Posts Tagged ‘cheney’

American Assassination: The Strange Death of Senator Paul Wellstone

by Four Arrows and Jim Fetzer

Vox Pop (2004)

Book Review

American Assassination summarizes the authors’ investigation into the freak airplane crash that killed Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone on October 25, 2002. Wellstone, an outspoken populist, was killed exactly 10 days before a midterm election in which the Bush/Cheney administration invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat him.

Wellstone was the sole senator to oppose the Use of Force Resolution authorizing George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. In addition to advocating for an independent investigation into 9-11, many believed he was the only Democratic who could beat Bush in the 2004 election.

Numerous anomalies associated with the crash investigation point to an official cover-up:

  • The FBI, which had no legal jurisdiction, departed for the crash scene before the accident occurred – and subsequently lied about the time they arrived.
  • The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) failed to hold a public hearing (which is routine in high profile cases). Their reported also omitted important eyewitness testimony regarding roaring/humming cellphone interference at the precise moment the plane lost control and a flash of fire, followed by an abrupt cessation of engine noise, just prior to the crash.
  • Wellstone’s and other crash victims’ lungs showed evidence of smoke inhalation (which means they were still in the air – and alive – when the plane caught fire). In other words, the crash didn’t cause the fire, as claimed by the NTSB.
  • The smoke from the burning fuselage was blue, suggesting a pre-crash electrical fire. If the crash had caused the fuel tanks to explode (as claimed by the NTSB), the smoke would have been black. Neither of the wings, where the fuel tanks were located, caught fire.

The book also includes an excellent summary by late assassination researcher Michael Ruppert of 47 instances of US politicians dying in plane crashes – with six fatal crashes occurring during election campaigns.

There is also an excellent scientific overview of the microwave – aka electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons – developed by the Pentagon for use in Iraq. Pulses from these weapons can destroy all electronics within a 1,000 foot range by short circuiting electrical connections. Electronic aircraft navigational equipment is exquisitely sensitive to electromagnetic interference – which is why air passengers are strictly forbidden to use cellphones or laptops during takeoff or landing. Numerous military crashes have been caused by aircraft getting too close to radio transmitters.

Unlike the NTSB, Fetzer and Four Arrows try to come up with an explanation for the crash that explains the simultaneous loss of aircraft control and loss of communication with the tower. Only two possible scenarios are consistent with this evidence – a small incendiary bomb or an EMP weapon that took out the plane’s electronics as it was landing. They find the latter more likely – anyone can purchase a basic EMP weapon on the Internet.

Taxi to the Dark Side

Directed by Alex Gibney (2007)

Film Review

Taxi to the Dark Side is a detailed expose of Bush administration torture polices at three overseas US prisons: Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba. It traces extensive documentary evidence that high level Bush administration officials (including Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney) personally approved illegal torture techniques and covered them up by court martially low level officers – who they dismissed as “a few bad apples.”

The film takes its title from an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was accidentally swept up by occupying forces in 2002. Dilawar died of torture-induced injuries within five days of detention, a death an Army pathologist classified as homicide. A total of 105 detainees had died in US torture facilities as of 2007 when this film was made. Of these, 37 were classified as homicide.

During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to “bring back torture.” His reversal earlier this week makes this documentary especially pertinent, as he’s likely to face some backlash from his neocon supporters.

 

Part 10 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Bush II and Obama presidency.

The Bush II Presidency

Stone begins this section by reminding viewers that Al Gore won the 2000 election by 540,000 votes. He asserts Gore would also have won the electoral college if the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened and stopped the recount in Florida.

Under the heavy influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and other Project for a New American Century (PNAC) members, Bush immediately withdrew from the International Criminal Court treaty (which Clinton supported), the Nuclear Test Ban Treat, the Kyoto Accord and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. He also suspended US-led talks for Korean unification and for peace in Israel-Palestine.

Following 9-11 (which Stone refers to as the new Pearl Harbor PNAC called for), Bush launched illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to authorizing the illegal indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, he also authorized the use torture and significantly expanded the US of “extraordinary rendition”* by the CIA, a program started by Clinton.

