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Cowboys and Indians Unite to Fight Keystone XL Pipeline!

April 30th, 2014 - by admin

Kristin Moe / YES! Magazine – 2014-04-30 11:28:52

http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/brought-together-by-pipeline-fight-cowboys-and-indians-heal-old-wounds

Brought Together by Keystone Pipeline Fight,
“Cowboys and Indians” Heal Old Wounds

Kristin Moe / YES! Magazine

WASHINGTON, DC (April 24, 2014) — Protests and demonstrations happen almost every day in Washington, D.C., but this one was unusual. On April 22, a circle of tipis went up between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument. Nebraska ranchers offered gifts of food, tobacco, and cloth to elders from the Piscataway tribe, who welcomed the visitors to their traditional land.

Then the group got on horseback — the indigenous contingent in traditional beads and feathers, the ranchers in cowboy hats and bandanas — and rode through downtown demanding that President Barack Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

That action — the first event in a five-day gathering on the National Mall — was the largest mobilization yet from a group called the Cowboy Indian Alliance, an unlikely coalition of farmers, ranchers, and members of Native American tribes from across the Great Plains, all united by their opposition to Keystone XL.

That unity flies in the face of centuries of conflict between indigenous people and settlers, but participants from both sides hope this is a sign that old wounds are beginning to heal. They hope that the pipeline, which has caused them both much distress, will be a catalyst for reconciliation.

Both “Cowboys” and “Indians” are concerned about the significant climate impacts of the tar sands industry, which is more carbon-intensive than regular oil and more likely to spill. But mostly, they fear the pipeline spills they see as inevitable will contaminate the land and water upon which they both depend, and upon which they both base their identities and cultures.

“We’re here to defend our land, our farms, our ranches, our treaty territory,” Faith Spotted Eagle told the crowd on a bright morning on the first day of the camp. “We’ve come to say enough is enough. We are not going to let Transcanada pass our treaty lands.”

The pipeline, if approved, will be built on land guaranteed to the Lakota people in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 — a treaty only temporarily honored by the United States government. The land was subsequently taken from the Lakota, but they still claim it as theirs by law.

The various segments of the Keystone pipeline have been developed as separate projects, most of which are already in operation. The southern portion of pipeline, which runs from Oklahoma to refineries in Texas, has already been completed, despite opposition from the Cowboy Indian Alliance and virtually every other environmental organization in the country.

The northern leg known as Keystone XL is the last remaining piece, and needs to be approved by the president because it crosses the US-Canada border.

If Obama signs off, the pipeline company Transcanada will install this final segment, connecting Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Kansas, and pumping 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude across the American heartland.

A Match Made in History
I had a chance to speak with two members of the Cowboy Indian Alliance: Faith Spotted Eagle from the Ihanktonwan Dakota/Nakota tribe of South Dakota, and Tom Genung, a Nebraskan landowner.

The Cowboy Indian Alliance was Spotted Eagle’s idea; she believes it’s her responsibility to defend her people’s land and water. An elder and spiritual leader of her tribe, she wore a long skirt and a blue blanket around her neck. Her long gray hair hung in braids over her shoulders.

Genung, sporting a scruffy beard, cowboy hat and a red bandana around his neck, has been equally vehement in his opposition to the pipeline, which will cross two miles from his property. He’s defiant of any “foreign corporation” that would claim rights to his private property, or anyone else’s.

Genung first met Spotted Eagle through his work with the anti-Keystone organization Bold Nebraska. Visiting reservations, taking part in native ceremony and culture — all these things were new to him. “I got to be a witness to some very special things — some sacred things,” he says.

That first meeting was only a year ago, but they talked together with the ease of old friends. They spoke about their relationship to the land, which is deeply spiritual for both.

They sense that the reconciliation their work is a part of has a historic importance, something healing for both settlers and natives — and both feel that it is, in some way, destined to happen.

“We heard about the pipeline in 2008, and we began mobilizing,” Spotted Eagle says. “I kept thinking, who will be able to stand with us?”

Their neighbors would, she soon learned. And yet, it’s clear that opposing Keystone together hasn’t erased centuries of difficult history. Relationship to land is a central difference — and source of tension — between settlers and indigenous people. While both Spotted Eagle and Genung see the relationship to land as sacred, what that means in practice is different for each.

“I remember going out on a visit to a farm, and they were plowing, and that earth was being turned over,” Spotted Eagle says. “I get angry when they turn over too much earth, because they’re destroying so much land.” There are sacred Sioux sites all over that region, she explains, that are destroyed by farming.

“So I was standing there watching this tractor. And he was plowing up the ground, and he said, ‘There’s nothing like the smell of Creator when that fresh earth overturns.'” Spotted Eagle laughs, remembering. “I looked at him and I thought, well, I never thought of it that way.”

“That was a teaching,” she says.

Softening the Heart
Both say that they have much to learn from each other. In particular, says Spotted Eagle, the long history of violence between natives and settlers has yet to be dealt with. “At some point we have to backtrack and unpack our bags, and begin to figure out what happened between us as neighbors.”

Native people “sometimes feel like we have a monopoly on this trauma,” Spotted Eagle says, “because we’ve lost so much land.”

“Because we’ve had a holocaust happen to us,” she continues. But ranchers and landowners also have a long history with land — and, she says, “seeing them cry about the loss of their land has softened our hearts. And that made a difference.”

On Wednesday, April 23, Spotted Eagle and other tribal leaders were preparing to meet with White House staffers. She sat down in a moment of quiet. She didn’t seem particularly hopeful. Indeed, she has good reason to mistrust the government, which has consistently broken the treaties it made, not just with the Lakota, but with indigenous people all over the country.

Instead, Spotted Eagle places her faith in her people’s ability to survive as they have always survived — and now, increasingly, in these new alliances with non-indigenous neighbors. “Ranchers and landowners like Tom,” she said, “they get it in a way that politicians don’t.”

What they “get” is a connection to land, the sense that one’s identity is rooted in a particular place that cannot be sold or exchanged for another. And it may be that this land, which has divided nations and driven them to bloodshed, will be the thing that brings them back together.

Later that day, Genung thought about what would happen after the week was over. He would go back to Nebraska, he said, and continue the fight until it was over — “win, lose, or draw.” But, he said, “This pipeline fight is pulling us together in ways that we can’t even recognize.”

Kristin Moe wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Kristin writes about climate, grassroots movements, and social change. Follow her on Twitter @yo_Kmoe.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Stop the War against Elephants

April 30th, 2014 - by admin

International Fund for Animal Welfare – 2014-04-30 11:27:22

http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/get-involved/stand-strong-elephants

(April 29, 2014) — Every 15 minutes, on average, a poacher kills an elephant for its ivory tusks. Right now, the US is the second biggest market for ivory — much of it likely from recently poached elephants — which means we are helping to pay the bills for these poachers, organized crime networks, militant groups and the others who are profiting from extinction.

Fortunately, the US Fish & Wildlife Service recently proposed strong new protections for African elephants, including a ban on the sale of non-antique ivory in the United States.

Some special interest groups are trying to weaken the new rules, which has prompted IFAW to band together with a coalition of scientists, artists, and conservation and animal welfare organizations to ensure that these protections stay as robust as possible. By signing our petition, your voice can help us convince the White House to stand strong for elephants.

ACTION: You can help protect elephants by joining us in telling President Obama and Dan Ashe, Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service to stand strong for elephants.

THE LETTER
Dear President Obama and Director Ashe,

I commend the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Obama Administration for your firm commitment to end the devastating slaughter of elephants for their ivory and to ensure that the United States is not helping to drive illegal wildlife trade.

Along with 80 percent of my fellow American citizens, I strongly support ending commercial trade in elephant ivory in the US I believe we must take all necessary steps to protect these magnificent creatures from extinction.

Fewer than half a million elephants remain in Africa’s savannas and jungles — a 95 percent plunge over the last century. Recently, the killing has surged: Poachers are slaughtering one elephant every 15 minutes, on average, and some populations are now on a path to extinction.

Reports from US intelligence agencies and the United Nations also show that profits from ivory trafficking are fueling crime, corruption and violence in fragile African democracies and financing organizations that threaten both American and Africa security.

America’s role in the consumption and sale of ivory makes us complicit in this crisis and weakens our moral authority to lead internationally. The US is the world’s second largest market for wildlife products, and significant amounts of illegal elephant ivory have been found entering the American market. We must strengthen our laws to prevent this from happening and to encourage other countries to act with similar urgency.

I thank you and others in the Administration, for your unprecedented leadership on this issue. Combined with new US efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, the ivory rules proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service can help turn the tide for Africa’s elephants.

I share the American public’s desire to end the US role in the ivory trade, and I believe that the decision to halt elephant ivory commerce in the US is the right response to the current crisis.

For the sake of the world’s elephants, I urge you to keep that promise.

US & NATO: The Background to the Trouble in Ukraine

April 30th, 2014 - by admin

Dennis Kucinich / The Huffington Post – 2014-04-30 11:16:00

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-j-kucinich/ukraine-nato_b_4435637.html

Is NATO’s Trojan Horse Riding Toward the ‘Ukraine Spring’?
Dennis Kucinich / The Huffington Post

(December 12, 2013) — Ukrainian citizens have rallied in the bitter cold at Independence Square in Kiev to demand a better economic future and to protest President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to sign an economic agreement with the EU.

But while the draft of the EU “Association Agreement” is being sold as an economic boon for Ukrainian citizens, in reality it appears to be NATO’s Trojan Horse: a massive expansion of NATO’s military position in the region. What’s more, the Agreement occurs under the cover of nebulous economic promises for a beset population hungering for better wages.

In a country where the average monthly minimum wage stands at about $150 USD, it’s not hard to understand why Ukrainians are in the streets. They do not want to be in Russia’s orbit, nor do they want to be pawns of NATO. But is the plight of Ukrainians being exploited to usher in a new military agreement under the guise of economic reform?

For NATO, the goal is expansion. The prize is access to a country that shares a 1,426-mile border with Russia. The geopolitical map would be dramatically reshaped by the Agreement, with Ukraine serving as the new front for Western missile defense at the doorstep of Russia. Should the US nuclear deal with Iran fall apart, Ukraine could be employed in larger regional disputes, too.

As an EU deal appears imminent, few people are asking questions about NATO’s role in the deal, which was meant to facilitate jobs and trade. Economic conditions in Ukraine are dire: $15 billion in IMF loans suspended, danger of default and a zero growth forecast.

While NATO is not specifically mentioned in the draft of the “Association Agreement,” the proposal, which was posted online (and translated to English here) by the Ukrainian cabinet in August, pledges convergence of foreign and security policy.

For instance, in the draft of the Agreement, foreign and security policy mandates:
“The Parties shall explore the potential of military and technological cooperation. Ukraine and the European Defence Agency (EDA) will establish close contacts to discuss military capability improvement, including technological issues.”

The draft of the Agreement’s preamble links Ukraine to “ever closer convergence of positions on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest” including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) — which underscores the military nature of the agreement.

Since 22 of 28 members of the EU have NATO membership, there is little doubt that Ukraine is being drawn into the broad military arrangement with EU nations.

If the EU Agreement is ratified, Ukraine will inevitably spend a higher percentage of its GDP for military purposes, steering critical resources from social programs and job opportunities. In 2012, Ukraine’s military budget already increased 30 percent — to $2 billion, representing a comparatively low 1.1 percent of GDP. NATO members agree to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.

NATO members are also under pressure to contribute more and more of their GDP to military expenditures. “It is time to move beyond the ‘2 percent rule,'” says the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The former US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, in his farewell remarks in June, 2013, described the sentiment:
“The gap between American and European contributions to the Alliance is widening to an unsustainable level. Something must be done. The trends need to be reversed.”

When military spending goes up, domestic spending goes down. The winners are unlikely to be the people of Ukraine, but instead the “people” of Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and other defense interests. The Ukrainians didn’t go to Independence Square to rally for NATO. Yet NATO’s benefit is clear. Less clear is whether Ukrainians will receive key economic benefits they seek.

To wit, the preamble to the Agreement is hazy on the implementation of visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine, a crucial incentive for struggling workers seeking better jobs. The draft of the Agreement is vague, calling for the visa issue to be introduced “in due course.” It also asserts that EU nations could block the movement of self-employed Ukrainians to other job markets.

For Greece, Spain and others, EU membership hasn’t turned out to be a shining economic savior. The return of austerity policies reminds one of Naomi Klein’s warning about the perils of disaster capitalism, in which instability opens the door for exploitation from outside forces.

For the protesters in Kiev, standing tall for democracy and economic opportunity, there’s suddenly a new worry: Disaster Militarism. Ukrainians may be pro-EU, but are the EU and NATO pro-Ukrainian?

Dennis J. Kucinich is a former 16-year member of Congress and two-time US presidential candidate. Visit his website www.kucinichaction.com.

sted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Humanitarian Relief Ship, Gaza’s Ark, Bombed and Sunk

April 30th, 2014 - by admin

Just Foreign Policy & Fares Akram / Al Jazeera – 2014-04-30 11:00:59

http://www.gazaark.org

Gaza’s Ark to Challenge Israel’s Blockade
Megan Iorio, Chelsea Mozen and Robert Naiman / Just Foreign Policy

(Feb 6, 20140 — After weeks of repair work on the shore in port, Gaza’s Ark returns to the water at the beginning of February 2014.

For nearly seven years, Gaza has been under siege. Its 1.8 million inhabitants have been denied their rights to move and trade freely. Farmers have been blocked from farming their land. Fishermen have had their lives threatened and their property confiscated. And, crucially, Palestinian producers have been blocked from exporting their goods. Gaza’s economy has been strangled.

