Obama

The Politics of Fear

The same message is clear everywhere you look: be afraid, be very, very afraid. Whether it is about terrorism, jobs, or who to vote for, fear is a powerful weapon, economically and politically, in the hands of the ruling class. Fear is divisive, it is incapacitating, and ultimately immobilizes the working class and everyone struggling for social change.

The power of fear is that it shuts down. It shuts down debate, it shuts down dialogue, it shuts down meaningful action. Whether or not the fear is rational is largely irrelevant. Many people fear many things with very little, if any, rational explanation for the fear. According to a public survey, Iran was ranked as the biggest threat to world peace in the U.S. and Canada. Why? Iran hasn’t attacked another country since 1798. On the flip side, Iran has been attacked on many occasions by the U.S.-NATO alliance. The U.S. and Britain overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 on behalf of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, BP’s predecessor, ushering in a reign of terror by a brutal monarch. The U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons to attack the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War, the very same weapons the U.S. illegally occupied and destroyed Iraq for allegedly possessing. In 1988, the U.S. Navy shot down a civilian airliner, Iran Air flight 655, killing all 290 people on board, while the plane was over Iranian territory, in Iranian airspace, traveling the plane’s standard flight path. There is no basis to any claim that Iran is a threat to world peace, but there is overwhelming evidence the U.S. and its allies are. (more…)

Who is the US Killing with Drones?

As the news broke on March 7, 2016, that US drone strikes had killed 150 people in Somalia, the White House announced it will reveal, for the first time, the number of people killed by drones and manned airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities” since 2009. The tallies will include civilian deaths. This is a critical first step toward much-needed transparency. But it will not go far enough.

The Obama administration has been lying for years about how many deaths result from its drone strikes and manned bombings. In 2011, John Brennan, the former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, falsely claimed that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other nongovernmental organizations that calculate drone deaths put the lie to Brennan’s claim. It is believed that of the estimated 5,000 people killed on Obama’s watch, approximately 1,000 were civilians. But the administration has never released complete casualty figures.

Plus, the numbers by themselves are not sufficient. Even if the White House makes good on its promise to publicize death tallies, it must also publish the Presidential Policy Guidance, which has provided the legal justification for the US targeted killing program.

In May 2013, responding to international criticism about his drone policy, Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University. He proclaimed, “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists — our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them.” Then why has Obama added only one man to the Guantánamo roster?

As he gave his 2013 speech, the White House released a fact sheet that purported to contain preconditions for the use of lethal force “outside areas of active hostilities.” But the Presidential Policy Guidance, on which the fact sheet was based, remains classified.

Here is a quick summary of the fact sheet’s main points, including some direct quotations from it:

– There must be a “legal basis” for the use of lethal force. It does not define whether “legal basis” means complying with ratified treaties. They include the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of military force except in self-defense or when approved by the UN Security Council; the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the targeting of civilians; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees due process and the right to life.

– The target must pose a “continuing, imminent threat to US persons.” The fact sheet does not define “continuing” or “imminent.” But a US Department of Justice white paper leaked in 2013 says that a US citizen can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” Presumably the administration sets an even lower bar for non-citizens.

– There must be “near certainty that the terrorist target is present.” The fact sheet does not address “signature strikes” (known as crowd killings), which don’t target individuals but rather areas of suspicious activity.

– There must be “near certainty that noncombatants will not be injured or killed.” But the administration defines combatants as all men of military age in a strike zone “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

– There must be “an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation.” It is unclear what feasibility means. It was feasible to capture Osama bin Laden, as none of the men at the compound were armed at the time the US military assassinated him.

– There must be “an assessment that relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to US persons,” which is left undefined.

– There must be “an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat to US persons,” also left undefined.

Finally, the fact sheet would excuse those preconditions when the president takes action “in extraordinary circumstances,” which are “both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.” There is no definition of “extraordinary circumstances” or what would be “lawful.”

Releasing the Presidential Policy Guidance would clarify the gaps in the guidelines for the use of lethal force listed in the fact sheet.

In February 2016, the bipartisan Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy gave the Obama administration an “F” in three areas the task force had flagged for improvement in its June 2014 report. The first area is focused on progress in releasing information on drone strikes. The second involves explaining the legal basis under US and international law for the drone program. The third is about developing more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of traditional battlefields.

Regarding the first area (about releasing information), Stimson concluded the administration has made almost no information public about the approximate number, location or death tolls of lethal drone attacks, which agency is responsible for what strikes, the organizational affiliation of people known to have been killed by strikes, and the number and identities of civilians who are known to have been killed.