During his two terms as president, Bush doubled the defense budget, forcing massive cuts in domestic spending – which Stone maintains destroyed the US economy.

Meanwhile he pushed the Patriot Act through Congress to suppress domestic dissent against these policies.

The Obama Presidency

Stone begins this segment by reminding us that Obama rejected public campaign financing in 2008. His opponent John McCain, in contrast, accept public financing. As a result, Obama received all the major donations from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks. This enabled him to significantly outspend McCain.

Stone blasts Obama for campaigning as the anti-war, change candidate. Who immediately on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, massively increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, as well as expanding the war on terror to Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and the Philippines.

In addition to continuing NATO expansion to increase the likelihood of war with Russia, Obama significantly expanded the southern military command (SouthCom) to target democratic populism in South America (eg Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina). In 2008 he created AfriCom a sixth military command aimed at countering Chinese investment in Africa.

Obama has also significantly increased the likelihood of war with China by encircling them with new troop deployment and sophisticated nuclear weapons systems.


*Extraordinary rendition is the term used when the CIA kidnaps criminal or terrorist suspects in a foreign country and secretly (and illegal) transports them to a country known to engage in torture.

nemesis

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

By Chalmers Johnson

Henry Holt (2007)

Book Review

Available free as a mobi file (download Kindle for PCs free from Amazon) at libcom.org

The third and final volume in a trilogy, Nemesis is a study of the impermanence of empire. Johnson draws on detailed studies of the Roman and British Empire to make specific predictions about the ultimate fate of the US.

After taking inventory of some of the British Empire’s worst atrocities (the deliberate destruction of thriving civilizations in India and China, the extermination of the Tasmanians in Australia, the systemic genocide against the Kikuyu in Kenya*, the slaughter of 10,000 Sudanese and the genocidal Malaysian Emergency), the late Chalmers Johnson asserts that Britain surrendered their empire after World War II due to flagging domestic support for their administrative massacres in India.

Rome, in contrast, continued its imperial conquests and atrocities by imposing a brutal dictatorship at home. Citing the systematic revocation of civil liberties, Johnson theorizes that the US has opted to follow Rome’s example. He makes the uncanny prediction (in 2007) that there will be no change in US foreign policy, even after getting rid of Bush and Cheney.

As the average lifespan of a full fledged empire is 100 years, Johnson predicts the US empire will have collapsed by the 22nd century. He believes it will maintain the facade of democracy until bankruptcy overwhelms it.

According to Johnson, the loss of the US manufacturing base has forced the country into spending exorbitant sums on totally useless technology (his chapters on Star Wars SDI weapons are particularly illuminating) just to keep the economy afloat.

Aside from the secret budget devoted to covert CIA operations, which he enumerates in detail**, 40% of the Pentagon budget is secret – even from Congress.

The US government finally came out of the closet after 9-11 about being an empire. However they continue to be extremely secretive about the total number of countries they occupy. As of 2007, the official count was 737 bases in 130. However Johnson lists at least a dozen secret bases that are kept off the official list for political reasons.


*The so-called Mau Mau uprising.

**A partial listing of the democracies overthrown by the CIA and replaced with dictatorships:

  • Italy 1947-48
  • Iran 1953
  • Guatemala 1954
  • Indonesia 1957-58
  • Brazil 1961-64
  • Greece 1964-74
  • South Korea 1961-1987
  • Philippines continuously
  • Chile 1973

James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq

BBC (2013)

Film Review

The main purpose of this documentary is to expose the paramilitary death squads Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld created in Iraq. Their ultimate was to suppress the Sunni insurgency which formed in early 2003 to oppose the US occupation.

The film goes a long way towards debunking the propaganda Bush and the corporate media dispensed to the American public that the US enemy in Iraq was an international terrorist organization called al Qaeda. The military force responsible for suicide bombings and roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices) was actually a spontaneous uprising in response to the US invasion and occupation. It was largely organized by Sunni troops and public servants who served in Saddam Hussein’s government and were stripped of their occupations and careers by Bush’s disastrous de-Baathification program.

