Thursday, August 29, 2013

The lying warmongers are up to their old tricks yet again...

CONFIRMED: US Claims Against Syria - There is no Evidence
By Tony Cartalucci
The Wall Street Journal reveals that the US is citing claims from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency fed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
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War won't serve Australia's cause

op dink. Julian Assange
What Australian interests are served by going along with a US-led intervention in Syria? The answer is none. 
The case for intervention has not been made.
Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks and a candidate for the Senate.



US Attack on Syria Would be Illegal 'Act of War'
By Alastair Crooke
For the US to launch a military strike without UN Security Council sanction would constitute an illegal 'act of war' against a sovereign state. (The Kosovo precedent cannot make an illegal act legal.)
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America Totally Discredited
Paul Craig Roberts

If Obama goes it alone, he will be harassed for the rest of his life as a war criminal who dares not leave the US.
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Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.
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The Vassal’s Revolt
By Tariq Ali
Rejoice. Rejoice. - For the first time in fifty years, the House of Commons has voted against participating in an imperial war.
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NO U.S. WAR ON SYRIA!

TAKE ACTION NOW
Click here for list of actions around the country to oppose war with Syria.
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Chemical Hallucinations
By William Bowles  
So there we have it, all the essential elements of a false flag operation, initiated by Mossad...

...Could this have anything to do with extending the occupied Golan Heights, the illegal drilling for oil by Israel on Syrian territory?

Genie Energy (NYSE: GNE, GNEPRA), said today that the government of Israel has awarded its subsidiary, Genie Israel Oil and Gas, Ltd., an exclusive petroleum exploration license covering 396.5 square kilometers in the Southern portion of the Golan Heights, and look at who are on the board: Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, and Lord Jacob Rothschild. See: ‘Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights‘ by Craig Murray, Global Research, 21 February 2013







Western Pathological Liars Hold World To Ransom
By Finian Cunningham
Who are these butchers, mass murderers and liars to pose as defenders and protectors of humanity? Their cynicism and hypocrisy are astounding.
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Is Attacking Syria Necessary For US National Security?
By Glenn Greenwald
"OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
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Kucinich: Syria Strike Would Turn US Into 'al Qaeda's Air Force'
By Julian Pecquet
The administration is “rushing” to what could becoming “World War Three” based on questionable evidence. 
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Killing Civilians to Protect Civilians in Syria
By Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer
A military attack would invariably kill civilians...
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Were chemical weapons used. . . by the Syrian government, or the "rebels"?

Accusations Continue, But Still No Evidence of a Syrian Military Gas Attack
 

By Stephen Gowans
"...Since this is decidedly against Damascus’s interests, we should be skeptical of any claim that the Syrian government is defying Obama’s red line..."

Two days after a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria we know that:
• The United States does not have “conclusive evidence that the (Syrian) government was behind poison-gas attacks.” [Wall Street Journal, 1]
• “Neither the United States nor European countries…have a ‘smoking gun’ proving that Mr. Assad’s troops used chemical weapons in the attack.” [New York Times, 2]
• The State Department doesn’t know “If these reports are true.” [New York Times, 3]
• The White House is trying to “ascertain the facts.” [Wall Street Journal, 4]

All the same, the absence of evidence hasn’t stopped the Pentagon “from updating target lists for possible airstrikes on a range of Syrian government and military installations”; [5] hasn’t stopped Britain and France from accusing the Syrian government of carrying out an atrocity; and hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm of newspaper editors for declaring Assad guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt...

Yet The Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker and Christopher Rhoads report that “Islamist rebel brigades have several times been reported to have gained control of stockpiles of chemicals, including sarin.” [7]

That might account for why the White House admitted two months ago that while it believed chemical weapons had been used in Syria, it has no evidence to indicate “who was responsible for (their) dissemination.” [8]

And given that the US president claimed chemical weapons use by the Syrian military would be a red line, the rebels have a motivation to stage a sarin attack and blame it on government forces to bring the United States into the conflict more forcefully on their side.

For the Syrian government, however, the calculus is entirely different.

Using chemical weapons would simply hand the United States a pretext to more muscularly intervene in Syria’s internal affairs. Since this is decidedly against Damascus’s interests, we should be skeptical of any claim that the Syrian government is defying Obama’s red line...

