US assessments on Al-Qaeda and Taliban are fundamentally flawed because of fear and ignorance

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As the rest of the world seeks to navigate a fresh course when it comes to dealing with the reality of a Taliban-led Afghanistan, the US finds itself worrying about a non-existent threat from Al-Qaeda.

There’s an old saying, “once bitten, twice shy,” that captures the uncertainty of a person who has suffered through a bad experience, only to find his or herself once again on a path they believe is leading to a similar ordeal. This idiom captures the essence of current US thinking about Al-Qaeda and Afghanistan today. 

In testimony delivered before the National Security Summit, a bevy of US national security and foreign policy officials offered up their assessments as to what the future held for the terrorist organization that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and killed nearly 3,000 civilians. The US concerns about Al-Qaeda were projected through a policy prism, heavily influenced by the fact that the summit took place on the heels of both the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack and a humiliating departure from Afghanistan by the US and its allies following the seizure of that country by the Taliban.

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The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, barely one month after the 9/11 attacks, initiating a 20-year occupation which saw the US declare war on both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The prevailing wisdom at the time was that the Taliban had provided Al-Qaeda with a haven from which it was able to plan and organize the 9/11 attacks, and as such had become a co-conspirator that needed to be eradicated. 

The victory of the Taliban has raised concerns among US officials that Afghanistan could once again become a base of operations for Al-Qaeda that would put the US homeland at risk of attack. This even though the Taliban, as part of a peace agreement negotiated in February 2020, had provided assurances that under their rule Afghanistan would never again play host to foreign terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda.

The threat picture presented by the US government, however, is quite muted when compared to the New York Times headline. While Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified that the ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have “not been severed,”Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, noted that Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, did not rise to the threat level presented by other nations such as Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria.David Cohen, the deputy director of the CIA, testified that his organization is actively monitoring the situation in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for “some potential movement of Al-Qaeda to Afghanistan,” whileLieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, assessed that it would take Al-Qaeda between one and two years to rebuild capability inside Afghanistan that would enable it to threaten the US homeland.

One must keep in mind that the current assessment is being made following a 20-year conflict in which the US previously claimed to have all but eliminated Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. In May 2009, for instance, General David Petraeus, who at the time was serving as the commander of Central Command, responsible for all US forces operating inside Afghanistan, noted that while Al-Qaeda and its affiliates may have “enclaves and sanctuaries” remaining inside Afghanistan, the terrorist group had suffered “very significant losses,” allowing Petraeus to echo then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s assessment that Al-Qaeda was no longer based in Afg  hanistan.

Petraeus’assessment was seconded by General James Jones, President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, in October 2009. Jones stated that the US believed there were fewer than 100 Al-Qaeda operatives left inside Afghanistan, and that the leadership of Al-Qaeda was based across the border, in the tribal areas of Pakistan. 

Jones’ assessment was mirrored by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, who estimated that there were only some “50 to 100 Al-Qaeda” operatives based in all of Afghanistan. Following a US-led assault on Al-Qaeda-affiliated training camps operating in Kandahar Province in October 2015, resulting in some 100 fighters being killed and another 50 wounded, analysts (and the media) used the claimed information as evidence that the US intelligence community was deliberately downplaying the true size of Al-Qaeda inside Afghanistan. The reality, however, was that the US strikes had hit an Afghan Baluchi resistance group allied with the Taliban, called Junood al Fida. While the leadership of Junood al Fida had sworn its loyalty to Al-Qaeda, the organization was not part of any larger Al-Qaeda effort to attack the US, but rather a more localized effort focused on driving the US out of Afghanistan.

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Currently, there is little evidence that the organization responsible for the 9/11 exists in any meaningful form on Afghanistan soil. The original Al-Qaeda brand (i.e., those loyal to Osama Bin Laden), which was indeed plotting to carry out attacks against the US as late as 2016, appears to have been largely annihilated by the US through a program of targeted assassinations using drone strikes and special operations forces. The variant of Al-Qaeda most prominent inside Afghanistan belongs to an off-shoot, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and appears to be closely allied with Taliban objectives inside Afghanistan. AQIS’ members were – and are – focused on training with and fighting alongside the Taliban to evict American forces from Afghanistan. These fighters, few in number, live along the Afghan tribes and villages. While the efficacy of their support to the Taliban is unknown, it can be safely said that they pose absolutely no threat to the US.

When viewed in this light, US claims that Al-Qaeda is seeking to rebuild itself as an Afghan-based entity capable of striking targets in the US homeland inside of two years are pure fantasy. The Taliban is an umbrella organization which has incorporated a number of resistance movements dedicated to the ousting of the US from Afghanistan. These groups include former members of Al-Qaeda who have intermarried into Afghan tribes, as well as followers of the existing Al-Qaeda leadership who have aligned themselves with the Taliban during the final campaign to evict the US and NATO forces.

When the Taliban, as part of the February 2020 peace agreement, promised not to target US and NATO forces so long as they kept to the agreed-upon timetable of May 2021 for the final evacuation of foreign troops, they kept their word. Even when Biden broke this agreement, the Taliban, in subsequent negotiations, agreed to extend the moratorium of attacking US and foreign troops to a new deadline of August 31, 2021. The Taliban kept their word. The Taliban, moreover, have promised not to allow Afghan soil to be used as a base from which terrorist organizations could plot and implement a new series of attacks against the US homeland.

It is far too early to determine whether the Taliban will keep their word. However, there is every reason to believe that the Taliban will do everything possible to defeat one known anti-US terrorist group, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, operating inside Afghanistan, which claimed responsibility for the August attack near Kabul airport. The Taliban has a history of conducting brutal operations to eradicate IS-KP (also known as ISIS-K) from Afghanistan. Given that the Taliban is committed to imprinting its brand of Islamic government on all of Afghanistan, the likelihood that it will find common cause with IS-KP is nil.

The Taliban has stated that it seeks a more inclusive, moderate form of Islamic government going forward, having learned the lessons of the past, where Taliban intolerance helped cement widespread Afghan opposition to its cause. Today the Taliban seeks foreign recognition and the economic investments such recognition brings. The last thing the Taliban would be seeking to do today is resurrect the memories of the past, including the kind of tolerance of foreign Al-Qaeda operatives plotting attacks on the US that triggered the US invasion and occupation in the first place.

So why, then, the confusion in the quality of the assessments about the future of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? First, the US intelligence community is, for the first time in over 20 years, largely flying blind when it comes to timely intelligence about the situation inside Afghanistan. In the span of less than one year, the US intelligence community has lost its vast networks of human agents and imagery and communications intercept platforms. The lack of timely raw data about Afghanistan has forced the intelligence community to issue extremely conservative assessments that discern threats where none can conclusively be shown to exist.

Second, having witnessed the consequences of downplaying the threat posed by Al-Qaeda to the US homeland in the leadup to the 9/11 attacks, no US official or agency will ever allow its assessment of the potential threat posed by Al-Qaeda to provide any wiggle room for armchair quarterbacking by critics should another attack ever occur – everyone wants to be in the position of saying “I told you so.” As such, an Al-Qaeda threat will be claimed even when no data exists to support this assessment.

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“Once bitten, twice shy” is becoming the new mantra of the US government when it comes to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This kind of manufactured/exaggerated threat projection, however, while offering cover when it comes to potential domestic political blame games, will serve to freeze the US out of the kind of hands-on diplomacy that the US should be engaged in with Afghanistan today, ceding the reconstruction of Afghanistan and all that follows to Russia, China, Iran, and others.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Washington lets former NSA spooks who spied for the UAE off the hook – because the espionage program was a US creation

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

Three former US intelligence operatives who worked as cyber spies for the United Arab Emirates admitted to a number of charges related to hacking and illegal sale of military technology, but escaped with a slap on the wrist.

Under a deal outlined by the Department of Justice, the trio – at least two of whom formerly worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) – will pay a $1.7 million fine, and be stripped of their security clearances evermore. Their crimes were committed under the auspices of Project Raven, an operation through which Abu Dhabi spied on and intercepted the communications of domestic and overseas critics of its ruling monarchy, as well as journalists, human rights activists, feminists, UN diplomats, FIFA personnel, and even Michelle Obama, among others.

Employing scores of former US spooks, Raven used techniques invented and perfected by Western intelligence agencies, including a tool ominously named Karma, which could hack into targets’ phones and computers, and those of their friends, relatives, and associates. Several UAE-based targets were subsequently arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for many years. Opposition blogger Ahmed Mansoor, a key Raven quarry, was sentenced to a decade in solitary confinement in March 2018.

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An Emirati would usually “press the button” on a Karma cyberattack to provide their US counterparts with plausible deniability, but former NSA operatives were far from passive figures in the conspiracy, constructing fake online identities to target several individuals. Among those targeted was journalist and activist Rori Donaghy who, in 2012, visited the UAE and spoke to many citizens who’d “suffered at the hands of the authorities and the security services,” and has written extensively about repression in the country thereafter.

Instructed by their controllers to “ingratiate [themselves] to the target by espousing similar beliefs,” a dedicated Raven team posed as a local human rights activist, and emailed Donaghy asking for his help to “bring hope to those who are long suffering.”

Over ensuing communications, they convinced him to download software that would make their chats “difficult to trace.”  In reality, this spread malware on his electronic devices, allowing the Emiratis to continuously monitor his email account and internet browsing. This operation remained a top priority until 2015, when Donaghy learnt of the hack.

Raven operatives happily went along with the project’s shocking activities – which extended to spying on teenagers who posted negative comments about the monarchy on social media – even refusing to speak to FBI representatives who, from 2016 onwards, began approaching employees who re-entered the US and quizzing them as to whether they’d shared sensitive information with the Emiratis. However, several began talking when the extent of Raven’s targeting of US citizens – which included collecting passport scans  and information on journalists – became clear.

This was collected via Karma, and the Justice filing makes clear that the three defendants “designed, implemented, [and] modified” the system, using stolen login credentials to obtain personal and private data from protected computers at two US companies, and conducting cyberattacks from those firms’ systems to cover their tracks. What’s more, the trio’s work for Raven ran from December 2015 to November 2019 – 10 months after its operation was first publicly exposed and an international scandal erupted.

Their penalty is unbelievably lenient, although such clemency is perfectly understandable. A trial might shed further damaging light on some extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient home truths, given Raven’s origins trace back to a dedicated US-sanctioned effort led by former high-ranking White House officials to equip the UAE with advanced spying capabilities to further the War on Terror.

The push was led by former US counter-terror chief Richard Clarke, who, after resigning his post in 2003, took a senior role at homeland security consulting firm Good Harbor. Subsequently, he leveraged overseas contacts built up during his government career to secure lucrative contracts for the company. Some of those contacts were based in the UAE – Clarke recommended the country’s rulers create a cybersurveillance agency and Good Harbor was subsequently invited to do so on their behalf.

Clarke claims “the incentive was to help in the fight against Al-Qaeda,” and the Emiratis had proven themselves “a very good counterterrorism partner.” His firm duly began constructing a spying unit fittingly titled DREAD – Development Research Exploitation and Analysis Department – with the express permission of the State Department and the NSA. At least six former White House officials were reportedly involved, too.

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Good Harbor’s work on DREAD ended in 2010, and it was renamed Project Raven two years later. After Clarke’s company ended its involvement, the operation was subsequently passed between US private intelligence contractors – and participants were remunerated to the tune of millions. Former spies’ security clearances are, understandably, worth a fortune, and ex-Agency operatives were able to keep that privileged status, which grants them access to Washington’s most sensitive secrets, due to the exploitation of a common loophole.

An ex-spook theoretically loses their security clearance if and when they opt to work for a foreign intelligence service, and regaining it requires them to be reinvestigated at length. However, they can be retained if those individuals also remain US government contractors – and the private intelligence sector exploits this legal ambiguity by maintaining “shell contracts,” via which named staff on a project for a particular US intelligence agency in fact do no work.

Such was the case with CyberPoint, which, by 2014, was in charge of Raven. It maintained a contract titled ‘Harborview’ with the NSA, which named 67 company employees as involved – at least six of whom didn’t actually conduct any contracting work for the Agency, and at least two of whom worked on Raven. Such scheming is extremely common among large intelligence contractors, and completely legal.

CyberPoint also had a dedicated agreement with the State Department, which indicates the latter was well aware the firm was involved in the “collection of information from communications systems inside and outside the UAE” and “surveillance analysis” to ostensibly “[protect] UAE sovereignty.” Which begs the obvious question as to whether the US government was aware and approved of what the Emiratis were getting up to every step of the way.

A former White House senior national security director who worked for Good Harbor on DREAD has claimed he “felt revulsion reading what ultimately happened” to the project. Even if that’s true, and Raven spun out of control simply because no one in Washington was paying sufficient attention, the operation starkly demonstrates just how quickly and easily spying programs and technology can be expanded far beyond their original mission, and abused in the most egregious, life-threatening ways imaginable.

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There are further reasons to doubt that Karma’s exposure came as much of a surprise to US officials as they claim. After all, the technology qualifies as an American intelligence-gathering system under federal export control rules, and its components were sourced from States-based companies. The issue for the authorities isn’t that the UAE possessed it, but that no export license for it was ever obtained.

The disturbing question of how, with Washington’s blessing, many other countries in the world have legitimately procured a Karma of their own, or something very similar, and today operate it totally in secret, is very much an open one.

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9/11 has become a political tool to use against opponents – it’s a shameful outcome, and disrespectful to victims

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Political discourse in the US is now driven by narrative rather than fact and, sadly, even 9/11 has become a tool used to score cheap political points and to demonize opponents by connecting them to America’s darkest day.

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and, as is customary, many social media users and news outlets used the day to commemorate the thousands of lives that were horrifically taken from us.

And, though talk of politics has always been somewhat unavoidable in relation to the tragedy – whether that be concerning Islamic extremism or American foreign policy – 9/11 has, all in all, been an occasion for Americans to come together, eschewing the usual division in favor of unity. After all, on that day, it was Americans as a whole that were targeted – not Republicans, not Democrats, but Americans.

9/11 Through The Lens Of…

20 years on, however, that unspoken detente on politicizing the tragedy may be over.

With a zeitgeist that allows anything and everything to become a political tool to further one’s own agenda, it sadly appears that 9/11 has become an opportunity to demonize opponents by retroactively connecting them to one of the darkest moments in American history. And although these sloppy comparisons may be useful to score cheap political points, ultimately they only serve to diminish the severity of the attacks and to obfuscate the motivations behind them.

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Intersectional Feminism

In a landscape where 9/11 can mean whatever one might want it to, Jenn Jackson, an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University, took the opportunity to enlighten her Twitter followers about how the attackers were actually, believe it or not, rebelling against the sexist, racist, and capitalist American status quo. 

Specifically, according to Jackson, 9/11 was an attack on America’s “heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems,” which are apparently favored by white people.

In reality, seeing as the attackers in question embraced Islamic fundamentalism, the idea that they would have any opposition to heteropatriarchy is, frankly, laughable. And furthermore, although it’s now fashionable for progressives to equate any world ills with capitalism, the American involvement in the Middle East which angered the terrorists has very little to do with private ownership of the means of production or free market economies.

This woman is a professor at Syracuse University

— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) September 12, 2021

And, perhaps most concerningly, if the 9/11 attackers were in fact motivated by America’s bigoted ways, which Jackson seems to agree are very real, does that mean they were – in at least some way – justified?

On a day when the world mourns the death of almost 3,000 people, regardless of Jackson’s resentment toward her own country, these posts which offered more condemnation of America than the 9/11 hijackers were tone deaf at best. And judging by the reaction on social media, it was not an effective way to enamor people toward her views.

Partisan Politics

Another recent reinterpretation of the 9/11 attacks, surprisingly enough, came from former President George W. Bush himself.

Despite being the poster boy for the neoconservative War On Terror abroad, on a day to commemorate a foreign attack on US soil, one that launched the country into a decades-long war, Bush strangely chose to turn his ire inward, toward his fellow citizens.

Speaking at a memorial in Pennsylvania, Bush lamented that there was “growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

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Here, Bush was almost certainly referring to the ephemeral threat of right-wing extremists often highlighted by the liberal media. An outspoken critic of the January 6 Capitol Riot, this would not be the first time the former President has condemned those within his own party as “violent extremists.” However, to say that it is an insult to the victims of 9/11 to in any way compare their attackers to those involved in 1/6 would be putting it mildly.

Almost 3,000 innocent people were killed on 9/11. And though we may disagree with the trespassing and property damage that occurred on 1/6, the fact remains that the only person killed that day was an unarmed protester at the hands of Capitol Police.

Condemnations of January 6 have become a go-to political calculation for establishment members hoping to paint populist factions as dangerous zealots, but George Bush’s weaponization of 9/11 (which occurred under his watch) against fellow Americans is not only disrespectful, but also blatantly diminishes the seriousness of Twin Towers’ destruction.

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The Political Rorschach Test

As the political discourse is increasingly driven by narrative, rather than fact, we should expect to see 9/11, and indeed other historical events, curiously embody all the same issues that we see argued today over social media. Perhaps Joan of Arc was prosecuted because she believed in “a woman’s right to choose.” Maybe the pilgrims settled in America to protest the Old World’s lack of action on climate change.

Personally, I wait with bated breath to discover what new retroactive motivations for the attackers are revealed next year.

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Shocking report exposes how US defense contractors have wasted trillions through fraud and corruption

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

The newly released ‘Profits of War’ report from Brown University has revealed in staggering detail the full extent of the corruption unleashed by Washington’s profligate defense spending during the 20-year War on Terror.

It notes that since the start of the intervention in Afghanistan in October 2001, Pentagon spending has totalled $14 trillion, with the US war budget increasing between 2002 and 2003 by more than the entire military spending of any other country. Between one-third and one-half of that total was pocketed by defense firms, which provided logistics and reconstruction, private security services and weapons – along the way, these contractors habitually engaged in “questionable or corrupt business practices,” including fraud, abuse, price-gouging and profiteering.

Wartime conditions meant standard contract processes were circumvented – bidders, bids, and subsequent delivery weren’t subject to significant oversight, so fleecing the Pentagon was extremely easy, particularly for well-connected companies with government ties.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman have in recent years been awarded between a quarter to a third of all Pentagon contracts. It’s surely no coincidence that four of the past five US Defense Secretaries previously worked at one of the ‘big five’.

A key focus of the report is Halliburton, which was awarded an open-ended contract without competition, to provide a wide array of support for US soldiers overseas, including setting up and managing military bases, maintaining equipment, catering, and laundry services. A 2003 internal Pentagon review found the company had dramatically overcharged for basic goods and services to the tune of tens of millions, and conducted faulty work on bases that put soldiers at risk.

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In some cases, Halliburton billed Washington for services it didn’t actually provide – in 2009, it was determined the number of meals for which it charged the Pentagon was up to 36 percent greater than the true figure. In others, the company’s reckless conduct had fatal consequences. The report documents how, from 2004 to 2008, at least 18 military personnel in Halliburton-built bases across Iraq were electrocuted due to sub-par installations.

It took the death of a Green Beret who was electrocuted while showering for Congress to launch an investigation into the issue, with a resultant review revealing that the wider building was found to have “serious electrical problems” almost a year before he died, but Halliburton did nothing to remedy the situation – not least because its contract didn’t oblige the firm to “[fix] potential hazards.” The company was also found to have employed untrained or inexperienced electricians to do work at a lower rate, while billing Washington for fees provided by professionals.

Despite criminal investigations being launched by the FBI, Justice Department, and Pentagon Inspector General during the mid-00s into Halliburton’s activities in Iraq, not a single employee was ever penalized, its government contracts only multiplied thereafter, and a civil servant who’d raised numerous concerns about the company’s conduct was demoted.

The firm’s insulation from prosecution may well be explained by Vice President Dick Cheney serving as its CEO between 1995 and 2000 – he still held stock options worth millions, and had received millions of thousands of dollars more in deferred compensation for his role, when the War on Terror began.

Cheney was also instrumental in the privatization of US warfare more widely. In 1992, under his direction as Defense Secretary, the Pentagon paid the parent company of Halliburton $3.9 million to produce a report on how private contractors could provide logistics in overseas theaters of conflict.

Numerous examples of fraud, waste, and abuse in Afghanistan are also documented in ‘Profits of War’, including a US-appointed economic task force spending $43 million on a gas station that was never used, $150 million on lavish living quarters for economic advisors, and $3 million for patrol boats for the Afghan police that were also never used.

A cited Congressional investigation found a significant portion of the $2 billion in transportation contracts splurged by Washington ended up as kickbacks to warlords, police officials, or even the Taliban, sometimes as much as $1,500 per vehicle, or up to half a million dollars for each large convoy of 300 trucks. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated such “protection money” was one of the group’s major sources of funding.

Smaller contractors weren’t always bulletproof though. Custer Battles, a firm founded by a former Army Ranger and an ex-CIA operative in the aftermath of 9/11, was awarded a contract – its first ever – to guard Baghdad airport, and collect old Iraqi currency so it could be destroyed. The firm’s chiefs had no experience in airport security, employed security guards with no prior training, didn’t hire translators who spoke Arabic, and acquired no security dogs to detect explosives.

