Posts tagged Iraq
Posts tagged Iraq
“More than 3,000 U.S. military personnel have secretly returned to Iraq via Kuwait and 17,000 more are on their way in response to the civil war in Syria that has spilled over into northern Iraq, according to a report published Monday by Iran’s Press TV. [Update: On December 14, U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. T.G. Taylor said in an email to The New American, “All reports of 3,000 troops returning to Iraq are completely false.”]
“Look at what happened to the Americans in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I told Obama the same thing,” the visiting president said in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, cautioning against hasty military action. “There is no need to do things too quickly; one should not act without thinking first.”
I will never understand what gives the United States government the moral or political right to arbitrarily murder people in foreign countries, women, children and old people. We are told by the bought and paid for media it’s for national security? What other country in the world has an ‘Assassination Czar’ none! We are told al qaeda is no longer a threat, then we are told just the opposite. By the way, I was a young boy during the red scare boogie man era, the red scare pails in the shadow of al qaeda, the mother of all boogie men tactics.
We have seen 10, 10 years of constant war, murdered thousands of women and children, lost thousands of young American lives and for what…?
The only, only reason I can fathom for this draconian mentality is GREED…! Greed is the template by which laws are passed and decisions are made in our government. The government can no longer provide the solutions because GOVERNMENT is the problem!.
President Dwight David Eisenhower in one of his last speeches warned of the ‘military complex’ and the threat it posed, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was quite aware of the ‘military complex’ threat. A point that should be brought out, both presidents knew war first hand and served with honor and distinction.
Mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends you have seen your loved ones killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan, prepare yourselves for the dead of Syria, Iran, Yemen and …?
our founding fathers had a dream that was America
…this is not it!
This had been public knowledge, at least in the Arab world
New disturbing charges have emerged against XE, the infamous private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, whose operations came under spotlight after its 2007 carnage in Baghdad.
According to a report by MSNBC and based on alleged sworn declarations by two Blackwater employees in federal court, the firm used child prostitutes at its compound in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
The declarations added Iraqi minors got involve in sexual acts with Blackwater members in exchange for one dollar and Erik Prince, the firm’s owner, “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”
Based on other statements, the firm was involved in another sex scandal; “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”
The two employees also alleged that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” The Nation reported.
Prince also allegedly forced health professional to endorse the redeployment of those Blackwater members who had been mental problems, such as excessive drinking and drug abuse.
Other charges against the firm include arms smuggling, money laundering and tax evasion.
The criminal activities of the firm first came under scrutiny after a group of the firm’s members who were tasked to guard US diplomats in Iraq opened fire on civilians in Baghdad on September 2007, killing 17 people.
According to federal contract data obtained by The Nation, the Obama administration has recently extended a contract with Blackwater for more than $20 million for “security services” in Iraq.
Are you anti-war? Look around you. This is all being done in our name. Withdraw your support, bring the war home.
We choose to wage it nonviolently, yet thousands are arrested and brutalized by chemical weapons that violate the Geneva Convention. By a militarized police force causing PTSD in hundreds of political dissidents who have decided to NOT BE MOVED by the intimidation tactics of this authoritarian imperialist regime.
We have power in numbers.
NDAA. Expatriation Act. Assassination of US Citizens.
This is not a reason to be afraid, this is more of a reason to fight back.
We are fucking legion.
Bring the war home like it is 1968!!!