Cheney and Rumsfeld knew the guerrillas fighting the occupation represented a genuine insurrection. Determined to preserve their puppet Baghdad government at all costs, they called in James Steele, their foremost counterinsurgency expert. Steele, a retired military officer, had extensive experience creating and managing local paramilitary death squads in Vietnam and El Salvador.

In Iraq, Steele organized death squads out of Shia militias who had been brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussein and were eager for revenge. What resulted was a bloody civil war between Shia and Sunni-led fighters. The civil war was responsible for 3,000 deaths a day prior to the withdrawal of US troops in 2011.

The film starts by interviewing embassy and DEA officials who worked directly with Colonel Steele when he was running El Salvador’s paramilitary death squads out of the US embassy in San Salvador.  The preponderance of evidence suggests it was Steele who oversaw the massacre of 25,000 Salvadoran civilians and most likely the assassination of human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero (in 1980 while he was saying mass) and the 1980 rape and murder of four American nuns (Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clark and Ita Ford).

Reportedly it was Cheney who recruited Steele to implement the “Salvadoran option” in Iraq. As an ex-military civilian, Steele’s official cover was “energy consultant.” Nevertheless the Iraq commanders who worked with him leave no doubt he was in charge of the specially trained 5,000-strong police commando group formed from Shia militias.

The filmmakers also interview a number of Iraqis who worked in Iraqi prisons and interrogation centers and directly witnessed the torture overseen by Steele. Several members of the Oregon National Guard (deployed to an Iraqi prison detail) were so horrified by one torture session they tried to intervene to stop it. When their military superiors ordered them to stand down and forget what they had seen, they went straight to a local Oregon newspaper. The resulting scandal would lead to the withdrawal of Steele, Coffman and Petraeus from Iraq and the sacking of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

 

blackwater

 

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

by Jeremy Scahill

2008 (with 2013 epilogue)

Book Review

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill (2008 with 2013 epilogue) is an in-depth examination of the systematic privatization of the US military. In 1988, as Secretary of Defense to Bush senior, Dick Cheney initiated the process of outsourcing to private companies of military training and security and intelligence roles. Thanks to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Rumsfeld Doctrine, this outsourcing would extend to combat roles during the 2003-2008 occupation of Iraq.

Scahill’s book places special emphasis on the US failure to hold mercenary soldiers accountable for human rights violations. It also highlights the total absence of financial oversight, allowing Blackwater, Halliburton and other private military contractors to bilk taxpayers out of hundreds of billions of dollars. Finally it raises the troubling specter of corporations or even wealthy individuals hiring a standing mercenary army, such as Blackwater, to declare war against sovereign states.

Cheney Downsizes the US Military

Scahill begins by discussing the major downsizing of the US military that began in 1988, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall and break-up of the former Soviet Union. In his first year as Secretary of Defense, Cheney reduced military spending by $10 billion, by canceling expensive weapons systems and decreasing US troop strength from 2.2 to 1.6 million. As the cuts continued, there was a growing tendency to outsource various non-combat functions to private contractors. Clinton continued the trend, when he hired Military Professionals Resources Inc (staffed by retired military officers) to “train” the Croatian military* in their secessionist war against Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine

Following George W Bush’s election in 2000, Rumsfeld pursued even more aggressive privatization of the Pentagon bureaucracy. The primary neoconservative rationale for shifting both combat and non-combat duties to private mercenaries was to allow the President to engage in potentially unpopular overseas military interventions.

Other advantages included the ability of private mercenaries to engage in unlawful activities (such as extraordinary rendition**), for which regular forces would be subject to court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice – and a massive gravy train of unmonitored, no-bid contracts for wealthy Republican donors. In June 2004, after only fifteen months of US occupation, $9 billion of Iraqi reconstruction funds were unaccounted for.