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Its operatives also went on a shooting spree in the city of Umm Qasr, firing on civilian cars and crowded minibuses, and only stopping when local authorities and a British military unit intervened. Mercifully, no one was injured or killed – no disciplinary actions arose either, as the staffers bribed witnesses to keep quiet.

Custer’s CEO was paying himself $3 million annually, and company staff on-the-ground lived in supreme luxury, their complexes replete with swimming pools, air conditioning and wireless internet – meanwhile, US troops often stayed in tents and abandoned buildings. In 2004, a consultant to the firm came across an internal document that exposed gross overcharges, provision of fake leases and bills, and use of false front companies by Custer. The company was barred from receiving any further US government contracts, and fined a meagre $10,000.

Still, those repercussions are positively seismic when one considers no major US defense contractor has to date ever suffered significant financial or criminal consequences for their work – or lack thereof – during the War on Terror. What’s more, there’s no indication any lessons have been learned in Washington – quite the opposite, in fact. The report notes the sector has “ample tools at its disposal to influence decisions over Pentagon spending going forward.”

Foremost is a vast and extremely well-funded lobbying effort. Defense contractors have provided $285 million in campaign contributions since 2001, with a special focus on presidential candidates, Congressional leadership, and members of the armed services and appropriations committees. Moreover, these firms have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying since 9/11, each employing over 700 lobbyists annually over the past five years on average, more than one for every member of Congress.

Many of these lobbyists, the report states, have passed through a “revolving door” from jobs in Congress, the Pentagon, National Security Council and other agencies key to determining the size and scope of the US military budget. Company chiefs openly brag about their effective purchase of lawmakers – in October 2001, Harry Stonecipher, then-Vice President of Boeing, declared that “any member of Congress who doesn’t vote for the funds we need to defend this country will be looking for a new job after next November.”

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With the War on Terror now seemingly over, “exaggerated estimates of the military challenges posed by China have become the new rationale of choice” for defense contractors, as they seek to bloat the already unbelievably voluminous US defense budget even further.

In 2019, the National Defense Strategy Commission published a scaremongering report, which proposed three to five percent annual growth in the Pentagon budget to address the purported threat of China. Ever since, those figures have become a mantra for hawks in government, think tanks and the media – as the report notes, nine of the 12 members of the Commission had direct or indirect ties to the arms industry.

One can’t help but be reminded of President Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he offered a prophetic – and clearly unheeded – warning about the ever-growing power of the defense sector.

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all US corporations,” he reflected. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government…We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

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F**k Joe Biden? Looks like US voters may do just that come next year’s midterms

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Less than a year in power, Biden’s approval ratings are dropping like a rock amid controversial moves from his administration, including a compulsory vaccine mandate. This is paving the way for a major Republican resurgence.

Just below the high-fructose, Cheez Whiz surface of American society, there are warning signs that a mighty giant – a sluggish, overweight giant, but a giant nonetheless – is struggling to awaken from a media-induced slumber. And the rumblings are registering in some unexpected places.

Since the days of the Roman Empire, rulers have appreciated the need for bread and circuses as a means for keeping the hearts and minds of their subjects distracted, with gladiatorial matches mixed up with a generous amount of blood and beverage. And considering that there is no bigger circus in US society than American football, the Democrats may have some cause for concern.

College football fans have begun a new tradition of chanting not only obscenities at the opposing team, but at the sitting president of the United States. The chant “F**k Joe Biden” is echoing out from packed stadiums across the land, which probably suggests to the Democratic Party that, for its sake, the removal of anti-Covid lockdowns may have happened a bit too prematurely.

The entire stadium at the Alabama game was chanting 'Fuck Joe Biden' 🤣🤣🤣

— Savage Neanderthal (@TheKingIsBack80) September 12, 2021

Meanwhile, anti-Joe slogans have also appeared on crude homemade signs that dot the roadside of the president’s passing motorcade. The frequency and tone of these messages appears to have bruised Dear Leader’s ego to such a degree that he felt the need to speak about it during a meeting with 9/11 first responders.

“I’m thinking what, what would the people who died, what would they be thinking? Would they think this makes sense for us to be doing this kind of thing where you ride down the street and someone has a sign saying ‘F- so-and-so?’” he asked firefighters in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I wonder how they found out hmmmm

— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) September 14, 2021

Instead of fretting over verbal spitballs emanating from the peanut gallery, however, Biden would do well to consider the primary source of these sallies. In a matter of weeks, the Democratic leader has managed to infuriate a not-insignificant swath of the heartland with pure lunacy. First, he abandoned hundreds of Americans and Afghan allies in Afghanistan amid a Taliban advance, in what might go down in the history books as the dumbest military withdrawal from a warzone of all time. 

In addition to the American citizens and friendly Afghans, a massive amount of military equipment was left behind – literally enough to build a respectable army from scratch. Aside from the questions of arming the Taliban, how much of these munitions will fall into the hands of Islamic State, for example, is anybody’s guess.

So with American citizens trapped abroad in a very real hostage situation, what are members of the Democratic Party blabbering about? Yes, the fate of the ‘alternative lifestyles’ community trapped in Dodge. “Thank you for rightly putting the spotlight on concerns about the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan and the particular threat that they find themselves under,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told US Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) this week during a House hearing.

Although there is no official data on the number of LGBTQI+ members stuck in glittering Kabul, I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s somewhere between nearly nonexistent and miniscule. This was just another cheap opportunity for the Democrats to inject their self-serving virtue-signaling into yet another issue, and Americans are quickly wising up to the charade. 

While the rights of every person must be respected, this obsession with sexual and transgender lifestyles, which are now being taught to elementary school children, has infuriated many parents who believe the primary task of educators should be teaching children the fundamentals – reading, writing and arithmetic. Anything beyond that appears to conservatives – and an increasing number of Democrats – as politicizing the classroom. The very same thing could be said for the unproven ideology known as ‘critical race theory’, which teaches that white folks are inherently racist.

Secretary Blinken just acknowledged the Taliban has blocked charter flights out of Afghanistan, with Americans still there trying to get out. We’re in a hostage crisis. And today Joe Biden is campaigning in California.

— Mark Meadows (@MarkMeadows) September 13, 2021

This leads us to Biden’s biggest blunder of them all – demanding that freedom-loving, gun-toting Americans submit to a Covid vaccine that millions feel they do not want or need. This is exactly what the US leader said back in January that he would never do. On top of this glaring lie, Biden divided the nation by singling out millions of Americans for blame.

“We’ve been patient,” the 78-year-old Democrat bellowed, choosing his tele-prompted words carefully. “But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.” The unvaccinated among us “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

If the Democrats somehow believed this shot across the bow of corporate America (the mandate requires all companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated) would somehow be warmly received, they should really get to work finding a new PR consultant. According to a recent poll, nearly six in ten (58.6%) Americans believe the president lacks the “constitutional authority” to force private businesses to demand that employees receive vaccination against Covid-19. Just 29.7% argued he does, while 11.7% were unsure. In other words, a hugely unpopular decision for the US leader, and coming at a time when midterm elections are fast approaching.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found Biden’s disapproval rating rising to 51 percent in August, up from 42 percent in April. And considering that the poll was conducted by liberal media allies, the true figure could in fact be considerably worse. For Democrats, bad early starts do not bode well for midterm elections. 

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In 1993, Bill Clinton entered office with 58 percent public support, yet by 1994, the Democrat’s approval fell to 41 percent and the Republicans took control of Congress. A similar thing happened to Barack Obama. Voted into the White House in 2009 on the fanfare of being the first black US president, one year later the excitement was over, as Obama’s approval rating had dropped to 44 percent. Once again, the Republicans seized control of Congress. 

While ending the pandemic is naturally a big concern for average Americans, they are far more concerned that it is achieved without undue pressure, like through the loss of liberty and employment. That is not the American way, and the Democratic Party may very well pay a steep political price in the next elections for forgetting that.

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India should vaccinate its own people first rather than let the US co-opt it into its anti-China jab diplomacy

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Washington is once again pressuring PM Narendra Modi to export vaccines across Asia in a bid to counterbalance Beijing’s exports, but with only 13% of India’s 1.3 billion people double jabbed, New Delhi’s focus should be internal.

Today it has been widely reported that the United States are urging India to restart its export of Covid vaccines. The South East Asian nation is known for its competitive pharmaceutical industry and was, until China displaced it this year, the world’s largest producer and exporter of vaccines. In partnership with AstraZeneca, New Delhi created the ‘Covishield’ vaccine which Modi aspired to use under a ‘vaccine diplomacy’ stint of his own at the beginning of this year. That was until the country’s ‘Covid Tsunami’ struck and, under immense political pressure to vaccinate at home, forced him to announce a ban on exports, given the sheer size of its population, ending India’s participation in the international Covid race.

That ban has remained in place ever since. Now, Biden is personally pushing New Delhi to resume this push. Why? Because in wake of the race to scramble for ‘Booster shots’, the US now wants to stockpile doses for themselves, amassing 100 million already, and want to use India, as it was intended at the beginning of this year, to be an effective ‘vaccine lackey’ against China to dilute its own global vaccination push. While Modi was tempted previously by this initiative, he should not sacrifice the interests of Indian people on behalf of America’s crusades, with the gruesome scenes of April and May still fresh in people’s memories.

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At the beginning of this year, the United States itself maintained an ‘America first’ policy of withholding vaccines for itself and upholding a Trump-era ban on exports. Having already faced over half a million deaths at that point in time, Washington was on the back foot against Beijing’s global vaccine push. To put this into perspective, China has since today exported 797 million doses of Covid vaccines and donated 68 million more for free. The US initially had no answer to this, and sought to use India as the counterweight to Beijing. During the first Quad leaders’ summit, which was held digitally in March, the four leaders together made a pledge to donate two billion vaccines to South East Asia within the next year, financed via the US and Japan, and produced by India.

The proposal soon went up in smoke after the Delta variant ravaged India. Although since that time US policy has pivoted towards donating vaccines itself, as well as making ever more ambitious commitments along with G7 countries to donate billions more vaccines. The unpredictability of the Covid-19 crisis has in fact hit another snag, the revelation that vaccines do not make the pandemic completely go away entirely in the way people assumed has led to a growing scramble for booster shots ahead of winter. Logically, it’s making quick work out of the goodwill of Western nations to donate billions selflessly. The West has always put themselves before poorer countries, and it comes amid Xi Jinping’s pledge China will donate another 100 million vaccines by the end of the year.

READ MORE: The West got it very wrong about Covid bringing an end to ‘Made in China’ goods

The US president faces more trouble than just boosters, the continual ‘tooth pulling’ act of even getting some Americans to take vaccines at all remains a problem, so what is his solution? One which can pivot away from exports and compete with China? In light of the upcoming second Quad leaders’ summit (the first in person), on September 24, the president is now strong-arming India to try and join the vaccine diplomacy game yet again. The intent is obvious, to downgrade America’s participation, ease their burden and to fill the gap with New Delhi who again will be predictably used to try and compete with China’s efforts; precisely because the West are now less confident in living up to their promises. It’s never been about genuinely helping countries as it has been about attempting to contain Beijing.

As the Axios scoop on the issue notes, India’s vaccines are among “the cheapest” on the market and tailored for poorer nations. While the piece claims: “vaccinating as much of the developing world, as quickly as possible, is in America’s vital interest”– this is not strictly true because all evidence shows an ‘America First’ approach has always taken precedence. In addition, this has coupled with an extreme lack of appreciation for China’s own efforts. The mainstream media have, in conjunction with US interests, sought to relentlessly trash-talk and spread misinformation about the efficacy of Chinese vaccines as much as possible, also seeing their contribution as a challenge to ‘Big Pharma’– Reuters one for one has created a prolific amount of negative and even misleading stories about Chinese vaccines. Why? Because its chairman James Smith sits on the executive board of Pfizer.

As we can also see from the Axios article, Biden aims to play to Modi’s sense of status through ‘elevating him’. Modi enjoyed the strongman ‘leader to leader’ summits under Trump, yet, the facts do not change that getting carried away with this is a bad idea because India is not in ‘safe territory’ when it comes to its own vaccine totals and doses a day. While the country has made progress in giving around half its huge 1.3 billion population one dose, the rate of fully vaccinated people is only 13%, indicating the mammoth effort which lies ahead. Another Covid wave, or another variant, would have extremely deadly consequences, matching the scenes of earlier this year whereby bodies were being flushed up in rivers, hospitals were running out of oxygen and deadly black fungus was killing people in conjunction with Covid.

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In a nutshell, Biden wants Modi to drop ‘India First’ so he can have ‘America First’ yet again. India is not being used as a global good here, but simply a tool to hit China back, which in a nutshell is the entire impetus of its role in the ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’. Of course, it is true to say that “the more vaccines the merrier” is a global good. However, the reality is that it is the West who owes India a favour, directly so to speak, and not the other way around. India needs to secure its own front and population rather than simply be a tool of the obsessive US crusade against China. It should not be pressured, but resume contributions in its own time, its own proportions in its own way, after its own population has been secured.

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A newly declassified pre-9/11 report exposes Al-Qaeda ‘sleeper’ cells across US, so why was the intelligence not acted on?

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

The release of a White House report put together the year before the 9/11 attacks reveals there was a growing fear of terrorist attack during this period. And it begs the question why more wasn’t done to prevent one.

A previously secret report authored in January 2000 by senior members of the White House’s then-national security team, which concluded that US intelligence was ill equipped and ineffective in the face of a major and ever-growing domestic terror threat, has at last been declassified.

Dubbed the ‘Millennium Alert After Action Review’, it was compiled at the behest of the National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group, by representatives of each of the US government’s counterterrorism and security agencies, after a major planned terror attack was thwarted at the end of 1999.

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Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian living in Canada, was caught attempting to cross the border into Washington state in a car laden with explosives. He later admitted to the FBI that he’d been trained at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and intended to bomb Los Angeles Airport on New Year’s Eve.

The Bureau made dozens of arrests, questioned an enormous number of individuals and placed hundreds under surveillance countrywide over the course of the ensuing investigation, although proving the targets in question were terrorists, let alone had terrorist connections, proved elusive. A feared wave of incendiary attacks during millennium celebrations that year didn’t materialise, although the sense that a major incident of some kind was inevitable pervaded the White House, leading to the review’s compilation.

It declares that “chance played far too important a role” in the avoidance of the Los Angeles plot and it was “currently remarkably easy to enter the US from Canada carrying bombs or WMD [weapons of mass destruction] material.” A terrorist infiltrating the US by driving through unstaffed border crossings was a “simple matter.” Indeed, had Ressam chosen one of the large number of unattended border checkpoints – of which there were said to be 30 in Minnesota alone – he would have slipped into the US undetected.

The report goes on to note that investigations had revealed the existence of potential sleeper cells across the US, with “widespread organized terrorist supporters” representing a dangerous prospective “terrorist presence.” These individuals raised money outside the country, often criminally, to fund their activities, and provided “infrastructure” to support foreign “hit teams” brought into America. This presence was said to be “widespread” and include numerous metropolitan areas in which the FBI didn’t operate dedicated terrorism taskforces with other agencies.

Grave operational shortfalls didn’t end there. The millennium investigation had “stretched to the limit” the FBI and Justice Department, forcing the pair to “jury-rig” the investigation to acquire authorization for the “unprecedented” number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act operations involved.

Even more ominously, the Review concludes that US efforts to date to disrupt Al-Qaeda and its affiliates had “failed to significantly degrade their global operational capability.” It recounts how, following the uncovering of a plot to bomb four sites in Jordan, targeting US and Israeli tourists, the CIA implemented “one of its largest global disruption operations ever,” targeting terror groups and individuals across Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

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While the effort “threw a number of terror groups off-balance,” its achievements were “tactical and temporary” only – it failed to “seriously weaken” Al-Qaeda, which, by that time, had built up “robust” networks in over 20 countries, and “some presence” in 50 others. These capabilities meant the group could “strike at multiple US targets in several countries simultaneously.”

As such, the review outlined 18 recommendations, with 16 accompanying funding proposals, to “seriously weaken” Al Qaeda’s “global web.” Few were adopted, and not long after taking office in 2001, George W. Bush downgraded the Counterterrorism Security Group, effectively demoting its chief Richard Clarke, and creating layers of bureaucracy between him and the White House. Numerous memos authored by Clarke urgently requesting high-level meetings to discuss Al-Qaeda and outlining strategies for combating the group at home and abroad, were ignored.

The 9/11 Commission concluded that intelligence failures, in part resulting from underfunding of counterterrorism efforts, played a significant role in the successful execution of the attacks. However, there are clear indications the CIA was sufficiently equipped to avert the tragedy well in advance.

In 1996, Alec Station, an Agency unit tasked with tracking Osama Bin Laden and his associates, was created. While effectively a joint effort with the FBI, Bureau operatives assigned to the endeavor needed authorization from the CIA to pass any information they gleaned on to their superiors – and faced harsh penalties for doing so without permission.

By late 1999, with clear insinuations of major Al-Qaeda plots in the offing, the National Security Agency and CIA began monitoring an “operational cadre” consisting of, among others, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. They attended a conference convened by the terror group in Malaysia in January 2000, and when two FBI agents assigned to the station learnt the pair had entry visas to the US, they demanded the information be passed to their headquarters.

“We’ve got to tell the Bureau about this. These guys clearly are bad … We’ve got to tell the FBI.” And then [the CIA officer] said to me, ‘No, it’s not the FBI’s case, not the FBI’s jurisdiction’,” Mark Rossini, one of the FBI agents in question, has alleged. “If we had picked up the phone and called the Bureau, I would’ve been violating the law. I … would’ve been removed from the building that day. I would’ve had my clearances suspended, and I would be gone.”

Neither the Bureau nor the Federal Aviation Authority was told, and in January 2000, Hazmi and Midhar arrived in California. This created a truly extraordinary situation in September that year, when the hijackers moved into the San Diego home of an FBI informant, who mentioned the pair to his handler. He also helped get Hazmi’s name, address, and home phone number listed in the local phonebook.

READ MORE: Twenty years on, families of 9/11 victims demand Washington finally declassifies documents – could they shed light on CIA’s role?

The CIA moreover allegedly refused to cooperate with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Able Danger program, which was tracking potential terrorists in the US. A former member, Anthony Shaffer, alleges that Langley perceived Able Danger to be encroaching on its turf, and he was told by an Agency operative that “[we] will never give you the best information from [Alec Station] or anywhere else … because if you were successful in your effort to target Al-Qaeda, you will steal our thunder.”

Shaffer also claims that Able Danger identified many of the individuals responsible for 9/11 prior to the attacks, including members of the “Brooklyn cell” such as Mohammed Atta – who, it was reported in the days after, was under CIA surveillance in Germany in January 2000 until he left for the US in June.

Richard Clarke also wasn’t informed of Hazmi and Midhar’s entry to the US, despite Agency chief George Tenet calling him at the White House several times a day and meeting with him in person every other day to discuss intelligence on Al-Qaeda “in microscopic detail”. Had he been told at any point prior to 9/11, even a week before, he believes the attacks could’ve been averted – a view shared by numerous senior FBI officials.

Clarke contends this decision was made at the highest levels of the CIA, and has pointed to a far more sinister explanation than mere internecine rivalry – Langley was using them in a secret operation of some kind.

In response to immense pressure from the still-grieving families of 9/11 victims, President Biden has moved to declassify a trove of documents related to the attacks. Whether the truth will finally emerge two decades on from that fateful day remains to be seen.

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Guinea takeover highlights how US military training programs are breeding violent coups

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

Mamady Doumbouya’s seizure of power in Guinea should be no surprise, as recent history shows there have been a number of coups in Africa by soldiers who have previously received military training from America.

On September 5, a group of elite soldiers seized power in Guinea, imprisoning President Alpha Condé, suspending the constitution, declaring an indefinite curfew, closing the country’s borders, and freeing dozens of political prisoners.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the country’s new leader, has pledged to lead a national unity government, assuring foreign investors that their interests in the country won’t be adversely affected by the change, although bauxite prices have already been sent spiralling.

The coup prompted a highly unusual response from China, which, in apparent contravention of its longstanding policy of non-interference in foreign affairs, condemned the action and called for Condé’s release. This unprecedented intervention may be explained by Guinea being one of several African countries in which Beijing has expanded its mining operations in recent months. US officials have also expressed disapproval, with the State Department hinting that punitive sanctions could be imposed.

Conakry’s new president is a rather intriguing character. The media biographies that have been published to date begin with his return from the French Foreign Legion to join the Special Forces Group, an elite military unit created by Condé. However, a particularly striking aspect of his career is yet to be acknowledged by a single mainstream outlet: Doumbouya and the unit he leads have received extensive special-operations training from the US military overseas.

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An October 2018 Facebook post by the US Embassy in Guinea pictures Doumbouya in front of the diplomatic mission’s offices, alongside US military personnel, and notes that he was preparing to participate in exercises abroad under the auspices of Exercise Flintlock. A video dated February 2019 features the lieutenant-colonel discussing the program.