Last month, the New York Times’ Rick Gladstone reported on a study which “found evidence of crudely manufactured sarin, a nerve agent, delivered via an unguided projectile with a crude explosive charge — not the sort of munitions stockpiled by the Syrian military.” [9]

So, no, the Syrian military is not the only combatant capable of using chemical weapons in Syria. But unlike the rebels, it has no motive to do so, and compelling reasons not to.

That’s not to say that chemical weapons were used, rebel forces used them, and the Syrian military did not. The evidence is murky.
But that’s the point. 

The rush to blame the Syrian military, and to update target lists for possible airstrikes, on the basis of no evidence, smacks of political motivation. 

Clearly, the United States, France and Britain want public opinion on their side for stepped up intervention in Syria. They’ve decided to declare Assad and the Syrian military guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction. 

But the conviction of guilt, as is evident through the statements of politicians and reporting of newspapers, rests on no sound evidentiary basis—indeed, on no evidence at all.


 
1. Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Inti Landauro, “U.S. weighs plans to punish Assad”, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013
2 Mark Landler, Mark Mazzetti and Alissa J. Rubin, “Obama officials weigh response to Syria assault”, The New York Times, August 22, 2013
3. Landler, Mazzetti and Rubin.
4. Entous, Barnes and Landauro.
5. Entous, Barnes and Landauro.
6. “Syria: chemical weapons with impunity”, The Guardian, August 22, 2013.
7. Margaret Coker and Christopher Rhoads, “Chemical agents reflect brutal tactics in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013
8. Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use, June 13, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/13/statement-deputy-national-security-advisor-strategic-communications-ben-
9. Rick Gladstone, “Russia says study suggests Syria rebels used sarin”, The New York Times, July 9, 2013




Growing Calls For Attack On Syria Follow Chemical Weapons Claims

By Bill Van Auken
While the Assad regime has nothing to gain from carrying out such an attack, and a great deal to lose, this is not the case for the Free Syrian Army and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front.
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In case you missed it: U.S. 'backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad's regime': Leaked emails from defense contractor refers to chemical weapons saying 'the idea is approved by Washington'







By Pepe Escobar
Bradley Manning will remain confined in a military prison, while war criminals such as George ‘Dubya’ Bush, Dick ‘Darth Vader’ Cheney and their cohorts remain on the loose.  Continue






‘You Failed to Break the Spirit of Bradley Manning’
An Open Letter to President Obama


By Norman Solomon
Bradley Manning has emerged with his solid humanistic voice not only intact, but actually stronger than ever!
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‘Sometimes You Have to Pay a Heavy Price to Live in a Free Society’

By Bradley Manning

Transcript of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday
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By RT
The newly-revealed documents declassify documents about CIA’s TPAJAX operation that sought regime change in Iran through the bribery of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, and massive anti-Mossadegh propaganda that helped to instigate public revolt in 1953. Continue


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Observations on a world gone mad...                               

The 1.3 million in US military aid to Egypt is not meant to aid Egypt, but merely to get the money to the munitions and arms makers that are selling to Egypt. It's military contractor payments for the US businesses. So, despite laws against supporting a military coup against a democratically-elected government, US corporations need their money, and they will get it.

That's why there are wars everywhere, so rich corporations can make money, while paying little or no taxes. It's really kind of sick. We have wars to create work for the military and the supporting corporations, and the taxpayers pay for all of this, and lose their domestic benefits because “we have no money”.

When will humanity realise we are being taken for a ride by the War Machine? When we are on the verge of extinction?  To understand a major reason why we have wars, follow the money. . . 


Protecting U.S. Defence Contractors.
U.S. Arms Industry Would Lose Big from Egypt Aid Cut-Off

By Thalif Deen
Virtually all – or an overwhelming proportion – of the 1.3 billion dollars granted under Foreign Military Financing (FMF) is plowed back into the U.S. economy, specifically into the U.S. defence industry. Continue


The 10 biggest US Defense contracts involving direct military aid to Egypt from 2009 to 2011, according to The Institute for Southern Studies.


A massive industry profits off the government-induced fear of terrorism.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paul Craig Roberts, former US government 'insider', now speaks the unspeakable truths:
"...Washington’s power will survive a bit longer, because there are still politicians in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the NGOs in Russia, who are paid off by the almighty dollar. In exchange for Washington’s money, they endorse Washington’s immorality and murderous destruction of law and life..."


August 13, 2013 "Information Clearing House"-   

Americans will soon be locked into an unaccountable police state unless US Representatives and Senators find the courage to ask questions and to sanction the executive branch officials who break the law, violate the Constitution, withhold information from Congress, and give false information about their crimes against law, the Constitution, the American people and those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. 