In the short run, aid is necessary but, in the long run, aid not the answer. Freedom is the answer. That’s why we’ve been working on Gaza’s Ark, an international campaign to challenge the blockade politically by exporting Palestinian goods through the port of Gaza.

Gaza’s Ark is a refurbished fishing boat that will soon sail from Gaza carrying Palestinian export goods. Like other boats that have attempted to break the blockade, Gaza’s Ark will face the danger of interception by Israeli forces. That’s why we need your help today.

The UN and world governments have it in their power to ensure safe passage of Gaza’s Ark and an end to the siege. Prominent human rights activists from around the world are initiating the call — will you join them?

Here’s what you can do:
1. Join our Thunderclap. Thunderclap allows large groups of people to blast social media all at once with one resounding message. Our Thunderclap will help promote the international call for an end to the blockade and raise awareness about Gaza’s Ark.

All you have to do to participate is visit this link, select which social media you’d like to post to, authorize the Thunderclap app to post on your behalf this one time, and that’s it! Thunderclap won’t retain your information and will only post to your account once for this campaign.

2. Sign the petition. Join world-renowned human rights activists such as Noam Chomsky, Mairead Maguire, and Alice Walker in signing Gaza’s Ark‘s petition calling upon the UN to take action to end the siege of Gaza. You can sign the petition here

http://www.gazaark.org/2014/04/26/petition-to-the-un/

(Aug 11, 2013) — The significance of Gaza’s Ark and how it
differs from previous Flotilla efforts.
Geneva, July 2013

Petition to the UN
(April 26, 2014) — In order to build a peaceful future, Palestinians must have full freedom of movement, to travel and trade freely, to and from the port of Gaza and throughout Palestine. A lasting peace can only be achieved by fully, permanently and unconditionally lifting the blockade imposed on Gaza and by restoring Palestinian rights under international law.

We call on the UN Secretary-General and our own governments to:
• do everything in their power to press Israel to lift all restrictions on the freedom of movement and trade imposed on Palestinians, including allowing the internationally owned Gaza’s Ark to sail safely from Gaza without obstacles;

• demand that Israeli authorities respect the full territorial waters of Palestine, including the right of Palestinians to fish at least 20 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza and safely access all their lands, to conduct other peaceful activities throughout their entire economic zone, and to freely access international waters as other coastal nations do;

• call for the immediate return of all boats seized by Israel, both Palestinian fishing boats from Gaza, and all the vessels from international solidarity sailings to challenge the blockade, and for payment of full financial compensation to owners for the extended loss of use of their boats and equipment.


Gaza’s Ark Attacked: Ship Sunk
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen and Megan Iorio / Just Foreign Policy

(April 29, 2014) – In the last few days, we asked you to participate in efforts to support Gaza’s Ark, a project to politically challenge the blockade of Gaza by bringing a boat out of the port of Gaza carrying Palestinian exports. Thanks to the many of you who signed the Gaza’s Ark petition or participated in the Twitter storm!

Today, we have grim news. Gaza’s Ark was attacked last night.

At 3:45 AM Gaza time, the night guard on board Gaza’s Ark received a call to leave the boat because it was going to be attacked. The guard left, but when nothing happened after about 5 minutes, he returned. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the boat, causing extensive damage. [See story below.]

The boat sank part way and is now sitting on the shallow sea floor. The guard was not injured but was taken to the hospital for tests. Investigations are underway, both to determine what happened and to determine whether the boat can be repaired.

Here’s how you can help now:
Help us get the word out about what has happened to the boat.
If you’re on Twitter, share tweets from @GazaArk and @justfp about what happened. If you’re on Facebook, share the Al Jazeera article [See below].

ACTION: Sign and Share the Petition.
If you haven’t signed the petition to the UN against the blockade yet, please sign and share by clicking here.
If you have signed it, please share it again. The petition currently has 6,500 signatures. We’d like to gather 10,000 signatures in the next few days.


“Blast Damages Gaza Anti-siege Boat”
Fares Akram / Al Jazeera

GAZA (April 29, 2014) — An explosion has damaged a boat docked at a fishing harbor in Gaza, nearly a month and a half before it was to set sail to defy Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The explosion happened early on Tuesday after “the guard received an anonymous call that the boat would explode in a few minutes,” Mahfouz Kabariti, a spokesman for Gaza’s Ark, the coalition that had funded the boat’s building, told Al Jazeera.

After spending two years building the boat, Gaza’s Ark had planned the boat’s first sailing test next week.

The explosion caused damage to the engine and the hull as it partly sank. Divers were sent to assess the extent of the damage. Kabariti refused to blame any party, saying “it’s still premature”.

Eyad Al-Bouzom, a spokesman for Gaza’s Interior Ministry, said the authorities opened an investigation into the incident. “We will follow the case as it’s a great priority for us,” he told Al Jazeera.

Gaza’s Ark comprises Palestinian activists and international campaigners from Canada, Australia and the United States.

The initiative aims at sailing with this boat out from Gaza to challenge the naval blockade, which Israel tightened in 2007. Palestinian fishermen can sail up to six nautical miles, but have reported being shot by Israeli naval forces as close as two nautical miles from shore. Kabariti recalled several past incidents in which Israeli naval forces destroyed Palestinian ships by explosives.

Before Israel’s major military assault in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, Israel allowed several boats carrying western and Arab activists to sail to Gaza.

But Gaza’s Ark would have been the first boat to sail out of Gaza in several years. Kabariti said the voyage was scheduled for June 15.

The boat, with a fibreglass body, wooden cabin and deckhouse, was supposed to carry the activists and some products made by impoverished families in Gaza to Europe.

“The boat was made to break the siege from inside,” according to Kabariti. “One of its goals was to empower the families who have had no chance to export their products.”

Kabariti said the activists are determined to sail after the boat is repaired.


Gaza’s Ark Attacked
GazaArk.org

(April 28, 2014) — At 3:45 AM Gaza time on April 29th, the night guard on board Gaza’s Ark received a call to leave the boat because it was going to be attacked.

The guard left, but when nothing happened, he returned after 5 minutes. A few minutes later, a large explosion rocked the boat, causing extensive damage.

The boat sank part way and is now sitting on the shallow sea floor. The guard was not injured but was taken to hospital for tests.

Mahfouz Kabariti, Gaza’s Ark Project Manager, says: “The extent and nature of the damage are currently being investigated. We will provide an update when available.”

Gaza’s Ark and all our partners in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are considering our next move in response to this cowardly act of terrorism, but our position remains clear: Neither this nor any other attack will stop our efforts to challenge the blockade of Gaza until it ends,” adds David Heap of Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee.

“Freedom Flotilla boats have been sabotaged before. This attack comes as we were almost ready to sail. You can sink a boat but you can’t sink a movement,” concludes Ehab Lotayef, another member of the Steering Committee.