Flintlock was launched in 2005 to provide counter-terror support to West African nations. Ironically, given recent developments in Guinea, the training is intended to complement the  conducted by bogus humanitarian agency USAID promoting “good governance” and “security” in the region. Two years later, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was inaugurated, which effectively embedded Washington in the armed forces of 53 countries across the continent.

Ever since, Flintlock-trained soldiers have been at the forefront of the majority of coups in West Africa. In August 2020, Colonel Assimi Goita, who’d participated in a US-led training exercise the previous year and graduated from a separate US training course in 2016, seized power in Mali. Photos of Goita receiving a certificate from his trainers at a US-German security centre were abruptly purged from the web. 

Only eight years prior, Captain Amadou Sanogo, who’d been trained by the US on six separate occasions, led a coup of his own in Mali, which, in turn, emboldened the country’s Islamist insurgency, leading to French military intervention in 2013. AFRICOM officials referred to Sanogo’s actions as “very worrisome for us”, and US General Carter Ham, who had led the operation at the time, admitted there had been significant failings.

“We were focusing our training almost exclusively on tactical or technical matters. We didn’t spend probably the requisite time focusing on values, ethics and a military ethos,” he lamented. “When you put on the uniform of your nation, you accept the responsibility to defend and protect that nation, to abide by the legitimate civilian authority that has been established, to conduct yourselves according to the rule of law. We didn’t do that to the degree that we needed to.”

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Nonetheless, that AFRICOM training could have disastrous consequences had already been clear for many years at that point. In December 2008, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in Guinea – he too had received extensive tutoring under the program. While he led the country for a mere 12 months, his rule was characterised by brutal violence of a frequently sexual variety.

In September 2009, Camara dispatched the presidential guard to suppress an opposition protest. The troops opened fire, and bayoneted and gang-raped attendees in broad daylight, killing at least 157 people and injuring around 1,200 more. According to numerous witness accounts, some women were raped using gun barrels, and several victims were shot through their vaginas.

In 2019, AFRICOM’s premier training event was conducted in Burkina Faso – even Military Times, the journal of record for current and former US military personnel, asked whether it was a sensible move, given the country’s human rights record and security situation.

In response to these concerns, the US ambassador merely said it was “important” to look at allegations of abuses “in light of the environment in which the country is working”. AFRICOM chief Major General Mark Hicks also alleged training military partners in human rights law compliance was an “absolutely critical” element of the program. Clearly, the need to avoid PR disasters has been factored into training efforts – although the events in Guinea starkly underline the fact that soldiers obviously aren’t tutored in respect for democracy.

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Given Africa’s extensive history of coups before the institution of Flintlock, it might be tempting to dismiss the apparent association between US military training and government overthrow as correlative, rather than causative. Yet, a 2017 Journal of Peace Research study found that Washington’s foreign military training efforts – presently numbering 34, and involving almost every country in the world – roughly doubles coup risk in recipient states.

Using data from 189 countries between 1970 and 2009, the research shows that two-thirds of successful coups during this 40-year period were carried out by officers who had participated in US training, not least because these programs greatly increase the military’s power in relation to the government.

As analyst Tom Fowdy has noted, Africa is increasingly becoming a central theater in the new Cold War, as China seeks to expand its economic interests, and reduce its reliance on imports from ‘hostile’ nations such as Australia. As the conflict hots up, Washington needs all the ground troops it can muster – and with quite so many AFRICOM alumni able and willing to take action in the most violent manner imaginable at a moment’s notice, it would be no surprise if the number of palace revolutions across the continent gain in both frequency and volume in the years to come.

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Robert E. Lee helped end the first American Civil War, and those seeking to erase him are leading the US into another

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That the Virginia governor caught wearing either KKK robes or blackface has now removed a monument to Robert E. Lee is perhaps the most ironic twist in modern America’s Year Zero obsession with erasing its history and heritage.

The removal of the equestrian statue of Lee from Richmond, Virginia, which took place today, is “an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth,” Governor Ralph Northam said earlier. 

Richmond is “no longer the capital of the Confederacy,” said Mayor Levar Stoney, but a “diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality.”

The Virginia Supreme Court has cleared the way for a massive statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to come down. Virginia officials plan to start taking down the monument this week in Richmond. More here:

— NPR (@NPR) September 7, 2021

The move is as cynical as it is predictable. The virtue-signaling Northam is the man whose medical school yearbook showed him costumed in either blackface or the robes of the Ku Klux Klan – a group formed after the Civil War to terrorize African-Americans freed from slavery and fight the Union’s military occupation of the defeated Confederacy.

Yet only a fraction of Confederate veterans joined the KKK – thanks to Lee. The commander of all Confederate armies personally rejected the proposals by his subordinates to switch to a guerrilla insurgency in April 1865, once the conventional war was lost. Instead, he surrendered to his old Army colleague Ulysses Grant at Appomattox, ending the four years of bloodshed that claimed at least 600,000 soldiers’ lives.

When the Associated Press (AP) reported on the monument’s removal, it was denounced by activists as “advancing racism and sanitizing atrocity,” for daring to describe Lee as a “Civil War hero,” rather than a “white supremacist terrorist, slave owner” who “committed treason against the United States.”

This is how media advances racism & sanitizes atrocity.Robert E. Lee was a white supremacist terrorist, slave owner, and committed treason against the United States, killing hundreds of thousands of people—and yet, the @AP calls him a “Civil War hero.”Disgusting.

— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) September 7, 2021

It mattered little that the agency went to Orwellian lengths last year to promote selective racial capitalization and excuse riots – the AP can apparently never be ‘woke’ enough. This is the kind of attitude shaped by decades of propaganda reducing the Civil War to being just about slavery, and Lee to just the Confederate general who almost defeated the bigger, better-armed Union armies. 

This leaves out the fact that Lee’s father, ‘Light-Horse Harry’, was a Revolutionary War cavalry commander, a governor of Virginia, and a member of the US Congress; that Lee helped the US Army win the war against Mexico and later served as superintendent at West Point; and that he refused to follow the rest of his cavalry regiment when it defected to Texas in 1861, denouncing secession as anarchy, and resigned his commission only because he would not “draw my sword” upon Virginia, his native state.

Historical facts, however, are considered heresy in the new America, redefined at some point as Our Democracy. Instead, there has been a crusade to reduce all of US history to ‘racism,’ and to ‘reimagine’ everything from the standpoint of the current year.

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The Betsy Ross flag, the song ‘God Bless America’ and the singer for whom it was written, Mount Rushmore, the US national anthem, and even rock formations have all been targeted by people eager to purge history and start anew. 

Historical amnesia means they’re not even aware they’re following in the footsteps of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, who obliterated much of Cambodia’s cultural heritage in the name of restarting history from ‘Year Zero’ – and also murdered millions. Before that, there were the French revolutionaries of 1789, who started at ‘Year One’ before going on a mass-murder spree known as ‘la Terreur’ (the Reign of Terror). The Bolsheviks who took over Russia in 1917 also sought to “destroy the whole world of violence” and build a new one instead, and followed up the destruction of churches and tsarist monuments with… see the pattern yet? 

There is a haunting photo of Adolf Hitler that resurfaced in 2014, showing him looking at a plaque he received as a birthday gift. The marker celebrated Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo in 1914 – triggering the First World War – and had been taken down by Nazi sympathizers in April 1941, after the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia. 

A plaque honoring Gavrilo Princip, the 1914 Sarajevo tyrannicide, was taken down and given to Adolf Hitler as a birthday gift in 1941, following the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia. (photo: Heinrich Hoffmann/Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München/Bildarchiv)

— Nebojša Malić (@NebojsaMalic) September 7, 2021

Four years later, Hitler would commit suicide in his bunker, having killed millions. One of the men instrumental in his defeat was Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Western Allies in Europe. ‘Ike’ would go on to become the 34th US president, and, among other achievements during his term in office, end the racial segregation of public schools. 

Eisenhower also considered Robert E. Lee “one of the supremely gifted men produced by our nation … selfless almost to a fault … noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.”

“From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul,” Eisenhower continued. “Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities … we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.”

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Yet it’s the same people claiming to be the true heirs of the men Eisenhower commanded at the Normandy landings, and calling themselves ‘Antifa’ and anyone they dislike a ‘Nazi’, who have led the charge to topple Lee’s monument and many others. Having learnt nothing from history, they seek to erase it – and in the process, lead the US into another civil war, 160 years after the last one.

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A cheesy new movie about Harry & Meghan is predictably awful, and a depressing glimpse into the vacuousness of them and US culture

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We need much less of the Prince and Princess of Woke, not more, which is why you shouldn’t bother watching Harry and Meghan: Escaping the Palace. It’s 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Sometimes a movie comes along that is so exquisitely crafted, masterfully written, expertly directed and gloriously acted that it transcends the cinematic art form and bequeaths philosophical and emotional insights upon its audience. Lifetime channel’s new offering, Harry and Meghan: Escaping the Palace, is not that film. 

No, this movie is exactly what you expect it to be, a laughably low-rent, tawdry, tabloid-inspired piece of trash, which, ironically, is somehow very profound since that’s exactly what Harry, Meghan and their royal rivals are as well.

To no one’s surprise, the movie’s script is laughable, the dialogue ridiculous, the directing atrocious and the acting amateurish. The puppets from Spitting Image give more nuanced and life-like performances of the royals and Harry and Meghan than the cast of Escaping the Palace. 

Unbeknownst to me, Escaping the Palace is actually the third movie in a trilogy of vapid Harry and Meghan-themed Lifetime movies, coming on the heels of what I assume are the equally forgettable A Royal Romance (2018) and Becoming Royal (2019). I consider myself blessed for not only not having seen those two films, but for having never heard of them. 

If Escaping the Palace is any indication, the Lifetime business model regarding the royals seems to be to make decidedly pro-Harry and Meghan movies where they’re portrayed as a brave, fairytale couple of noble social justice warriors fighting racism in the media and the royal family. 

No doubt this narrative decision was made for business reasons because the odds of Harry and Meghan being desperate enough in the future to actually collaborate with Lifetime seem pretty good.

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If Prince Harry is getting £18m for four books, I’ll happily ghostwrite them. I’d even make him seem interesting

The actual royal family are too self-deluded with that old-fashioned notion of ‘dignity’ to allegedly lower themselves to such a degree and are therefore out of reach for Lifetime, and thus out of luck when it comes to their portrayals on the network.

Prince William is definitely the villain of Escaping the Palace and is shown to be a very disagreeable fellow indeed, so much so that it would be accurate to describe him as “snarling.” To further reinforce this villainy, his baldness is accentuated to a comedically delicious degree. It’s noteworthy that the also-balding-in-real-life Harry is portrayed in the film with a full head of luscious ginger hair, thus cementing his status as the screen hero. 

William’s bride Kate is also painted as a villain, as she is shown as two-faced and manipulative, a royal Karen of the highest order, who can’t hold a candle to the luminous Meghan.  

Watching a bad movie like Escaping the Palace, one that’s just bad and not enjoyably bad in a campy way, lends itself to the mind wandering, and my mind wandered to some strange places. 

For instance, I had a ‘through the looking glass’/Matrix-esque/fever dream moment while watching the scene recreating the famous Meghan Markle-Oprah Winfrey interview. As the scene wore on it occurred to me that I was actually watching a bad actress (Sydney Morton – playing Meghan Markle) act badly while portraying a bad actress (Meghan Markle) acting badly. Whoa, man.

After piercing the void with that notion, I saw a commercial for the documentary that was set to follow Escaping the Palace on Lifetime, entitled The American Royal Baby, which was an ABC News-produced documentary on Harry and Meghan’s daughter, Lilibet, born this past June. In the commercial, famed British nanny Jo from the reality TV show Supernanny was talking about how Meghan was going to parent her children.

This seemed to nicely sum up the entire absurd notion of Harry and Meghan and America’s odd obsession with them. Harry and Meghan are nothing but another cog in the tabloid/reality TV industrial complex.  

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This is why Harry and Meghan were so desperate to get out of the royal family and the glaring spotlight of the media, which Harry blames for the death of his mother Diana, but then went to the media capital of the world, Hollywood, and dove into the entertainment business with a big deal with Netflix. 

Harry and Meghan not only want the drama, they crave it, and that’s why they keep doing interviews and making self-absorbed projects like Harry’s Apple TV documentary, The Me You Can’t See. 

Like any cheesy reality TV stars or social media influencers, Meghan and Harry would shrivel and die if it weren’t for the constant attention they claim to so desperately loathe. 

The truth is that all of the royals, but most especially the attention-whores Harry and Meghan, are simply Kardashians without the asses, or more accurately, they’re just media-whoring asses.

A line of dialogue from Escaping the Palace where William, while conspiring to outmaneuver Harry in some palace intrigue, admits “we can’t cancel the most woke bloke and his feminist bride!,” rings uncomfortably accurately here in America.

No, in our American empire in rapid decline with its vacuous and vapid reality TV culture meant to distract and deceive rather than enlighten, which magically morphs the most privileged and entitled into the marginalized and oppressed, we can’t cancel the most woke Harry and his feminist bride Meghan because their contrived drama and self-promoting political posturing and pandering are the thin gruel that sustains not just millions of American morons, but also greases the wheels of the insidiously insipid mainstream media. 

That said, it would be far healthier, for them and us, if they just disappeared from our collective consciousness for a long, long time.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Biden’s promise to stop interfering in other countries is a lie. He’ll double-down on the US’s global drone assassination program

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The idea that the US is weaning itself off endless wars and effecting regime changes is – sadly – not true. It will just keep doing it remotely, in continuing violation of international law.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday night announced the end of the longest war in American history, the 20-year long occupation of Afghanistan. Praising his country’s retreat from the so-called ‘graveyard of empires’ just days after a devastating bombing that left 13 US soldiers dead (and scores more Afghans, the majority of which may have been killed by US soldiers), Biden struck a defiant tone against critics. 

He said that the “vital reason” why Washington invaded Afghanistan in the first place was to make sure the country can never be used again to launch an attack on the United States, referring to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took place in 2001. According to Biden, the US succeeded in its mission a decade ago and should have left sooner. 

Because of that, he made clear, he would not send another generation of Americans to fight in Afghanistan. Moreover, he said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was the end of an era where America sought endless wars and regime change. In his words, an end to an era of military operations “to remake other countries.”

According to Biden, the US needs to respond to the pressing threats of the present and no longer concern itself with the threats of the past. From now on, US operations will, first, have clear and achievable goals, and second, must stay focused on the national security interests of the United States. 

Biden’s speech was genuinely unprecedented. Unlike every administration before him, he narrowly defined the United States’ interests in Afghanistan – and in general, with regards to foreign policy. This is important to note because the abstract justifications for the war meant that it could truly be prolonged into a costly forever-war, which it was on track to being before the withdrawal. This has been typical of virtually every modern American president.

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There are obviously clear beneficiaries of forever-wars, namely the military contractors that comprise the so-called Military Industrial Complex. As reported by The Intercept just over two weeks ago, the country’s top five defense stocks outperformed the S&P 500 index fund by 58 percent during the course of the war in Afghanistan. 

As Jon Schwarz writes, “If you purchased $10,000 of stock evenly divided among America’s top five defense contractors on September 18, 2001 — the day President George W. Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and faithfully reinvested all dividends, it would now be worth $97,295.”

This is a staggering return on investment for the wealthy, since they own the majority of stocks, but has not actually benefited the average American. 

In his speech, Biden noted the cost of the war – $300 million dollars per day, according to Brown University, which clearly went nowhere except to arming a rejuvenated Taliban and lining the pockets of defense contractors and their investors – and enticed viewers to ponder where that money could have gone. 

Taken together with Biden’s other domestic spending legislation and his general legislative agenda, one might say that the US is actually pursuing some kind of much-needed national rejuvenation rather than a double-down on the failed global War on Terror.

But this conclusion would be premature since Biden also made clear that the US will maintain modern, global anti-terror capabilities. Which, in layman’s terms, means that he will continue the global drone assassination program that was launched in the post-9/11 era. 

These strikes have resulted in countless civilian casualties (called “collateral damage”) and are undoubtedly a war crime, since, apart from killing innocent people, they also routinely violate countries’ sovereignty. In his speech, Biden even praised the country’s “defensive” drone bombing in Kabul on Sunday that killed 10 members of one family, including seven children. 

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It’s expected that Biden will release a new anti-terror strategy before the 20th anniversary of those 2001 terrorist attacks, including new drone guidelines that will probably see these sorts of attacks turn into an even bigger tool of presidential war power. 

For Biden, who has repeated that human rights will be a centerpiece of his foreign policy, it’s hard to see how that could possibly be true if a global assassination program that violates the fundamental principles of international law will be its centerpiece. It’s also hard to differentiate this “counter-terror” strategy from literal terrorism.

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For the US, India is little more than a pawn to be deployed against China – not a nation to be respected on its own terms

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Maitreya Bhakal is an Indian commentator who writes about China, India, the US, and global issues. Follow him on Twitter @MaitreyaBhakal

The US is desperate to recruit allies in its hybrid war against China, and highly covets New Delhi – which has its own issues with Beijing – as a useful partner. So why is Washington so unhelpful and discourteous to its ally?

Friends with benefits

It is often said that the US has no permanent allies – only permanent interests. Allies come and allies go, but US national interest (i.e. global hegemony) remains paramount. All relationships are transactional – an ally is only as good as the geopolitical benefits they bring. The US regime makes friends and enemies based on strategic concerns alone, and with little concern for morality. 

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US diplomats are trained to rely on a combination of cold, hard, strategic calculations and ruthless deal-making. While all nations have elements of realism in their geopolitical calculus, few can bring themselves to abandon morality and ethics on the scale that the US does. While other nations may be guided at least partially by human values – say, whether their decisions will lead to civilian deaths – US leaders are unconcerned by such trivialities. US bureaucrats are determined to get the job done and serve US hegemony – no matter the number of murdered children or destroyed cities they leave in their wake. 

In essence, the foreign policy of the US regime – and indeed, that of most western regimes from Britain to Nazi Germany – is merely a reflection of western values: institutionalized racism, a willingness to commit military aggression and even genocide to achieve goals, an unbridled nihilism disguised as vacuous optimism, a constant mistrust of others, an inability to appreciate differences, and a civilizational affinity for hypocrisy and deception. 

Thus, it is not surprising that few nations violate international law more than the US. Even less surprising is that few nations lecture other nations on violating international law more than the US – the nation that violates them the most, often even violating its own laws. The regime has little respect for the rules-based international order – it has been breaking its promises and treaties for centuries. As Henry Kissinger, one of America’s most murderous Secretaries of State, whose wit was outmatched only by his sadism, once put it: “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

For the US regime, allies are dispensable – it can always buy new friends. Thus, Saddam Hussein was once a close ally, until one day he wasn’t, and the US decided to kill him. And then there is the case of the Taliban, a murderous group once heavily financed and supported by the US itself, that ironically defeated the US in its invasion of Afghanistan. In the 80s, the US funded the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets, propping up leaders like Osama Bin Laden, providing them with generous amounts of weapons, money and training. Then, in one of the most amusing U-turns and blowbacks in modern history, these same “terrorist” groups turned around to bite the hand that fed them, killing around 3,000 Americans in an attack on US soil on September 11, 2001, as revenge for decades of US wars and bombings and genocidal sanctions in their countries that killed millions. 

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And now, India

For a nation that literally exists because Europeans were desperate to find a sea route to the richest country in the world at the time, the average American knows little about India – apart from the occasional yoga reference or jokes about the Kama Sutra. One similarity between the average white American and Christopher Columbus – apart from the fact that both benefited from genocide and slavery – is the inability to find India on a map. 

Even US policymakers harbor little respect for India. In Washington’s policy-making circles, Indophobic hate and caricatures are common. Nixon proclaimed that India needed a “mass famine,” while Kissinger declared that Indians were “bastards.” Yet, that was the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War. Today, the US sees India as a nation with three main uses:

1) An important hedge against China

2) An important market for US weapons

3) An important market for US consumer goods, a source of profits, and an outsourcing hub

The relationship between India and the US today is far warmer than during the Nixon era. China has brought the two countries closer than ever before – regardless of the hateful attitudes US bureaucrats no doubt harbor even today, like their predecessors. Racist hatred often takes a backseat to geopolitical realities. 

The enemy of my enemy

In 2020, a bitter dispute broke out between India and China over their undemarcated border. A brawl ensued between the two militaries – which led to casualties on both sides. 

America pounced. It wasted no time trying to exploit the fresh differences between India and China for its own anti-Beijing agenda. US officials publicly linked China’s actions on the Indian border with its “aggression” in the South China Sea, seeking to portray a pattern of Chinese belligerence (while itself hosting 800 military bases around the globe). US leader Donald Trump even offered to mediate between the two – a highly resistible offer that both nations sensibly refused. 

Yet, India enjoyed the attention America showered on it. The “Quad” – an anti-China grouping consisting of the US, Japan, Australia, and India – was revived. India had been its most reluctant member until then, but now agreed to take it further. India had become America’s new trophy wife. 

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Pawns and power

Yet, old habits die hard. The desire to prop up India as a hedge against China pushed back against supremacist American attitudes. Hegemons do not usually learn to respect other nations this quickly. 