Congress needs to use the impeachment power that the Constitution provides and cease being subservient to the lawless executive branch. The US faces no threat that justifies the lawlessness and abuse of police powers that characterize the executive branch in the 21st century.

Impeachment is the most important power of Congress. 

Impeachment is what protects the citizens, the Constitution, and the other branches of government from abuse by the executive branch. If the power to remove abusive executive branch officials is not used, the power ceases to exist. An unused power is like a dead letter law. Its authority disappears. 

By acquiescing to executive branch lawlessness, Congress has allowed the executive branch to place itself above law and to escape accountability for its violations of law and the Constitution.

National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper blatantly lied to Congress and remains in office. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, has also misled Congress, and he remains in office. Attorney General Holder avoids telling Congress the truth on just about every subject, and he also remains in office. The same can be said for President Obama, one of the great deceivers of our time, who is so adverse to truth that truth seldom finds its way out of his mouth.

If an American citizen lies to a federal investigator, even if not under oath, the citizen can be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison. Yet, these same federal personnel can lie to Congress and to citizens with impunity. 

Whatever the American political system is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with accountable government. In Amerika no one is accountable but citizens, who are accountable not only to law but also to unaccountable charges for which no evidence is required.

Congress has the power to impeach any presidential appointee as well as the president. In the 1970s Congress was going to impeach President Richard Nixon simply because he lied about when he learned of the Watergate burglary. 

To avoid impeachment, Nixon resigned. In the 1990s, the House impeached President Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual affair with a White House intern. The Senate failed to convict, no doubt as many had sexual affairs of their own and didn’t want to be held accountable themselves.

In the 1970s when I was on the Senate staff, corporate lobbyists would send attractive women to seduce Senators so that the interest groups could blackmail the Senators to do their bidding. Don’t be surprised if the NSA has adopted this corporate practice.

The improprieties of Nixon and Clinton were minor, indeed of little consequence, when compared to the crimes of George W. Bush and Obama, their vice presidents, and the bulk of their presidential appointees. Yet, impeachment is “off the table,” as Nancy Pelosi infamously declared. http://www.nytimes.com/cq/2006/11/08/cq_1916.html 

Why do Californian voters send a person to Congress who refuses to protect them from an unaccountable executive branch? Who does Nancy Pelosi serve? Certainly not the people of California. Most certainly not the US Constitution. Pelosi is in total violation of her oath of office. Will Californians re-elect her yet again? Little wonder America is failing.

The question demanding to be asked is: What is the purpose of the domestic surveillance of all Americans? This is surveillance out of all proportion to the alleged terrorist threat. The US Constitution is being ignored and domestic law violated. Why? Does the US government have an undeclared agenda for which the “terrorist threat” is a cover?

What is this agenda? 

Whose agenda is more important than the US Constitution and the accountability of government to law? No citizen is secure unless government is accountable to the Constitution and to law. It is an absurd idea that any American is more threatened by terrorism than by unaccountable government that can execute them, torture them, and throw them in prison for life without due process or any accountability whatsoever. Under Bush/Obama, the US has returned to the unaccountable power of caesars, czars, and autocrats.

In the famous play, “A Man For All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, asks: So, you would have me to cut down the law in order to chase after devils? And what will we do, with the law cut down, when the devil turns on us?

This is the most important legal question ever asked, and it is seldom asked today, not in our law schools, not by our bar associations, and most certainly not by the Justice (sic) Department or US Attorneys.

American conservatives regard civil liberties as mere excuses for liberal judges to coddle criminals and terrorists. Never expect a conservative Republican, or more than two or three of them, to defend your civil liberty. Republicans simply do not believe in civil liberty. Democrats cannot conceive that Obama--the first black president in office, a member of an oppressed minority--would not defend civil liberty. This combination of disinterest and denial is why the US has become a police state.

Civil liberty has few friends in government, the political parties, law schools, bar associations, or the federal judiciary. Consequently, no citizen is secure. Recently, a housewife researched online for pressure cookers looking for the best deal. Her husband was searching for a backpack. The result was that a fully armed SWAT team appeared at the door demanding to search the premises and to have questions answered. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/08/government-knocking-doors-because-google-searches/67864/

I am always amazed when someone says: “I haven’t done anything wrong. I have nothing to fear.” If you have nothing to fear from the government, why did the Founding Fathers put the protections in the Constitution that Bush and Obama have stripped out? Unlike the Founding Fathers who designed our government to protect the citizens, the American sheeple trust the government to their own demise.