The Blackwater Lodge and Training Center

Blackwater itself was first formed in 1996. It felled a big hole in training capacity, particularly in the Navy, resulting from Cheney’s extensive DOD cuts. Former Navy SEALS Erik Prince and Al Clark initially established the Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in North Carolina to offer private tactical training to Special Forces and local law enforcement personnel. A long time SEAL trainer, Clark supplied the concept. Prince, who came from a wealthy conservative Christian family, bankrolled it.

In 2002, Blackwater branched out into providing personnel as well as training. Their first contract would be to provide twenty security guards for Kabul’s CIA station in Afghanistan. In 2003, the State Department would award their largest documented (non-classified) contract providing security for US officials in Iraq. This included a $27.7 million no-bid contract to protect Paul Bremer. Bremer, who Bush appointed to run Iraq during the US occupation, quickly became the most hated man in Iraq.

Iraqi Resistance to Occupation

The book provides an interesting historical perspective on the rise of the Iraqi resistance movement in reaction to the virtual takeover of Iraq by US corporate interests. Contrary to the US media portrayal of the Iraqi opposition as al Qaeda terrorists, it was a genuine home grown movement which formed in reaction to Bremer’s refusal to allow free elections and his de-Baathification program. The latter instantly plunged the vast majority of Iraqis into abject misery. In addition to decommissioning 350,000 former Iraqi troops, it also threw hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers, government workers out of work (who were required to join the Baath party as a condition of employment). The loss of these front line personnel would result in the total collapse of Iraqi society.

As Scahill carefully documents, the original Iraqi resistance was peaceful and nonviolent until the US military and Blackwater contractors deliberately fired on peaceful civilian protestors.

Blackwater and other mercenaries are typically paid $600-800 a day for mercenaries. This contrasts with an average of $270 a day for active duty GIs.

The Ambush in Fallujah

Blackwater devotes five chapters to the horrific ambush in Fallujah on March 30, 2004, in which a local mob killed, burned and dismembered four Blackwater contractors before hanging them from a bridge. It was this event that would bring Blackwater to world attention, while setting off a chain of events that would compel (due to an overstretched enlisted force) the Pentagon to hire Blackwater and other private security contractors* as mercenary soldiers in Iraq.

At a pay rate of $600-800 a day (in contrast to an average of $270 for active duty GIs), private security companies had no difficulty recruiting mercenaries. In fact, the worse the violence got, the more profits rolled in for Blackwater.

By June 2004, there were 20,000 private mercenaries in Iraq. By the time Rumsfeld resigned in 2006, there was a one to one ratio between troops and mercenary soldiers maintaining the US occupation in Iraq (100,000 mercenaries vs 100,000 troops).

In 2004-2005, the Blackwater role expanded to guarding the US oil industries pipeline in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, to “protecting” FEMA reconstruction contracts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and to providing immigration security at the Mexican border. By 2007, Blackwater had 2300 private soldiers fighting in nine countries, as well as a database of 22,000 former troops, special forces operatives and retired law enforcement officers who could be deployed at short notice.

Immunity from Prosecution

As of 2013, when Scahill published the revised edition, no Blackwater contractors had ever been prosecuted for criminal human rights abuses. Under an edict Bremer enacted in 2004, US mercenaries were immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. Prosecuting them in American courts is extremely difficult owing to the difficulty of transporting foreign witnesses to the US. However in October 2014, a Washington DC federal district court found four of them guilty of murder and manslaughter for the 2007 shooting of seventeen civilians in Baghdad.

Erick Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 and it has since merged with its main rival Triple Canopy to form Academi. Although Blackwater was banned from Iraq in 2009,  Academi still provides security for State Department personnel across many countries.They also continue to receive contracts from the Defense Department and US intelligence agencies.

Links to free epub and kindle versions of Blackwater are available at Blackwater the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army


*In the mid-1990s, the Croatian military was dominated by right-wing Nazi sympathizers similar to those in the present Ukrainian government.
** Extraordinary or irregular rendition is the US sponsored abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person to countries known to practice torture. It’s also known as torture by proxy.
***Other companies that entered the lucrative mercenary market in 2004 include Control Risks Group, DynCorp, Erinys, Algis, Armor Group, Hart, Kroll and Steele Foundation. British security contractors were also extremely pro-active in Iraq. By October 2006, there were 21,000 British mercenaries in Iraq, in contrast with 7.200 conventional duty troops.