Just like Iraq, it begins with diplomatic and economic sanctions and open threats which eventually snowball into military action. One can only hope that all of this saber rattling coming from Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom will not evolve into real military strikes. However, the sweeping sanctions approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday in the United States will still significantly damage Iran and its people if they are enacted. While the sanctions that targeted the Iranian central bank and those who trade with Iran are now being reconsidered according to U.S. officials, the push from Israel might be able to force the hand of America even though it would harm our national interests. Yet despite all of the posturing, there truly is no evidence that Iran is a threat to the West. Even the Israeli news agency Haaretz has to point out this fact in writing, “Intelligence services now say it will take Iran two or three years to get the bomb once it decides to (it hasn’t made the decision yet).” The most dangerous aspect of these types of sweeping sanctions is that the damage is not immediately apparent to the outside world and especially the West which has its information spoon-fed to it by highly biased corporate news sources. For instance, the sanctions against Iraq which began in August of 1990, just four days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 dead Iraqis, most of them childrenaccording to British MP George Galloway. However, the Iraqi Baathist government estimated that 1.5 million died as a result of the sanctions andformer U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark estimated a total of 1.5 million died from sanctions, bombs and other weapons and depleted uranium (DU) poisoning. It is clear that the damage from sanctions are not readily apparent and they usually do not end up harming those who they are intended to target in the government but instead end up harming regular people who have no impact on governmental operations or policies.
Just like Iraq, it begins with diplomatic and economic sanctions and open threats which eventually snowball into military action.
One can only hope that all of this saber rattling coming from Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom will not evolve into real military strikes.
However, the sweeping sanctions approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday in the United States will still significantly damage Iran and its people if they are enacted.
While the sanctions that targeted the Iranian central bank and those who trade with Iran are now being reconsidered according to U.S. officials, the push from Israel might be able to force the hand of America even though it would harm our national interests.
Yet despite all of the posturing, there truly is no evidence that Iran is a threat to the West.
Even the Israeli news agency Haaretz has to point out this fact in writing, “Intelligence services now say it will take Iran two or three years to get the bomb once it decides to (it hasn’t made the decision yet).”
The most dangerous aspect of these types of sweeping sanctions is that the damage is not immediately apparent to the outside world and especially the West which has its information spoon-fed to it by highly biased corporate news sources.
For instance, the sanctions against Iraq which began in August of 1990, just four days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 500,000 dead Iraqis, most of them childrenaccording to British MP George Galloway.
However, the Iraqi Baathist government estimated that 1.5 million died as a result of the sanctions andformer U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark estimated a total of 1.5 million died from sanctions, bombs and other weapons and depleted uranium (DU) poisoning.
It is clear that the damage from sanctions are not readily apparent and they usually do not end up harming those who they are intended to target in the government but instead end up harming regular people who have no impact on governmental operations or policies.
As the U.S. military departs Iraq, the CIA is looking at how it can absorb and continue secret counterterrorism and intelligence programs run inside that country for years by the Joint Special Operations Command and other military organizations, officials tell The Daily Beast. The programs involve everything from the deployment of remote sensors that scan the wireless spectrum of terrorist safe havens to stealth U.S.-Iraqi counterterrorism commando teams, and their status is uncertain as a U.S. diplomatic team negotiates with Iraqi leaders, according to officials, who made clear the CIA intends to keep a footprint inside the country even as troops leave by Dec. 31.
“There are of course parts of the counterterrorism mission that the intelligence community, including CIA, will be able to take on from other organizations—and there are parts of that mission that it won’t,” said one U.S. counterterrorism official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of secret negotiations with the Iraqis.
But the official added: “This idea that the U.S. military and CIA are somehow interchangeable is misinformed—they work together closely on some counterterrorism issues, but their missions, expertise, and authorities are fundamentally different. When the U.S. military leaves Iraq, some things just won’t happen anymore.”
Soldiers May Be Leaving Iraq, But Contractors Will Remain
American troops may be leaving Iraq before the end of the year, but U.S. contractors aren’t going anywhere soon. ABC News reports that the State Department “is expected to have about 5,000 security contractors in Iraq as of January 2012 (they already have about 3,000 in country).” There will also be 4,500 “general life support” contractors to provide food and medical services. Still, there’ll be a pretty big reduction in the contracting fleet. The Defense Department currently has 9,500 security contractors in Iraq in addition to several thousand general life contractors, said ABC News. At one point, in June 2009, the DOD had 15,200 security contractors in the country. The State Department’s track record on controlling its contractors isn’t so great
American troops may be leaving Iraq before the end of the year, but U.S. contractors aren’t going anywhere soon.