Glenn Greenwald recently explained how the mass of data that is being accumulated on every American is being mined for any signs of non-terrorist-related criminal behavior. As such warrantless searches are illegal evidence in a criminal trial, the authorities disguise the illegal way in which the evidence is obtained in order to secure conviction based on illegally obtained evidence. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35773.htm

In other words, the use of the surveillance justified by the “war on terror” has already spread into prosecutions of ordinary criminals where it has corrupted legal safeguards and the integrity, if any, of the criminal court system, prosecutors and judges.

This is just one of the many ways in which you have much to fear, whether you think you are doing anything wrong or not. You can be framed for crimes based on inferences drawn from your Internet activity and jokes with friends on social media. Jurors made paranoid by the “terrorist threat” will convict you.

We should be very suspicious of the motive behind the universal spying on US citizens. The authorities are aware that the terrorist threat does not justify the unconstitutional and illegal spying. There have been hardly any real terrorist events in the US, which is why the FBI has to find clueless people around whom to organize an FBI orchestrated plot in order to keep the “terrorist threat” alive in the public’s mind. 

At last count, there have been 150 “sting operations” in which the FBI recruits people, who are out of touch with reality, to engage in a well-paid FBI designed plot. Once the dupes agree, they are arrested as terrorists and the plot revealed, always with the accompanying statement that the public was never in any danger as the FBI was in control.

When 99 percent of all terrorism is organized by the FBI, why do we need NSA spying on every communication of every American and people in the rest of the world?

Terrorism seldom comes from outside. The source almost always is the government in power. The Czarist secret police set off bombs in order to blame and arrest labor agitators. The Nazis burned down the Reichstag in order to decimate the communists and assume unaccountable power in the name of “public safety.” An alleged terrorist threat is a way of using fear to block popular objection to the exercise of arbitrary government power.

In order to be “safe from terrorists,” the US population, with few objections, has accepted the demise of their civil liberties, such as habeas corpus, which reaches back centuries to Magna Carta as a constraint on government power. How, then, are they safe from their government? Americans today are in the same position as the English prior to the Great Charter of 1215. Americans are no longer protected by law and the Constitution from government tyranny.

The reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution was to make citizens safe from their government. If citizens allow the government to take away the Constitution, they might be safe from foreign terrorists, but they are no longer safe from their government.

Who do you think has more power over you, foreign terrorists or “your” government?

Washington defines all resistance to its imperialism and tyranny as “terrorism.” Thus, Americans who defend the environment, who defend wildlife, who defend civil liberties and human rights, who protest Washington’s wars and robbery of the people in behalf of special interests, all become “domestic extremists,” the term Homeland Security has substituted for “terrorist.” Those who are out of step with Washington and the powerful private interests that exploit us, other peoples, and the earth for their profits and power fall into the wrong side of Bush’s black and white division of the world: “you are for us or against us.”

In the United States independent thought is on the verge of being criminalized as are constitutionally guaranteed protests and the freedom of the press. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/10/james-risen-prison-journalism-criminalised The constitutional principle of freedom of speech is being redefined as treason, as aiding an undefined enemy, and as seeking to overthrow the government by casting aspersions on its motives and revealing its secret misdeeds. The power-mad inhabitants of Washington have brought the US so close to Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia that it is no longer funny. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to see the difference.

The neoconservatives have declared that Americans are the “exceptional” and “indispensable people.” Yet, the civil liberties of Americans have declined the more “exceptional” and “indispensable” that Americans become. We are now so exceptional and indispensable that we no longer have any rights.

And neither does the rest of the world. Neoconservatism has created a new dangerous American nationalism. Neoconservatives have given Washington a monopoly on right and endowed its military aggressions with a morality that supersedes the Geneva Conventions and human rights. Washington, justified by its “exceptionalism,” has the right to attack populations in countries with which Washington is not at war, such as Pakistan and Yemen. 

Washington is using the cover of its “exceptionalism” to murder people in many countries. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/08/11/us-drones-pound-yemen-but-targets-arent-all-militants/print/ Hitler tried to market the exceptionalism of the German people, but he lacked Washington’s Madison Avenue skills.

Washington is always morally right, whatever it does, and those who report its crimes are traitors who, stripped of their coddling by civil liberties, are locked away and abused until they confess to their crimes against the state. Anyone who tells the truth, such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, are branded enemies of the state and are ruthlessly persecuted.