Also published at Veterans Today

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 3 Shadows in the Cave

Film Review

Part 3 concerns the mythology the neoconservatives created around international terrorism to justify the US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US Invents al Qaeda

The final video starts with the car bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. These were the first attacks Bin Laden and Zawahiri organized against US interests as part of their new international jihad (see How the CIA Funds Jihad). They recruited four bombers from training camps Abdullah Azzam started during the Soviet occupation.

Contrary to the myth promoted by the neocons, these camps were exclusively dedicated to training Muslims to conduct jihad in their own countries (e.g. Uzbekistan and Chechnya). Their leaders wanted absolutely nothing to do with international terrorism or Bin Laden’s jihad against the US. They allowed Zawahiri and Bin Laden to recruit from these camps because he was financing them. Nevertheless, even members of Islamic Jihad opposed what they were doing.

In Jan 2001 the US government brought the embassy bombers to trial in the US. They also tried Bin Laden in absentia. To charge him under existing US law, federal prosecutors had to prove an organized group he commanded carried out the bombings. Because no such group existed, they invented one. The name al Qaeda came from a paid FBI informant.

9-11

Immediately following his election George W Bush, like his father, totally rejected the neoconservative’s insistence that the US should invade other nations and “dictate how to run their countries.”

9-11 would change all this, propelling Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld to international power with four terrifying myths:

  1. That Bin Laden was responsible for the 9-11 attacks (according to official FBI accounts, Khalid Sheik Mohammed was responsible for the “plane operations).”*
  2. That “al Qaeda,” a phantom organization the neocons latched onto for propaganda purposes, was a genuine international entity running sleeper cells in 50-60 countries.
  3. That “al Qaeda’s” ultimate goal was to force the US to live under Islamic fundamentalism.
  4. That the invasion of Afghanistan was essential to destroy the heart of “al Qaeda.”

During the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the US and NATO allied themselves with the Afghan Northern Alliance. The latter hated the foreign Muslims who came to came to Afghanistan for training and received a generous bounty for handing them over to US troops. Nearly all of them ended up in Guantanomo, despite having no connection with bin Laden or international terrorism.

The Role of Hollywood

Following the US invasion, the neocons invested two new myths. The first was that bin Laden was hiding out in a sophisticated bunker built into the Torah Borah caves on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The second was that the US was harboring a vast network of terrorist sleeper cells preparing a new attack on US soil. Although both were totally discredited by mid-2003, these myths would be solidified in the public mind by dozens of TV dramas about hidden terrorist sleeper cells in major US cities.

A popular theme of these dramas was the dirty bomb*, which according to actual DD tests was unlikely to kill anyone because the radiation produced by a dirty bomb was so dispersed.

So-called “dirty bombs** featured prominently in most of these productions, despite numerous Pentagon tests demonstrating dirty bomb radiation is too widely dispersed to kill anyone.

World Leaders Rush to Sign On

Inspired by the immense power this ideology of fear gave political leaders, other western leaders quickly signed on to the terror agenda. When the neocons began circulating the new mythology in mid-2002 that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and 9-11, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became one of its most vocal proponents. Despite knowing from the outside that the war on Iraq was based on fabricated evidence.


*This video was produced in 2003, when it was still widely believed that 19 Muslim hijackers were responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers. This version of events is now totally discredited.
**A dirty bomb is an explosive device made from nuclear waste combined with conventional explosives – with the intent of spreading radioactive material over a widely populated area
***This revelation is all the more remarkable given that Curtis made this documentary prior to Dr David Kelly’s so-called “suicide” in 2003. Kelly worked for the British Ministry of Defense and was a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003, when a BBC journalist published an-off-the record discussion about the British role in fabricating evidence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He died under extremely suspicious circumstances in later that month. A group of British doctors is demanding a fresh investigation into Kelly’s death: Doctors Claim Cover Upl