For information:
Ehab Lotayef +1-514-941-9792
David Heap +1-519-859-3579
Charlie Andreasson +970 (59) 8345327
www.gazaark.org
info@gazaark.org
#GazaArkAttacked

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

April 30th, 2014 - by admin

– 2014-04-30 02:17:52

Eight Additional Reasons to Ground Drones
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

First I would like to commend the Police Review Board and the Peace and Justice Commission for its comprehensive 19-page report (complete with 57 footnotes).

Now for some recent news.

(1) In late January, US Customs and Border Protection grounded its entire fleet of drones after an unexplained mechanical problem forced operators to crash the aircraft into the Pacific. Unfortunately, the “ocean-option” is not always available. In 2006, a Customs drone weighing 6,400 pounds crashed into a hillside near Nogales, Arizona.

(2) The Air Line Pilots Association, the country’s largest pilots’ union, recently criticized the FAA’s rush to introduce drones in to the community airspace. (Businessweek has identified drones as the world’s “most accident-prone” class of aircraft.)

(3) In March, a six-rotor CUPID drone equipped with a taser was used to demonstrate how its owners could zap “suspicious” persons with 80,000-volts, knocking them out “until police arrive.” A pepper spray option is also in the works.

(4) Working both sides of the market, the CUPID developers are building drones with electromagnetic weapons that can disable other drones, forcing them to tumble out of the sky.

(5) Drones can invite “defensive retaliation.” In Montana, Matt Rosendale, a candidate for U.S. Congress, has released a TV spot that shows him knocking a drone out of the sky with a shotgun.

(6) Even when drones are not camera-equipped, there can be mayhem. A YouTube compilation shows an anarchist group unleashing hobby drones on golf courses, in bullfighting arenas, at skate parks, inside subway stations, and even during London’s Changing of the Guards.

(7) In addition to the privacy issues raised by drones equipped with cameras and other sensors, the proliferation of commercial drones would pose safety and quality-of-life concerns. Amazon is pushing for drone-delivery of packages, some of which could weigh 5 pounds or more. There would be no FAA oversight of these commercial drones crisscrossing overhead bearing book orders, hot pizzas, prescription meds, bottles of bleach and six-packs of Anchor Steam.

Finally, here’s another previously unaddressed problem: drone/bird collisions (Note: the attack occurs near the 3 minute mark).
Check out YouTube. It is filled with scores of bird/drone videos.
Sometimes the birds knock the drones from the sky
. Sometimes the drones kill the birds. Sometimes the drones just spook the birds.
Here are some of the comments accompanying the videos:
I was flying my Hexa Sentinel drone and … I found out just how territorial birds can be.”
“I must have annoyed a group of birds, they teamed up & started dive bombing … from all directions…, I lost control” and crashed.
“This crow … almost crashed my heli and killed itself. I just happened to do a flip and show[ed] my ‘talons’ when it attacked.”

In conclusion: No Drones. Do it for public safety, do it for personal privacy, do it for the birds.

Homeland Security Fears US-Backed ‘Rebels’ Could Return to Attack US

April 29th, 2014 - by admin

Pierre Thomas, Mike Levine, Jack Date, and Jack Cloherty / ABC News – 2014-04-29 00:25:19

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/feds-worry-whether-foreign-fighters-in-syria-may-target-u-s-dhs-head-says/

Feds Worry Whether Foreign Fighters
In Syria May Target US, DHS Head Says

(April 27, 2014) — Federal authorities are worried that Americans or other Westerners who have trained with terrorists in war-ravaged Syria may slip back into the United States looking to strike the US homeland, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

“We‘re very concerned about Syria foreign fighters, people who are going into Syria, who are being recruited by extremists there and who then may leave Syria with a different purpose in mind,” Johnson told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas for “This Week,” in his first network interview since becoming Homeland Security secretary in December 2013.

Several Americans have already been arrested inside the United States for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — the Yemen-based affiliate behind the failed Christmas Day “underwear bombing” in 2009 and a cargo-based plot the next year — is “still very active.”

“They‘re still making efforts to attack the homeland,” he said.

Johnson, who previously served as general counsel in the Department of Defense, now leads an agency borne out of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — a nightmare he experienced firsthand in an intensely personal way.

Not only is Sept. 11 his birthday, but he was in New York that tragic day watching it all unfold in front of him from his law office in Manhattan.

“I was looking forward to a quiet birthday dinner with my family that evening,” Johnson recalled. “And I remember looking out the window, and I could see the World Trade Center on fire. And within minutes, I saw the second plane hit… And [then] I saw the buildings collapse.”

Johnson left his office building “and literally wandered the streets asking, ‘What can I do?‘” he told ABC News. “And so since that day, I‘ve tried to answer the question, ‘What more can I do?‘ And so I‘m here in the Department of Homeland Security. I didn‘t expect to be here, but I‘m here and I believe very much in the mission of homeland security.”

But to accomplish that mission, Johnson said he needs to address a serious issue within his own agency: employee morale.

That‘s why on Friday, he sent a message to his entire workforce of 240,000 men and women.

“Let us not forget that the Department was founded in reaction to the most horrendous terrorist attack in our nation‘s history and that more than a decade later, threats to our homeland security remain real,” Johnson said in the message. “There is no room for complacency. I need your continued dedication, I need your help.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Vocabulary of Annexation & The Definition of an Apartheid State

April 29th, 2014 - by admin

Uri Avnery / Information Clearinghouse & AntiWar.com & The Daily Beast – 2014-04-29 00:22:54

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38335.htm

In Israeli Politics, The Word
“Peace” Has Become Poison

Uri Avnery / Information Clearinghouse

(April 25, 2014) — Imagine a war breaking out between Israel and Jordan. Within two or three days the Israeli army occupies the entire territory of the Hashemite Kingdom. What will be the first act of the occupation authority?

Establish a settlement in Petra? Expropriate land near Aqaba?

No. The very first thing will be to decree that the territory will henceforth be known as “Gilead and Moab.”

All the media will be ordered to use the biblical name. All government and court documents will adopt it. Except for the radical Left, nobody will mention Jordan anymore. All applications by the inhabitants will be addressed to the Military Government of Gilead and Moab.

Why? Becuase annexation starts with words.

Words convey ideas. Words implant concepts in the minds of their hearers and speakers. Once they are firmly established, everything else follows.

The writers of the Bible already knew this. They taught: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21). For how many years now have we been eating the fruit of “Judea and Samaria”?

When Vladimir Putin last week restored the old name of “New Russia” to the territory of East Ukraine, it was not just a semantic change. It was a claim for annexation, more powerful than a salvo of cannon shots.

Recently, I listened to a speech by a left-wing politician, and was disturbed when she spoke at length about her struggle for a “political settlement” with the Palestinians.

When I remonstrated with her, she apologized. It was a slip of the tongue. She had not meant it that way.

In Israeli politics, the word “peace” has become poison. “Political settlement” is the vogue term. It is meant to say the same. But of course, it doesn’t.

“Peace” means much more than the formal end of warfare. It contains elements of reconciliation, of something spiritual. In Hebrew and Arabic, Shalom/Salaam include wellbeing, safety and serve as greetings. “Political settlement” means nothing but a document formulated by lawyers and signed by politicians.

The “Peace of Westphalia” put an end to 30 years of war and changed the life of Europe. One may wonder whether a “Political Settlement of Westphalia” would have had the same effect.

The Bible enjoins us: “Seek peace and pursue it!” (Psalms, 34:14) It does not say “Seek a political settlement and pursue it.”

When the Israeli Left gives up the term, Peace, this is not a tactical retreat. It is a rout. Peace is a vision, a political ideal, a religious commandment, an inspiring idea. Political Settlement is a subject for discussion.

Peace is not the only victim of semantic terrorism. Another is, of course, the West Bank.

All TV channels have long ago been ordered by the government not to use this term. Most journalists in the written media also march in step. They call it “Judea and Samaria”.

“Judea and Samaria” means that the territory belongs to Israel, even if official annexation may be delayed for political reasons. “West Bank” means that this is occupied territory.

By itself, there is nothing sacred about the term “West Bank”, which was adopted by the Jordanian ruler when he illegally incorporated the area in his newly extended kingdom. This was done in secret collusion with David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, who wanted to erase the name “Palestine” from the map. The legal basis was a phony conference of Palestinian “notables” in Jericho.

King Abdallah of Jordan divided his fief into the East Bank (of the Jordan river) and the West Bank.

So why do we insist on using this term? Because it means that this is not a part of Israel, but Arab land that will belong — like the Gaza Strip — to the State of Palestine when peace (sorry, a Political Settlement) is achieved.

Until now, the semantic battle remains undecided. Most Israelis talk about the “West Bank.” “Judea and Samaria” has remained, in common parlance, the realm of the settlers. The settlers, of course, are the subject of a similar semantic battle.

In Hebrew, there are two terms: Mitnahalim and Mityashvim. They essentially mean the same. But in common usage, people use Mitnahalim when they mean the settlers in the occupied territories, and Mityashvim when they speak about settlers in Israel proper.

The battle between these two words goes on daily. It is a fight for or against the legitimacy of the settlement beyond the Green Line. Up to now, our side seems to have the upper hand. The distinction remains intact. If someone uses the term Mityashvim, they are automatically identified with the political Right.

The Green Line itself is, of course, the leftist concept. It makes a clear distinction between Israel proper and the occupied territories. The color comes from the fact that this border — actually the 1949 armistice line — was always marked on the maps in green. Until.

Until the (left-wing) Minister of Labor, Yigal Alon, decreed that henceforth the Green Line would no longer be marked on any map. Under an old law dating back to the British Mandate, the government owns the copyright for all maps printed in the country, and the Minister of Labor was in charge.

This remained so until Gush Shalom sued the government in the Supreme Court. Our argument was that since on the two sides of this line different laws apply, the citizens must have a map that shows them what law they have to obey at a given place. The ministry gave in and promised the court that it would print maps with the Green Line marked.

For lack of an alternative, all Israelis use the term “Green Line”. Since Rightists do not recognize this line at all, they have not invented an alternative word. For some time they tried the term “Seam-Line”, but this did not catch on.

A line between what? At the beginning of the occupation, the question arose what to call the areas just conquered.

We of the peace camp called them, of course, “occupied territories”. The Right called them “liberated territories” and floated the slogan “Liberated territories will not be returned,” a catchy rhyme in Hebrew. The government called them “administered territories” and later “disputed territories.”

The general public just settled for “the territories” — and that is the term used nowadays by everybody who has no interest in stressing his or her political conviction every time these areas are mentioned.

This raises the question about the Wall.

When the government decided to create a physical obstacle between Israel and the Occupied Territories — partly for expansion, partly for genuine security reasons — a name was needed. It is built mainly on occupied land, annexing in practice large areas. It is a fence in open areas, a wall in built-up ones. So we simply called it “the Wall” or “the Fence”, and started weekly demonstrations.

The “Wall/Fence” became odious around the world. So the army looked around for a term that sounded non-ideological and chose “separation obstacle”. However, this term now appears only in official documents.

With whom are we negotiating about the Political Settlement? Ah, there is the rub.

For generations, the Zionist movement and the State of Israel denied the very existence of a Palestinian people. In the 1993 Oslo Agreement, this idiotic pretense was dropped and we recognized the PLO as the “representative of the Palestinian people”. But the Palestinian state was not mentioned, and until this very day our government abhors the terms “Palestinian state” or “State of Palestine.”

Even today the term “Palestinians” evokes conscious or unconscious rejection. Most commentators speak about a political settlement with “our neighbors” — by which they do not mean the Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians or Lebanese, but You Know Who.

In Oslo, the PLO negotiators strenuously insisted that their new state-in-the-making should be called the “Palestinian National Authority.” The Israeli side vehemently objected to the word “National.” So the agreement (actually a “Statement of Principles”) calls it the “Palestinian Authority” and the Palestinians themselves call it the “Palestinian National Authority.” Palestinians who need urgent medical treatment in Israeli hospitals are turned back if they bring financial documents signed by the “Palestinian National Authority.”

So the fight goes on along the semantic front. For me, the really crucial part is the fight for the word Peace. We must reinstate it as the central word in our vocabulary. Clearly, loudly, proudly.

As the hymn of the peace movement (written by Yankele Rotblit as an appeal by the fallen soldiers to the living) says:
“Therefore, sing a song to peace
Don’t whisper a prayer
Sing a song to peace
In a loud shout!”

Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. www.avnery-news.co.il



Israeli Ministers Call for West Bank
Annexation to Spite Palestinians

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(April 27, 2014) — Building off the momentum against the peace process since the Palestinian unity government formed, far-right members of the Israeli cabinet are stepping up calls for the immediate annexation of major portions of the occupied West Bank as a retaliatory move.

The calls are coming, predictably, from the same cabinet ministers who were opposed to the peace talks in the first place, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud Party) sought the annexation of the “Area C” portion as a chance to declare to the world that the major settlements within will always be part of Israel.

Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, sought to go a step farther, demanding the annexation of the entire 60 percent of the West Bank that is outside of the direct control of the Palestinian Authority.

Bennett also argued that Israel should grant limited citizenship to the Palestinians swept up in the annexation, saying that being a minority in Israel was the best the Palestinians could hope for, and that those living under occupation “already have the best life in the entire Arab world.”


Kerry Warns Israel
Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’

The Daily Beast

(April 27, 2014) — The secretary of state said that if Israel doesn’t make peace soon, it could become ‘an apartheid state,’ like the old South Africa. Jewish leaders are fuming over the comparison.

If there’s no two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state,” Secretary of State John Kerry told a room of influential world leaders in a closed-door meeting Friday.

Senior American officials have rarely, if ever, used the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel, and President Obama has previously rejected the idea that the word should apply to the Jewish state. Kerry’s use of the loaded term is already rankling Jewish leaders in America — and it could attract unwanted attention in Israel, as well.

It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens.

He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.

Kerry also said that at some point, he might unveil his own peace deal and tell both sides to “take it or leave it.”

“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry told the group of senior officials and experts from the US, Western Europe, Russia, and Japan.

“Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

According to the 1998 Rome Statute, the “crime of apartheid” is defined as “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The term is most often used in reference to the system of racial segregation and oppression that governed South Africa from 1948 until 1994.

Former president Jimmy Carter came under fire in 2007 for titling his book on Middle East peace Palestine: Peace or Apartheid. Carter has said publicly that his views on Israeli treatment of the Palestinians are a main cause of his poor relationship with President Obama and his lack of current communication with the White House. But Carter explained after publishing the book that he was referring to apartheid-type policies in the West Bank, not Israel proper, and he was not accusing Israel of institutionalized racism.

“Apartheid is a word that is an accurate description of what has been going on in the West Bank, and it’s based on the desire or avarice of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land,” Carter said.
Leading experts, including Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court who led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008 and 2009, have argued that comparisons between the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and “apartheid” are offensive and wrong.

“One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues ‘apartheid’ policies,” Goldstone wrote in The New York Times in 2011. “It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”

In a 2008 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, then-Sen. Barack Obama shot down the notion that the word “apartheid” was acceptable in a discussion about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians:

“There’s no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal,” Obama said. “It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Daily Beast that Kerry was simply repeating his view, shared by others, that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish state in peace with the Palestinians.

“Secretary Kerry, like Justice Minister Livni, and previous Israeli Prime Ministers Olmert and Barak, was reiterating why there’s no such thing as a one-state solution if you believe, as he does, in the principle of a Jewish State. He was talking about the kind of future Israel wants and the kind of future both Israelis and Palestinians would want to envision,” she said.

“The only way to have two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution. And without a two-state solution, the level of prosperity and security the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve isn’t possible.”

But leaders of pro-Israel organizations told The Daily Beast that Kerry’s reference to “apartheid” was appalling and inappropriately alarmist because of its racial connotations and historical context.

“One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues ‘apartheid’ policies,” Goldstone wrote in The New York Times in 2011. “It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”

Yet Israel’s leaders have employed the term, as well. In 2010, for example, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak used language very similar to Kerry’s. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic,” Barak said. “If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

“While we’ve heard Secretary Kerry express his understandable fears about alternative prospects for Israel to a two-state deal and we understand the stakes involved in reaching that deal, the use of the word ‘apartheid’ is not helpful at all. It takes the discussion to an entirely different dimension,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, an organization that has been supportive of Kerry’s peace process initiative. “In trying to make his point, Kerry reaches into diplomatic vocabulary to raise the stakes, but in doing so he invokes notions that have no place in the discussion.”

Kerry has used dire warnings twice in the past to paint a picture of doom for Israel if the current peace process fails. Last November, Kerry warned of a third intifada of Palestinian violence and increased isolation of Israel if the peace process failed. In March, Democrats and Republican alike criticized Kerry for suggesting that if peace talks fail, it would bolster the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“It’s in the Palestinian playbook to tie Israel to these extreme notions of time being on the Palestinian side, that demographics are on the Palestinian side, and that Israel has to confront notions of the Jewishness of the state,” Harris said.

Kerry on Friday repeated his warning that a dissolution of the peace process might lead to more Palestinian violence. “People grow so frustrated with their lot in life that they begin to take other choices and go to dark places they’ve been before, which forces confrontation,” he said.

The secretary of state also implied, but did not say outright, that if the governments of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu or Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left power, there could be a change in the prospects for peace. If “there is a change of government or a change of heart,” Kerry said, “something will happen.”

Kerry criticized Israeli settlement construction as being unhelpful to the peace process and he also criticized Palestinian leaders for making statements that declined to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

“There is a fundamental confrontation and it is over settlements. Fourteen thousand new settlement units announced since we began negotiations. It’s very difficult for any leader to deal under that cloud,” Kerry said.

He acknowledged that the formal negotiating process that he initiated and led since last summer may soon stop. But he maintained that his efforts to push for a final settlement will continue in one form or another.

“The reports of the demise of the peace process have consistently been misunderstood and misreported. And even we are now getting to the moment of obvious confrontation and hiatus, but I would far from declare it dead,” Kerry said. “You would say this thing is going to hell in a handbasket, and who knows, it might at some point, but I don’t think it is right now, yet.”

Kerry gave both Israeli and Palestinian leaders credit for sticking with the peace process for this long. But he added that both sides were to blame for the current impasse in the talks; neither leader was ready to make the tough decisions necessary for achieving peace.

“There’s a period here where there needs to be some regrouping. I don’t think it’s unhealthy for both of them to have to stare over the abyss and understand where the real tensions are and what the real critical decisions are that have to be made,” he said. “Neither party is quite ready to make it at this point in time. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to make these decisions.”

Kerry said that he was considering, at some point, publicly laying out a comprehensive US plan for a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in a last-ditch effort to forge a deal before the Obama administration leaves office in 2017.

“We have enough time to do any number of things, including the potential at some point in time that we will just put something out there. ‘Here it is, folks. This is what it looks like. Take it or leave it,'” Kerry said.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Mission Still Unaccomplished: As Iraq Chaos Deepens, US Starts Sending in Troops Once More

April 28th, 2014 - by admin

Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel / Reuters – 2014-04-28 23:58:31

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/25/us-usa-iraq-security-idUSBREA3O1YZ20140425

As Iraq Violence Grows, US Sends more Intelligence Officers
Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel / Reuters

WASHINGTON (April 25, 2014) — The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, US government sources said.

A high-level Pentagon team is now in Iraq to assess possible assistance for Iraqi forces in their fight against radical jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group reconstituted from an earlier incarnation of al Qaeda, said two current government officials and one former US official familiar with the matter.

The powerful ISIL, which seeks to impose strict sharia law in the Sunni majority populated regions of Iraq, now boasts territorial influence stretching from Iraq’s western Anbar province to northern Syria, operating in some areas close to Baghdad, say US officials.

Senior US policy officials, known as the “Deputies Committee,” met in Washington this week to discuss possible responses to the deteriorating security outlook in Iraq, said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

The source did not know the outcome of the meeting.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment.

The meetings underscore how Iraq’s instability is posing a new foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama, who celebrated the withdrawal of US troops more than two years ago. Despite the concern, officials said it remains unclear whether Obama will commit significant new resources to the conflict.

Four months after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared war on Sunni militants in Iraq’s western Anbar province, the fighting has descended into brutal atrocities, often caught on video and in photographs by both militants and Iraqi soldiers.