How does the “indispensable, exceptional nation” have a diplomatic policy? How can a neoconized State Department be based on anything except coercion? It can’t. That is why Washington produces nothing but war and threats of war.

Wherever a person looks, whatever a person hears, it is Washington’s threat--“we are going to bomb you into the stone age” if you don’t do what we want and agree to what we require. We are going to impose “sanctions,” Washington’s euphemism for embargoes, and starve your women and children to death, permit no medical supplies, ban you from the international payments system unless you relent and consent to being Washington’s puppet, and ban you from posting your news broadcasts on the Internet.

This is the face that Washington presents to the world: the hard, mean face of a tyrant.

Washington’s power will survive a bit longer, because there are still politicians in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the NGOs in Russia, who are paid off by the almighty dollar. In exchange for Washington’s money, they endorse Washington’s immorality and murderous destruction of law and life.

But the dollar is being destroyed by Quantitative Easing, and the domestic US economy is being destroyed by jobs offshoring. http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/TAA0731131.html

Rome was powerful until the Germans ceased to believe it. Then the rotten edifice collapsed. Washington faces sooner or later the same fate. An inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional regime based on violence alone, devoid of all morality and all human compassion, is not acceptable to China, Russia, India, Iran, and Brazil, or to readers of this column.

The evil that is Washington cannot last forever. The criminals might destroy the world in nuclear war, but the lawlessness and lack of humanity in Washington, which murders more people as I write, is no longer acceptable to the rest of the world, not even to its European puppet states, despite the leaders being on Washington’s payroll.

Gorbachev is correct. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a debacle for the entire world. It transformed the US from the “city upon the hill,” the “beacon for humanity,” into an aggressive militarist state. Consequently, Amerika has become despised by everyone who has a moral conscience and a sense of justice.

 
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available. 


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Sunday, August 11, 2013

The campaign for a global ban on drones - 
weaponized flying robots - is gaining momentum

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The drones are losing.



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U.S. drone strikes have dropped off dramatically in Pakistan this summer.[1] 

According to the Associated Press: "The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called 'signature strikes' -- hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behavior, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current U.S. intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program.

"The CIA embraced the measures, feeling the drone program may be under threat from public scrutiny, the officials said."
[2]

Over 66,000 threats of public scrutiny have been posted as signatures on our petition to ban weaponized drones. Click here to increase that number.

Even as the drone strikes are diminished, new evidence continues to emerge as to how many victims have been innocent men, women, and children. A Pakistani government report, never meant for the public, finds at least 147 civilians, including 94 children, killed in 75 CIA and 5 NATO strikes.[3]

It's time for us to seize the momentum.  We aren't demanding a temporary reduction in drone strikes. We're demanding a complete global ban on weaponized flying robots.

Click here to add your name. Then please forward to everyone who you think might care.

Please forward this email widely to like-minded friends.

-- The RootsAction.org team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, and many others.

Footnotes:
1. BIJ: Obama 2013 Pakistan Drone Strikes
2. AP: Criticism Alters U.S. Drone Program in Pakistan
3. Democracy Now: First Leaked Pakistani Report on U.S. Drone War

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Vietnam: A War on Civilians

(Metropolitan, 370 pages)


Illustration by Michael Hogue
Illustration by Michael Hogue
 
Few Americans born after the Tet Offensive know even the barest facts about the Vietnam War. I aim this generalization not at the oft-underrated Joe Sixpack but at graduates of our finest universities. I remember getting coffee with an old friend, then fresh out of Yale, right after she had backpacked through Vietnam. Whenever she mentioned the war she referred to the former South Vietnam as “the democratic side.”

It was immediately clear that she, like virtually everyone else of her and my generation, had never heard of the Geneva Accords of 1954 to guarantee free elections in South Vietnam, elections scuttled after the CIA predicted that Ho Chi Minh would win. My friend had had no sense that the U.S. invaded (a word rarely used, but what else can you call sending 500,000 troops to a foreign nation?) South Vietnam to prop up an authoritarian government with little popular legitimacy. We launched a ruthless pacification campaign; it failed—but not before Washington spread the war into Laos and Cambodia and ultimately killed some two million civilians. This was the war, and there was no “democratic side.”

