“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, June 30, 2014

The “most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11”.

 “See you in New  York.” 

Brookings analyst Charles Lister explains more about why he thinks the caliphate announcement is so significant.
In an email briefing he writes: 

The impact of this announcement will be global as al-Qaida affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or to oppose it. The Islamic State’s announcement made it clear that it would perceive any group that failed to pledge allegiance an enemy of Islam. Already, this new Islamic State has received statements of support and opposition from jihadist factions in Syria – this period of judgment is extremely important and will likely continue for some time to come.
In retrospect, one could surmise that ISI and then ISIS, has been working towards this point for years now. As an organization, ISIS has become the wealthiest militant group in the world with assets in the low $ billions and has developed an almost obsessive level of bureaucracy, account keeping, and centrally controlled but locally implemented military-political coordination. Moreover, since the seizure of territory and crucially, population, in areas of Syria in 2013, it has developed an increasingly efficient model of governance, capable of simultaneously implementing harsh medieval justice and a whole range of modern social services.
Geographically, ISIS is already fully operational in Iraq and Syria; it has a covert presence in southern Turkey, appears to be establishing a small presence in Lebanon; and has supporters in Jordan, Gaza, the Sinai, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. This could well be the birth of a totally new era of transnational jihadism.
Perhaps most significantly, this announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qaida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause. Put simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [pictured] has declared war on Al-Qaida. While it is now inevitable that members and prominent supporters of al-Qaida and its affiliates will rapidly move to denounce Baghdadi and this announcement, it is the long-term implications that may prove more significant. Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of ISIS, largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality. The recent seizure of Mosul and other gains in Iraq has already dramatically boosted ISIS’ recruitment potential, but this announcement will likely make recent events seem very minor in comparison. Nonetheless, al-Qaida will retain considerable support and once the dust has settled, we will very likely find ourselves in a dualistic position of having two competing international jihadist representatives – al-Qaida, with a now more locally-focused and gradual approach to success; and the Islamic State, with a hunger for rapid results and total hostility for competition.
In Iraq, the announcement will pose a significant risk of provoking other Sunni-composed groups fighting the government to turn against ISIS, thereby potentially precipitating a new, third front within the emerging Iraqi civil conflict. On the other hand, the huge morale boost this will create within ISIS circles in Iraq could help spur on an eventual push on Baghdad. Whatever judgments are made, an increase in violence in Iraq can be expected in the immediate term ...

Intriguingly, it is only a Caliph that has the legal legitimacy to declare or order an offensive jihad. This announcement makes it all the more plausible that Baghdadi may position his forces to begin operations further afield, perhaps in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Even before this announcement, the chance that ISIS could have chosen to expand its target set looked to be increasing, but now, that looks almost to be a certainty.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Saudi Arabia’s Secret Uprising

Written by : Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
on : Monday, 30 Jun, 2014

Opinion: ISIS has reached Saudi Arabia’s borders
The heightened state of alert in the region is epitomized in the brief statement issued by the Saudi Royal Court this week, with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz ordering “all necessary measures” to protect Saudi Arabia from the threat of terrorism. The extremists have reached the border. Al-Qaeda is a stone’s throw from three major regional countries: Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the most extreme faction of Al-Qaeda, mobilized its forces to confront the Assad regime and most recently has turned its attentions to the Nuri Al-Maliki government in Iraq. ISIS has built an army of thousands of suicide bombers of different nationalities, all of whom are prepared to return to their countries and start a world war.
Similar to what has happened in Syria, what is now happening in Iraq is a genuine revolution against a sectarian, repugnant rule. However Al-Qaeda has become involved in this revolution under different banners: ISIS, the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham, just to name a few. They claim to support the oppressed people—until they are able to take center stage and hijack the revolution thanks to their extraordinary global capabilities. The group exploited the anger of millions of Sunni people around the world, from Indonesia to Britain, and made them cheer for its achievements. As such, ISIS today is the star at the box office, as my colleague Youssef Al-Dini likes to say.
In order to understand the unprecedented and rapid developments, we must be aware that we have two rivals which we cannot side with: Bashar Al-Assad and Nuri Al-Maliki’s sectarian governments on one side, and ISIS and its terrorist affiliates on the other.
Turkey, which at first confused Syrian nationalists with Islamist extremists, has finally decided to close its borders to Islamist terrorist groups, declaring that they are a threat to its national security, not the Assad regime. Jordan and Saudi Arabia had, from the beginning, distinguished between the moderate patriotic Free Syrian Army and the terrorist ISIS and Al-Nusra Front. This is despite the fact that all three oppose the Assad regime.
Now, one might ask: How could you put these rivals—Assad, Maliki, ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front—in the same basket? Well, the fact of the matter is that were it not for Assad and Maliki, ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front would not have existed. Most of their leaders had been detained in Syrian and Iraqi prisons and were released by these regimes, who believed that this would shuffle the cards. Indeed, the cards have been shuffled: Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have announced their readiness to fight these terrorist groups.
All regional and international countries are aware of what is happening. We will surely witness vital collective activity on international military and political levels to confront this threat. It is most likely that this will lead to a military camp that will see a larger-scale war being waged on terrorism.
Nevertheless, the problem is still a political one, as each state perceives the danger from a different angle. We are all against these terrorist organizations, but each state believes in a different solution. The United States faces two competing visions: the first calls for dealing with Iran, and therefore continuing to tacitly support Maliki and Assad; meanwhile, European and Gulf countries want change, believing that without an acceptable strong centralized regime in Syria and Iraq, it will be impossible to eliminate these extremist groups. Therefore, a political solution must be imposed in Syria and Iraq; Sunnis should be mobilized to cooperate and fight against the extremists.
The Gulf states believe that the fight against Al-Qaeda will only succeed through the cooperation of Iraq and Syria’s Sunnis—this is the only way to eradicate these terrorist groups. This will stop Sunnis elsewhere from sympathizing with this group and its ideology. The sectarian policies of Assad and Maliki have triggered this chaos. Therefore, the solution lies in strong central governments in both Baghdad and Damascus with American, Western and regional support.
Limiting the solution to military action against ISIS will result in failure, as seen by the failure of this policy since 2001.