Iraqi soldiers say they are bogged down in a slow, vicious fight with ISIL and other Sunni factions in the city of Ramadi and around nearby Falluja.

LIMITED OPTIONS
One former and two current US security officials said the number of US intelligence personnel in Baghdad had already begun to rise but that the numbers remained relatively small.

“It’s more than before, but not really a lot,” said one former official with knowledge of the matter.

Much of the pressure to do more is coming from the US military, the former official said, but it is unclear if the White House wants to get more deeply involved.

After ending nearly nine years of war in Iraq, the United States has limited military options inside the country. About 100 US military personnel remain, overseeing weapons sales and cooperation with Iraqi security forces.

The US government has rushed nearly 100 Hellfire missiles, M4 rifles, surveillance drones and 14 million rounds of ammunition to the Iraqi military since January, US officials said. The Obama administration has also started training Iraqi Special Forces in neighboring Jordan.

Before the US military withdrew, it trained, equipped and conducted operations with Iraqi Special Forces.

Staff from the Pentagon’s Central Command are working closely with the Iraqi military but have advised it against launching major operations due to concerns Iraqi forces are not prepared for such campaigns, the former US official said.

In Anbar, militants have a major presence in Falluja, while in Ramadi there is a stalemate, with territory divided among Iraqi government forces, ISIL and other Sunni armed groups.

In testimony before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in February, Brett McGurk, the State Department’s top official on Iraq, described how convoys of up to 100 trucks, mounted with heavy weapons and flying al Qaeda flags, moved into Ramadi and Falluja on New Year’s Day.

Local forces in Ramadi subsequently succeeded in pushing militants back, but the situation in Falluja remained “far more serious,” McGurk said.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and by Ned Parker in Baghdad. Editing by Jason Szep and Ross Colvin

(c) Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

After 23 Years, the Pentagon Reoccupies The Philippines

April 28th, 2014 - by admin

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Aya Lowe / The National – 2014-04-28 23:40:42

US Troops Heading Back to Philippines Under New Military Pact

US Troops Heading Back to
Philippines Under New Military Pact

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(April 27, 2014) — 23 years after the Philippines evicted US forces from their country, a new deal has been signed that is set to allow the US to “pre-position” forces in the nation and resume access to some of the bases.

The Obama Administration has been hard-selling the deal for months as a chance for the Philippines to secure US military aid to “counter Chinese aggression” in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and China are just two of several nations with conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, and the US has promised military backing for the Philippines military to defend their claims against China. The US has made similar promises to virtually everyone else with a claim that is contrary to China’s own claims.

The United States occupied the Philippines militarily after the Spanish-American War, and engaged in a brutal suppression of pro-independence rebels. The Philippines finally achieved full independence from the US in 1946, but US troops remained present in a big way until their 1991 expulsion.


Military Bases at Center of Philippines-US Relationship
Aya Lowe / The National

OLONGAPO (April 28, 2014) — When Jack Walker returned to the Subic Bay military base 39 years after he was stationed there during the Vietnam war, he found his old home falling apart.

The airstrip that used to handle some of the largest military aircraft in the US Air Force sits largely unused; a recent landslide had torn a few bunkers in half.

The base is a relic to the long-standing but rocky relationship between the United States and the Philippines, one that has survived colonial rule, regional wars, dictatorship, and growing Chinese power.

Under a new defence agreement expected to be signed on Monday, active duty US troops could return to Subic Bay for the first time in more than a decade.

“The agreement will enable some flexibility on the part of the US when it sends its military for either joint exercises with their Philippine counterparts or in assisting the latter in tracking down [Islamist militants],” said Patricio Abinales, who teaches Philippines studies at the Asian Studies Programme in the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii and was born in the Philippines.

The US can also help the Philippines armed forces reorient themselves from a focus on counterinsurgency “to one which has external defence capabilites,” Mr. Abinales said.

US-Philippines Ties
Mr. Walker and his fellow marines landed at the 678-square-kilometre Subic Bay base, one of America’s largest outside the country at the time, in 1972.

Its strategic position meant it played a role in every major US military engagement in the Asia Pacific area between 1898 and 1991.

The US had two bases in the Philippines, Subic Bay and Clark. Growing anger at the United States’s long presence in the country caused the Philippines senate to refuse to renew the lease for the two military bases and the US military pulled out in 1991.

Once the US forces left, both Subic Bay and Clark were turned into special economic zones. In Subic Bay, the US Navy left behind more than 1,800 houses in neighborhoods designed to resemble American suburbs.

This slice of American life in the tropics attracted a slew of former military men who, having spent time there when the bases were open, moved back to retire, including Mr. Walker.

The base, and Olongapo, the nearest town, was not what he remembered.

“Back in the 70s Olongapo was a nice-looking place, but when I came back it was dirty, rundown, all the buildings were in disrepair, there were millions of telephone wires hanging all over the place. It was a ghetto,” said Mr. Walker.

Despite the rundown atmosphere, there have been some improvements. “The roads are better. Before it took three to four hours to get to Manila. Now [there’s] a major highway,” Mr. Walker said.

He thought the new defence agreement would help improve the local economy.

“The Subic International Airport has one civilian carrier that operates out of it. The plan is that three Philippine air force units will come in and take over the airport. They will have guest forces that will come from the US who will be here on a transitional basis of around four months at a time. Ships will be making a lot more stops and there will be about 200 or so US personnel here, mostly administrative jobs,” said Mr. Walker, adding that he thought this would also create a lot of jobs for locals.

Uneasy Relationship
In the days running up to Mr. Obama’s visit on Monday, a number of protests have been staged outside the presidential palace in Manila to oppose the return of the US military to the country.

At the same time, a 2013 study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, showed that the Philippines scored 85 per cent when people were asked: “Do you have a favorable view of the US?”

This contrast marks the complex relationship the Philippines has with the US, which dates back to the late 19th century when the US kicked out colonial Spain after the Spanish-American War without granting the country its freedom.

“Filipinos expected independence following the defeat of the Spanish so they of course turned to fight the Americans once they realised they were merely trading colonial masters,” said Andrew Yeo, assistant professor at the Department of politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

The turning point came during World War II, when Americans and Filipinos fought side-by-side against the Japanese, who attacked the Philippines immediately after Pearl Harbour, leading to the country’s independence in 1946.

US-Philippine relations remained very close throughout the Cold War, though frustrations mounted in the 1980s over the US acceptance of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorhip. The rise of nationalist politicians who had suffered under Marcos and came to power following the People Power revolution in 1986 led to a diminishing of US influence in the country.

“However, the reality of threats in the South China Sea following a dispute with China in 1995,” Mr. Yeo said, “and the focus on terrorism and radical Islam after September 11 helped greatly improve relations between the US and Philippines.”