By contrast, my interlocutor—an intelligent and cultured person—did show a sure command of the political history of Tibet, which had been the next stop on her Asian tour. From Generation X on down, there is a gaping lack of knowledge about the most foolish and brutal of our postwar wars. (Yes, worse than Iraq.) But this is not a vacant lot ready for intellectual development. Instead this block of nescience is something dense, opaque, and fenced off with barbed wire. Why is there so much socially reinforced ignorance about our bloodiest war since World War II?

One reason is that uttering any less-than-flattering account of the war is likely to make one feel, even in 2013, like a bit of a traitor. By airing unpleasant facts about the war am I smearing my Uncle G—, an avid gardener, terrific father, husband, and all-around great guy who was an Army Ranger in Laos? Am I blood-libeling my brother’s beloved high-school English teacher who served in the Special Forces advising and fighting with the Khmer Khrom ethnic minority and wrote a memoir about it? I don’t doubt this man’s courage any more than I believe that our war in Southeast Asia can be recast as a “Lost Crusade”—his book’s title—to protect Vietnam’s ethnic minorities.

Nobody wants to be called out for “spitting on the troops.” Not that historians have found a single instance of people actually expectorating on returning Vietnam soldiers. That this piece of revanchist folklore has taken such firm root shows how hypersensitive America remains to any hint that the war was anything less than noble. Even after four decades, you don’t make friends by implying that the personal sacrifice of members of your community was for nothing.

Or worse than nothing. Because the main reason we don’t want to know about Vietnam is that it gave so much to not want to know about. Yes, Vietnam was a military defeat that killed some 58,000 American soldiers and left 75,000 severely disabled—reason enough, for many, to stuff it down the memory hole. But as scholar and journalist Nick Turse shows in a new book that is scrupulously documented, what makes the memory of this war so worthy of repression is that its defining feature was mass atrocities against civilians. Rape; the massacres of women, children, and the elderly; military vehicles running over civilians for sport; “Zippo raids” that burned down villages; indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment; despoliation of crops and drinking water; routinized torture—this was the unredeemable essence of our Vietnam War, not American teenagers coming of age and bonding against a bamboo backdrop, not “good intentions” in Washington leading us into a “quagmire.”

Of the 33,000 books about the Vietnam War, all but a few eagerly sidestep the atrocious carnage inflicted on hundreds of thousands of civilians. Nick Turse’s scholarly mission is to haul it into the center of historical inquiry and public memory, where it belongs. Kill Anything That Moves offers neither argument nor a new narrative—it simply aims to make violence against civilians “the essence of what we should think of when we say ‘the Vietnam War’.”

 

The war was “a system of suffering.” Turse is sick of hearing about My Lai—the programmatic slaughter of over 500 Vietnamese women, children, and elderly men carried out on March 16, 1969 by Americal Division’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry—not because it wasn’t an appalling war crime but because the event, now fashioned as a horrific one-off anomaly, has perversely absolved the rest of the war, obscuring for instance the massacre of 118 civilians at Dien Nien or of 68 civilians at Phuoc Binh; of 200 civilians at An Phuoc; of 86 killed at Nhon Hoa; 155 killed at the My Khe (4) hamlet.

Turse’s book is sometimes repetitive, by design: “I thought I was looking for a needle in a haystack,” he says about embarking on his research, “what I found was a veritable haystack of needles.” There was nothing exceptional about My Lai. In the words of Ron Ridenhour, the former helicopter door-gunner who did more than anyone to expose that particular massacre, it “was an operation, not aberration.”

The numbers are numbing. According to study by Harvard Medical School and the University of Washington, there were 3.8 million violent war deaths, of which two million were civilian, with similar estimates reached by the Vietnamese government and Robert McNamara himself. Up to 500,000 Vietnamese women turned to sex work. 14,000 South Vietnamese civilians were killed, mostly by U.S. firepower, during the Tet Offensive. 70 million liters of herbicidal agents, notably Agent Orange, were dumped across the countryside. (“Only you can prevent forests” was the travestied Smokey the Bear slogan.) 3.4 million combat sorties were launched by the U.S. and South Vietnam between 1965 and 1972. The amount of ammunition fired per soldier was 26 times higher than in World War II. In the northernmost province of South Vietnam, Quang Tri, only 11 out of 35,000 villages were not damaged by bombing or artillery. A survey found that 96 percent of Marine Corps second lieutenants said they would torture prisoners to obtain information.