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed is the general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

ISIS insurgents appeared to have repelled Iraqi military’s initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday - Russian jets to the rescue?

Target ISIS: First batch of Russian Su-24 jets arrives in Iraq

Published time: June 29, 2014 00:25 
Edited time: June 29, 2014 08:38
The first ten Russian Sukhoi (Su-24) fighter jets arrived in Iraq on Saturday, the country’s Defense Ministry said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping the jets will make a key difference in the fight against ISIS.
“The fighter jets landed today in the morning on different military airfields,” MP Abbas al-Bayati told Iraqi media.
The official spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Mohammed al-Askari, also confirmed the information, Al Iraqiya TV channel reported.
The fighter jets will be stationed at an airbase located in the southern part of the country, PressTV reported, citing military sources.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Maliki revealed that Iraq purchased jets from Russia and Belarus in order to help its fight against Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL).
At the same time, Maliki criticized the US for taking too long to deliver on its own contract after Iraq purchased F-16 jets from America.
On Friday, Iraqi Air Force Commander Hameed al-Maliki confirmed the shipment of MI-35 and MI-28 Russian helicopter fighters to "keep the momentum" in the attacks against ISIS, Ruptly reported.
The commander said that he signed three contracts with the Russians and stressed the importance of the choppers as "excellent anti-terrorism weapons."
The radical Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) has taken large parts of the country's north from the Shia government.

Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers have been killed by insurgents since the Sunni militants began their offensive on June 9, according to Iraqi forces.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

“The ideas of inalienable human rights, rule of law and representational democracy possess an almost subversive power.” - Heinrich August Winkler

Part of the West? 'German Leftists Have Still Not Understood Putin'
By Christiane Hoffmann and Rene Pfister
"Many Germans still have sympathy for the idea that Germany can exist as something like a large Switzerland in the middle of Europe.”