ABC News reports that the State Department “is expected to have about 5,000 security contractors in Iraq as of January 2012 (they already have about 3,000 in country).” There will also be 4,500 “general life support” contractors to provide food and medical services.
Still, there’ll be a pretty big reduction in the contracting fleet. The Defense Department currently has 9,500 security contractors in Iraq in addition to several thousand general life contractors, said ABC News. At one point, in June 2009, the DOD had 15,200 security contractors in the country.
The State Department’s track record on controlling its contractors isn’t so great
CIA operatives have imprisoned and interrogated nearly 100 suspected terrorists in their former secret prisons around the world, but troops from this other secret organization have imprisoned and interrogated 10 times as many, holding them in jails that it alone controls in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A retired US Army colonel was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 months in prison for her role in a bribery scheme linked to the awarding of Iraq war contracts, the Department of Justice announced.
Levonda Selph, 57, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay both a $5,000 fine and $9,000 in restitution, the DOJ said in a statement. In 2005, Selph — then a lieutenant colonel — served as the chair of a selection board for a $12 million contract to build and operate several Department of Defense warehouses in Iraq, the statement said. She accepted fraudulent bids from a “co-conspirator contracting firm” and helped the firm win the bid.
Levonda Selph, 57, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay both a $5,000 fine and $9,000 in restitution, the DOJ said in a statement.
In 2005, Selph — then a lieutenant colonel — served as the chair of a selection board for a $12 million contract to build and operate several Department of Defense warehouses in Iraq, the statement said.
She accepted fraudulent bids from a “co-conspirator contracting firm” and helped the firm win the bid.
Somewhere on this planet a US commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done … for the day. Without the knowledge of much of the general American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, and deserves further attention.
After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the US military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has often remained out of the public scrutiny.
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Postreported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. ”We do a lot of travelling - a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence - in about 60 per cent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged - is evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
The rise of the military’s secret military
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.
Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army’s “Green Berets” and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialised and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes US citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal “kill/capture” campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine”.
This assassination programme has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia,Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.
From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM’s baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3bn to $6.3bn. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8bn in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.
Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command - the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 - indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. ”I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000,” he said at a June breakfast with defence reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.
During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3 per cent to 5 per cent a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.
A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite US forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that “as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia”.
During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before September 11, 2001, the lit portions of the planet - mostly the industrialised nations of the global north - were considered the key areas. “But the world changed over the last decade,” he said. “Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south … certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren’t.”
To that end, Olson launched “Project Lawrence”, an effort to increase cultural proficiencies - like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs - for overseas operations. The programme is, of course, named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I. Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed “Lawrences of Wherever”.
While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Col. Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government. According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85 per cent of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.
Special Operations Command won’t disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where we’re at,” says Nye. ”Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have - it may be internal, it may be regional.”
But it’s no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. In the Philippines, for instance, the US spends $50m a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.
Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism’s National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, the US’ most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland.
So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. ”Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises.”
The Pentagon’s power elite
Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces - like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines - a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.
With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, andinfluential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research likeelectronically beaming messages into people’s heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM’s prime contracts awarded to small businesses - those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons - have jumped six-fold.
Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theatre commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself. As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM “is a microcosm of the Department of Defense, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defense Agencies”.
Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialised Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military.
Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army”, today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive’s private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.
In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids,joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman imageat home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: “I am convinced that the forces … are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer.”
Recently at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that US Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, “Are you talking about unattributed explosions?”
What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasised, US Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada’s entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where the US’ elite troops now operate each year, and it’s only set to grow larger.
Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret - and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won’t be coming from Olson or his troops. “Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it,” he said in response to questions about SOCOM’s secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military’s secret military, said Olson, wants “to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do”.
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a new senior editor at Alternet.org, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).