Take the recent Covid-19 pandemic, for example. When India was desperately in need of vaccines and medical equipment during its devastating second wave, the US regime – despite hoarding a surplus of vaccines, and despite having accepted assistance from India in its own time of need – refused to help. It would rather let vaccines expire than send them abroad – even to an ally whose friendship it so highly flaunts. 

Eventually, after receiving much criticism from its own politicians and pundits, it finally acquiesced. That the regime helped a highly coveted partner only after a massive outcry shows how much importance it really gives to India. The delayed about-turn was merely a belated attempt to salvage its reputation, not some genuine desire to help an ally.

Another recent incident exposed America’s true colors further still. The US regime frequently orders its navy to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” (FONOPs) operations in the South China Sea, the geopolitical equivalent of gorilla-style chest thumping to prove its superiority over China. America says the operations are consistent with “international law.” Surprisingly, the US navy recently did the same to India, intruding into its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without permission. The US regime’s 7th Fleet openly snubbed India, boasting that it “asserted navigational rights and freedoms…inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent…” The statement even called India’s maritime claims “excessive.” 

This language was similar to what the US regime uses towards China. This implicit equivalence between India and China shocked many, as it came on the heels of the regime seeking a closer relationship with New Delhi to counter the rising power. 

The ultimate irony is that the US is yet to ratify UNCLOS – the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea – the “international law” it is referring to. Few things are more typically American than violating other nations’ laws by touting “international law” while itself refusing to ratify the same international law that it enforces. 

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If the US is so callous towards India, other western nations are not far behind. The EU recently refused to recognize the Indian manufactured version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine (known as “Covishield”) in its ‘Green pass’ vaccine certification scheme, which allows travel into the region without mandatory quarantine. This is despite the Indian version being biochemically identical to the European one – it’s technically the same vaccine, just manufactured in India. When India pushed back and threatened mandatory quarantine for EU arrivals too, 15 EU nations relented. Bullies often understand only the language of bullying. 

Another test will be how the US behaves over India’s recent procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. The regime has previously sanctioned Turkey and China for purchasing S-400s. Whether it will sanction India too when deliveries start at the end of the year remains an open question. If it does, it will be one more indication that India is just a pawn for the US in its geopolitical games with China. If it doesn’t, it will prove that US anti-Russian sanctions are simply wielded by the regime on a whim to nations it doesn’t like. America will call its own bluff – regardless of which path it chooses.

Hedging and hybrid wars

Incident by incident, evidence is mounting that the US regime has little intention of treating India as a nation on its own terms, but merely to use it as just another dispensable front in its hybrid war against China. Still, while India and other countries caught in the crossfire may be too smart to agree to every US demand (Vietnam also recently snubbed the US), they are all relishing the attention. 

In its search for allies to counter China’s rise, the US often comes bearing gifts, many of them genuine. The best strategy for India would be to benefit from the new US-China Great Game and play the two against each other. After all, until you can become a superpower yourself (as you were for the better part of the last 2,000 years), the next best thing is to benefit from superpower rivalry.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Battle over critical race theory may end up leading the US to civil war. Privatizing all schools is a solution

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The only way to reduce tensions on whether critical race theory should be taught to American children is privatizing all schools. This won’t stop infighting completely but at least each side will be somewhat accommodated.

Some parents maintain that the US is a racist country and if it has any chance whatsoever of turning this around, CRT must be part of our educational system. Merely avoiding the subject is itself racist they aver, and that should not be tolerated.

Others, equally adamant, take the opposite position. In their perspective, CRT is itself racist; it takes on the key aspects of communism to boot. Over their dead bodies should their precious young children be subjected to such an evil abomination, they say.

My own viewpoint is the latter. However, I am not now concerned with the substantive merits of CRT, one way or the other. Instead, I approach this issue with the goal of reducing tensions. I want to point to a compromise.

After all, do we not have enough political and cultural polarity at present? There was a time when actual friendships across the political aisle could take place. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could share a drink in the evening after a hard day’s work disagreeing over policy. That epoch is no more. How can we bring it back, at least in the educational field, regarding the teaching of CRT?

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It is simple. Privatize the schools, all of them. Then, each side can be accommodated. Will this stop all of the infighting? No. Both sides will still want to impose their desiderata on the other. But at least it will reduce tensions. No man of good will can want a civil war to take place in this country and that is where we might be headed if tensions are not reduced.

It is the same with regard to divisive educational issues of lesser import: Should children all wear school uniforms? Should they be required to partake of the Pledge of Allegiance; sing the Star Spangled Banner? At what age should sports teams be inaugurated? Should sororities and fraternities be welcomed in high schools? There are not totally unreasonable arguments on both sides of all these and other such issues. The only way everyone can be accommodated is with an all-private school system.

After all, this is precisely the institution we employ in virtually all other walks of life. Vegans can have groceries and restaurants devoted to their particular desires. They are not compelled to adhere to unwanted culinary decisions. There are numerous religions; no one is forced to attend religious services not to their tastes. Imagine if there were one state religion to which everyone had to adhere; that would be the analog of public education.

One objection that might be launched at the present proposal is, How would the poor avail themselves of schooling for their children? Well, the poverty stricken are nowadays replete with air conditioning, television sets, computers. Their problem is more obesity than starvation. The case for private schooling can be made independently of all other such considerations.

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Public schools were initially instituted as an attack on Catholics. In the late nineteenth century, many immigrants came from Italy, Ireland and other such countries where this religion was prevalent. The fear was that the allegiance of these newcomers would remain with the Pope. The powers that be were not dominant enough to stop this immigration, nor to prevent Catholic schools from being started. But they were influential enough to offer “free” public education, forcing those who wanted a religious education for their children to pay twice over: once in the form of taxation, the other in terms of school fees.

The social fabric at present is in a state of serious disrepair. If we want to move in a different direction, we could do far worse than to start with a movement to privatize the schools. Then CRT will take care of itself; no one will be outraged about it, on either side.

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Targeting Indian culture: US-organized conference ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ seen as bashing all who challenge neoliberal order

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By Anastasia Safronova, RT editor

Uproar is growing over ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva,’ the upcoming conference co-sponsored by top American universities. According to some Indian experts, in trying to punch Hindus, the West just proves how narrow its views are.

“It is a dark time indeed to be a Hindu, a patriotic Indian, or an adherent to the truism of Hindu faith, history, and philosophical enquiry,” Saurav Dutt, Indian-born political analyst and author, says, commenting on the conference, scheduled for September 10-12.

The three-day ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference lists departments of dozens of major American universities – including Harvard, Stanford and Yale, as co-sponsors. The ‘About’ section of the event’s website starts with a bashing of the policies of the Indian government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

We have added many cosponsors since this initial announcement. For the full and correct list of cosponsors, please visit the website, link in bio.

— dismantlinghindutva (@dghconference) August 29, 2021

“The fact that this has coincided with the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP in India is not a matter of coincidence,” Saurav Dutt says. “Indeed, opponents of Hindu, and Indian, personage, agency, and purposefulness have become considerably braver since this ascension; and now feel compelled to direct their ire towards anything resembling Hindu identity and faith; and this has played itself out to exhaustion through Western academia and its media fronts.”

In his interview with RT, Dutt explained his view of the actual purpose of the conference.

“They purport to discuss a very difficult-to-explain concept such as Hindutva and Hinduism. But it’s a smokescreen to what they actually want to talk about, which is to dismantle the concept of what Modi represents in modern India, a flourishing India,” he says. “Their belief in Hinduism has moved into something that they feel compelled to define on their terms. I believe that they want to have a very unilateral and biased discussion about what troubles them, which is the ascent of Modi, the ascent of BJP and the ascent of an India that is proud of its identity, which is a thriving democracy and a pluralistic nation.”

There is no pluralism on this panel, the very title of this event is disturbing – ‘Dismantling Hindutva’ – which even Hindus often have difficulty in defining, because it’s such a fluid concept.

It is indeed a hard task to make a brief explanation of the term ‘Hindutva’. For many, it is an ideology of Indian nationalism, and the organizers of the US conference see it exactly this way. The banner of the event shows a claw end of a hammer bringing down figures of members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Indian right-wing organization founded a century ago and often mentioned as linked to Narendra Modi’s BJP.

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Публикация от Dismantling Hindutva (@dghconference)

The conference website calls for clear distinction between ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism.’

“Hindutva is a political philosophy styled after European fascism of the early twentieth century, an ideology that privileges a cult of personality and authoritarian leadership. By contrast, Hinduism is a term used to describe a wide range of religious practices and beliefs that are heterodox, and like the practices and beliefs of any major religion with hundreds of millions of followers, continuously under contestation, and often contradictory,” it says.

Still, this manner of explaining things is worrying Indian journalists and human rights activists. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) wrote a letter to the universities listed as co-sponsors, asking them to withdraw from the “partisan event related to politics in India.”

"Dismantling Global Hindutva’ is not only political & partisan. It veers into promoting Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred in the activists and politicians it platforms, in the resources it promotes & in the reductionist definition of Hinduism it presents.”

— Hindu American Foundation (@HinduAmerican) August 28, 2021

“DGH organizers describe Hindutva as a “political philosophy” in an attempt to distinguish the participants’ critique of it from criticism of Hinduism and Hindus,” the letter says. “But then they go on to deny the existence of Hinduism by reducing it to being only “heterodox, continuously under contestation, and often contradictory,” rather than the coherent and diverse living tradition it is for its 1.2 billion adherents.”

The foundation also called the universities to “ensure the safety and wellbeing of Hindu students, faculty, and staff” as well as to “provide support and protection to those who may feel targeted, threatened, or face hostility or harassment as a result of this divisive event.”

Dutt agrees the event might pose a threat to the students. 

“Indeed, this divisive event conveniently forgets the very real threat to Hindu students on college campuses, those who are targeted and report feeling under attack for opposing Hinduphobic depictions of their religion in the classroom and for opposing anti-Hindu hate on college campuses,” he says.

‘Ideas subverted by political programs’

Commenting on the situation to RT, New Delhi-based Professor Zorawar Daulet Singh, historian and strategist, said he believes that this “so-called conference” does appear “to target Indian culture and present the civilizational roots of India in a derogatory light.”

“It is true that India has a plural political culture where different ideas are competing and trying to shape Indian identity. Hindutva is one of those ideas. Secularism is another idea. Indians for the past seven decades have been trying to establish a durable foundation for their nation,” he says.

In the hands of politicians and political programs, these ideas have often been subverted and used for narrow ends such as winning elections. However, the roots of Indian civilization are built on aspects of Hindutva or Hindu culture that predates all these contemporary political contestations in India.

“In America, in the West predominantly, there is the vision of India which is very much pre-Modi, which is an ancient civilization which is trying to be a developing country,” Saurav Dutt told RT.

“To the organisers of this grisly event, and those who are in lockstep to its prejudicial origins and academic bent, Hinduism and Hindutva is not an ever-evolving, coherent, and diverse set of ideologies that continues to grow but through their eyes is instead one that is intrinsically a problem – that it is a fascistic, partisan methodology that paints Hindus as inherently bigoted, dangerous, [as despisers of] others, particularly Muslims, and that is underpinned by dual loyalty.

“Now any event such as this should, in order to facilitate healthy debate and discussion, lay great store in political neutrality, to subject its own narrative to academic rigour and dissection. This event does not even pretend to amplify such a belief – it is a retrograde, despicably one-sided and laughably myopic means to demonise the modern-day Hindu.”

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Dutt also thinks that every attempt to criticize the conference would play on the organizers’ hands. “There is going to be a backlash once the content of this event does come out, but all these Western media echo-chambers will use it as the means to defend themselves, to say ‘this is exactly what we expected, and this underlines the importance of having more [debates like this],’” he told RT.

‘Artificial enemy called Hindutva’

Sreeram Chaulia, professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India, thinks that the problem lies in the way the West sees those who are going their own way. “The Western media and the intellectuals in the universities have a notion that India should be following the Western liberal path. Because it’s not doing this, because it got a strong nationalistic leadership under Narendra Modi, they feel frustrated and angry,” he explains. “Just look at the language – ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’. ‘Dismantling’ means they want to bring it down, and they think they can bring down the regime in India by spreading this relentless propaganda against us.”

The problem is – nobody bothers. It’s offensive for us and for our image internationally, but if you ask an ordinary person in India, they don’t care. They are mostly concerned about economic issues and about doing well, and about coming out of poverty, and about India becoming a big power in the world, equal to China or equal to the US. These are so-called ‘culture wars.’

Chaulia also believes that the concept of ‘Hindutva’ is twisted by the conference organizers to fit their interests. 

“This term is supposed to mean politicization of religion to win votes in elections. But I don’t think that’s the case, because there are a lot of Hindus who vote for other parties. What they are saying, is that a lot of harmful and bad things are happening to Muslims, to Christians, to other religions, and within Hinduism, they are saying that there is a lot of discrimination of lower casts by upper castes, and all of this is being covered up by Mr. Modi in the name of Hindutva. So, I think this misreads the situation, there is more complexity and nuance in Indian society.”

“The neoliberal order is inherently hostile to old civilizations and cultures,” Daulet Singh adds. “Unless a political community has become totally subservient to the Western neoliberal concept of nationhood, states like India, Russia, Iran, China and others will always find it difficult to co-exist at an ideological level with the Western powers.”

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“Why there is no US’ university conference – a big one – on political Islam and on jihad, and on radicalism that is fueling terrorist groups around the world?” Chaulia wonders.

“Instead of focusing on real security problems of the world, they are setting up a strawman, creating an artificial enemy called ‘hindutva’ and are trying to punch at it,” he concludes.

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US and China are now battling for control of the world’s big-data monsters and dragons – and it’s not about money

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As the tech war between the United States and China heats up, the political controversy between who ought to own and control ‘big data’ has similarly ignited, and is now about to land a bombshell on Wall Street.

When Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-hailing giant, launched its mega US IPO earlier this summer, it seemed like the perfect statement of what China hoped to achieve: a mega successful firm drawing in billions in foreign capital to propel its way upwards as a global brand. 

Listing in New York City was the firm statement that the Beijing-based company had “made it” on the world stage, right? Despite the Trump and Biden administration unleashing a litany of “investment bans” targeted at Chinese companies of strategic interest which would force some firms to delist, Didi was standing strong, and the moaning of hawkish US senators like Marco Rubio, who objected to it, were seemingly dismissed as an irrelevance.

One might be forgiven for thinking that, in the midst of the US-China tech war, in which the US has sought to block the rise of Chinese technology and software on the global stage, this is precisely the kind outcome Xi Jinping wanted. A firm statement of China-led globalization, against the inwards and isolationist US, so lacking in confidence that it wanted to push Beijing out. Not quite. 

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China gives green light to new law protecting personal data amid privacy violation concerns

It’s staggering to think with the massive regulatory crackdown by China’s ruling party against big tech, that somehow Beijing and Marco Rubio are in fact, on the same page here.

Both don’t want Chinese firms to list in the US and both see it as a threat to “national security” (albeit from different angles). Just about two days after the stock made its US debut, Beijing ultimately responded by ruthlessly purging Didi and banning new downloads of the app, stating it hadn’t coordinated with authorities before it pushed for its listing. 

Now, there is speculation that China might be prepared to restrict the overseas listings of such firms altogether. It cites data privacy. This is a curious argument to have, because on the flip side of the coin we’ve seen how such arguments have also been used to politically discredit Chinese firms themselves, such as Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to ban TikTok and WeChat. The argument was the same: “it puts the private data of our users at risk.”

The world we know today is a world of big data. These monopolistic services we use every single day, such as Google and Facebook, see information about us as a commodity, something to sell to advertisers as an astute way to perfectly target people down to the most minuscule detail and flog their products, too. If you like, ‘we’ the users are their product. This practice has become extremely controversial in tandem. As a signature example of how it works, google-search a particular product or thing and you’ll find ads for it appearing on Facebook, or vice versa. Creepy, right? Yet, it’s perfectly legitimate.

This is where geopolitics seeps in, big time. The Cambridge Analytica scandal of just a few years ago reminds us that this isn’t just about making money, it’s also a question of who else gets to see this data, who controls and regulates it, and how else it is used. Unfettered access to private information on millions of people is a critical resource which, it is argued, can be used for all kinds of nefarious political ends. It’s now claimed in both Washington and Beijing that data is a “national security threat” of sorts: “What could our adversary find out about our population? What could they do with this information?”

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China, of course, has more precedent on this than the US, which often uses this claim opportunistically while not seriously reining in its own big tech anyway. Beijing has long invoked what it calls the principle of “internet sovereignty”– whereby it states that a government has a national right to fully control the internet within its own domain, which of course involves censorship, too, and seemingly as its own social media ecosystem has developed, this premise has extended to sovereignty over personal data too. If Americans are perceived to have access to the personal data of over a billion Chinese people, it’s a threat to national security.

Thus, if Chinese companies have access to personal data, then China is committed to regulating it in two capacities. Firstly, to prevent anti-monopolistic practices, it does not deem the rise of another “google” or “facebook” to be in the national interest. Secondly, a seemingly new-found principle is that no foreign investor should have a right to access this data. That is not to say that foreigners “cannot” invest in these companies, but certainly that they should not have access to such critical information in the process of doing so. That is, if you want to invest, you do it via China’s rules, in China.

This process has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the growing mutual distrust between Washington and Beijing. It is an inevitable aspect of their technology war, a reminder that advocating tech decoupling is not a one-way process whereby it is simply Washington that throws China out, but works more so as a cycle, wherein growing hostility increasingly renders some form of engagement untenable. Thus, Beijing sometimes wants to throw America out, too. After all, it is no secret that tech firms based in the United States have a legal obligation to coordinate with the national security agency and hand over data

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China never faced this problem until its own internet giants became global. Thus, Beijing seemingly sees a growing vulnerability in leaving its own population so readily exposed to potential US surveillance and snooping, especially if its own big-tech firms are being handled on Wall Street. But China could also be eyeing more value in foreign capital coming to its own firms within China, as opposed to in New York City, putting its national interest above the interests of a company. In a nutshell, though, China is invoking tougher sovereignty over its big tech and it’s not a question as to how much money they can make. Thus, this push to “delist” firms from Wall Street unusually becomes a mutually desirable and reinforcing cycle.

Of course, the media do have a vested interest in pushing negativity about this, so it remains to be seen how far China will push these firms regarding delisting as it reshapes its regulatory environment, but it’s hardly great news for Wall Street.

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US reputation is in tatters, it’s time to bring those responsible for Afghanistan disaster to account

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Twenty years of US war in Afghanistan draws to a close at the stroke of midnight on August 31. There will be plenty of time to dissect the root causes of failure. What is needed now is accountability for the disastrous endgame.

A video of active duty Marine Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller demanding accountability for the humanitarian disaster that had come to define the US-led evacuation from Kabul, Afghanistan, quickly went viral. 

Scheller, who commanded the advanced infantry training battalion at the Marine Corps School of Infantry, at the time the video was made, had spent 17 years as a Marine, with multiple combat deployments. He knowingly placed this distinguished career at risk by publicly demanding that someone be held accountable for the bungled evacuation, which had left at least 14 American servicemen dead, along with hundreds of Afghans, some with dual citizenship in allied nations. Scheller’s commanders immediately relieved him of his command. This was a consequence Scheller anticipated, which makes his decision to sacrifice his career in the name of accountability even more remarkable.

“I’m not saying we need to be in Afghanistan forever,” the combat veteran said, “but I am saying, did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, ‘Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone?’”

Lacking that, Scheller asked, did anyone take responsibility for failing to raise objections, and for the related failure to adequately hold up America’s end of the bargain when it came to evacuating Afghans who had assisted the United States over the course of its 20-year war in Afghanistan and who, together with their families, were at mortal risk of retaliation from a victorious Taliban enemy. Without accountability, Scheller said, “we just keep repeating the same mistakes.” The Marine officer concluded by stating “I want to say this very strongly. I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”

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While Scheller’s actions and sentiment captured the imagination of many who watched the voluntary act of digital self-immolation, the fact of the matter is that, left to its own devices, the chain of command Scheller so rightly calls out for its moral failings will not, on its own volition, seek to hold anyone to account for the failure of policy and national character that has come to define the US-led evacuation mission in Afghanistan. 

Americans, together with much of the world, have marveled at the herculean task confronting the young men and women of the US armed forces who secured the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) and carried out the impossible task of deciding who among the tens of thousands of desperate human beings would be given a chance at a new life, or condemned to try and survive in a land governed by the brutality of Taliban-run Islamic law. Their labor and sacrifice have dominated the narrative being pushed out by the mainstream media to the point that few, if any, are asking the critical questions posed by Stuart Scheller: Who is responsible for the decision to close Bagram Airfield?

Until it was abandoned by the US military on the night of July 2, 2021, Bagram Airfield, located some 40 miles north of Kabul, had served as the heart of the US military effort in Afghanistan. Originally used by the Soviets during their military intervention in Afghanistan from 1979-1989, Bagram Airfield had fallen into disarray until captured by the US-led coalition in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

The US poured tens of billions of dollars into the airfield to create a ‘home away from home’ for deployed US forces. Persons based at Bagram, or transiting through, had access to a Burger King, Popeyes, pizzerias, a Thai restaurant, Dairy Queen and coffee shops. The base had two military exchanges (stores) along with a host of local vendors. Air-conditioned gyms, recreation facilities with video games and large-screen televisions, and full WiFi connectivity made it hard to tell the airfield apart from small-town America. Bagram Airfield played host to US military aircraft, including fighter planes and attack helicopters, as well as a separate compound for special operations personnel and CIA paramilitary officers.