Many in Germany would like to see their country strive for equidistance between the West and Russia. In an interview, German historian Heinrich August Winkler harshly criticizes that stance and explains how some Germans have romanticized Putin.
SPIEGEL: Professor Winkler, Germany's tight link to the West has been a solid pillar of the country's foreign policy for decades. Is that still the case?
Winkler: There is at least cause for doubt. A strong minority is questioning vital elements of our Western orientation, namely our memberships in NATO and the European Union. I find that unsettling.
SPIEGEL: In your books, you have written that, following several detours and mistakes, Germany is finally firmly embedded in the West. Are you going to have to revise your theory?
Winkler: I wouldn't go that far. Among Germany's democratic parties, there is an overwhelming consensus when it comes to the Western bond. It is a historic achievement. Konrad Adenauer (the country's first post-war chancellor) initiated Germany's bond with the West, but it was bitterly contested at the beginning, particularly by the Social Democrats. It was only with the famous 1960 speech by SPD lawmaker Herbert Wehner in German parliament that the Social Democrats threw their support behind West Germany's treaties with the West. In 1986, Jürgen Habermas argued that Germany's unconditional opening to the political culture of the West was the greatest intellectual achievement of our postwar history. It signaled the birth, posthumously, of a pro-Adenauer left. Today, that consensus is being attacked by the fringes on both the left and right of our political spectrum. When it comes to Germany's orientation to the West, the maxim "Les extremes se touchent" applies -- the extremes touch.
SPIEGEL: How do you mean?
Winkler: German leftists have still not understood the degree to which Russian President Vladimir Putting has drifted to the right domestically. Now, insightful observers are saying that Putin is trying to create something like a reactionary Internationale. The turn toward homophobia and to clerics is completely ignored by leftists in Germany. Their sympathy for Putin comes largely from their antipathy for America. And this anti-Americanism is what binds them with the far-right. When, for example, Alexander Gauland of the Alternative for Germany says essentially that Russia's grab for Russian land is a completely understandable policy, then I can only say: That is racial nationalism in its purist form.
SPIEGEL: But we aren't just talking about the political fringes here. A recent survey found that 45 percent of Germans wanted to see their country firmly anchored in the West. But 49 percent would prefer to see the country take up an intermediary position.
Winkler: Indeed, a large share of the population has this irritating desire for equidistance. Such survey results, I believe, can partially be explained by political failures. In recent years, the largest parties have shied away from making clear statements about where they stand. That was a huge mistake. I very much welcomed the fact that German President Joachim Gauck spoke clearly at the Munich Security Conference and demanded that Germany become more engaged internationally.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps Germans have simply lost the belief in recent years that we are dependent on NATO. The Warsaw Pact, after all, dissolved on its own.
Winkler: That would be a very limited view of the situation. Imagine if Eastern and Southeastern European countries had not been accepted into the trans-Atlantic alliance. It is likely that a zone of instability and anti-democratic resentments would have resulted, just like in the interwar period.
SPIEGEL: By that logic, Ukraine should have been offered NATO membership as well.
Winkler: No. In Ukraine, there has never been a consensus behind NATO membership. Even Yulia Tymoshenko was noncommittal when she was still prime minister. Georgia under President Mikhail Saakashvili pursued a rather aggressive stance, which stood in the way of its NATO membership. Given both states' unique relationships with Russia, concerns were justified that NATO membership would trigger Russia's reasonable fears of encirclement.
SPIEGEL: Essentially, you are saying that countries like Ukraine belong to the Russian sphere of influence and are thus less sovereign than others.
Winkler: In many regards, the West is dependent on Russia as a partner. Showing consideration for Russian sensitivities when it comes to old, historical bonds is a reasonable, well-founded approach.
SPIEGEL: Do you think that Germany would be prepared to go to war for the Baltics?
Winkler: That is the crucial question when it comes to Germany's conception of itself. In Article 5 of the NATO treaty, it says that an attack on one NATO member-state is the same as an attack on the entire alliance. That is the essence of collective defense. Should Article 5 lose validity, then NATO is dead. But that would pose an existential risk to our own security.
SPIEGEL: Is it not one of the ironies of history that Germany's arrival in the West came concurrently with the country's rejection of military means? How can you get a highly individualized society to accept armed conflict?
Winkler: Germany is not the only country that one could call post-heroic. But there is an additional aspect for Germany when it comes to this generally Western stance -- one which Putin would call decadent. For almost four-and-a-half decades after World War II, we didn't have full sovereignty. During this period, we existed in a niche of global politics. This experience of limited sovereignty continues to have an effect. Many Germans still have sympathy for the idea that Germany can exist as something like a large Switzerland in the middle of Europe.
SPIEGEL: Do you seriously believe that the chancellor could say in a speech: Dear citizens, you have to be prepared to die for Riga?
Winkler: Germany cannot allow any doubt that it would treat an attack on a member state as a case for collective defense. And that also applies to Riga and Warsaw.
SPIEGEL: Many Germans are also opposed to taking tough measures against Russia because of the vast suffering Germany visited on the Soviet Union during World War II. Do you have understanding for that viewpoint?
Winkler: No. I wouldn't hesitate to say that such a position is the result of a pathological learning process. The Nazi crimes cannot lead us to react less sensitively to human rights violations than others do. If we were to insist, because of the Holocaust, on a kind of German exceptionalism in this regard, that would in fact represent a German detour.
SPIEGEL: Do you think NATO should increase its military presence on the alliance's eastern border to deter Putin?
Winkler: Currently, a credible military presence is needed to make it clear that Article 5 of the trans-Atlantic alliance also applies to its newer members. I don't see Putin as one who takes unnecessary risks. Certainly he is a politician who takes chances, but thus far he has realistically appraised the risks associated with his actions. Putin knew that annexing the Crimea posed little danger. Now, it is important to make clear to him that expansionist policies, particularly coupled with an attack on a NATO member state, would have very serious consequences. But he knows that by now.
SPIEGEL: Is there not a danger that Putin will try to wear down the West with myriad pinpricks?
Winkler: Putin is doubtlessly trying to drive a wedge into the Western alliance. When it comes to the Russian minorities in the Baltics, Putin will surely know that his chances there are slim to none. They are quite comfortable in those countries. But at the moment, there are at least three EU member-states where it is questionable whether they still belong among Western democracies: Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
SPIEGEL: Did NATO and the EU expand too far?
Winkler: When it comes to the EU, you have to treat the expansion rounds of 2004 and 2007 separately. The 2004 expansion round, which saw eight Central and Eastern European countries join -- from the Czech Republic to Poland and Latvia -- it represented the reunification of the Occident, which had been split by the Yalta agreement. They were all countries that belonged to the old, historic West. But with the 2007 expansion round, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, the Copenhagen accession criteria were interpreted incredibly generously. As such, their memberships came too early.
SPIEGEL: Does the rejection of Western values in Germany also come as a result of America having lost its role model status?
Winkler: I don't see a broad rejection of Western values. We have a conflict with the Americans when it comes to the NSA, there is no question. When George W. Bush released the so-called Bush Doctrine in 2002, which later provided the justification for the invasion of Iraq, there was significant and well-founded criticism in Germany. We argue with the Americans about many things, from the death penalty to the relationship between security and freedom. We have to be honest about these differences. And yet, whenever we quarrel with the Americans, it amounts to controversies over different interpretations of values we share. You can't say that about Russia. Putin fundamentally questions Western values.
SPIEGEL: Has the West made mistakes in its treatment of Russia?
Winkler: In a broad sense, no. In the 1990s, the West actively approached Russia and took Mikhail Gorbachev's avowal seriously when he said that Western values apply universally, meaning to Russia as well. Had Russia followed this course, even its membership in the trans-Atlantic alliance would be imaginable. But the backlash began already under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s and has dramatically accelerated under Putin.
SPIEGEL: At the moment, there is a global struggle between authoritarian states and democratic states. How do you think it will end?
Winkler: I think that the ideas of inalienable human rights, rule of law and representational democracy possess an almost subversive power. Take a look at Charta 08 in China. That is a document which, for me, is on a par with the Virginia Declaration of Rights from 1776 or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen by the French National Assembly in 1789. I am convinced more than ever that the West, despite all of its weaknesses and contradictions, has a bright future.
SPIEGEL: Yet Charta 08 is a document of the intellectual elite. And of the upheavals in the Arab world, only the changes in Tunisia remain. Where does your optimism come from?
Winkler: When the newly formed middle class in China begins to perceive its interests and discovers the value of the rule of law, the existing power structure will lose its foundation. It is a process that no government can put a stop to in the long term. That also applies to some Arab countries, with some limitations. But we have to be patient. In the 1980s, nobody expected that the freedom movement in Poland would lead to the collapse of entire Eastern Bloc. That's why it would be a huge mistake were we to believe that authoritarian systems were indestructible.
SPIEGEL: Poland is, as you yourself said, historically a part of the West. But could it not be that there are places in the world that value stability and social security above human rights? Putin's rise can easily be explained when one looks at the chaos that reigned in Russia under Yeltsin in the 1990s.
Winkler: The latter point is true. But there is no contradiction between the Western project and the value of social justice. During the Cold War, the West was extremely careful not to allow the gap between the rich and poor to widen too far, first and foremost to counter communist depictions of the squalid masses in the West. But the same remains true today: If the West does nothing about the growing social inequities, it endangers its internal legitimacy.

SPIEGEL: Does the West need an adversary for its own survival? Otherwise, the market economy transforms into predatory capitalism and individualism become naked egoism.
Winkler: No. But you can certainly ask the question as to whether Putin has in fact done a great service in clearly showing the EU and NATO their raison d'être. It is reminiscent of sardonic demands decades ago that Stalin be given the peace prize of Aachen.
SPIEGEL: Professor Winkler, we thank you for this interview.

About Heinrich August Winkler

Heinrich August Winkler, 75, is professor emeritus at Berlin's Humbolt University with a focus on modern German history. His two-volume work "Germany: The Long Road West" documents the country's bumpy path toward democracy and the rule of law.

"We waited for 10 years for Baghdad to solve Article 140," he said, referring to the constitutional item which was meant to address the Kurds' decades-old ambition to incorporate the territory in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of successive governments in Baghdad. "Now its accomplished because the Iraqi army pulled out and our Peshmerga forces had to step in. So now the problem is solved. There will be more no more conversation about it.

Iraq's Kurds rule out retreating from Kirkuk

Massoud Barzani says ambition of incorporating city "achieved", amid growing calls for inclusive government in Baghdad.

Last updated: 28 Jun 2014 00:02

The president of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has issued a defiant statement to the Iraqi government that there was no going back on autonomous Kurdish rule in the oil city Kirkuk.
Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, made the comments at a joint news conference in Erbil with visiting William Hague, British foreign secretary, on Friday.
"We waited for 10 years for Baghdad to solve Article 140," he said, referring to the constitutional item which was meant to address the Kurds' decades-old ambition to incorporate the territory in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of successive governments in Baghdad.
"Now its accomplished because the Iraqi army pulled out and our Peshmerga forces had to step in. So now the problem is solved. There will be more no more conversation about it."

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Erbil, said Barzani's statement was expected to put more strain on the Baghdad government.
"The Kurds see themselves in a position of strength, and say the Iraqi government's pullout forced Peshmerga forces to fill the security vacuum," she said.
Kurdish forces stepped in when federal government forces withdrew in the face of a Sunni rebel offensive led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) earlier this month.

The Sunni rebels made the gains as Iraq's flagging security forces were swept aside by the initial insurgent push, pulling out of a swathe of ethnically divided areas.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Aaron Swartz - Why you should care -philosophical questions about information, who controls it and the freedom of the web.

BY VICTORIA FLEISCHER  June 27, 2014 at 1:12 PM EDT
Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger recently spoke to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about his new film, “The Internet’s Own Boy.”
For Aaron Swartz, the teen tech prodigy who became a leader in the fight against regulation and privatization of information on the internet, social activism wasn’t a choice, but a calling.
Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger characterizes Swartz’s mission this way: “If you can do something good in the world, what’s your argument for not doing that? … That’s something that seems clear through most of his life and its something he asked himself a lot.”
Knappenberger’s latest documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy,” tells the story of Swartz, his contributions to web technology, his activism and his eventual suicide in January 2013.
Swartz was a leading figure in the creation of technologies, including the RSS system, a web feed that aggregates content, and in building companies, including Reddit.
According to Knappenberger, Swartz was a major contributing to early RSS working groups online. These groups were largely compromised of tech people in their thirties, forties, and fifties, but that didn’t prevent the teenage Swartz from participating.
“They listen to him and they treat him like a serious colleague because he holds his own. At one point, they say, ‘we’d really like you to come out to one of this face-to-face meetings’ and he says ‘I’d love to. I’m not sure my mom would let me though, I’m only 13.’”
Swartz’s story represents many of the questions raised by our modern age — philosophical questions about information, who controls it and the freedom of the web.
Swartz was being targeted by the federal government for downloaded massive amounts of documents, without paying for them, from online digital storehouses, including J-Stor, a digital library of academic journals. The charges against him carried a potential sentence of 35 years.
In 2013, Swartz was found dead by suicide at the age of 26.
“His story, I found, was this incredibly moving, compelling, inspiring, infuriating,” said Knappenberger. “But also the sheer volume of things that he was involved in was so relevant.”
“The Internet’s Own Boy” opens today in theaters and is available for download.

President Obama is now asking Congress to approve $500 million to fund and equip “moderate” Syrian rebels, Say what? More analysis:

26 June 2014 Last updated at 15:36 ET

Iraq crisis forces old battle lines to be redrawn
By Jim Muir

The spectacular eruption of Isis in Iraq has turned the country upside down with unimaginable speed, posing not only Iraqis but regional and international powers a challenge that has already upset parts of the regional order.
With Sunni militants and rebels gradually moving in around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, there is a dramatic race going on between slow-moving efforts to defuse the crisis politically and rapid developments on the ground.
The latter could lead to a sectarian bloodbath in the capital and elsewhere, leaving Iraq in tatters.
The tough position taken by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki - stressing military options and insisting on standing for a third term of office - is likely to slow down the political rescue effort, and risks aggravating the conflict.
Confirmation that Syrian air force jets have been bombing Isis targets on Iraq's western border shows how the upheavals have merged the conflicts in the two countries, forcing everybody to rethink old assumptions.
Although premature, the strikes could equally well have been carried out by American drones or jets - as the Iraqi government itself at first reported.
As the battle lines are redrawn, the White House suddenly finds itself on the same side as the Syrian government it has been trying half-heartedly to help topple for the past three years.
And while the US is rushing military experts to Baghdad to assess the situation - and potentially identify targets for drone strikes or air attacks - so too is its old adversary Iran, intimately involved in efforts to stem a tide which it rightly sees as a potent threat to itself.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Maliki says Russia is selling his government some second-hand Sukhoi jet fighters to hit the militants with.
'Lethal threat'
Isis seems to have succeeded where others have failed, in galvanising the international community into action against a threat which all feel is already being, or will be, directed at them.
"Before September 11 people thought of al-Qaeda as confined to the caves of Afghanistan, and now look what happened," said Barham Salih, a leading Kurdish politician.
Barham Salih: "We need to empower the moderate Sunnis to take on Isis"
"Today, al-Qaeda is pervasive through the main street throughout the Arab world. This lethal threat is something no-one can ignore."
If Isis consolidates its grip on large interlinked tracts of territory in both Iraq and Syria including major towns and cities, the world could face an extremist entity that would make Tora Bora look like a small scout camp.
Its capabilities have been boosted to phenomenal level by what it won from its stunning capture of Mosul on 10 June in an assault spearheaded by perhaps as few as 500 fighters.
The list of military hardware captured after Iraq's troops fled Mosul and Kirkuk includes, sources say, some 4,000 medium machine-guns, 1,500 Humvees and other military vehicles, 50 state-of-the-art 155mm GPS-guided artillery pieces which can "aim like a sniper rifle" over a 40km range, 50 T-55 tanks and two helicopters.
They are also reported to have seized an eyewatering $427m (£251m; 314m euros) from Mosul's branch of Iraq's central bank, boosting their coffers to independence levels.
Bitter grievances
It's clear that the subsequent headlong rampage southwards along the Tigris, and gains made in the western Anbar province, would not have been possible had the Sunni ground they were treading not been fertile.
Disgruntled Iraqi Sunni factions - former Iraqi army officers and men, dissident tribal groups and highly-organised Baathist activists - joined in the cavalcade, giving Isis a local depth without which they would have been rapidly overstretched, isolated, and easier to deal with.
Whether or not there was any complicity by his many political adversaries in the collapse of the $40bn Iraqi army, as Prime Minister Maliki maintains, the fact is that the Isis issue is now inextricably interwoven with bitter Sunni grievances against his Shia-dominated rule, which has made many Sunnis feel both marginalised and victimised.
The upheavals have seen virtually all the main Sunni-populated parts of the country fall out of government control.
So far, the Iraqi army has been unable to launch a strategic counter-offensive to drive the rebels back.
The addition of three Iranian-backed Shia militias to its forces in the field has added to the perception that this is a Shia army fighting to impose Shia rule on Sunni areas.
Its chances of reconquering the lost ground appear very slight. And if it did, it would be crushing and further displacing Sunni populations in order to plant the state flag on the smoking ruins.
It's now taken for granted by most Iraqi politicians that the Sunnis have carved out their own area, and that things will never be the same.
"1991 saw the genesis of the Kurdish entity, 2003 the establishment of Shia authority, and 2014 is the violent birth of the Sunni region," said Barham Salih.
'The oppressor'
Behind the intense political activity going on in Baghdad and elsewhere, involving the Americans and many others, there are several basic assumptions:
There can be no purely military solution to the crisis.
*Isis has to be made a Sunni problem, by empowering the Sunni community, giving it a real stake in the political process and its own future.
*The days of centralised power in Baghdad are gone, and a loose federal formula, perhaps seeing the emergence of a Kurdistan-style Sunni entity, has to be found
*Only then can the Sunni strands which have joined the insurgency be expected to turn on the Isis extremists, as they did in Anbar in 2006-7, and as many tribal and military rebels have said they will do again.
*If the politics in Baghdad come right, Iraqi army elements and Kurdish peshmerga soldiers - backed by US air power - would support the Sunni moderates in dealing with Isis.
*Nouri Maliki, who many blame for pursuing divisive sectarian policies that led to the crisis, cannot lead the reconciliation and profound restructuring process that is needed.
Mr Maliki himself, of course, disagrees. He has arranged a meeting of parliament for 1 July, hoping to press ahead with the post-election constitutional process which last time took more than nine months to produce a government.
But unless something changes radically, there will be no quorum.
Kurdish and Sunni deputies will not attend if Mr Maliki is the nominee for PM. Most Shia leaders also want him out, including the maverick cleric Moqtada Sadr, who in a televised speech on Wednesday referred to him as "the oppressor, who pursues personal interest over that of the sect or nation".
When it comes to such Shia matters as choosing an Iraqi prime minister, Iran has the last word.
Is it ready to drop the divisive Mr Maliki in favour of someone who all sides agree would stand a better chance of pulling the country back from the brink?
Well-placed sources believe it is. Iran needs a solution that stabilises its neighbour. Helping defend the Shia in an open-ended sectarian war while Arab states fuel the Sunni struggle is something the Iranian government cannot afford.
Its interests have already been heavily threatened: its land route to its strategic ally, Syria, and thence to Hezbollah in Lebanon is cut. Iraqi airspace is now patrolled by US F-18s, further disrupting links.
For these reasons, informed sources say, the highest Shia instance, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the ubiquitous Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, share the view that Mr Maliki has to go.
The names most cited as possible replacements are Adel Abdul Mahdi and Ahmad Chalabi, both seasoned Shia politicians with strong relations to the Kurds and Sunnis, and both acceptable to Iran and the US.

Mr Maliki seems determined to dig his heels in. But if the Iranian government has indeed decided to drop him, his chances would, as one senior politician put it, resemble those of a snowball in hell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remember when the Turks were so pleased to call in NATO to further destabalize Syria? The new Republic of Kurdistan will be the unintended consequence for the Turks

The Kurds no longer have to seek independence. They just did it.

Background on how it happened

Here is where it Gets interesting sports fans:

Iraqi Kurds strengthen their positions while Isis advances on Baghdad

As Iraq's government teeters before Isis insurgents, the Kurds now control the oil hub of Kirkuk – and have national ambitions

Martin Chulov in Baghdad, and Fazel Hawramy in Irbil 
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 June 2014

Iraqis in Baghdad and the country's south are already calling the events of the past two weeks "the catastrophe". Not so inhabitants of the would-be Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil, where joy is unrestrained and a long-held sense of destiny is ever closer to being realised.
As the central government teeters under the insurgent onslaught, the fate of Irbil appears more assured than ever. Kurdish politicians, in the past not shy to criticise Arab Iraqi leaders, but coy about their national ambitions, are now openly touting "a new reality".
To Kurdish officials and locals alike, a tectonic shift in the balance of power between Iraq's two power bases, and peoples, has taken place. And Kirkuk, the bitterly contested oil hub, is at the epicentre.
In the heady days following the fall of Mosul and Tikrit, the Kurdish Peshmurga forces crossed into Kirkuk to head off the fast advancing jihadist group Isis. The Iraqi army, meanwhile, was fast retreating south, abandoning in hours a city that had been at the heart of the dispute between the Kurds and the Arabs for more than 70 years.
For the Kurds, the army's stunning capitulation has now settled the matter for good.
"Kirkuk will finally produce oil for the Kurds," said Muhama Khalil, the Kurdish head of the economic committee in Iraq's national parliament. "For 70 years oil has been used to buy weapons to kill us. Finally we have our own oil and it will only be for the Kurds."
The significance of Kirkuk changing hands sits uncomfortably with Iraqis in Baghdad. Many express shame at the Iraqi military's collapse. Others blame the rout on a conspiracy concocted between generals and Kurdish leaders and involving vast amounts of cash. Whatever the cause, most hold little hope that the city will return to Iraqi control anytime soon.
And nor do they believe the fast crumbling state can assert its control over oilfields that the Kurds have long coveted.
The Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, helped stoke those fears this week, with his most outspoken comments yet since Isis launched its headlong offensive. "Iraq is obviously falling apart," he told CNN. "We did not cause the collapse of Iraq. It is others who did. And we cannot remain hostages for the unknown."
Pressed on whether Iraqi Kurds would seek to push for their 'holy grail' of independence, Barzani added: "The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold."
Barzani has long calculated that having a state in all but name has served both his and the Kurdish peoples' interests. His role as leader of Iraq's Kurds has also made him one of several defacto leaders of the 40 million strong Kurdish population, scattered between northern Iraq, eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, and western Iran, all of whom seem happy enough with Kurdish autonomy, but – Turkey especially – would feel gravely threatened by a proclamation of statehood.
The fate of the Kurds, who were denied a state when the Middle East was carved up almost a century ago, has greatly influenced the region ever since and their steady consolidation in northern Iraq has been watched by neighbouring states with keen interest.
The Kurds had employed a dual strategy of forging close strategic ties with Turkey, while relentlessly testing their boundaries with Baghdad, which has vehemently tried to retain control of the northern oilfields and, in return, given Irbil 17.5% of national budget revenues.
Now though, Kurdish officials and locals alike appear more tempted than ever before to make a direct play for Kirkuk's oilfields and to consolidate their grip on the disputed territories to the south of the city, which were also abandoned by the Iraqi army. Baghdad had twice pledged it would hold a referendum on the territories, which would enable residents of the area to vote on their allegiance.
Saddam Hussein had enticed Arabs to the area from the early 1970s in a bid to shift the fragile demographics. Since Baghdad fell 11 years ago, Kurds have returned to the area and Kurdish officials believe the territories would return to them if a referendum was held now.
Such is the new power base, however, that holding a plebicite now seems redundant.
"People in Kirkuk and Singar should be the decision makers about their destiny," said Khalil. "Now we are applying this right. The people in Kirkuk called for our help after the Iraqi Army fled. Now we are not leaving until they hold a referendum."
Safeen Dizayee, Kurdish regional government (KRG) spokesman, was at pains on Wednesday to highlight the region's resources. "In the governorates under KRG administration, vast quantities of natural resources have been discovered over the last few years – estimates point to more than 45bn barrels of oil and significant quantities of natural gas.
The Kurdistan region has already landed on the global energy map. Regarding the so-called disputed territories, Peshmerga forces have entered these areas after the Iraqi army abandoned their positions. The KRG had and still has an obligation to protect civilians in these areas and to ensure that army bases, cities, and land areas do not fall into the hands of terrorists.
Aref Maroof, 52, a Kirkuk school inspector, said: "I think 85-90% of Kurds want independence. Kurdistan has two options; one is to declare independence without 'separated territories' [disputed territories] in which case it will fail, or to declare independence by including the 'separated territories' in which case the Kurds will face a war with [Nouri al-]Maliki.
"It is in the interest of Kurds (to do so) if the central government and its army is weak. (But) If the KRG assists Iraq ... to rebuild their army, it is like committing suicide."
In Baghdad, a sense of gloom pervades many in government who see little chance of shifting the Kurds from Kirkuk, or even defending their interests while an insurgency and political crisis rages.

"They are getting what they want," said one minister. "While Baghdad burns, and while we all sit back and watch the fire."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The first US troops deployed to assist the Iraqi army in combating a growing Sunni militant insurgency have arrived and begun work, the Pentagon has said.



Obama could “Open” Iran over Iraq: Don’t Let the Hawks Ruin It

By Neil Thompson (Special to Informed Comment)

As news arrives that the last of Syria’s of chemical weapons stocks have been removed from the country and talks between the West and Iran over that country’s long running nuclear program miraculously continue to progress, patient diplomacy seems to be getting more results than military action lately. That lesson should not be lost on pundits now fuming about the march of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) to the gates Baghdad. Interest in Iraq’s ongoing civil war had died down somewhat since the Obama administration withdrew American troops in 2011, yet the fighting dragged on and has now merged with the civil war in neighboring Syria. Western governments now find themselves in the paradoxical position of being hated by both sides of the present regional conflict in the Middle East. This is the final grand achievement of the armed democracy promotion that originally destabilized the region.

Instead of pointing fingers about who “lost Iraq” I think the great unraveling of the post-2003 Iraqi state will one day be seen as a real turning point. It has already forced Washington to think hard about where its militarized strategy in the Middle East since 9/11 has left its interests. The general perception is that they have taken a walloping, at great cost in prestige, blood and treasure. Nor is the US now the only state to have imperiled its regional standing with a reckless foreign policy. Stubborn Iranian backing for Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’a supremacist regime as it excluded Iraqi (Arab) Sunnis from jobs and political power has come back to haunt Tehran; the virulently sectarian ISIL has since cut off the vital Iraqi land bridge that Iran uses to supply its Lebanese and Syrian allies/clients. Furthermore the only part of Iraq which is doing well is its semi-independent Kurdish region, which may now well leave the disintegrating Iraqi state. It sits alluringly just across the border from Iran’s own downtrodden Kurdish minority. With the US reluctance to jump back into the snake-pit of modern Iraq, the chance now lies open to use this temporary convergence of regional interests to build on the earlier start made with Tehran on the nuclear talks and actually end the tug-of-war that has enabled the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

A “Nixon-goes-to-China” reset with Tehran may sound unlikely in this loaded moment of crisis. But the vituperative rhetoric between “Red” China and America was every bit as bitter in the 1950s and 60s as the war of words is between Iran and the US today; Beijing was still backing insurgents against the US supported-regime in South Vietnam when Nixon visited in 1972. No one is suggesting that Washington and Tehran will ever become ‘best buddies’. China and America are not that today. But their prickly cooperation since Nixon sets a nice precedent for how Iran and the US could get over their relationship issues. In 2013, after the terrible Ghouta chemical attack in Syria, events could easily have led to a disastrous Western strike against the Syrian government. Sensibly, President Obama cut a deal with Syria’s international patron Russia instead; like Nixon, he understands that sometimes it’s better to talk to your enemies. The Ghouta attack actually created the diplomatic willpower by both sides to deal with Syria’s insecure chemical weapons stockpiles. The present Iraq disaster offers another such rare opportunity, this time for a temporary reset between Iran and America.

Any solution to the Iraq-Syria crisis needs to be comprehensive. That cannot occur with a still-bickering international community. Indeed part of the intractability of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict is that the collapse of central authority in Syria and Iraq has sucked in all their neighbors and patrons; the West, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, Lebanese groups, Iran, various Syrian factions and so on. Violent anarchy knows no formal boundaries. Since 2011, when the US left Iraq and the Syrian uprising began, ripples of conflict have spread to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. After so much bloodshed the transitions out of these civil wars will not be easy. But the internal strains can be considerably reduced if the international environment is right and the outside states push together for a peace settlement. Sunni states should remember it was in Syria that ISIL found the territory and resources to regroup after its first near-defeat in Iraq. Drawing the venom from the Syrian side of the struggle first will be a necessary step towards ending it in Iraq as well. In any case, Iraqis and Syrians have been fighting in each others’ countries for too long to separate the wars at this point. Focusing on reforming the Baghdad regime to include Sunnis, as pundits are arguing now, will help, but only addresses half of the problem.

The US and Iran should set aside their differences to work out a general agreement among the patrons of both sides of the Syrian part of the war. By backing a Syrian version of the Taif agreement, Obama would begin America’s ascent out of its Middle Eastern morass that his predecessor tipped it into. By working with Tehran and not Damascus, Washington would also avoid having to openly associate with the odious government of Bashar al-Assad. Properly enforced by neighboring states, a general agreement for a cessation of war-making material to both sides in Syria by their foreign backers, combined with an economic embargo to stop funds for military purposes getting out and smuggled arms getting in, would starve groups like ISIL that profit from Syria’s war economy. It would also end America’s bizarre policy of confronting ISIL in Iraq and de facto allying with it in Syria. Hurting the ability of both the rebels and the Syrian regime to continue the struggle would help push them towards serious peace negotiations which have so far stalled. Only then will efforts to help Iraq have their full effect.

Many commentators are too black-and-white in their thinking on the Middle East. As the recent interim breakthroughs over Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical weapons have shown, by focusing on single issues international agreement towards diplomatic progress in the region can be made. Similarly deals can be made with your political rivals; in the Syrian conflict Russia’s credibility has been raised by the successful dismantling of government chemical weapons under international supervision, although the West and Putin remain at loggerheads over Ukraine’s future. Only together can America and Iran reduce the instability and misery sweeping Syria-Iraq. Although they remain strategic competitors, that doesn’t mean that controlling the explosive situation unleashed by their joint meddling in Syria-Iraq isn’t in both governments’ ultimate self-interest.

Neil Thompson is a freelance writer and editor for Atlantic Community. He has lived and travelled extensively through East Asia and the Middle East but is now based in London. He holds an MA in the International Relations of East Asia from Durham University and sometimes blogs about current events here.



Not Worth It: Huge Majority Regret Iraq War, Exclusive Poll Shows

A divided nation finally agrees on something overwhelmingly: the war in Iraq was simply not worth fighting.
Seventy-one percent of Americans now say that the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it,” a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows, with skepticism about the lengthy war effort up substantially even in the last 18 months.
Just 22 percent now believe the 2003 war effort was worthwhile.
In a January 2013 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asking the same question, 59 percent of Americans said the war wasn’t worth it, versus 35 percent who said the opposite.
Half of respondents also said that the United States does not have a responsibility to help the Iraqi government as the country descends into sectarian violence, while 43 percent said that America should intervene.
Americans are even more pessimistic about Iraq – where insurgent groups now threaten to overpower the government – than about the war in Afghanistan. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this month showed that 27 percent of respondents said the Afghan conflict was worth it, versus 65 percent who disagreed. Negativity about Iraq appears to rival that of the Vietnam War; three Gallup polls conducted from 1999-2000 found that about 7 in 10 Americans believe that 1970s war was a “mistake.”

Among diverse groups rarely in agreement on other big ticket items, skepticism about Iraq runs deep. Just 22 percent of men, 23 percent of young adults, and 21 percent of seniors say the war in Iraq was worth it.
Support for the war has dropped in almost all categories, but particularly among Republicans and conservatives. Now, Republicans are split about equally (46 percent worth it / 44 percent not worth it) on the issue.
When it comes to intervention in Iraq, “elite” groups - whites and those with higher incomes or an advanced education - were more likely to say that the U.S. has a responsibility to help stop the violence in Iraq.