Turse paints a fresco of casual cruelty and the wholesale destruction of an agrarian society relocated at gunpoint into “strategic hamlets” (a plan dreamed up by Harvard professors like Samuel Huntington) and urban slums. He tells the stories of dozens of individuals, mostly Vietnamese, whose lives were ruined by the war. Pham Thi Luyen, 13 years old on October 21, 1967, when American members of Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment came to her village of Trieu Ai and massacred a dozen civilians, including her father. Nguyen Thi Lam, a villager from the Mekong Delta, who was gunned down by U.S. helicopters on the morning of May 20, 1968 while at work in the rice paddies; she lost her left leg, her sister-in-law lost her life. (As Turse reports, “Even a U.S. Senate study acknowledged that by that by 1968 some 300,000 civilians had been killed or wounded in free-fire zones.”) Bui Thi Houng, gang-raped by five members of a Marine unit as other Marines shot dead her unarmed husband, mother–in-law, and sister-in-law in Xuan Ngoc hamlet on September 23, 1966.

It was a great big homicidal carnival. Sergeant Roy Bumgarner of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, then the 173rd Airborne Brigade, achieved celebrity within the ranks for his slaughter of Vietnamese civilians, and when in 1969 he was finally court-martialed for the murder of three civilians, his only penalty was a reduction in rank and a monthly fine of $97, which lasted only half a year. Bumgarner stayed on active duty throughout, quickly rose back from private to sergeant, and was one of the last U.S. infantrymen to leave the country. One civil affairs lieutenant involved in the case—and outraged by its lack of consequence—chalked up the light sentence to “the M.G.R.–the Mere Gook Rule” which granted free rein to homicidal violence.

But the relentless violence against civilians was more than the activity of a few sociopaths: it was policy. This was a war fought along Fordist principles—Robert McNamara had gone to the Department of Defense straight from the helm of the auto giant—and the slaughter was industrial in scale. Victory over the Viet Cong was to be achieved by quantifiable “kill ratios,” to reach that elusive tipping point where the insurgency could no longer replenish its troops. This approach hard-wired incentives to secure a high “body count” down the chain of command, with the result that U.S. soldiers often shot civilians dead to pad their tallies and thereby move up the ranks.

It was Gen. Julian Ewell who made the killing of Vietnamese civilians into standard operating procedure. Ewell assumed the military command of the Mekong Delta region in early 1968 and immediately upped the requisite body count to 4,000 a month, then to 6,000. At the end of the year, he started Operation Speedy Express, a six-month infantry assault on the delta region, killing thousands of Vietnamese, a great many of whom were civilians. (Civilian war casualties were 80 percent of all patients at provincial hospitals.) Air power raised the killing to industrial scale, with a total of 4,338 gunship sorties, 6,500 tactical air strikes dropping at least 5,078 tons of bombs and 1,784 tons of napalm. One American regional adviser described it as “nonselective terrorism.” As another veteran recalled, “A Cobra gunship spitting out six hundred rounds a minute doesn’t discern between chickens, kids and VC.”

Ewell, known by his men as “the Butcher of the Delta,” was awarded a third general’s star and made a top U.S. military adviser at the Paris peace talks. His book about the operation was taught at West Point.

Some readers (and many more non-readers) in the United States will reject this knowledge and accuse Turse of beating up the troops, hating America, etc. In fact, Turse shows quite a bit of empathy for the American grunt, a heavily armed teenager in a wholly foreign environment. But he does not look away from the senseless destruction U.S. troops perpetrated, “fueled by a toxic mix of youth, testosterone, racism, anger, boredom, fear, alienation, anonymity, impunity and excitement.” Turse will not have Lt. William Calley alone made the fall guy for My Lai, “as if the deaths of more than five hundred civilians, carried out by dozens of men at the behest of higher command, were his fault alone.” As the files of the Pentagon’s own War Crimes Working Group show, “atrocities were committed by members of every infantry, cavalry and airborne division, and every separate brigade that deployed without the rest of its division—that is, every major army unit in Vietnam.”

Telford Taylor, a retired brigadier general and former Nuremberg prosecutor, daringly argued in 1971 for war crimes tribunals that would try American officers—this idea went nowhere. Throughout the war there was a veneer of law regulating the soldiers, but impunity for war crimes was close to absolute. Even when atrocity allegations (usually made in the face of heavy peer pressure and intimidation) did result in investigations, there were few convictions, and such sentences as did get handed down were generally minimal—and then usually reduced further. Most cases were allowed to flounder until collapsing upon the soldier’s discharge. (The pattern of impunity is redolent of Central American state violence in the 1980s—except the perpetrators have jarringly non-Latin surnames like Duffy, Cushman, Bowers, Parker.) The War Crimes Working Group, whose files are the backbone of Turse’s research, was formed not to investigate and prosecute but to perform damage control: after the My Lai story broke, never again would the military be caught off-guard when an atrocity hit the news.