Whether the new defence agreement will boost relations further is yet to be seen, but the fast decaying base at Subic is looking forward to a fresh lick of paint and a stab at its former glory.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Obama’s Asian Pivot Stumbles

April 28th, 2014 - by admin

Justin Raimondo / AntiWar.com – 2014-04-28 01:33:00

Obama’s Asian Pivot Stumbles

(April 27, 2014) — For those of us who wondered “whatever happened to the ‘Asian pivot?'” the answer is now in: it was the diplomatic-strategic equivalent of vaporware, i.e. it was never a Serious Thing in the first place.

For those not familiar with the foreign policy wonk-speak, the Asian Pivot was supposed to have been a major turning point in American foreign policy, a pivot away from the Middle East and Europe and toward the rising power of China. It didn’t work out that way.

First there was the Syrian diversion, in which the President threatened to bomb that country in response to a ginned-up “crisis” — provoked by a false-flag chemical weapons attack staged by Turkey in cooperation with Syria’s Islamist rebels. When that move fell flat on its face, the spotlight moved not to Asia but on to Europe — southeastern Europe, specifically, where an American-sponsored regime-change operation in Ukraine was in progress.

The backfiring of this little adventure, ending in the Russian annexation of Crimea, has been an embarrassment for the administration, with an out-of-control “interim government” in Kiev stuffed with dubious characters and a new cold war with Russia dominating the headlines.

Now, finally, the Americans are getting around to their long-neglected “pivot” — but it looks like the President is tripping over himself in the attempt to carry it out. His four-nation tour of our Asian protectorates was supposed to reassure everyone that Uncle Sam has their backs: in the end, however, it wound up calling into question Washington’s willingness — and ability — to make good on its promises.

The credibility gap began to widen on Obama’s very first stop, Tokyo, where he declared that the US-Japanese security treaty covered Japan’s administration of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands — a sprinkling of atolls claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.

But is the United States really going to go to war with China over a motley collection of uninhabited atolls, most of which are underwater much of the time?

The Japanese may be forgiven for doubting it. That’s the reason for their current national debate over repealing the provision in the postwar Japanese constitution that effectively prevents the country from having any kind of real military, including nuclear weapons. Washington is bluffing, and the Japanese know it.

Next stop — South Korea, where Obama immediately embroiled himself in a longstanding dispute over Korean “comfort women” forced into sex slavery by Japanese occupation troops during World War II.

Chastising the Japanese, and following this up with bromides about looking to the future, his holier-than-thou riff satisfied no one: the Japanese were angered because he waited until after leaving Japan to make his remarks — a kind of underhanded way of staking out his position. The Koreans weren’t satisfied either, because anything less than unconditional support for the Korean position is insufficient. They’re still fighting World War II over there — not to mention reenacting the Korean war.

Standing next to South Korean President Park Guen-hye — daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled the nation with an iron fist from 1963 to 1979 — Obama stood pensively by as South Korea’s first woman chief executive railed against Pyongyang’s “provocations” and threatened the North with unspecified retaliation if they detonated another nuclear device. (The North Koreans, in their response, outdid Ms. Park by a couple of country miles.) Reaffirming America’s “unwavering” commitment to the defense of the South, the President planted yet another tripwire on Asian soil.

In Kuala Lumpur, the President waded into the missing airliner controversy, which was roiled by former Prime Mahatir Mohamad’s remarks directed at Boeing, which he says should be held responsible for the disaster rather than Malaysian Airlines, the state-owned carrier.

This is yet another China-related issue: many of the passengers were Chinese, and their families are directing their anger at the Malaysians, further exacerbating preexisting tensions over the Spratley islands question.

The capstone of this triumphal tour is slated for Monday, in the Philippines, where Benigno Aquino III and President Obama will hail the signing of a new military agreement that will allow for an increased US military presence. After being kicked out of the country in 1992, it looks like the Americans will once again take up their old post at Subic Bay.

While the President made a point in Kuala Lumpur of reasserting his intent to implement the Asian pivot and refocus attention on the region, Ukraine came up at every stop. In Tokyo he made a point of lecturing the Russians about their dependence on oil wealth, mocking Moscow for its underlying weakness in spite of Putin’s Pyrrhic victory in Crimea. The subtext, as the Chinese read it: don’t try this at home.

If we’re going to have a new cold war with Russia then it wouldn’t be complete without a Moscow-Beijing alliance, now would it? If we’re going to go retro, then why not go all the way? It’s plain to see where this little narrative is headed: first a series of learned disquisitions on the New Eurasianism in The New Republic and the New York Review of Books, followed by a John Kerry “town hall” with the Dalai Lama emceed by Miriam Elder.

The contours of the emerging mythology are taking shape before our very eyes: the Eurasian “central powers” are a new Axis of Evil, a fresh threat to world peace and Anglo-American hegemony emanating from the top of the world.

Such myth-making has pecuniary as well as political uses. If the US is now engaged in a two-front cold war against the Eurasian central powers, then the strategic rationale for maintaining the ability to fight two major wars simultaneously — long the basis of our military posture — is revived and reinforced. Guess we can’t cut the military budget after all.

For all the folderol, the so-called Asian pivot is really just a feint: we have neither the ability nor does the Obama administration have the desire to confront China militarily. Coverage of Obama’s Asian trip generally emphasized the decision to “skip” Beijing, yet the really significant omission on Obama’s itinerary was Taiwan.

He didn’t dare show up there, the sore spot of Eastasia, site of yet another “frozen” conflict left over from the cold war era — and with good reason. No Chinese regime could give up its claim to the “renegade” province and survive popular wrath for long: the increasingly shaky gerontocracy in Beijing is acutely sensitive to the potential for nationalist backlash if they are seen as appeasing the West. For Obama to show up in Taiwan would’ve been a provocation too far.

Aside from Chinese intransigence on this issue, a stopover in Taipei would have complicated the administration’s anti-secessionist stance. After all, if the “Republic of China” can secede from the mainland, then why can’t Crimea get out from under Kiev’s heel? Yet the US is bound by law to defend Taiwan in case of a Chinese incursion — now there’s another cold war holdover that’s taken on new currency.

The overwhelming impression generated by Obama’s Asian sojourn is that the entire region is interlaced with numerous tripwires, any one of which could set off a major military conflict with the world’s most populous country. Underlying this sense of impending danger is the suspicion of US impotence, highlighted by the hollowness of Obama’s threat to go to war with Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets.

We have no more business deciding what goes on in the South China Sea than Beijing has in the Gulf of Mexico. To add hypocrisy to hubris: while we’re backing the Japanese in their claim to Senkaku/Diaoyu, Washington still refuses to even consider getting out of Okinawa and finally ending the US occupation.

Left to themselves, the human dinosaurs who preside over one of the last ruling Communist parties in the world will trod the road to extinction. However, Washington never leaves anyone to themselves: the US policy of “containment,” i.e. military encirclement, allows Mao’s heirs to reinvent themselves as nationalist defenders of the homeland against US aggression. Leave it to US policymakers to breathe new life into an authoritarian one-party system previously pronounced ideologically dead.

Jason Raimondo is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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