The poll of 1,383 voters, conducted June 16 to June 22, has a margin of error of +/- 3.27.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

USS Liberty Survivor Ernest Gallo on the perfidious State of Israel



Leaving the USS Liberty Crew Behind
by Ray McGovern, June 09, 2014

On June 8, 1967, Israeli leaders learned they could deliberately attack a U.S. Navy ship and try to send it, together with its entire crew, to the bottom of the Mediterranean – with impunity. Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, a state-of-the-art intelligence collection platform sailing in international waters off the Sinai, killing 34 of the 294 crew members and wounding more than 170.
On the 47th anniversary of that unprovoked attack let’s be clear about what happened: Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.
Referring last week to the controversy of the swap of five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bode Bergdahl, President Barack Obama claimed, “The U.S. has always had a pretty sacred rule: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.” The only exception, he might have added, is when Israeli forces shoot them up; then mum’s the word.
Mr. President, try explaining that “pretty sacred rule” to the USS Liberty survivors. I know them well enough to sense the hollow echo that Obama’s claim will leave in their ears – and in the ears of the families of those who did not survive.
The crew of the USS Liberty has been “left behind,” in a figurative as well as a physical sense. There is no way to retrieve the bodies of those washed out to sea through the large hole made by the Israeli torpedo that hit the Liberty amidships, killing 26 of the crew.
There is a way, however, to stop throwing salt in the survivors’ wounds, as every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has done in acquiescing to the false narrative that it was all a terrible case of mistaken identity and confusion by Israeli command and control. That salt burns – especially on anniversaries of the tragedy, raising troubling questions about the power of the Israel Lobby and the Israeli government over U.S. politicians.
In apparent fear of the Israel Lobby and not wanting to offend the Israeli government, U.S. officials including the Navy have refused to come clean on what happened 47 years ago. The mainstream U.S. media has been a willing partner in this failure to face the facts and demand accountability.
No Accident
Here, for example, is the text of an intercepted Israeli conversation, just one of many pieces of hard, unambiguous evidence that the Israeli attack was not a mistake:
Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”
Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.” …
Israeli pilot: “But, sir, it’s an American ship – I can see the flag!”
Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”
The Israelis would have been able to glory in reporting “mission accomplished, ship sunk, all crew killed” save for the bravery and surefootedness of then-23-year-old Navy seaman Terry Halbardier, whose actions spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the crew and the intended massacre of all 294.
Halbardier skated across the Liberty’s slippery deck while it was being strafed in order to connect a communications cable and enable the Liberty to send out an SOS. The Israelis intercepted that message and, out of fear of how the U.S. Sixth Fleet would respond, immediately broke off the attack, returned to their bases, and sent an “oops” message to Washington confessing to their unfortunate “mistake.”
As things turned out, the Israelis didn’t need to be so concerned. When President Johnson learned that the USS America and USS Saratoga had launched warplanes to do battle with the forces attacking the Liberty, he told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to call Sixth Fleet commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss and tell him to order the warplanes to return immediately to their carriers.
According to J.Q. “Tony” Hart, a chief petty officer who monitored these conversations from a U.S. Navy communications relay station in Morocco, Geiss shot back that one of his ships was under attack. Tellingly, McNamara responded: “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.”
Getting Away With Murder
For the Israelis, the tight U-turn by the U.S. warplanes over the Mediterranean was proof positive that the Israeli government can literally get away with murder, including killing U.S. servicemen, and that Official Washington and its servile media could be counted upon to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack.
John Crewdson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune, asked McNamara about this many years later. McNamara’s answer is worth reading carefully; he said he had “absolutely no recollection of what I did that day,” except that “I have a memory that I didn’t know at the time what was going on.”
Crewsdon has written the most detailed and accurate account of the Israeli attack on the Liberty; it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and also in the Baltimore Sun, on Oct. 2, 2007. Read it and you’ll understand why Crewdson got no Pulitzer for his investigative reporting on the Liberty. Instead, the Tribune laid him off in November 2008 after 24 years.
Several of the Liberty survivors have become friends of mine. I have listened to their stories, as Crewdson did. When June 8 comes around each year I remember them. And on special occasions, as when Terry Halbardier was finally awarded the Silver Star for his bravery, I write about them.
The mainstream U.S. media has avoided the USS Liberty case like the plague. I just checked the Washington Post and – surprise, surprise – it has missed the opportunity for the 46th consecutive year, to mention the Liberty anniversary.
On the few occasions when the mainstream U.S. media outlets are forced to address what happened, they blithely ignore the incredibly rich array of hard evidence and still put out the false narrative of the “mistaken” Israeli attack on the Liberty.
And they attempt to conflate fact with speculation, asking why Israel would deliberately attack a ship of the U.S. Navy. Why Tel Aviv wanted the Liberty and its entire crew on the bottom of the Mediterranean remains a matter of speculation, but there are plausible theories including Israel’s determination to keep the details of its war plans secret from everyone, including the U.S. government.
But there is no doubt that destroying the Liberty and its crew was the mission assigned to Israel’s warplanes and torpedo boats. One Navy Admiral with a conscience, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and before that Chief of Naval Operations) Thomas Moorer, has “broken ranks,” so to speak. Moorer helped lead an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened to the Liberty.
The following are among the commission’s findings made public in October 2003:
-That the attack, by a U.S. ally, was a “deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill its entire crew”
-That the attack included the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts
-That “the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship] … never before in naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack”
-That surviving crew members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment, or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government.”
Doing Justice
Will the USS Liberty survivors ever enjoy the opportunity to know and to tell the real story with all its evil cruelties? Or will silence continue to reign? In a different context, Russian dissident author Alexandr Solzhenitzyn wrote this warning about what silence about evil does to the foundations of justice:
“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
President Obama, the crew of the USS Liberty has been “left behind” for way too many years. Do the right thing by them. Face down those who warn that you cannot risk Israel’s displeasure. And add more substance to your rhetoric about our “pretty sacred rule” that we do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He came to Washington over 50 years ago and worked as a CIA analyst under seven Presidents, one less than Gates. Ray now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Reprinted with permission from Consortium News.