The main effect of the My Lai news was to provoke a wave of sympathy for Lieutenant Calley, with state legislatures from Mississippi to New Jersey passing resolutions in support of the man, who was under house arrest at Fort Benning. (In Georgia, Calley had a vigorous defender in the young Democratic governor, Jimmy Carter.) Newsweek’s Vietnam correspondents, Kevin Buckley and Alex Shimkin, fought a losing battle to make their magazine publish a long story about the systematic nature of wartime atrocities, arguing, like Turse today, that My Lai massacres were widespread and “normal.” The magazine eventually published a heavily edited version shorn of its most important findings.

A book with such an elevated atrocity-per-page ratio demands the greatest rhetorical finesse, lest chapters like “A Litany of Atrocities” and “Unbounded Misery” become mere litanies of atrocities of unbounded misery. Turse is up to the task: he doesn’t rant, doesn’t scold, and his writing never raises its voice. His research is a triumph of the historian’s craft, with sources including hundreds of interviews with American veterans and dozens with civilian survivors of atrocities, conducted over several trips to Vietnam. More impressive still is his mastery of archival resources: Turse was bequeathed the copious notes of Newsweek’s Buckley and Shimkin, and he has broken new ground with the previously unexplored files of the Army’s War Crimes Working Group—which he happened upon in the National Archives and photocopied for several days straight while sleeping in his car in the parking lot. And a good thing he made copies because the drive to suppress memories of Vietnam has entered even the archives: the files were later removed from the shelves.

But the word is out. Turse’s book has shifted the focus of the Vietnam War from the stories of American soldiers to the stories of the civilians whose suffering was orders of magnitude higher. It will be the work of others to unpack the implications of this seminal work, which raises so many questions. Do counterinsurgency and pacification campaigns unavoidably lead to rampant slaughter of civilians? (The New York Times marked the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion with an op-ed from counterinsurgency guru John Nagl attempting to salvage his pet tactic from blood-soaked ignominy of Afghanistan and Iraq.) Can armies “control” and “protect” a population without routinized atrocity?

And how much of the slaughter was, according the laws of armed conflict, legal? Turse generally sticks to the non-legal term “atrocity” rather than “war crime”—which is very wise, given that the two terms don’t overlap as closely as many would like to believe. There is no doubt that American, South Vietnamese, and Viet Cong soldiers violated the laws of armed conflict in their treatment of civilians. The Geneva Conventions on the treatment of enemy prisoners weren’t so much flouted as shot in the temple, a finding confirmed by the Pentagon’s own investigations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. But how much of the carnage, particularly that stemming from aerial bombardment, was perfectly legit under international humanitarian law? The point is still argued, with military lawyers like W. Hays Parks contending that the “Rolling Thunder” campaign that dropped 640,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam and killed tens of thousands of civilians was in strict compliance with international law.

Many humanitarian-minded lawyers will bristle at this, but why not admit that the law is on the side of the B-52s, not that of the civilians below? Who do you think wrote the law in the first place? We urgently need to see how the laws of war work in practice, given that so many hawks of both left and right insist that law and lawyers are a viable means of fashioning military force into a precise, therapeutic instrument. But as this book suggests throughout, the primary function of the Rules of Engagement and military law in general is not to restrain lethal force but to authorize it. In Vietnam, the overriding principle of International Humanitarian Law, the current preferred euphemism for the laws of war, turned out to be the Mere Gook Rule.

War puts incredible stress on the rule of law—when not putting it through the shredder—and beneath the law, our sense of justice and morality. Consider the example of U.S. Army Major Carl Hensley, charged with investigating war-crime allegations. Under pressure to suppress his findings, he blew his brains out with a shotgun on the day of April 15, 1971. The military came instantly and removed every piece of paper in the Hensley home. “They pulled the trash cans. They left nothing behind,” remembers his daughter Karla Hensley, then a child.

What happens when no honest memories of atrocity get left behind? We learn nothing and repeat the carnage in new places with names like Fallujah, Haditha, and Helmand. We cover ourselves with the “fog of war” like a thick fleece blanket, and those who would lift it from us do not get our thanks. But Nick Turse and his disturbing and necessary book deserve our deepest gratitude.



Chase Madar is an attorney in New York and the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning.