directed uniquely toward Native Americans in our present moment and to their continual genocide?

N.C.: The useful myths began early on, and continue to the present. One of the first myths was formally established right after the King of England granted a Charter to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629, declaring that conversion of the Indians to Christianity is “the principal end of this plantation.” The colonists at once created the Great Seal of the Colony, which depicts an Indian holding a spear pointing downward in a sign of peace, with a scroll coming from his mouth pleading with the colonists to “Come over and help us.” This may have been the first case of “humanitarian intervention” — and, curiously, it turned out like so many others.

More From The Stone

Read previous contributions to this series.

Years later Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story mused about “the wisdom of Providence” that caused the natives to disappear like “the withered leaves of autumn” even though the colonists had “constantly respected” them. Needless to say, the colonists who did not choose “intentional ignorance” knew much better, and the most knowledgeable, like Gen. Henry Knox, the first secretary of war of the United States, described “the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union [by means] more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru.”


Samoset visiting Pilgrim colonists at Plymouth, 1620s.
Samoset visiting Pilgrim colonists at Plymouth, 1620s.Credit North Wind Picture Archives, via Associated Press

Knox went on to warn that “a future historian may mark the causes of this destruction of the human race in sable colors.” There were a few — very few — who did so, like the heroic Helen Jackson, who in 1880 provided a detailed account of that “sad revelation of broken faith, of violated treaties, and of inhuman acts of violence [that] will bring a flush of shame to the cheeks of those who love their country.” Jackson’s important book barely sold. She was neglected and dismissed in favor of the version presented by Theodore Roosevelt, who explained that “The expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood during the past four centuries…has been fraught with lasting benefit to most of the peoples already dwelling in the lands over which the expansion took place,” notably those who had been “extirpated” or expelled to destitution and misery.

The national poet, Walt Whitman, captured the general understanding when he wrote that “The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated; it is the law of the races, history… A superior grade of rats come and then all the minor rats are cleared out.” It wasn’t until the 1960s that the scale of the atrocities and their character began to enter even scholarship, and to some extent popular consciousness, though there is a long way to go.

That’s only a bare beginning of the shocking record of the Anglosphere and its settler-colonial version of imperialism, a form of imperialism that leads quite naturally to the “utter extirpation” of the indigenous population — and to “intentional ignorance” on the part of beneficiaries of the crimes.

G.Y.: Your response raises the issue of colonization as a form of occupation. James Baldwin, in his 1966 essay, “A Report from Occupied Territory,” wrote, “Harlem is policed like occupied territory.” This quote made me think of Ferguson, Mo. Some of the protesters in Ferguson even compared what they were seeing to the Gaza Strip. Can you speak to this comparative discourse of occupation?

N.C.: All kinds of comparisons are possible. When I went to the Gaza Strip a few years ago, what came to mind very quickly was the experience of being in jail (for civil disobedience, many times): the feeling, very strange to people who have had privileged lives, that you are totally under the control of some external authority, arbitrary and if it so chooses, cruel. But the differences between the two cases are, of course, vast.

More generally, I’m somewhat skeptical about the value of comparisons of the kind mentioned. There will of course be features common to the many diverse kinds of illegitimate authority, repression and violence. Sometimes they can be illuminating; for example, Michelle Alexander’s analogy of a new Jim Crow, mentioned earlier. Often they may efface crucial distinctions. I don’t frankly see anything general to say of much value. Each comparison has to be evaluated on its own.

G.Y.: These differences are vast and I certainly don’t want to conflate them. Post-911 seems to have ushered in an important space for making some comparisons. Some seem to think that Muslims of Arab descent have replaced African-Americans as the pariah in the United States. What are your views on this?

N.C.: Anti-Arab/Muslim racism has a long history, and there’s been a fair amount of literature about it. Jack Shaheen’s studies of stereotyping in visual media, for example. And there’s no doubt that it’s increased in recent years. To give just one vivid current example, audiences flocked in record-breaking numbers to a film, described in The New York Times Arts section as “a patriotic, pro-family picture,” about a sniper who claims to hold the championship in killing Iraqis during the United States invasion, and proudly describes his targets as “savage, despicable, evil … really no other way to describe what we encountered there.” This was referring specifically to his first kill, a woman holding a grenade when under attack by United States forces.

What’s important is not just the mentality of the sniper, but the reaction to such exploits at home when we invade and destroy a foreign country, hardly distinguishing one “raghead” from another. These attitudes go back to the “merciless Indian savages” of the Declaration of Independence and the savagery and fiendishness of others who have been in the way ever since, particularly when some “racial” element can be invoked — as when Lyndon Johnson lamented that if we let down our guard, we’ll be at the mercy of “every yellow dwarf with a pocket knife.” But within the United States, though there have been deplorable incidents, anti-Arab/Muslim racism among the public has been fairly restrained, I think.

G.Y.: Lastly, the reality of racism (whether it’s anti-black, anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, etc.) is toxic. While there is no single solution to racism, especially in terms of its various manifestations, what do you see as some of the necessary requirements for ending racist hatred?

N.C.: It’s easy to rattle off the usual answers: education, exploring and addressing the sources of the malady, joining together in common enterprises — labor struggles have been an important case — and so on. The answers are right, and have achieved a lot. Racism is far from eradicated, but it is not what it was not very long ago, thanks to such efforts. It’s a long, hard road. No magic wand, as far as I know.

This interview was conducted by email and edited. Previous interviews in this series (with Linda Martin Alcoff, Judith Butler, Joy James, Charles Mills, Falguni A. Sheth, Shannon Sullivan and Naomi Zack) can be found here.

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Duquesne University. He has written, edited and co-edited numerous books, including “Black Bodies, White Gazes,” “Look, a White!” and “Pursuing Trayvon Martin,” co-edited with Janine Jones.

America Remains Top Arms Seller to the World

March 17, 2015


The U.S. is the largest exporter of weaponry to the world and the market they are supplying continues to expand. This alarming statistic signals a growing demand for major weapons around the world—not a ranking to be proud of.

The United States remains the largest exporter of weaponry to the world, with Russia hanging onto second place and China grabbing ahold of third, according to the latest annual survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which ranks sales of weapons based on their value, quantity, and function.

The market they are supplying is expanding. Arms sales over the past five years are 16 percent higher than they were from 2005 to 2009, SIPRI reported, signaling growing demand for major weapons.

The armaments are unsurprisingly being poured into some of the most volatile regions, with India — which has border disputes with Pakistan and perennial competition with China — the top importing country for the past five years.

Russia has been the top supplier to India since 2010, but the U.S. is racing to carve out a larger piece of the Indian market, the SPIRI report makes clear. The U.S. exported more weapons to the sub-continent in 2013 than it had in all years since 1955 put together. Last year, the U.S. sold India more arms than it sold any other country except Saudi Arabia.

Those sales were not impeded by the most recent State Department human rights survey, which claimed that India has significant problems with “police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.”

In addition to exporting the highest volume of arms in the past five years, the U.S. has had more client countries than any other exporter: 94 in total.

This diverse clientele reflects the idea that “‘we can’t be everywhere, but maybe our weapons should,’” said Rachel Stohl, a senior associate with the Stimson Center, which hosted the launch of SIPRI’s data on Monday.

Aircraft account for 61 percent of all American arms sales, and the largest piece of that — according to SIPRI — is the F35 combat aircraft. So far, more than 600 F-35A combat aircraft have been ordered or selected by Australia, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, and the UK, bolstering future years’ U.S. arms exports, according to the report.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, has been in production since 2006 but continues to be beset by technological problems. A March 2015 report by the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation on the status of the aircraft’s development described deficiencies in the aircraft’s software, vulnerabilities to engine and fuel fire, and electrical issues.

The second-most frequently exported weapons in the U.S. are missiles, which account for 14 percent of all U.S. arms sold since 2010. The largest share of those missiles has gone to Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Canada, and Israel.

China edged out Germany to become the third biggest weapons exporter during the 2010-2014 period by increasing its sales a whopping 143 percent over 2005-2009, compared to increases of 37 percent for Russia and 23 percent for the United States.

Most of China’s arms went to South Asia, with Pakistan and Bangladesh importing more than half of all Chinese major arms since 2010.

The Most Dangerous Women in America

Bio: Julia Harte comes to the Center after completing a U.S. News summer internship at The Wall Street Journal. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with a B.A. in History and received a Master’s degree in 2014 from the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University. In between, she was based in Istanbul, Turkey, reporting on politics, immigration, human rights, energy policy, and environmental issues. Her reporting has appeared in National Geographic, Al Jazeera America, Foreign Policy, The World Policy Journal, Global Post, and Inside Climate News, among others. At the Center, she looks forward to reporting on national security issues such as arms control in the Middle East, immigrant detention policy in the U.S., and cyber security.
Comment: Guns and Weapons making the U.S. and the world dangerous!

The Washington Post Will Kill Us All

March 17, 2015

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The Washington Post Will Kill Us All

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From Pacific Pivot to Green Revolution

Earth Day 2015: Hold the Pentagon Responsible for Destroying Mother Earth

The World Ignores the Crisis in Gaza—So Another Gaza Freedom Flotilla is Ready to Sail in First Half of 2015

Ubiquitous doll is now an information-gathering device Barbie the Spy!

Obama Flunking Foreign Policy 101; In Desperate Need of New Teachers

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March 26 to May 29: 65 days nonviolent blockade at nuclear air base Büchel, Germany.

March 28 – April 3 in Nevada: Nevada Desert Experience – Sacred Peace Walk

March 28 in Glasgow, Scotland: #TridentHastoGoNow demonstration

March 30 in Knoxville, Tennessee: Moving Towards a Nuclear Free Future 2015 walk to New York City for April 24 events

April 11 Michigan – David Swanson speaking

April 13 in Scotland: #BairnsNotBOMBS Big Blockade

April 13, Global Day of Action Against Military Spending

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April 22, March from EPA to Pentagon

April 22-24, Ypres, Belgium: A Century of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Enough!

April 24 – April 26 in New York, NY: Peace and the Planet Conference and Rally
* April 24/25 – An international peace, justice and environmental conference
* April 26 – A major international rally, march to the United Nations and peace festival

April 25 Houston – David Swanson speaking

April 26 Everywhere: Global Wave Goodbye to Nuclear Weapons

April 27-29 at the Hague: WILPF Turns 100

April 27 – May 22 at United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY: NPT Review Conference (“RevCon”)
* Call for NPT-related organizing
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May 1-2 in Washington, DC: Vietnam, the Power of Protest

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(Aug 6 – Mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima with the annual sackcloth and ashes peace vigil and call for nuclear disarmament near the National Labs.
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August 6 in Hiroshima, Japan: “August 6, 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the bombing [of Hiroshima]. Annually, there are events such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, with guest speakers, and the Lantern Floating Ceremony, in which lanterns float on the river as petitions for peace. Additional special events for the 70th anniversary are to be announced.”

August 9 in Nagasaki, Japan: [August 9, 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Commemoration events are held annually and, as with Hiroshima, it is expected that additional special events for the 70th anniversary are to be announced.]

August 27 Chicago – David Swanson speaking

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Why America Lacks Credibility in the Middle East

March 15, 2015
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The problem isn’t a lack of “resolve.” It’s a lack of good outcomes and basic moral consistency.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

To hear politicians and beltway pundits tell it, credibility in international relations boils down to this: Do others believe that the United States is willing and able to follow through on its word?

Actually, this is a sloppy and often pernicious way to think, leading policymakers to senselessly commit themselves to failing policies (like enforcing a “red line,” for instance) for the sake of “maintaining credibility” — and actually undermining it in the process.

Credibility is not about resolve. Strategic credibility is actually about assuring partners that things will work out well for them if they throw their lot in with you. This perception plays a pivotal role in determining whether others will support or resist U.S. interests abroad.

The primary way agents establish themselves as credible is by making good decisions, which means forming and executing policies that generate positive outcomes for the relevant stakeholders. The stronger an agent’s track record, the more likely others will be willing to get behind them — that is, the more credibility they will have. Incidentally, this is the secret to ISIS’ success: Regardless of how distasteful many find their methods and ideology, they have established themselves as one of the most effective forces at seizing territory from the governments of Iraq and Syria, making tangible progress in restoring a caliphate, and resisting the prevailing international order.

America, on the other hand, has a serious credibility problem in the Middle East. The results of U.S. interventions in the region have been consistently catastrophic: Whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, or Syria, direct U.S. involvement is usually followed by an erosion of state governance, the empowerment of exploitative sub-state and non-state actors, and a dramatic rise in violence, civil tension, and unrest.

American indirect involvement, meanwhile, tends to empower corrupt, oppressive, and undemocratic forces — such as in Pakistan, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. In terms of achieving positive outcomes, America simply has absolutely no credibility in the Middle East.

However, character is also important: Moral credibility means a nation’s intentions and motivations are more likely to be trusted.

Strategic and moral credibility are interrelated: Consistently generating good outcomes goes a long way toward bolstering one’s reputation. Even if the methods for achieving an objective seem questionable, they tend to be justified retrospectively if things turn out all right. In the interim, people are much more willing to extend the benefit of doubt to those with a strong track record of success. Conversely, moral credibility can help make up for occasional bad outcomes — an agent is afforded slack when things go awry if it’s perceived as being genuinely well-intentioned.

However, when there are glaring inconsistencies between a government’s declared aspirations (say, promotion of democracy and human rights) and their means of realization (imposing Western socio-economic models at the expense of indigenous self-determination) — especially when paired with a general failure to realize stated objectives (producing chaos rather than order, be it liberal or otherwise) — these generate suspicionabout its real intentions and motives.

Hypocrisy Undermines “Resolve”

Part of what contributes to America’s cycle of diplomatic and military failures in the Middle East is an underlying distrust of the United States among most Arabs, which inspires widespread ambivalence or resistance to U.S. efforts in the region. The source of this deficit has nothing to do with U.S. follow-through or resolve, as foreign policy hawks love to allege. One can be consistent with regards to backing up threats, etc. while still being a hypocrite in the moral sphere.

Indeed, this is precisely the problem America faces.

After decades of supporting the region’s dictators with arms and money, Washington has now formed a coalition with both the surviving local autocrats and the Middle East’s former imperial powers to “bring democracy” to Syria and (once more) to Iraq. Is it any surprise the “Arab street” is mistrustful?

It further fuels skepticism when America attempts to fight ISIS — a group largely empowered by previous U.S. support for other non-state actors in Iraq, Libya, and Syria — by training and arming new, ineffective, and unpopular proxy militias. Moreover, these new groups are often aligned with, and trained in, Saudi Arabia — the power most responsible for proliferating the ideology embraced by the so-called “Islamic State.” It seems disingenuous when the U.S. condemns Russia for funding non-state actors in Ukraine, or Pakistan for doing so in Afghanistan, or Iran in Lebanon — even as Americaexpands its own support of insurgents in Syria.

The Arab public is outraged when U.S. policymakers decry human rights violations elsewhere while continuing to support Israel and shield it from international accountability for its occupation of the West Bank or its wars on Gaza. And it doesn’t help at all when the Obama administration, among other failings, declines to prosecute clear and grievous infractions like torture by its own intelligence agencies, while calling for regime change in other countries for the same sorts of infractions.

When American representatives lecture others about upholding the very international rules and norms the U.S. government systematically and unapologetically violates through itsdrone strikes and mass surveillance, enhanced interrogation, and extraordinary renditionprograms, others will not take American rhetoric or ideals seriously.

These glaring contradictions imbue the entire ethical project with a cynical hue — undermining not just American credibility, but the general value of moral discourse on the world stage more generally. This breakdown, in turn, disrupts consensus building and cooperation, threatening the long-term viability of the rules-based international orderAmericans sacrificed so much in years past to establish and preserve.

Changing the Dynamic

But there is good news: The United States can simultaneously bolster its moral and strategic credibility by adopting a more sensible foreign policy. The first step will be to adopt more modest aspirations and pragmatic strategies in order to avoid making problems worse. Within this narrower framework, the United States should strive to adopt the same policies it promotes for others.

If Washington wants to stem the growth and proliferation of non-state actors, for example, the U.S. should stop funding them as well — and should pressure its allies to follow suit. Instead, Washington can provide material and logistical support to the relevant state actorsto help these governments first contain the spread of ungoverned zones and then gradually reclaim control over lost territories. (Of course, this support should be contingent on a basic respect for human rights.)

Rather than orchestrating another destabilizing regime-change in Syria, furthermore, the United States should aspire towards gradual, viable, and meaningful reform of the state — which will require an inclusive diplomatic approach regarding the Baathist government and its foreign patrons, as well as a piecemeal agenda for rehabilitating the state and its institutions. In the short term, this means prioritizing peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and reconstruction in support of a negotiated settlement rather than trying to force polarizing elections in the wake of a violent uprising.

But perhaps most significantly, if America wants to promote democracy in the Middle East, it should start by rethinking the levels and types of aid afforded to Israel and the region’s autocrats absent substantial political reform.

All of these measures would undermine extremist groups, both materially and ideologically, by enhancing Arabs’ self-determination while advancing international law and order. As a result, this approach could generate much better results with significantly less investment and blowback. Perhaps more importantly, these policies would help rebuild America’s credibility by building a better world — in the Mideast and beyond.

Musa al-Gharbi is a social epistemologist affiliated with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC). Readers can connect to his work and social media via his website:

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US Allies Killed 100+ Civilians in Airstrikes on ISIS

March 14, 2015

Site of U.S. airstrike in Syria. (photo: Abdalghne Karoof/Reuters)
Site of U.S. airstrike in Syria. (photo: Abdalghne Karoof/Reuters)

By Roy Gutman, McClatchy DC

13 March 15


leading Syrian opposition human rights group on Wednesday charged that the U.S.-led coalition has been responsible for the deaths of more than 100 civilians since it began bombing Islamic State targets in September and demanded that the U.S. Central Command carry out “a serious investigation” and stop issuing denials.

More than half those killed, 51, died on Dec. 28, when U.S. aircraft struck a building housing an Islamic State prison in the northern Syria town of Al Bab, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

In addition, the group said that 29 civilians have died in the bombing campaign against oil refineries, many of them primitive operations run by local families to eke out a living in a war zone that receives little or no humanitarian aid.

The network’s report said the total number of confirmed civilian deaths since the U.S. began bombing Syria on Sept. 23 was 103, including 11 children and 11 women. Sixty-three of the deaths occurred since Dec. 14. The network’s report included witness statements.

“Regrettably the alliance forces’ Central Command denies that civilians have been killed by alliance forces,” despite photographic and video evidence, the names of the victims and statements from victims’ families, the group’s director, Fadel Abdul Ghani, said in the report’s introduction.

“There should be serious pursuit and investigation to hold the responsible accountable” and to compensate families of the victims so as to distinguish the U.S.-led alliance from “the lines of totalitarian dictatorships.”

The bombing of the Saraya government building in Al Bab, an Islamic State headquarters that also housed a prison for local civilians, occurred Dec. 28. But the U.S. Central Command didn’t confirm that until two weeks later in response to queries by McClatchy.

After McClatchy reported Jan. 11 that at least 50 civilians had died in the incident, Centcom said a review determined that the allegations of civilian casualties “are not credible.” But it said it would look into the allegations if it is presented with substantive information.

The Central Command used similar language Wednesday. “If there is new, substantive information provided to us regarding Al Bab, we welcome it and will certainly review,” Col. Patrick S. Ryder, the Centcom spokesman, said in an email to McClatchy.

In a followup story Feb. 12, McClatchy reported that relatives and friends who are living in Turkey as refugees had provided the full names of 10 civilians who reportedly died in the airstrike, as well as the family names of 14 others.

In its latest report, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said it had a total of 28 names of civilians out of at least 51 who died on Dec. 28. The network also disclosed that 24 people, the majority of them prisoners, were wounded in the bombing but had been freed by the Islamic State. But the actual number at the prison could have been 100 to 150, the group said, adding that its investigation was continuing.

The network offered to share the information with investigators but said it won’t publish the list to protect the families still living under Islamic State rule in Al Bab.

Most of the prisoners were being held for three or four days for petty infractions of the Islamic State’s draconian penal code, which the extremists applied even after their death. The bodies of those accused of simple charges such as smoking, wearing jeans or arriving late for Muslim prayers were distributed to local hospitals, where families could collect and bury them, the report said.

But they were not allowed to hold funerals or have their names called out from the minarets. Those accused of blasphemy and apostasy – abandoning Islam – or “collaboration with the infidels or apostates” were buried in a new cemetery west of the city, the report said.

A great many of the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria have been directed against oil production and refining facilities in Syria’s eastern provinces. But according to the report, the targets are frequently primitive refineries maintained by private families or local groups or where the employees were local residents, not Islamic State personnel.

Four civilian employes were killed at an oil refinery on Jan. 11 near Mayadeen east of Deir el Zour. On Feb. 2 and Feb. 11, missiles struck mud huts. In the first bombing, near Ash Shaddadi in Hasaka province, a missile killed an old man and his two daughters; in the second, at Kbeibeh, also in Hasaka, a missile killed two employees working in the oldfields.

The network’s report said that in targeting wells and refineries, which are a source of livelihood for people in that area, the bombings led to a severe economic crisis, causing a fuel shortage and higher prices.

“There is no choice for the people there to get the resources to live, and we are highly concerned that this policy will lead to more casualties if the coalition forces continue,” it said.

The Centcom spokesman said the coalition’s targeting of income from oil production is fundamental to its effort to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State, and it would “continue to target verified military targets that include refineries of varying capacity.”

But Ryder said there were “significant mitigation measures” to reduce the potential number of civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Ryder did not respond directly to the demand that the U.S. compensate the victims, but he did not rule it out. “The course of action as to each case will be determined on that particular case,” he said.

In another development Wednesday, 130 humanitarian aid groups released a study that showed that the use of electricity at night in Syria is down by 83 percent since March 2011.

In Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, 97 percent of the lights have gone out, said Dr. Xi Li, a scientist based at Wuhan University in China and the University of Maryland. Even in Damascus, the Syrian capital, the use of lights at night is down by 35 percent. He said the situation in Syria was worse than even Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, when the country lost 80 percent of its night light.


US-Backed Iraqi Forces Face War Crimes Investigation Following Gruesome Online Posts

March 14, 2015

Iraqi security personal. (photo: Reuters)
Iraqi security personal. (photo: Reuters)

By Mark Hanrahan, International Business Times

13 March 15


raqi forces trained and equipped by the U.S. are under investigation for committing war crimes similar to those perpetrated by the Islamic State group, or ISIS, according to aninvestigation by ABC News.

The investigation, which ABC reports is being conducted by the Iraqi government, was prompted by the discovery of gruesome posts on social media, which appear to show uniformed soldiers from Iraqi special forces units posing with severed heads, as well as torturing and executing prisoners. U.S. law forbids its government from providing assistance to foreign military units if there is credible evidence that they are involved in human rights abuses.

“If their (ABC’s) information is accurate, the burden is on the Iraqi Government to punish those involved and on the Departments of State and Defense to insist that they do so and to offer support in investigating and punishing those involved as the law calls for,” Senator Patrick Leahy, the author of the law governing such assistance, said in a statement. “Otherwise the Iraqi units involved should be deemed ineligible for U.S. aid.”

A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: “We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specifics.”

Iraqi forces are a key plank of the U.S. strategy to stem the growing power of ISIS, which has taken control of large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in the past year. In addition to Iraq’s regular military forces, militias made up of civilian fighters have also been heavily involved in the fight against ISIS.

An international coalition, led by the U.S., and including the U.K., France, Jordan, Australia and Canada, has been carrying out airstrikes against the group for several months, but have been reluctant to put troops on the ground in any significant numbers.


Militarization of America – We’ve Become a Failed State

March 13, 2015
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The Wall Street Journa l reported on March 10 that for now the Congress will likely stick to sequestration “spending curbs enacted four years ago, even though many GOP lawmakers believe the limits are harming the nation’s military readiness.”

“But the choice to abide by the spending limits in the base budget highlights the importance of shrinking federal spending as a core Republican value in the document meant to enshrine the party’s top priorities. And it reflects a GOP calculation that a focus on slashing spending will help secure the support of the party’s right flank, whose recent defections have derailed other high-profile bills.

“But sticking to the spending limits, reached in the bipartisan deal ending the bruising 2011 fight over raising the debt ceiling is expected to trigger opposition both from defense hawks within the Republican Party, as well as many Democrats. President Barack Obama has advocated raising both defense and nondefense spending above the limits, known as the sequester.”

So leaders in both war parties are now looking at ways to get around the Pentagon spending limits in order to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the military industrial complex and their agents in Congress who want to bring home the weapons production bacon – the only real job creation program in the nation anymore.

One likely mechanism to get around sequestration is to use the Overseas Contingency Operations funds, or OCO, which isn’t subject to the sequester. This process allows Congress to appropriate more money for war spending – outside of the traditional Pentagon annual appropriations which are impacted by sequestration.

All of this means that further vicious attacks will be made on social programs like food stamps, education, health care, infrastructure repair and more. We’ll see more calls for local privatization of water and sewer systems, schools, roads and bridges and the like. Basically the continued hollowing out of the public sector. The standard of living will continue to plummet and practically the only jobs for young people will increasingly be in the military sector.

This is what is happening today in many other western client states where this formula of austerity cuts and militarization go hand-in-hand. The Democrats, the so-called party of the ‘little guy’, are meekly agreeing to this as they have become full partners in this decimation of the nation.

Locally we see Democrats talking at most about writing letters to the editor of local newspapers but their feet are generally absent from the streets when protests are held to speak out against increased military spending and the nation’s endless wars. They still publicly defend Obama who has compiled a war record matching, and in many respects, exceeding that of George W. Bush.

The German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht spoke about the ‘liberals’ in his country collapsing during the rise of Hitler and Nazism. They meekly surrendered and betrayed the public trust. In the US most liberals still believe that they are just one election away from turning things around. Just get another Democrat into the White House or return the Congress to Democrat control is their only priority. But sadly they’ve forgotten that it was their party, in control of Washington during Bill Clinton’s presidency, that kick-started NATO expansion to encircle Russia and continued the massive growth in the Pentagon’s budget that began under Jimmy Carter and continues under Obama. I’ve been an activist through all those years and have seen the ‘liberals’ continual selling out to the military corporate agenda.

Our country has become a failed state. Our children’s future is bleak. Rank-and-fileliberals don’t have much to say. Obama has been a god-send to the corporate oligarchy. He has kept his base in check. Hillary Clinton would do the same.

(Article changed on March 12, 2015 at 16:08)


Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.


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