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Any contingency involving the movement of Americans in and out of Afghanistan in any significant number would, as a matter of course, assume the availability of Bagram Airfield. 

When, during a press conference on August 26, President Joe Biden was asked who was responsible for the decision to abandon Bagram Airfield, the commander in chief placed the blame squarely on his military commanders. “Every day when I talk to our commanders,” Biden said, “I ask them what they need — what more do they need, if anything, to get the job done. As they will tell you, I granted every request.”

“On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan — the commanders, as well as the Pentagon. And I ask for their best military judgment: what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission. They concluded — the military — that Bagram was not much value added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul [international airport]. And so, I followed that recommendation.”

The problem with the president’s statement is that it is not true. In an earlier press conference, held on August 18, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, made it clear that the White House had given the military zero latitude when it came to retaining control of Bagram Airfield. “Our task, given to us at that time, our task was to protect the embassy,” Milley said. “If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces.”

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General Milley made it clear that the military was under strict instructions for “getting the troops down to a 600, 700 number,” and that to hold Bagram would require many more troops than the limit imposed by the White House. “The decision was made to go ahead and collapse Bagram,” he said, noting that the military “estimated that the risk of going out of KIA, or the risk of going out of Bagram, were about the same, so going out of KIA was the better tactical solution.” 

Immediately after Bagram Airfield was abandoned by the US military, Biden held a press conference where he expressed optimism about the US’ ability to manage the evacuation of its troops and civilians from Afghanistan. “The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our troops as they depart,” the president noted. “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely” he said, adding that there would be no circumstance where you’d see people being lifted off the roof of the American embassy in Afghanistan. “It is not at all comparable” to the 1975 US evacuation from Saigon.

The White House bid to manage the optics of withdrawal by keeping the number of US forces deployed on the ground at a minimum while rejecting any comparison of the devolving situation in Afghanistan with that of South Vietnam came crashing down around them as, barely two weeks into August, the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban entered Kabul victorious. 

The very scenario President Biden said could never happen did. With concern over bad optics now mooted by reality, the White House reversed course on its decision to cap the number of US troops in Afghanistan at 600-700. “Based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams,” Biden said in a press conference after Kabul fell, “I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”

As Biden came under increasing criticism for his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan went on national television in an effort to shape the narrative in a manner which shielded the president from any blame. 

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“All along, the president has been clear that the United States was not going to enter a third decade of American military deployment in the middle of another country’s civil war…he has been clear that that could mean difficult times in Afghanistan. We have been clear-eyed about this from the start. But what we were not prepared to do, what the president was not prepared to do, was to say that for that reason, we need to keep American men and women fighting and dying in this civil war,” Sullivan told ABC’s Good Morning America. 

The problem with Jake Sullivan’s spin game is that it bore no resemblance to reality: rather than prepare America for a “difficult time,” Biden presented the American people with the image of a “secure and orderly” evacuation of US personnel from Afghanistan. Far from being “clear eyed,” the Biden White House interfered with the contingency planning of the military by limiting the number of forces available to 600-700, putting a lie to the notion that the president “granted every request” for additional troops. The fact of the matter is that, when confronted with the need for additional military resources to enable the military to simultaneously hold on to the US embassy compound in Kabul and Bagram Airfield, the White House turned the generals down flat, creating the conditions for the chaotic humanitarian disaster which unfolded at HKIA in mid-August when the president suddenly saw fit to deploy 5-6,000 additional US troops. That he could have held onto Bagram with a fraction of that number seems to have escaped both the president and his national security advisor.

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In his August 16 press conference, Joe Biden declared that “the buck stops with me” when it comes to assigning responsibility for the chaotic situation unfolding in Afghanistan at the time. That sentiment, void of a resignation on the part of the president, is meaningless. Stuart Scheller sacrificed a stellar military career in order to drive home the absolute need for accountability when it comes to the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. While Mark Milley and his fellow generals shoulder a significant portion of the blame for not having the courage of Stuart Scheller and failing to put their respective careers on the line in order to oppose bad policy, at the end of the day the primacy of civilian leadership that governs civil-military relations in America requires a civilian head on the chopping block.

One need look no further than the president’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan when sizing up candidates. He is the most influential advisor on national security matters and would have been the front man when it came to keeping the military in line regarding maintaining the optics of withdrawal being pushed by President Biden — reduced troop number, and no ‘Saigon moment’.

This politicization of national security contingency planning has cost American servicemembers, and hundreds of Afghans, their lives. The reputation of the United States is in tatters. The ramifications going forward of this utter collapse in American leadership have yet to materialize. Before Biden assembles his national security and foreign policy team to try and right the sinking ship that is US policy in Afghanistan, there must be accountability. At a very minimum Jake Sullivan must be fired. Ideally Mark Milley would be compelled to resign or be fired. Other generals whose fingerprints are on the Afghan disaster should also suffer career-ending consequences.

There must be accountability. Otherwise, as Stuart Scheller noted, “we just keep repeating the same mistakes.”

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

People are horrified the Taliban seized biometric devices, but the real scandal is the extent of US military data collection

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

A huge amount of opprobrium was heaped on the Americans for allowing this sensitive data to fall ‘into the wrong hands’. However, surely a better question is why had they gathered all this deeply personal data in the first place?

It’s been reported that the Taliban has seized US military biometric devices in the wake of Washington’s flight from Afghanistan, which could put civilians who assisted coalition forces at significant risk.

The devices, known as HIIDE, for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information – while their primary stated purpose is to track insurgents, biometric data was also collected and stored on Afghans who assisted the US occupation forces.

The story sparked outcry, widely invoked by both opponents and advocates of the 20-year war as yet another deplorable example of Washington leaving its allies high and dry. While it seems clear there was no consideration given to what could happen if the technology fell into the ‘wrong’ hands, critics have nonetheless overwhelmingly failed to consider the terrifying ramifications of this data being in the right hands, and how the US came into possession of it in the first place.

When precisely the practice of collecting Afghans’ biometric data began isn’t certain, although at a 2010 conference in Kabul, US military officials laid out the terms of Afghan 1,000, a program which sought to collate information on 80% of the country’s population, around 25 million people. It was framed in extremely positive terms, not merely as a means to identify terrorists and criminals, but “enable progress in society” due to its “countless applications for the provision of services” to citizens.

It’s uncertain if that target was reached before Washington’s withdrawal, but the strategy remained in operation for over a decade. The next year, it was reported that Washington ultimately sought to gather biometric data on all living Afghans.

To achieve the lofty goal, a policy of mandatory data collection was imposed for every traveler entering the country via any means, and a dedicated Population Registration Department was created, with offices throughout the country. Even foreign journalists covering the war were fingerprinted, and their irises scanned. Moreover, occupation forces conducted innumerable “enrolment missions”, entering towns and villages and forcing locals to hand over their biometric data at literal gunpoint.

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A US Army guide states emphatically that “all combat outposts and checkpoints throughout Afghanistan make it a priority to collect biometric data from as many local nationals as possible.” In the aftermath of a bombing or skirmish, soldiers are told to “enroll everyone”, including the dead, their DNA to be collected using buccal swabs to capture cells lining the mouth. The “payoff” for coalition forces was said to be so great, “commanders must be creative and persistent in their efforts to enroll as many Afghans as possible.”

In a section disturbingly titled “Population Management”, the guide recommends that everyone who lives within an operational area “should be identified and fully biometrically enrolled with facial photos, iris scans, and all ten fingerprints (if present).” Soldiers must also record “good contextual data” about individuals, such as “where they live, what they do, and to which tribe or clan they belong.” Citizens were to be told the collection protected them from potentially violent elements and troublemakers.

A lengthy article in the January 2014 edition of Military journal Joint Forces Quarterly offers a glowing appraisal of the “biometric-enabled intelligence” system rolled out in Kabul, declaring it to be a “key enabling factor” in US counterinsurgency efforts, and “an invaluable part of the campaign that has even greater potential in the future.” It documents how enrolment was often carried out using colorful trucks with jingling bells, in the manner of an ice cream van, in order to make the process “more culturally appealing” – particularly in respect of children, presumably.

Also included are several alleged “success stories”, such as one instance in which two Afghan police officers, neither of whom could read or write, spotted an individual on a “biometrically developed insurgent watch list” approaching their checkpoint.

One of the officers is said to have taken the man – identified as having been involved in “multiple IED events” – into custody “with a broad smile,” and the anecdote ends on an upbeat note, hailing how the officers’ illiteracy was no barrier to them removing a dangerous insurgent from the battlefield due to the miracle of biometric intelligence. Cheery stuff, although journalist Annie Jacobsen has exposed in chilling detail just how fallible biometric evidence can be.

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In July 2012, US Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance ordered his platoon to shoot three unarmed motorcycle riders in Kandahar province. The next year, a court martial found him guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, attempted murder, wrongfully communicating a threat, reckless endangerment, soliciting a false statement, and obstructing justice, sentencing him to 20 years in prison. However, in November 2019, he received a pardon from Donald Trump.

The then-president released Lorance after he was shown fingerprints and DNA data that purportedly indicated the Afghan men killed were Taliban bomb makers, not civilians. However, after some determined digging, Jacobsen found that one set of fingerprints allegedly found on an exploded IED said to prove one of the dead men was a bomber actually belonged to a police officer, who was likely to have contaminated the evidence in the line of duty. The other set did indeed belong to a bomber – who was still alive.

Lorance isn’t an isolated example either. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is serving life for killing 16 Afghan villagers in cold blood in March 2012. While he pleaded guilty to the charges and admitted his tours of Afghanistan and Iraq had instilled a loathing of the local population within him, he’s now appealing his sentence. The case rests on data provided by a biometrics expert who also worked on the Lorance case, which he claims proves witnesses to Bales’ crimes were Taliban bomb makers who left their fingerprints on bomb components.

Evidently though, Afghanistan was just an experiment – and Washington was enamored with the results. The White House’s proposed Army budget for 2022 seeks over $11 million to purchase 95 new biometric collection devices, meaning the policy will almost inevitably be rolled out again in whichever country is next in the US crosshairs.

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Where that will be is unknown, but there’s also the question of what implications the Afghan test run has for the Western world. Governments, police forces, security services and even big business are increasingly using cutting-edge technology to amass, store and analyze vast reams of sensitive personal data – much of it was similarly trialed during the War on Terror, and sold to home audiences on the basis of convenience and security, just as the military’s biometric data harvest was sold to Afghans. Now the troops are finally home, has the fight been brought back with them?

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Kamala Harris’ McCain tribute shows the total lack of respect the US still has for Vietnam

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The vice president’s glorification of John McCain’s legacy in Hanoi was ill-judged. America’s constant failure to acknowledge the suffering of others in conflicts only serves to encourage its imperial war machine.

US Vice President Kamala Harris concluded her two-day trip to Hanoi, which was aimed at shoring up opposition to China, by visiting a memorial to McCain, who was on his way to bomb a nearby factory in 1967 when his plane was shot down by North Vietnamese fighters.

McCain was famously captured on landing, and subjected to years of imprisonment and torture. His ordeal became a key component in his transformation into a heroic figure which complemented his rigorously neoconservative approach towards foreign affairs in his subsequent political career.

Harris wrote on Twitter that “We honor his sacrifice in Vietnam” – despite the previous day, claiming that “The United States and Vietnam have overcome a difficult past to become trusted partners” and that America supports the sovereignty of Vietnam. But is the US really apologetic over the legacy of this war? Absolutely not.

Today, on the three-year anniversary of his passing, I paid my respects to an American hero, Senator John McCain. At this site in 1967, then-Lieutenant Commander McCain was shot down. We honor his sacrifice in Vietnam, and the sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform.

— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) August 25, 2021

Kamala’s tribute to McCain, who died three years ago, is a veiled reflection that the US is not, in fact, truly sorry for its destructive and violent war in Vietnam, where hundreds of thousands of people died at the hands of American bombing and napalm attacks. Indeed, it’s debatable if it is ever sorry for any of its actions, anywhere. It’s very telling, for example, that such a comment was made amid the background of the ongoing catastrophe in Afghanistan. The life and legacy of McCain brings up an interesting debate over which wars are just, and what exactly constitutes a ‘patriot’?

McCain has become something of a cult figure in Washington. Given his imprisonment in Vietnam and hawkish foreign policy legacy, he is heralded on a bipartisan scale as a national hero, a patriot and – as Harris’ tribute shows – used as an icon in support of American militarism around the world, including in Vietnam. Accordingly, there is little emphasis on the aggression waged by the US, and the narrative focuses on the heroic, honourable soldier. It goes without saying that McCain supported every modern war the US was engaged in, and advocated many more.

But is this really patriotism? If so, how? And what does it tell us about the US establishment? A patriot in its rawest definition ought to be considered as someone who loves his country and rallies to defend its values at a time of peril.

The image of soldiers who suffer, sacrifice themselves and die in order to defend their countries is a representation of national sovereignty and glorified the world over. This attitude of remembrance and appreciation of veterans is the same in Washington as it is in Beijing, Moscow, Hanoi, Pyongyang and so on. And of course, there are many conflicts involving America where the participants might rightfully be described and remembered as true patriots, such as those who fought for the Union in the Civil War, and the Second World War.

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But the glorification of McCain’s legacy and by extension, what happened in Vietnam, is creating and enabling an all-embracing thirst for an imperial war machine, which is something entirely different. In conflating it, there is an element of deception involved.

And here is the problem with the US and its allies – there is nothing wrong with a national respect for the sacrifice and struggle of soldiers. But for too long, this has been extended into advocating support for wars which were not patriotic and were inherently unjustifiable.

Let us not forget those who opposed the war in Vietnam and refused to serve were legally persecuted as draft dodgers and depicted as a national disgrace. Whilst this does not, perhaps, taint the struggles of those who did participate – and there is no denying McCain’s experience was personally horrific – it nonetheless dismisses the suffering which the conflict imposed on the Vietnamese population, as if the brutality they were subjected to by the invading force didn’t actually matter.

This reveals a two-tier level of priority and privilege. Regardless of the soldiers whose lives were lost – and they cannot be blamed for US aggression – it is nonetheless just outright wrong to honour the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, or any other conflicts that were promulgated in the name of American hegemony. There was no ‘honour’ involved in any of these.

Optionally selected wars of aggression are not a fight for national freedom. They needlessly inflict pain, suffering and death upon others. Harris refers to the “sacrifice” of American lives, but not the Vietnamese who died mercilessly amid the destruction unleashed on their nation in the name of anti-communist paranoia.

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Harris’ stunt illustrates the lack of remorse for what was one of the most horrific wars of the 20th century, in favour of a narrative which – through the symbolic medium of John McCain – stands to glorify America’s actions. This is a stark irony when attempting to superficially befriend Vietnam, and reveals a staggering lack of empathy (and the true purposes of the visit).

It doesn’t seem to register to Harris that the memorial she visited was commemorating someone who was involved in carpet bombing the country. What is America’s honourable sacrifice is otherwise the death of innocent people. It is this failure to adequately understand Vietnam, and inability to make more than token gestures, that illustrates perfectly why the relationship will never get too close.

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Wayne Dupree: The calamity in Afghanistan is down to Biden alone. Can the US cope with three more years of his failures?

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Wayne Dupree was invited to the White House to talk to President Trump on messaging to the black community. He was named in Newsmax’s top 50 Influential African-American Republicans in 2017, and, in 2016, served as a board member of the National Diversity Coalition for Donald Trump. Before entering politics, he served for eight years in the US Air Force. His website is here: Follow him on Twitter @WayneDupreeShow

Popular opinion had it that ageing Joe Biden would be controlled by his handlers as president. But events in Afghanistan indicate that he’s in charge, more’s the pity – and so the US has much more chaos to look forward to.

I used to think Joe Biden was incompetent, but he is the most competent president ever…at destabilizing the world. The southern border, Ukraine, the Middle East, now Afghanistan. The question is, why does he do this? Biden has a pattern, and either he is truly incompetent, for whatever reason, or drunk on power. 

Why did this man run for president in the first place? 

For the past eight months, I have believed that the Biden administration had handlers behind the scenes. But one thing is crystal clear at this point. Joe is calling the shots and leading this administration, and there doesn’t appear to be a single intelligent, free-thinking person involved at all. Many of his senior positions were picked for diversity or as a reward for loyalty, and they have no idea how to handle such serious matters as Covid-19 and the Afghanistan withdrawal. 

This is what is known as ‘losing control of the narrative’. Democrats have always been fairly clever at controlling the narrative.  But on this issue and the border, they’ve lost control and are clueless about how to get it back. 

You can tell they’ve lost it by the feeble arguments presented by Democrat apologists. To recycle an old line, would you buy a used car from these people? 

Given Biden couldn’t even handle the chaos at our southern border, why would anyone expect him to manage a complex withdrawal from Afghanistan effectively? From not supporting the mission on Osama Bin Laden to his handling of the Iraqi withdrawal, which allowed Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) to go on the march, Biden has been a complete disaster, and if you are still defending him, you are a danger to yourself.

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Notice the language the Biden administration is using: “Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.” Thus, when they leave countless of our citizens behind, they’ll say, “We got out all the Americans that WANTED to leave.” But how will they know who did or did not ‘want’ to leave? They won’t, of course. 

And, of course, if they don’t tell people how many Americans are there, we will never know if everyone got out. What a pile of horse hockey pucks! These people are literally subjecting their own citizens to a death sentence in the name of politics.

Common sense would dictate evacuating American citizens and Afghan allies before closing Bagram and evacuating the troops. In addition, there should have been a plan to avoid leaving billions of dollars in military equipment – planes, vehicles, guns, missiles, ammunition – at Bagram.  The Taliban received a very nice legacy there.

Are we going to be treated to images of the Taliban chasing the last American soldiers out of the airport? Is there a plan for military withdrawal that doesn’t have the Taliban soldiers following behind? How is this going to work? Will sections of the airport fall until a last exit to the tarmac remains? How many valuable resources will we leave behind in this hasty scramble for the exit door?

Reasonable people can debate whether we should or should not be leaving Afghanistan. But now it’s been decided we are, no one can defend the calamity that is unfolding here. It is utterly shameful. The fallout will haunt us for a very long time. We face weeks of stories about those who did not get out and what is happening to them, not to mention the many victory laps the Taliban will be taking.  And that will be just the beginning.

I, for one, don’t want to hear another word from anyone saying, ‘Well, we really needed to get out, it was all going to be messy anyway, so too bad, so sad…’  There is NO defense for what is happening.  N. O. N. E.  The American people’s memory will not be short on this debacle.

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The scariest part of all this is that we are only a few months into Biden’s presidency and we have three-and-a-half more years of his catastrophes to look forward to. In just over half a year, we’ve had the border crisis, massive inflation, rampant crime in American cities, handling of the pandemic gone awry, and now the unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan. Multiply the above failings by seven, and that is what we have ahead of us.

As a kid, I remember the malaise under Democratic President Jimmy Carter. That feeling of shame and national impotence.  For more than a generation since, American voters have said ‘never again’.  With younger voters now too young to remember the era (and maybe never learning about it in school), we are now repeating the same mistakes, which hurt even more.

I really don’t know how they can turn around this administration at this point. I really believe Biden is done – and most people surrounding him know it. 

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Sudan’s Bashir is yet another African leader up for war crimes but the real story is, as always, US geopolitical aims

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With yet another African leader heading to the International Criminal Court, it’s time to recognize it for what it is – a political tool used by the US to further its agenda. In reality, the ICC has little to do with justice.

Sudan’s unelected government announced it is ready to hand over former strongman leader Omar al-Bashir to the ICC in The Hague to face charges of genocide and war crimes. 

This is not just some random event, but rather seems to be part of a sequence of trade-offs between Sudan and the United States to deliver on Washington’s geopolitical aims. Those aims include furthering US interests in handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, equally important, the American desire to disrupt China’s ascent as a strategic economic partner for Africa. 

Bashir (77) ruled over Sudan for nearly 30 years until he was deposed by a military coup in April 2019. During his rule, he was a thorn in Washington’s side, accused of harboring terrorists and impeding US regional political interests. He strongly aligned the country with a pro-Palestinian stance and opened the giant oil-rich North African territory to Chinese investment. Sudan became a vital link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative for the rest of Africa, Beijing’s visionary plan for global economic development. 

The former Sudanese leader has had a warrant out for his arrest for more than 10 years, issued by the International Criminal Court, concerning allegations of war crimes committed during a civil war in his country’s Darfur region. Those charges fit with the US’s longtime depiction of Bashir as a renegade figure. For three decades, Sudan was on Washington’s blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism. 

His luck ran out when a coup overthrew him in 2019, and he was placed under house arrest to face prosecution for corruption. The new authorities in Khartoum comprised a “transitional” civilian-military administration that has yet to hold elections more than two years on. 

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What followed was a rapid, if not unlikely, normalization of ties with Washington. In December 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would be exchanging ambassadors after an absence of nearly 23 years. 

Later in 2020, Sudan became one of four Arab nations – along with UAE, Bahrain and Morocco – to normalize ties with Israel in support of the Trump administration’s much-vaunted peace deal for the Middle East. The Abraham Accords, as the deal is known, is seen as a sell-out of Palestinian rights and has not yet swayed the majority of Arab nations to support it. But it is a fair bet that Washington staked a lot on recruiting the four Arab countries in a bid to move the needle in favor of the so-called “deal of the century”. 

In what can be seen as a quid pro quo, Sudan was removed from Washington’s terror blacklist in December  – the same month that the Khartoum regime convicted Bashir of corruption. 

Significantly, the new Biden administration has not reversed Trump’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, the Biden White House has restored some financial aid to the Palestinian territory, but by and large, the thrust of Trump’s sell-out in favor of Israeli claims has been accepted by the new administration. That means the importance of winning over Arab nations remains crucial to US Middle East plans, which in turn means keeping Sudan onboard. 

For its part, the new rulers in Khartoum need Washington to lift onerous international sanctions as well as pay off its debts to the World Bank, which the US has signaled it would do. 

This would seem to be part of the choreography in offering up former president Omar al-Bashir to “justice”. One problem, however, is that Sudan was not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, which therefore meant it had no jurisdiction over the country. That problem was obviated recently when Khartoum declared it was going to join the court, along with 123 other signatory nation-states. It has yet to be decided if Bashir and other former officials will be handed over to the ICC for prosecution, but it seems likely. 

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The irony is that decision was welcomed by Samantha Power, the head of USAID and former ambassador to the United Nations under Obama, who gushed that the move was a “revolution of freedom, peace, justice… a key step towards ending impunity”.

The United States has refused to ratify the ICC since it was established in 2002. Indeed, Washington has repeatedly slammed the court as being an affront to sovereignty and at various times has threatened to hit the institution with sanctions. (Russia and China, among others, also make the same criticism of the court, but at least don’t display the same level of hypocrisy as the US in its selective advocacy.)

Out of its 30 cases to date, the ICC has mainly prosecuted African leaders and military figures which have led to condemnations by the African Union of bias. The Hague court has done little to investigate prima facie crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq committed by American and British troops. Under pressure from Washington, the court has stalled investigation into alleged crimes by Israel against Palestinians. 

The ICC is a political tool that is used by Washington and its allies to advance agendas for geopolitical control and dominance by demonizing targeted countries and leaders. There is no principle of justice involved. It is all a matter of expedience and cynical calculation. 

Sudan’s unelected regime is playing the game. Handing over Bashir has little to do with justice for victims and is all about ingratiating the regime with Washington for favors. 

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Sudan is a lynchpin for China’s Belt and Road expansion on the African continent. Russia also opened a naval base in Port Sudan on the Red Sea in 2017, which is now under review by Khartoum. What Washington will be looking to do is thwart the inroads made by Beijing and Moscow to such a strategic part of the world. 

Yanking Bashir and other former officials off to the ICC suggests that Khartoum is willing to do Washington’s bidding. 

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Biden’s latest ‘lab leak’ report tells us nothing… but it won’t stop the US blaming China for Covid

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American intelligence has failed to come up with any evidence that the pandemic originated in a Wuhan lab. But the pressure mounting on Joe Biden ensures there will be no end to the never-ending ‘China blame game’.

The 90 days that Joe Biden assigned US intelligence to investigate the origins of Covid-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab leak theory are up and, to nobody’s surprise and as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the probe comes to no definitive conclusions.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have seen this coming, but do you think that this will be the end of it? That the blame game surrounding China is about to go away? Absolutely not. It’s obvious even from the WSJ piece itself that the immediate narrative will be that China hasn’t been sufficiently transparent. This has always been the administration’s default position and, on this premise, demands for further investigation will inevitably follow. But of course, it is bizarre that China is expected to ‘come clean’ about a theory which is designed to incriminate it – and of course can never truly be proven because it’s not true.

The report is bad news for Biden precisely because it delivers nothing, not least because this whole circus is being orchestrated to try to ease domestic pressures anyway. Republicans have long made their own mind up that there is significant evidence of a lab leak and even recently tried to present it in one of their own reports.

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Although the theory was never taken especially seriously when Donald Trump was in office – primarily because it emerged from conspiracists rather than scientists – it has gained new currency as a means to discredit the Biden administration by linking the situation to the president’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci amid suggestions ‘the establishment’ is complicit in it.

This partisan tit-for-tat has pushed the White House, as well as Fauci, towards contemplating the theory as serious out of political necessity, giving it a credibility it did not receive under Trump, as mainstream commenters typically dismissed everything he said.

This has had a ripple effect on the World Health Organization (WHO), which is feeling the heat from mounting US pressure and has suffered reputational damage from the narrative that it was apparently complicit with Beijing.

The intelligence report’s lack of evidence and inability to prove anything will only intensify this situation, leading to inevitable accusations that Biden is ‘whitewashing’ the situation.

In this case, what does he do? Almost certainly, there will be more blame attached to China. He will accuse Beijing of failing to be transparent; of failing to demonstrate with clear proof the origins of the virus; claim there has been insufficient data provided on early cases; and push for allies to also put the pressure on China.

It is convenient for him to do so at this juncture, because he desperately needs a distraction to take the news cycle away from Afghanistan, where the calamity of the unfolding events has caused non-stop criticism of his presidency and prompted questions over the resilience of the American leadership.

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So, what better way for him to attempt to rescue his approval rating than by scapegoating China for Covid-19? The narrative will not be ‘the report has disproven the lab leak’. Instead, it will be squarely that ‘China has failed to cooperate with us’ and therefore ‘we don’t know’ what caused the virus. The lab leak theory will not be endorsed as blatantly as it has been by Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but it will be kept in the open by Biden and his colleagues to excuse themselves from culpability.

This means for the rest of the world, the true origins of Covid-19 and any relevant scientific information we might want to know are increasingly unlikely to be established because the situation has been toxified by America’s political gerrymandering.

The Republicans operate on a ‘post-truth’ basis in the polarized atmosphere of US politics which is so emotionally charged that it now thrives on the proliferation of such theories. This creates cognitive dissonance towards a factual and scientific explanation, primarily because it will never come with the politicized drama, sensationalism and impetus of blame that one would accept. To put it bluntly, it would be complicated, boring and dull, as opposed to insinuating or incriminating. And that’s not what people want to hear.

China, on the other hand, is not going to collaborate on any further investigation when it deems it will be done in bad faith. The results of a previous WHO trip to Wuhan have all but been dismissed, precisely because they did not meet the demands of the prevailing narrative and US domestic politics. This creates a stalemate and perpetuates mutual distrust, a vicious circle which sustains the belief Beijing is engaging in a ‘cover-up’.

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In conclusion, this report has found out nothing and has achieved nothing. It was never going to. It was commissioned for political reasons, not scientific ones. Are the CIA virologists and immunologists, after all? The lab-leak theory is a fantasy grounded in science fiction and James Bond-style discourses, and not in scientific reality. America’s ongoing failure to come up with any answers, coupled with the relentless political pressure on Biden, means that we’re never likely to definitively know what caused the pandemic. And so, the drama will roll on and on, with the US prolonging this never-ending China blame game.

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‘Our allies don’t trust us, our enemies are emboldened’ – vet who survived Kabul bombing on US disastrous failure in Afghanistan

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By Jani Allan, a writer and talk show host. She has written for the London Sunday Times, the Spectator, the Daily Mail and various other British publications. Her memoir Jani Confidential was published by Jacana Media.

A US combat veteran says he’s heartbroken seeing what he considers to be treason committed on the American people by the Biden administration who allowed the Taliban to retake power after fighting them for 20 years.

Justin Parks is a combat veteran with a degree in Arabic studies, who has served in the Marine Corps and the Army and has done multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a Door Gunner on his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, where he notched up 260 flight hours. 

He survived the bombing in Kabul on May 31, 2017. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the Afghan capital since the Americans invaded in 2001 to take out the Taliban – over 150 people killed and over 450 wounded.

Justin talks in a detached way about the site of the attack being littered with body parts and torsos hanging in the trees. He says that there was no water and no power and “protest crowds pop-shotted us for two months.” His intestines were “destroyed,” he was close to death. To this day Justin remembers the smell of rotting bodies.

“Guys come back from tours and the damage to their psyches is profound. They often become estranged from their loved ones.”

His book on that tragic day in May will be published soon. It should be required reading to all those under-read Americans living in their mothers’ basements who, thanks to Critical Race Theory, believe that quoting from Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech constitutes a ‘microaggression.’

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Justin Parks has fought in the Middle East under US Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden.

Since the triumph of the Taliban, he has received heart-wrenching texts, voice-messages and photographs from Afghans that worked alongside the Americans. There is video footage of Afghans handing their babies over a wall topped with barbed wire, begging the British soldiers to take their children. 

They say they were told to file visa applications at the American embassy.  But its website reports that “The consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed.  Nonimmigrant visa appointments remain unavailable and all immigrant visa appointments, including Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), at the Embassy have been cancelled.”

Last week the Taliban seized US military biometrics devices which could help to identify those Afghans who assisted the coalition forces. “My guys are in hiding all over Kabul,” Parks says. “Our allies don’t trust us and our enemies are emboldened.”

The devices, known as HIIDE (Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment), contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information and are used to access centralized databases. Why were they allowed to fall into the Taliban’s hands?

Not surprisingly, the Defence Intelligence Agency hasn’t responded to a request for comment. 

The American mainstream media doesn’t ask difficult questions like that. They are attempting to rewrite history and put a spin on the Middle East narrative that exonerates their tragic dereliction of government. President Joe Biden, who oversaw the abandonment of Saigon, has created Saigon 2.0.

America had initially abandoned up to 80,000 Afghan allies and about 10,000 US citizens behind enemy lines with no clear plan to get them to safety. On Sunday, Biden said Washington was considering extending evacuation efforts beyond the August 31 deadline to leave Afghanistan.  

“We have a long way to go, and a lot could still go wrong,” he added.  

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There are billions of dollars worth of cutting-edge US military equipment left as a parting gift to the Taliban. This reportedly includes grenade launchers, missiles, armored vehicles, aircraft and many thousands of machine guns.

But don’t worry, Sleepy Joe has assured us they will behave… I wonder, what does a President have to do to get impeached? 

Mark Levin, the foremost conservative commenter and constitutional scholar whose book ‘American Marxism’ has in less than two weeks sold almost a million copies in America, torched the disastrous Afghan withdrawal: “On Wednesday Biden walked away from the media, taking no questions. Kamala Harris is missing in action. Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

In Levin’s view, “When you elect disastrous presidents you get disastrous consequences.” 

In July Biden was asked if he saw “any parallels between his withdrawal from Afghanistan and what happened in Vietnam” (in which he also played a role.) “None whatsoever. Zero,” he replied.

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Justin Parks argues that US defeat in Afghanistan “is worse” than the fall of Saigon in 1975. 

“This is the biggest hostage situation in the history of America,” he says. 

The Taliban are going door-to-door searching for individuals on priority lists – those who aided foreign forces will surely be executed according to Sharia law, he believes. 

“The Taliban say that they will be different,” says Justin. But this is al-Taqiyya – the kind of self-protection practice and the Islamic justification for lying and deceiving.  

Justin, like many veterans I spoke to, is heart-broken by the treason they see committed on the American people by the current government. 

“Power and leverage has been given to the terrorist organization we fought for twenty years. Biden did this without consulting NATO.” 

General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted “there was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in eleven days.” His comments were made shortly after the New York Times reported that US intelligence officials had been warning of a quick Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Milley, let us not forget, was the General who apologized for participating in President Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington (which had been set on fire the previous night) during last summer protests that erupted following the police killing of George Floyd. General Milley is apparently more worried about white male rage and the alleged threat to the nation by ‘white supremacists’ than doing the morally decent thing and getting out Americans and the Afghans – highly-trained people, some of whom speak five languages – who were working with the coalition.

President Biden kept claiming the US would not witness a Vietnam-like situation in Afghanistan. Now he insists that no-one in the White House could have done anything better. There were no mistakes. No one should feel guilty.

EXCLUSIVE: Pressed on whether the U.S.'s exit from Afghanistan could have been handled better, Pres. Biden tells @GStephanopoulos, "The idea that somehow, there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing—I don't know how that happens."

— ABC News (@ABC) August 19, 2021

Veterans I spoke with disagree vehemently. 

“This was a choice that they made over months. They knew it was going to happen but they did it anyway. 

“Biden doesn’t understand what this means to America’s authority in the world.” 

“Biden is breathtakingly arrogant and delusional. He is also entirely bloodless.”

A Gold Star mother who lost her son, a Navy Seal, when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan said “Lady Liberty is hanging her head in shame.”

Like hundreds of mothers who had children who paid the ultimate sacrifice, she is “incensed, infuriated and angry” as well as “saddened and ashamed.”

“Mark this day as the day the U.S.A. officially fell from grace as the world’s super power due to the ineptitude, the incompetence and the dereliction of duty by a so-called “commander-in-chief,” said Judge Jeanine, a television star and glamorous legal beagle.

"Mark this day as the day the U.S.A. officially fell from grace as the world’s super power due to the ineptitude, the incompetence and the dereliction of duty by a so-called “commander-in-chief” – Judge Jeanine’s powerful #OpeningStatement on Biden’s mishandling of Afghanistan

— Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) August 22, 2021

Another described the utter failure of Joe Biden’s administration as a “gut-punch” to families and veterans who believed in the mission to liberate Afghanistan from “the medieval barbarism of the Taliban and ISIS.”

It was reported that two months before the fall of Kabul, Biden dismantled the Trump-era’s Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau (CCR) set up to provide aviation logistics and medical support to Americans if they were trapped overseas. Biden has systematically undone everything Trump accomplished.

As he concluded his July 8 speech, Biden attempted to change the subject of the catastrophe in Kabul.

“We have to defeat Covid-19 at home and around the world … [and] take concerted action to fight existential threats of climate change,” he asserted. 

The rapid rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the United States, paired with the devastating report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggests that meeting these challenges may be far more difficult than those the US faced and failed in Afghanistan.

Many veterans I spoke to and their families also blame the former President Barack Obama for “dividing America.” 

Says Justin: “Americans were proud of us. They flew American flags on the 4th July. They tied yellow-ribbons around trees. We felt as though we were accomplishing something in nation-building and ridding Afghanistan of Islamo-Nazis. We built schools. We saw girls being allowed to be educated. There were two free and fair elections. With Obama our hands were tied. There were rules made by Obama and Clinton to soften our tactics.”

“We would go into an area and root them out and establish dominance. Around the surge of 2007 we began noticing more IED bombs. Intel we were gathering was pushed to the side,” he states.  

Many veterans spoke about the fact that while those who served their country are abandoned, preference is given to aiding illegal immigrants. 

“We didn’t even get a beret. Where is our beret?” 

“Whose side are Obama and Biden on?” said one Navy Seal. 

One of the most scathing criticisms of Biden came from Meghan McCain, the daughter of late John McCain, one of America’s most famous veterans. 

“We’re a laughing stock of the world,” she tweeted. 

We’re a laughing stock of the world.

— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 21, 2021

What we are witnessing is a managed destruction of America.

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Declassified files expose how US officials saw collapse coming after 20 years of failure in Afghanistan

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

The extent of America’s Afghan calamity is shown in 20 declassified documents published by the National Security Archive. They reveal an alarming prescience of the outcome – and that George W. Bush didn’t know who was in charge.

Collectively, the files trace in often shocking detail precisely what went wrong, how, and when, and the extent to which this was consistently and deliberately hidden from the public.

Take, for instance, a March 2002 memo authored by Donald Rumsfeld, in which the then-Defense Secretary demands an urgent meeting with Pentagon officials, as he was “concerned” the US mission in Afghanistan was “drifting.” As the Archive records, later that same day, Rumsfeld conducted a lengthy interview with MSNBC, in which he forcefully asserted the war had been long-won, and dismissed any suggestion Washington should negotiate with remaining Taliban insurgents.

“The only thing you can do is to bomb them and try to kill them. And that’s what we did, and it worked. They’re gone. And the Afghan people are a lot better off,” he said.

In a perverse irony, another memo issued three months later may well have signed the Afghan mission’s death warrant. In it, Rumsfeld asks one of his top aides about giving a “chunk of money” to Pakistan so they would “really fight the war on terror.” So it was that billions were sent to Islamabad by Washington over the next decade to bankroll its contribution to the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A large proportion of the funds were misused, and an indeterminate amount may well have financed the very groups they were meant to be fighting.

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Pakistan’s role in supporting the Afghan insurgency is referenced in a lengthy email written in August that year by a Green Beret member of a commando team hunting “high-value” targets, which was circulated throughout the Pentagon at the highest levels. The author asserted that Al Qaeda were “regrouping in the Southeast, with the connivance of a few disgruntled junior warlords and the double-dealing Pakistanis.”

“The shooting match is still very much on,” they wrote. “Along the border provinces you can’t kick a stone over without bad guys swarming out like ants and snakes and scorpions.”

Quite some quagmire, although by that time the occupation was well and truly off the Oval Office radar, as Washington ramped up preparations for the invasion of Iraq. Underlining the staggering degree to which the White House had deprioritized the mission, an October memo records how Rumsfeld asked President George W. Bush whether he wished to meet with General Dan K. McNeill, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. The President perplexedly asked who McNeill was.

Fast forward to August 2009, and the occupation was again a priority – to such a degree that a significant increase in US military presence was being aggressively advocated for by the Pentagon. Central to this renewed push was the appointment of General Stanley McChrystal, an acolyte of then-Central Command chief David Petraeus and firm believer in the efficacy of the Iraq troop surge enacted two years earlier, to the Afghan mission.

A 66-page assessment authored by McChrystal calls for a “properly resourced” counterinsurgency campaign, as in Baghdad, with up to 60,000 more US troops and significant investment in arming and training the Afghan army. Full of swagger and self-assurance, he contends that failure to “gain the initiative” within the next 12 months would mean defeat. In the event, he was only given 30,000 extra soldiers, for a maximum of 18 months. Undeterred, McChrystal boldly informed the Senate in December that year “the next eighteen months will likely be decisive and ultimately enable success,” and “in fact, we are going to win.”

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However, the declassified files make clear McChrystal’s optimism wasn’t shared by certain officials. In fact, Karl Eikenberry, a former general turned US ambassador to Afghanistan, was strongly opposed to increasing the US troop presence. Writing to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he foresaw that the move would produce “astronomical costs,” “delay the day when Afghans will take over,” “make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,” and “steepen dramatically” battlefield casualties and “attrition losses.”

He added that deepening military involvement in a mission “that most agree cannot be won solely by military means” was illogical, and “more troops won’t end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain,” forecasting that Islamabad “will remain the single greatest source of Afghan instability.”

Clinton’s response remains redacted, but a subsequent cable sent by Eikenberry would imply his anxieties were dismissed. Moreover, given the almost instantaneous collapse of Kabul following the departure of coalition forces, the communiqué can only raise serious questions about the many official denials that such an eventuality was foreseen.

In it, he suggests investigating alternative options to military build-up, noting that troops will merely provide enhanced security “for as long as they stay,” and previous troop increases had led to an intensification of “violence and instability.” Eikenberry also asserted that neither the Afghan army nor government had “demonstrated the will or ability to take over lead security responsibility,” and there was “scant reason to expect that further increases will further advance our strategic purposes.” Instead, “they will dig us in more deeply.”

Of course, these far-seeing observations fell on deaf ears, and US military presence multiplied significantly in subsequent years, reaching an all-time peak of around 110,000 soldiers in 2011.

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A similarly chilling prescience also permeates the transcript of an interview with Richard Boucher, former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, conducted in October 2015 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, obtained via a freedom of information lawsuit. 

His appraisal of the mission was remarkably forthright – since its very inception it had constantly and consistently expanded in uncharted and unexpected directions, and ultimately Washington simply didn’t know what it was doing. The assumption that Afghanistan would or even could become a state in any way akin to the US had been “just wrong” he said, and “condemned us to fifteen years of war instead of two or three.”

“If we think our exit strategy is to either beat the Taliban, which can’t be done given the local, regional, and cross-border circumstances, or to establish an Afghan government that is capable of delivering good government to its citizens using American tools and methods, then we have no exit strategy because both of those are impossible,” he stated prophetically.

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New HBO doc ‘In the Same Breath’ shows how both China & the US have used authoritarianism and propaganda to contain Covid

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Despite the administrations in Beijing and Washington having very different worldviews, Nanfu Wang’s fascinating, but flawed, film shows that trusting the government – whether it be communist or democratic – is a fool’s errand.

‘In the Same Breath’, which is airing on HBO and HBO Max, chronicles the inept response and often deceptive practices of both the Chinese and US governments in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the power of propaganda to shape perception.

The documentary features some harrowing, horrifying footage from within Wuhan during the height of the Covid outbreak. Scenes of patients gasping for air and dying, andfamilies struggling to decide whether their elderly mother should die in a hospital parking lot waiting for care that will never come or admit death’s inevitability back in the comfort of their apartment, are gut-wrenching.

One of the most unnerving sequences in the film is when a CCTV camera captures the very beginning of the pandemic, when it records a cavalcade of people from the Wuhan fish market coming to a clinic with a cough and high fever. The doctor who greets and treats them then develops the same symptoms and goes from hospital to hospital looking for care, but is turned away every time, and later dies.

Director Nanfu Wang, best known for her searing documentary ‘One Child Nation’, about China’s one child policy, obviously has insights into the Chinese mindset and she is unforgiving when it comes to the Beijing government. 

‘In the Same Breath’ spotlights the relentless drumbeat of misinformation from the Chinese government that at first diminished the disease’s power, with officials declaring it doesn’t transmit from human to human and dissenters arrested. When the truth became undeniable, the government shifts into propaganda mode and stories of brave frontline medical workers flood Chinese TV, with the message that the government and people are working hand in hand to defeat the Covid menace that has taken hold.

Wang, an American citizen born and raised in China, is a skilled documentarian who has a keen eye for Chinese propaganda, but a bit of a blind spot for her own US political bias.

The two main villains of ‘In the Same Breath’ are the corrupt Chinese government and Donald Trump’s incompetent administration. Both are deserving of scorn, but in the American side of the coronavirus pandemic story at least, this documentary feels a little shallow as it isn’t just the Trump administration that has misinformed and deceived regarding coronavirus, it’s been the entire political and media establishment. 

The documentary almost seems quaint when it ponders potential Trump authoritarianism, when in his absence vicious tribalism and Covid misinformation have continued to flourish unabated.

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To her credit, Wang does briefly highlight some Democrats as being misinformation agents too, and excoriates Dr. Anthony Fauci, for his repeated deceptions, especially early in the outbreak. 

What Wang doesn’t do is challenge the orthodoxy of HBO’s decidedly liberal audience. For example, the scientists and medical professionals who signed a letter in the summer of 2020 saying that protesting against the lockdown was dangerous, but that protesting for Black Lives Matter was mandatory – because of the alleged epidemic of racism in America – are not even mentioned, never mind ridiculed. This egregious event is tailor-made for Wang’s thesis, but is undoubtedly a bridge too far for the bigwigs at HBO and their viewers.

She also studiously avoids the controversial lab leak theory.

Wang’s main focus is that she’s afraid of what people in power will do to maintain and expand their power, especially during a pandemic. She highlights China’s numerous authoritarian abuses and the Chinese people’s acceptance and outright praise for them to make her case.

This all seems very relevant to the hotly debated vaccination issue here in the US, but unfortunately ‘In the Same Breath’ only covers 2020, so that is never raised. 

I’m devoutly agnostic on the vaccine question, but it’s striking to me that the same Chinese tactics and techniques regarding Covid featured in the documentary are currently either being copied or mirrored by the elite in the US.

For instance, Wang makes a strong case that China has undercounted the number of dead in order to make the government seem more effective, turning a possible 30,000 dead in Wuhan into just 3,000. 

In contrast, the US corporate media have used a bait and switch approach where the highest number is always the one featured, possibly in an attempt to scare people into compliance. For example, in the early days of Covid, the death toll made headlines, then it subtly shifted to the number of positive tests, and now to the percentage of sick who are unvaccinated.

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Wang also expresses frustration with the US government’s refusal to share accurate data with the American public, a sentiment she admittedly shares with ‘deplorable’ Trumpers.

China bullied people into silence and compliance by making emotional and nationalistic pleas, while in the US the argument for people to take vaccines is also emotional – ‘do no harm to grandma’ – and collective: ‘we need to work together for herd immunity’.

The bullying impulse is strong in the pro-vaccine movement too, as restricting liberties and requiring vaccine passports for government aid have remarkably become the default position among elites, many liberals and the media, despite resulting in obvious racial disparities.

‘In the Same Breath’ is a flawed documentary, but if viewers can overcome its limiting bias and see the authoritarian forest for the partisan trees, it’s worth watching for no other reason than to remember the insidious and nefarious nature of power and how easily freedom is suffocated by governments meant to protect it.

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After an embarrassing military defeat in Afghanistan the US is opting for plan B to get its hands on the nation’s resources: money

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In Afghanistan the US had two options; remain and relaunch an unsuccessful war effort in order to prop up a puppet regime, or leave and use leverage to extract the best access to the country’s resources. Biden chose the latter.

US President Joe Biden’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest point since his inauguration and to some it may look like he has sacrificed his popularity in order to take a principled anti-war stance. In reality the Biden administration was faced with an ultimatum, an embarrassing military defeat or retreat and compromise.

Back in September of 2019, talks of the Trump administration bringing the Taliban to Camp David first fell through and at this time the Taliban was already at its strongest since its overthrow in 2001. The Afghan Taliban had control, at that time, of roughly half the country or at least the territory was disputed.

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It was clear from before former US President Donald Trump signed his Afghanistan withdrawal deal with the Taliban, in February of 2020, that the future of the NATO mission in the country was coming to a close. On top of the Taliban having acquired more power, men and territory, the group had clearly progressed from their former selves back in the ‘90s and had demonstrated themselves as a group capable of negotiating with.

Despite the fact that the US government had spent in excess of $130 billion on its nation-building mission in Afghanistan, training and arming over 300,000 Afghan forces, Kabul fell in a single day without even so much as a fight. This in of itself is a standalone testimony to the magnitude of America’s failure. After having spent 2.2 trillion dollars and 20 years, their puppet government folded and ran away in embarrassing fashion. 

Just as the Soviet Union had learnt the hard way, Afghanistan is not called the ‘graveyard of empires’ for nothing, their puppet regime led by President Mohammad Najibullah also quickly collapsed after they announced withdrawal in 1988. Later to be replaced by the finished product of the Mujahideen which the CIA and MI6 had been backing to fight the Soviets.

There is no way that the US had not seen the fall of Afghanistan’s much more powerful forces coming, or at least they must have realised that a long and costly civil war was afoot. Perhaps it wasn’t anticipated that the Taliban was going to seize control of Kabul so quickly, but their swift takeover of around half of the nation’s provincial capitals, within months, should have added up. Afghanistan is a country easy to take over, but nearly impossible to hold for long after the initial takeover, this is in large part to do with 75% of the country being mountainous.

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Although 80,000 Taliban were up against 300,000 Afghan forces armed with US weapons and backed by US air power, the reality was that even with the will to fight it would have been tough for them to hold the country indefinitely.

If the US chose to stay, their 2,500 troops would not have been nearly enough to hold back a Taliban offensive and even if tens of thousands of troops re-entered the country there were still no guarantees. Interestingly, China, Pakistan, Russia and others have all sought to build a friendly relationship with the new Taliban government, this is not out of any sort of love for the group, but rather strategic interests. 

Afghanistan has been turned into one of the worlds largest narco-states under US rule and was completely destabilised. If the Taliban can do one positive thing in power, that is to provide a stable security situation and like they did in the past cut the crime rates dramatically. It is yet to be seen what the Taliban will actually do as a governing party, ruling its Islamic Emirate, but if they hold true to their recent assurances to the international community they could stabilise Afghanistan.

The country is in a vital area geographically and also has trillions of dollars worth of rare earth minerals, currently sitting untouched. The reason why the vast resource wealth of Afghanistan has not yet been exploited, is due to a lack of infrastructure and a hesitancy from international investors to put their money into projects in such an insecure area of the world.

With the US having left Afghanistan, even though they broke their original deal with the Taliban for a May exit deadline and changed it to September 11, they could well have in mind a different type of mission in the country. Instead of using their military, they can now use their ‘soft-power’ to leverage the Taliban leadership to allow themselves the ability to get their hands on some of the nation’s wealth. It’s no secret that the US’ enemies, like China, are also looking to capitalise on the potential of a stable Afghanistan, so why would we assume the United States wouldn’t do the same?

Already the US has waved around its ability to enforce its sanctions upon the Taliban and has frozen the assets of the former Afghan government. We are also talking about one of the poorest countries on earth, which has barely kept afloat with billions of US dollars propping it up yearly. These factors alone automatically give Washington a number of cards to play against the Taliban.

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An example of what types of projects may be to come is the US-backed and long envisioned TAPI, or trans-Afghanistan pipeline, which the Taliban had given neighbouring Turkmenistan assurance that it would protect back in February. There are also other plans for railway construction and other key infrastructure projects, which could be acted upon given a stable security environment.

So, the US had no choice but to change its Afghanistan strategy and it did. The withdrawal is still an embarrassment and represents a historic defeat of the US in the region, but it should not come as much of a surprise if, as Joe Biden likes to say, ‘America is back’ soon in a different way to what it was previously.

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The chaos in Kabul reveals the one thing more important to the media than covering for Biden…keeping the US war machine going

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As the US makes its chaotic exit from Afghanistan, we are reminded once again how truly committed members of the American press are to dying ideas of “militarism and imperialism.”

“Genuinely revealing that the only thing that could make the corporate media turn on Biden was his decision (in agreement with Trump) to end a preposterously long and worthless war,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted on Friday, after being one of many spending the week calling out the mainstream media for its rather bizarre – but sadly not surprising – coverage of the situation in Afghanistan.

Since Joe Biden took office, he’s enjoyed a rather cushy relationship with the media. It helps that his predecessor lived in their minds rent free, and Biden’s had the distraction of the Covid-19 pandemic and the tiring obsession with January 6 to keep criticism of him almost exclusively to conservative crowds. 

Biden’s exit from Afghanistan, however, has given him a rather bad week all round.

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“This is the same dynamic that explains how the only time they praised Trump was when he bombed Syria. One of the few times they got enraged with Obama was when he refused to overthrow Assad. Nobody loves war and imperialism more than employees of media corporations,” Greenwald said in a follow-up tweet to his message on Biden.  

He’s not wrong. Celebrating displays of militaristic ‘strength’ and a general support of policing the world has become something common among both left and right corporate media. As Greenwald points out, bombing Syria was one of the few times Trump turned many of his media enemies into flag wavers for a moment because it was the exact sort of thing his own predecessor would have done. Speaking of Obama, he ran on a message of peace and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to find himself not only continuing those military efforts, but increasing drone strikes, not closing Guantanamo Bay as promised and intervening in Syria. 

Into his second term, Obama was sounding like George W. Bush 2.0 with jingoistic tirades against America’s enemies.

Liberals and conservatives could argue until they’re blue in the face today over Trump versus Obama, broken promises, who said what, who supported what, etc. Tribalism and loyalty to one’s ‘team’ has become so essential to so many today, it’s likely you’d find few who agree, even on objective facts. 

Yet we see it all playing out once again before our very eyes as Biden rushes through a withdrawal from Afghanistan that has thus far been nothing short of a complete and utter disaster. 

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Even typically reliable CNN has been facing heavy backlash for appearing to give numerous pro-war arguments in their coverage of the withdrawal, giving platforms to well known war-hawks such as John Bolton who not only argued the evacuations are a failure, but also that we should not be leaving at all and continuing an effort that has gone on two decades and costs thousands of lives. 

In a bizarre piece this week that kicked off a wave of anti-war reactions, a CNN journalist took a more casual approach to warhawking and whined about the fact that there could be $1 trillion worth of valuable minerals – such as lithium – in Afghanistan and these resources are ones that the “world desperately needs” if we are to move to more energy friendly options such as electric cars. 

While the piece didn’t feature one of Bolton’s mustache-twirling ‘invade everywhere’ gleeful rants, it was essentially someone casually mentioning that perhaps the military might could be needed there again to take a bunch of resources that technically don’t belong to us…but hey, we need ‘em. Sounds a tad familiar…

Getting voices heard on mainstream platforms that are actually for leaving Afghanistan may be easier today than it was when Ron Paul couldn’t get the time of day from most, despite a massive following and decades of political and military experience behind him, but it is still an uphill battle, especially at this current moment, which is somewhat frightening.

Reporters Judd Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby detailed some of this current bias against anti-war talking heads in a Popular Information report detailing a “veteran communications professional” who said it has been “next to impossible” to book guests who are supportive of actually leaving behind the war efforts in the Middle East. 

“Not only can I not get people booked on shows, but I can’t even get TV bookers who frequently book my guests to give me a call back,” he said. “I’ve fed sources to reporters, who end up not quoting the sources, but do quote multiple voices who are critical of the president and/or put the withdrawal in a negative light.”

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There could be a number of reasons for the largely negative coverage, the most important being that Biden completely fumbled on his execution of the withdrawal. While evacuations are still ongoing, there are simply things that cannot be ignored, like US officials’ complete lack of awareness of even how many people they intend to get out of the country. Another reason is negative news sells better, and yet another should be obvious: these are employees of major media corporations part of conglomerate spiderwebs of profitability. War is money in the eyes of those sitting in ivory towers, so having a Ron Paul (or even Rand) make intelligent arguments for prioritizing using the military as a method of national defense rather than international offense just isn’t quite sexy enough. 

It’s why Bolton is making his way through the liberal cable news corner, and Bush era warhawks like Condoleeza Rice are similarly using left-wing papers like The Washington Post to argue against leaving Afghanistan entirely. 

The consequence of this imbalance in voices is the Rices and Boltons of the world are being given every opportunity to paint the chaos currently happening as a reason for continued war to keep some semblance of ‘stability’.

It’s also a dangerous time for these voices to be listened to above others. After all, they have used the relentless nature of the media to talk people into unjustified wars before, and judging by what they’re saying now, they would have no problem trying to do it again. 

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Official review exposes how US reconstruction of Afghanistan was built on death, fraud and lies

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By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

The shocking extent of America’s failure to build a safe and secure Afghanistan is laid bare in a newly published report. It spells out in explicit detail the mind-boggling corruption and incompetence that doomed the mission.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has issued a withering review of American reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, outlining several “lessons learned” from the calamity.

In all, Washington spent two decades and $145 billion attempting to westernize the country, while struggling to maintain a corrupt, unpopular and illegitimate government in power, and battling an ongoing insurgency against the Taliban and a constellation of armed militias. The report pulls absolutely no punches, finding that almost every US-bankrolled project in Afghanistan was subject to industrial scale grift, delivered wildly over budget, failed in its objectives, and strengthened the Taliban. In far too many cases, these efforts led to people being killed.

References to corruption run rampant throughout – yet, somewhat unbelievably, Washington was said to have “initially failed to recognize the existential threat that corruption posed to the reconstruction effort.” Planners reportedly assumed fraud could only ever be the “deviant criminal behavior of individual Afghan officials,” and concluded that extensive use of contractors would ensure reconstruction endeavors remained above board and on budget.

In reality, this reliance precipitated a veritable feeding frenzy of “virtually unchecked” waste and fraud, enabled in part by an almost total lack of oversight over how funds were spent. Numerous examples of rank incompetence on the part of contractors are also documented – a military compound constructed for $2.4 million being completely unusable as it was carelessly built outside the security perimeter of the base for which it was commissioned is perhaps the most farcical.

In another instance, bogus humanitarian agency USAID awarded a contract for the design and construction of two vast new hospitals, at a combined cost of $18.5 million, without consulting local officials, or considering whether the government could actually foot the annual operating and maintenance bills, which would be up to six times that of the hospitals they replaced. By the time the Afghan Ministry of Public Health learned of the project, construction had been ongoing for a year.

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Despite such embarrassments, the dollars kept flowing in ever-greater volumes over the years. As it was the easiest thing to monitor, funds being spent on programs “perversely” became “the most important measure of success,” and the best, if not only, way of demonstrating to an increasingly skeptical US Congress, and the American public, that reconstruction wasn’t a total failure.

With a combination of “overoptimism, an institutional drive to produce good news stories, and the imperative to show progress in time to serve the ends of various political timetables,” producing a situation in which Washington was spending money “faster than it could be accounted for,” the primary goal of reconstruction became “producing good news…as quickly as possible,” and there was “little appetite for honest assessments of what worked and what did not.”

In turn, this created an incentive structure that greatly encouraged officials not to report abuse or fraud, while contractors benefiting from the gravy train were likewise unwilling to speak up about problems. Complicating the issue further, USAID officials were frequently “bulldozed” by the military into implementing projects in places “far too dangerous for them to have a stabilizing effect.”

In these cases, USAID depended on contractors, who could visit locations too risky for US government employees to tread. This meant, though, that monitoring a project’s implementation was extremely difficult, with the agency’s staff “sometimes unable to establish with confidence even the most basic information.” On occasion, what could be verified was in fact bogus – the review records how a Kandahar-based business would for a fee provide contractors with generic photographs of completed projects, replete with fake geotags, to defraud USAID.

Over and over again, US officials completely misjudged whether particular initiatives would be remotely appropriate for the Afghan context. For instance, between 2003 and 2015, Washington spent over $1 billion on rule of law operations in the country, with around 90% invested in developing a formal, Western-style legal system.

The set-up was, however, alien to most Afghans, who favored “informal, community-level traditional dispute resolution mechanisms,” and believed the new system to be impractical and ineffective. In turn, the Taliban created a parallel structure along traditional lines, providing citizens with “a semblance of security and justice.” Their role in maintaining and managing this in turn “generated at least a modicum of legitimacy for the group” among locals, and reinforced the notion they were a credible governance actor.

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Other security drives were similarly counter-productive. In 2000, the Taliban collaborated with the United Nations to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, resulting in one of the most successful anti-drug campaigns in history, with a 99% reduction in poppy farming in areas controlled by the group, which had accounted for roughly three-quarters of the world’s supply of heroin. The US invasion ended this, and despite spending $9 billion on counternarcotics efforts since 2002, the cultivation of opium in Afghanistan has trended upward ever since.

The explosion of the opium trade funded the Taliban insurgency, meaning poppy fields were heavily defended, and many security services operatives, civilians, US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and contractors were killed or severely wounded on counternarcotics missions. Even successful incursions were “often only possible under the protection of significant coalition and Afghan security forces,” who couldn’t stay indefinitely in target areas as a deterrent. As a result, these wins were “temporary and unsustainable,” and became ever-shorter lived as coalition forces began to retreat.

Then again, Afghan security forces were typically ill-equipped to deal with any serious security issue. After levels of insurgent violence “skyrocketed” in 2006, Washington attempted to fill the ranks of the Afghan army as quickly as possible, and duly reduced training to just 10 weeks.

This produced a largely inexperienced and unqualified military, with a huge level of turnover – by 2020, the need to replace roughly a quarter of the force each and every year was considered ‘normal’. Untold numbers of Afghan soldiers moreover went AWOL over the years, including hundreds who were being trained in the US.

Poor training likewise hampered development of the Afghan National Police, resulting in the force being “largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law,” and “routinely [engaging] in torture and abuse,” destroying their credibility with the public. Meanwhile, recruits for the Afghan Local Police, informal militias charged with keeping the peace in conflict-scarred areas that have likewise been accused of human rights violations, were often Taliban fighters, who’d been allowed to keep their weapons and join if they agreed to stop undermining the government.

This dire security situation only enriched militia groups, as private security firms paid to protect US government officials and projects resorted to spending a “substantial” portion of their budgets on bribing insurgents to “refrain from attacking convoys and project sites” – making them “in effect unofficial subcontractors” to Washington.

US government funds also reached the pockets of violent extremists “through a web of corruption that encompassed Afghan officials, drug traffickers, transnational criminals, and insurgent and terrorist groups.” However, “prosecuting these officials, or even removing them from office, proved extremely difficult,” since it would entail “dismantling major pillars of support for the government itself,” including its electoral institutions, in the process severely undermining its public legitimacy.

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“When you look at how much we spent and what we got for it, it’s mind boggling,” a senior Department of Defense official is quoted as saying – and it’s just as mind boggling that the report makes repeated reference to “future reconstruction missions elsewhere around the world.”

Clearly, the most obvious lesson of the review – that never again should the US undertake nation building efforts in far-flung states its imperial interventions and meddling have comprehensively destroyed, of which its leaders know nothing – doesn’t feature on the syllabus. Citizens of countries the world over, particularly those living under US-mandated ‘enemy’ regimes, are surely desperately hoping they’re not next in the reconstruction firing line.

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Parent power is fighting back in the US as new group Fight For Schools battles to stop kids being taught CRT & trans issues

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The debate over what American children are taught has taken a new twist with an increasingly vocal Virginia parents’ group fighting to have more influence over school boards. It aims to set a blueprint for the whole country.

Loudoun County, Virginia, is not the most obvious site for a flashpoint to erupt that could have repercussions across America. Close to the seat of power, Washington, DC, it’s an affluent area with a median household income of $142,299.

Since 2010, its population has risen by 34% and crucially 28% of residents are under 18. Many parents work in government and are adept at campaigning and organising, which has spawned the birth of a vocal and increasingly prominent organization, Fight For Schools. As the name suggests, it is a parents’ group that wants to have more say in what goes on in schools.

Formed in April by just eight people, it has since been catapulted into the living rooms of millions of Americans with coverage on influential platforms such as Fox News. The founders were spurred into action when made aware of a Facebook group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County.

A school board member had posted a message among the group encouraging others to confront parents who were opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in local schools. There was also a simultaneous debate about when to open up schools post-lockdown.

Fight For Schools Executive Director Ian Prior said, “These individuals [in the Facebook group] started listing over 60 parents they wanted to plot against. There was a post on there that talked about infiltrating parents’ groups, publicly exposing them and even hacking their websites. 

“What we found out is that a lot of the parents listed were actually just going to school board meetings and speaking up for opening schools. Not everyone was writing Op-Eds, had websites or was on social media talking about this stuff. That is what really poured gasoline on the fire here in Loudoun County and motivated us to do something about it.”

The extent of the power and influence school boards have was something most parents were not fully aware of. Even Prior himself admits he had never really thought about it until August last year, when the debate over when schooling should resume in the wake of Covid-19 was raging.

He admitted, “A lot of us point the finger at ourselves and say: ‘I didn’t pay attention to this before either’. I just assumed you vote these people in, they have the best interests of the kids at heart and are trying to serve their community. But, no, these are political people. 

“I’m not saying they are smart political people, but they are using the positions either to get to the next rung in the ladder of their political career or they become so drunk with their own power in their echo chamber, they think they can do anything. They forget that their job is to represent the entire country, and that their primary purpose is to ensure that kids have a good education.”

Fight For Schools is focused on several issues, but they revolve around a similar theme. And that is overreach that undermines parents’ constitutional rights. The debate is becoming ever more bitter.

Prior explained, “They refuse to hear any other side of the argument. That’s really one of the reasons we’re seeing the toxicity that we are… You have a group of individuals that are, in my opinion, extremely radical in their beliefs, which is fine.

“But what is not fine is that they refuse to accept that there is always another side of the ledger that needs to be heard as well. In the case of Loudoun Country, that other side of the ledger is a vast majority of people.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion but when you’re a government actor, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard and you also have to respect the laws and people’s constitutional rights. 

“What we’ve seen from our school board – but school boards all over really – is that they just don’t have a solid, fundamental grasp of constitutional law or the constitutional guardrails that exist, they do not respect them and they are more than willing to pass legislation that, quite frankly, is unconstitutional, and does not reflect the will of the majority of their constituents. And when people voice their concern or displeasure, they immediately go ‘you’re a bigot, racist or fascist’.”

The teaching of CRT has been controversial everywhere, but the group feels in Loudoun County the issue is especially contentious.

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Prior explained, “The school plays word games. No one ever tells students, ‘OK, here’s CRT, we’re going to learn about this today’. What they are doing is… training teachers to effectively teach through the lens of CRT concepts.”

The issue has already caused some disturbance in Prior’s home. He had read his daughters – who were seven and five at the time – a story about Christopher Columbus.

But on returning from school, the older girl took her dad to task. He explained, “She says ‘Why did you read us a book about a bad guy? They told us today at school that he killed a bunch of people and took slaves’.

“She showed me this video and it was really not a video for second-graders. It was a cartoon, with all these native bodies on the ground dead and a priest with a big cross in the sky forcibly converting them to Christianity. And that’s why we don’t celebrate Columbus Day anymore.

“I’ve just read my child a simple book, a historical fact. Now she’s questioning my credibility because of that, and that’s not something you need in second grade. When you get into middle school or high school, of course you’re going to talk about history, the warts and bad things. You’re also going to give some context to it, things that happened 700 years ago. When you’re seven, you don’t necessarily understand how that works. So, they are creating a situation where really they are trying to co-parent with parents.”

Another hot potato is whether children should be able to determine their gender and choose their pronouns. A fifth grade teacher in Loudoun County recently resigned very publicly, complaining of being a “cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicised agendas to our most vulnerable constituents”. 

Prior added, “They all fall within the cornucopia of issues of what happens when you send your kids through those two doors. 

“I question certainly the religious conscience provision of the First Amendment; you have Christians whose beliefs simply do not align with this new policy that allows biological males to use girls’ bathrooms, it forces students and teachers to use preferred pronouns of transgender kids and puts them all in the same sports team.

“What if you’re a Muslim family and you have certain religious beliefs that don’t align with your daughter being in a locker room with a biological male? Or you’re a Christian and affirming someone’s pronouns that they can change their sex from how they were born doesn’t align with your religious values? Now you’re compelling these individuals to speak in violation of their own rights.”

With relations between the school board and the organisation predictably frosty, things are not going to settle. Fight For Schools is currently gathering signatures to try to recall board members, so new ones can be elected in their place. It’s a complicated task, but given the political and commercial experience of some members of the organisation, it feels it can present a strong case.

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There are also the teachers to think about. One lost his job for speaking about transgender issues but has since been reinstated, and Prior claims more want to raise concerns.

He said, “Many of them are afraid to come out because they could get silenced, fired or put on administrative leave. There have been several teachers who’ve said, ‘I’d love to sign [to recall board members], I’m just afraid they are going to come after me’. They are afraid of repercussions and cannot exercise their First Amendment Rights, even on their own time.

“We found a teacher training [manual] of Loudoun County that said it’s the job of the teacher to inculcate morals and parents have to be respectful of that. No, that’s not their job. Their job is to teach them math, science, reading, writing, accurate history. 

“Getting into social issues, especially at a young age, where you think it’s your job as a government-funded, taxpayer-funded institution to inculcate morals in kids over the parents’ objections, is morally indefensible.”

What happens in Loudoun County could set a precedent. Thanks to the group’s proximity to the nation’s capital and the attention it is attracting, it may provide a blueprint for others to follow. Opponents are not convinced, though, and accuse the group of ‘dog whistle’ politics.

But Prior dismisses these suggestions, saying: “That’s not what we’re doing at all. We’re fighting for our kids; some of us do have political backgrounds and some of us know what to do when we get on television. But that doesn’t mean it’s our motivation. Those are just tactics we’re using to highlight the fact that you have a school system that is using kids to enact personal agendas.”

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The only truth about US disastrous Afghanistan war is that it was all based on lies

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The stunning victory of the Taliban over the US-backed Afghan government raises more questions than it answers as to how this happened. In the search for answers, however, don’t ask the generals who fought the war – they all lied.

Let me begin with full disclosure – I have never set foot in Afghanistan. I have zero skin equity in this current debacle. I have lost very close friends to the conflict that tore that country apart these past 20 years, and I do mourn their loss. What I lack in on-the-ground warfighting resume entries, however, is somewhat compensated by a more intellectually based approach toward the conflict in Afghanistan.

As a historian, I have studied the tribes of Afghanistan, especially their penchant for conflict against ruling authority which deviates from what they expect from their leaders. My specialty was (and is) the Basmachi resistance to Soviet authority in the 1920s and 1930s. More specifically, my studies focused on those elements of Basmachi which settled in Kabul and northern Afghanistan, and who helped overthrow an Afghan King and later were defeated by a Pashtun tribal army.

Not too many Americans are familiar with the names of Ibrahim Bez, Fuzail Maksum, Amanullah, Habibullah, and Nadir Khan, or the military campaign of 1930-31 to secure northern Afghanistan from the Basmachi. If they were, however, they would have a foundation of understanding when it comes to the complexity of Afghan tribal politics, and why any effort to impose a foreign system by force could never succeed.

I spent two years studying Afghanistan from the perspective of a military intelligence officer, in my role as the lead analyst for the 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade on the Soviet war in Afghanistan (the 7th Brigade was the Marine component of the Rapid Deployment Force, and Afghanistan was part of our area of operations). I watched in real time as the various Soviet campaigns targeting the Afghan Mujahideen were defeated on terrain that, years later, would play host to US military forces fighting the very same enemy.

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Like the Berlin Wall or the Twin Towers: footage of fleeing Afghans abandoned by US marks the end of an era for American supremacy

I was in the Soviet Union when Moscow, admitting defeat, finally pulled its troops out of that nation. My reporting based upon interviews with Afghan war veterans on the tactics of the Mujahideen were valued by the US military attaché office in Moscow. I read the Russian newspaper reporting and the first generation of Russian war memoirs to get a fresh take on the Russian experience in Afghanistan, and later used this foundational knowledge to better absorb Western assessments of Russian military performance such as Lester Grau’s outstanding “The Bear went over the Mountain.”

I have also served in tactical, operational, and theater commands in war and peace, and understand the intimate limitations of “ground truth” as experienced by junior enlisted and officers alike, and the absolute disconnect from reality that exists in higher commands. A sergeant or captain doesn’t know what the colonel and general know about the strategic picture, just as the colonel and general do not know what the sergeant and captain have experienced from the perspective of the tip of the spear. Having never served in Afghanistan, when seen in this light, is a liberating factor, since I am not constrained by the prejudices accrued from either perspective.

By way of this introduction, I offer the following assessment of the unfolding situation confronted by the United States in Afghanistan today:

We lost.

Blame the generals. Blame the troops. Blame the spies. Blame the diplomats. Blame the politicians. Blame the American people. But most importantly, blame the generals.

Let me explain.

In ancient Rome, when a military unit failed to perform, it was subjected to a process known as decimation, where 10% of the ranks would be executed as a means of instilling discipline and a fighting spirit – literally putting the fear of death into those involved. While I am not promoting such a radical approach when dealing with the military failures in Afghanistan that have transpired over the course of the past 20 years, I will note that failure should have consequences. And yet for the vast majority of those who served in Afghanistan (all of whom failed, in one form or another), the consequences of their failure have been the awarding of medals and promotions accrued from that experience. Any military organization with a modicum of honor and integrity would understand that the process that allowed military failure to unfold in slow motion over the course of two decades could only occur in an environment which encouraged and sustained this process by rewarding failure.

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The military award system is designed to reward performance above and beyond that which is required through the normal performance of one’s duties. Given that the US military has traditionally had a very high bar of professionalism when it comes to the tasks it performs, “normal” is actually a very high standard. As such, to be given a medal in recognition of service should be by exception, requiring acts that represent an upward deviation from the “norm.” This is especially true about combat. Awards for valor must involve something more than simply closing with and destroying the enemy through firepower and maneuver – one should not be recognized as exceptional for simply doing their job.

The US military spent 20 years in Afghanistan. Careers were defined by this war, and awards and other recognitions handed out liberally as a result. A successful “tour” was noted by the issuance of medals deemed appropriate to the mission, not the result. While many awards were issued to deserving personnel, many more were given to people who were simply doing their job. Why the focus on medals? Because the issuance of medals requires the generation of paperwork that documents the actions for which the medal was being awarded. If one creates an inflated awards system, then the paperwork generated to sustain this system is itself creating a narrative of performance that is inflated. Truth becomes the victim, and the lie a necessary evil to promote the careers of those whose careers were defined by the Afghan conflict.

The medals you see on the chests of those who served in Afghanistan in many ways document the many lies told over the course of the past 20 years that helped shape the narrative that has unceremoniously collapsed before the world within the past few days. 

One way for the military to restore its honor would be to convene a board which would review every award issued because of the Afghan conflict, with an eye to downgrading/revoking those which do not meet the original intent of the award. Start by immediately revoking the Distinguished Service Medals issued to every general officer who ever served in Afghanistan. You don’t get a medal for losing, and you damn sure don’t get a medal for lying to Congress, the president, the American people, and, most importantly, your troops.

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And make no mistake – every single one of the generals who commanded American forces in Afghanistan lied. They lied to Congress – and Congress knew it and did nothing about it. One could write a PhD thesis on political malfeasance simply by reviewing the testimony of these commanders before Congress, and the fawning adoration Congress bestowed upon every one of them. No hard questions. No insistence upon fact-based answers. Just a simple vindication of the lies being told, and the repeated passage of budgets which continued to fund these lies.

Every soldier and junior officer on the ground knew the truth about the capabilities (or lack thereof) of their Afghan counterparts. These veterans today may speak with high praise about those select few Afghans (their interpreters, or “terps”) with whom they could interact, but they are more guarded about the vast majority of the Afghans with whom they shared no linguistic or cultural bond. There was nothing there – no connection. 

Without any connection, there could be no constructive interaction, and that means there could be no meaningful training, and so on and so forth. The frontline troops knew that their Afghan counterparts were incapable of fighting on their own. And yet, because the mission required the Americans to certify that the Afghans were “taking the lead” in the fight against the Taliban, these units were certified as combat capable, and that certification briefed to Congress. Medals were awarded. Careers were enhanced. And it was all a lie.

The entire Afghan conflict must be examined considering this reality – everything is a lie. Every battle, every campaign, every contract written and implemented – everything was founded in a lie. 

Patrick Tilman was given a Silver Star – the nation’s third highest award for heroism in combat – for being killed by his own men. “Caught between the crossfire of an enemy near ambush,” the citation read, “Corporal Tillman put himself in the line of devastating enemy fire as he maneuvered his fire team to a covered position from which they could effectively employ their weapons on known enemy positions.” Not a word of this was true, and the Army knew it. But Tilman, a former NFL player, was a big name, and his death had to be glorious, and not the result of military incompetence.

It was all lies.

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Recent statements by US Secretary of State Tony Blinken suggest that the US mission in Afghanistan ended when we killed Bin Laden. And yet Admiral McRaven, when speaking of the operation to kill Bin Laden, noted that there wasn’t anything fundamentally special about that mission in terms of the tactics. “I think that night we ran 11 or 12 [other] missions in Afghanistan,” McRaven noted. Clearly there was a military focus beyond simply killing Bin Laden. It was secretive work, reportedly involving the assassination of Taliban members, that often resulted in innocent civilians beings killed.

It should be noted that, as of 2019, McRaven believed that this kind of special operations activity should be continued in Afghanistan for years to come. So much for the US mission in Afghanistan being defined by the death of Bin Laden. The mission had become death, and the careers that were defined by those deaths. And it didn’t matter that those who died were innocent, only that they died, and their deaths could be memorialized in citations that resulted in medals being pinned on some special operator’s chest, guaranteeing promotion, and continued budgetary support for a conflict deliberately designed not to end.

The fact is the war in Afghanistan did not need to be fought. We could have ended the threat posed by Bin Laden simply by negotiating with the Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11, providing the evidence we claimed to have linking Bin Laden to the terrorist attacks on the United States. Any student of Afghanistan worth their salt knows the fundamental importance of honor that is enshrined in the concepts of Pashtunwali, the unwritten ethical code that defines the traditional lifestyle of the Pashtun people. If, as we claimed, Bin Laden carried out an attack on women and children while he was living under the protection of Pashtunwali, then his dishonor is that of the Pashtun tribes. To clear their honor, they would seek justice – in this case, evicting Bin Laden and his followers from Afghanistan.

In fact, the Taliban made precisely this offer.

For America, however, this would have been an unsatisfying result. We needed blood, not justice, and we sent our troops to Afghanistan to stack bodies, which they did, in prodigious numbers. Most of these bodies were Taliban. We excused this by claiming the Taliban were providing safe haven to Bin Laden, and as such were complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

Which was a lie.

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There is no easy way of saying this, but everyone who served in Afghanistan was, in one way or another, living a lie. If your “go-to” image of your experience in Afghanistan has you decked out in combat kit, weapon at the ready position, finger extended, and you don’t recognize how fundamentally incompatible that image is toward achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan, you were part of the problem. Because that image signifies a warrior prepared to kill, and then the question has to be asked, “kill whom?” and “why?”

The Russians ran out of answers for similar questions back in 1989. And the US has run out of answers today.

As the events in Afghanistan run their tragic course, it is time for every American to come to grips with the reality of what happened there, and why. The most important aspect of such an exercise must be a fundamental adherence to fact-based truths.

And the most fundamental fact-based truth about the American experience in Afghanistan is that it was all based on lies.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

China taunts Taiwan as America reels from Afghan defeat: ‘Once war comes, the island will collapse and the US won’t come to help’

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Beijing flexes its muscles in the wake of America’s humiliating exit from Afghanistan, with a hard-hitting Global Times editorial warning Taipei that, when it comes to the crunch, it will also be abandoned by Washington.

With Washington in a state of panic and disarray following the outcome in Afghanistan, China has moved fast to exploit what it perceives as America’s humiliation in order to reassert its position on Taiwan.

On Monday night, the Global Times unleashed a scathing editorial, taunting Taipei that it would collapse swiftly, just like the Kabul regime, in the wake of an invasion by Chinese forces, and questioning Washington’s resolve to save it in such a scenario. The next day, Beijing followed up with a massive air force and navy exercise off the island.  

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Under a headline stating ‘Afghan abandonment a lesson for Taiwan’s DPP,’ the island’s ruling party, the Global Times’ hard-hitting editorial states: 

“The DPP authorities need to keep a sober head, and the secessionist forces should reserve the ability to wake up from their dreams. From what happened in Afghanistan, they should perceive that once a war breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help. As a result, the DPP authorities will quickly surrender, while some high-level officials may flee by plane… 

“The best choice for the DPP authorities is to avoid pushing the situation … They should keep cross-Straits peace with political means, rather than acting as strategic pawns of the US and bear the bitter fruits of a war.”

None of this is happening in a vacuum, or purely opportunistically. Beijing cited as justification for this week’s military exercise the growing support for Taiwan independence, and it is widely seen as a retaliation for Lithuania’s violation of the one-China policy last week in opening a “Taiwan” representative office. That move saw Beijing withdraw its ambassador from the Eastern European nation and expel Vilnius’ representative, a matter exacerbated by the fact the US then publicly backed Lithuania.

What is going on here? The Afghanistan crisis has been deemed the perfect moment for Beijing to reassert its stance on an issue that the US is actively trying to pull away from. This has been unmissable as an opportunity to send the message which China always avows: Taiwan is part of China, and America should mind its own business. 

At a time where the US is questioning its own capabilities and resolve, and experiencing a crisis of confidence in the abrupt ending of a 20-year war that has achieved nothing, never has there been a more astute time for China to send out a forceful message on Taiwan, and to flex its muscles.

It also wants to hammer home the red line which Washington is attempting to shift, and discourage other countries from taking Lithuania’s path. China is not going to start a conflict over Taiwan any time soon, so that it is all to an extent obvious posturing and psychological warfare by the Global Times, but the message is clear, and it’s one of firm deterrence.

The United States is pursuing a policy in respect to Taiwan and Beijing’s ‘One-China Policy,’ that is increasingly described as “salami slicing” – making slow and incremental moves which do openly undermine the status quo or set off a crisis, but gradually erode it and shift it to the point where the policy exists in name only. 

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To do this, the US has increased its pace of arms sales to Taiwan, removed rules on contacts and official visits, actively encouraged other countries to expand their political space and engagements with it (supporting and encouraging those such as Lithuania) and increased its military presence in the Taiwan Strait. 

On the other hand, the US continues to officially deny that it supports “Taiwan independence” – but is nonetheless politically making it more and more difficult for China to achieve its long-held aim of reuniting the island with the mainland.  

But this does not mean China will not respond. The strategic mistake the US is making right now on this issue is assuming it can shift these red-lines just a little bit every time, and that Beijing will passively tolerate it and sit back in frustration because it has too much to lose. 

This is erroneous, given the enormous political weight China places on national sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is why the “military option” of an invasion is frequently touted. US policymakers assume it is bluff, but the Global Times’ thunderous message was an attempt to convince them otherwise. 

China does not directly wish to take Taiwan by force, but uses this option as a last resort and a bottom line to force other countries to respect its political will. It would much rather reunite the island peacefully, but nonetheless this option remains, to say “this is what will happen if you defy us.” 

What the US is risking by shifting the goalposts and encouraging other countries to violate the One-China policy, is a reciprocal and perceived-as-necessary response by Beijing to shift those goalposts “back,” which involves an intensification of pressure and military posturing around the island. 

This is not a new trend. In 1996, Beijing caused a crisis by firing missiles into the Taiwan Straits waters as the Taiwan leader, Lee Tung Hui, was visiting the US and about to meet senior officials. The difference is that, back then, the US was more willing to listen to Beijing’s position than it is now, and Bill Clinton ultimately succumbed to it.

It is therefore no surprise that Beijing is now responding forcefully to the latest controversy, and is doing so with the well-timed added punch of American failure in Afghanistan. 

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China wants to inject self-doubt into both the US public and the Taipei leadership that Washington cannot readily protect the island. It is ridiculous to compare Taiwan to the failed state of Afghanistan, but the impact on America’s esteem of its failure there is real, and it was a sitting duck for the kind of psychological offensive Global Times unleashed. 

The flip side of this is that the perception of US weakness and the amplification of pro-war voices attacking Biden could make the US more aggressive, if not erratic, in the short term. This is a president who is under political pressure, and you are attempting to call his bluff and undermine his credibility by threatening war against Taiwan. 

Yet, one can conclude that this is arguably a conundrum of America’s own making. The Biden presidency is actively pressing against China’s red-lines on the Taiwan issue and it was naïve to assume that Beijing would sit back and not escalate a new crisis in retaliation. 

Beijing is therefore simultaneously reasserting its position on this issue, aiming to regain “lost ground” (perhaps metaphorically and literally) and mercilessly exploiting the erosion of Biden’s own credibility back home, and among its overseas allies.

The message from Beijing is simple: America is weak and unreliable, and no-one is going to breach our red line on Taiwan. Yet this could lead to dangerous consequences down the track.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.