Speaking about the second area of focus (about the legal basis for the drone program), Stimson mentioned that a few official government documents have been made public that relate to the US lethal drone program, primarily through court orders. One was a redacted memo from the Department of Justice about the legality of the 2011 targeted killing of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki “without due process of law,” following a successful ACLU-New York Times Freedom of Information Act request. The only other released document was the Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual, with three short sections on the use of “remotely piloted aircraft” in war. The only qualifications it contained was that the weapons cannot be “inherently indiscriminate” or “calculated to cause superfluous injury.” But the Geneva Conventions prohibit the targeting of civilians in all instances.

Regarding the third area (about oversight and accountability), Stimson said the administration continues to oppose the release of any public information on the lethal drone program, which has obstructed mechanisms for greater oversight and accountability. “The lack of action reinforces the culture of secrecy surrounding the use of armed drones,” according to the report.

The Stimson report noted that the administration has “as a rule, been reluctant to publicly acknowledge the use of lethal force by unmanned aerial vehicles in foreign countries.” Stimson identified one “notable exception,” however. After the discovery that two Western civilians held by al-Qaeda were killed by a US drone strike in January 2015, the administration admitted the deaths, but provided few specific details.

Lethal drone strikes have been reported in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia, and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Stimson also identified 12 countries believed to host US drone bases: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Niger, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden mounted a full-throated defense of the US drone program in a February 2016 New York Times op-ed. He claimed, “The targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict,” annihilating the ranks of al-Qaeda. But his claims are impossible to verify without documentation.

Hayden has also said, “We kill people based on metadata.” But Ars Technica recently revealed that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) SKYNET program, which uses an algorithm to gather metadata in order to identify and target terrorist suspects in Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan, would result in 99,000 false positives.

The Obama administration has resisted transparency. We will see what it publicizes in the coming period. Regardless of the data the administration releases, we must demand full disclosure in order to attain real accountability.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/who-is-the-us-killing-with-drones/5513522

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” in Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — In Iranian Waters

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” In Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — In Iranian Waters

Even when the White House was saying they did not yet regard the Iranian conduct as an act of aggression, American journalists were insisting that it was.

News broke last night, hours before President Obama’s State of the Union address, that two U.S. Navy ships “in the Persian Gulf” were “seized” by Iran, and the 10 sailors on board were “arrested.” The Iranian government quickly said, and even the U.S. government itself seemed to acknowledge, that these ships had entered Iranian waters without permission, and were thus inside Iranian territory when detained. CNN’s Barbara Starr, as she always does, immediately went on-air with Wolf Blitzer to read what U.S. officials told her to say: “We are told that right now, what the U.S. thinks may have happened, is that one of these small boats experienced a mechanical problem . . . perhaps beginning to drift . . . it was at that point, the theory goes right now, that they drifted into Iranian territorial waters.”

It goes without saying that every country has the right to patrol and defend its territorial waters and to intercept other nations’ military boats that enter without permission. Indeed, the White House itself last night was clear that, in its view, this was “not a hostile act by Iran” and that Iran had given assurances that the sailors would be promptly released. And this morning they were released, exactly as Iran promised they would be, after Iran said it determined the trespassing was accidental and the U.S. apologized and promised no future transgressions.

Despite all of this, most U.S. news accounts last night quickly skimmed over – or outright ignored – the rather critical fact that the U.S. ships had “drifted into” Iranian waters. Instead, all sorts of TV news personalities and U.S. establishment figures puffed out their chest and instantly donned their Tough Warrior pose to proclaim that this was an act of aggression – virtually an act of war: not by the U.S., but by Iran. They had taken our sailors “hostage,” showing yet again how menacing and untrustworthy they are. Completely typical was this instant analysis from former Clinton and Bush Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller, now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

[Isn’t it such a mystery – given “even-handed” diplomats like this – why the U.S. failed to facilitate an Israel/Palestine peace deal and is perceived around the world as hopelessly biased toward Israel?] Miller’s proclamation – issued when almost no facts were known – was immediately re-tweeted by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to his 1.7 million followers [amazingly, when numerous people pointed out that Miller issued this inflammatory claim without any facts whatsoever, he lashed out at critics with the condescension and limitless projection typical of US establishment elites: “Twitter is an amazing vehicle: it allows instant and at times inaccurate analysis but always intemperate and ad hominem responses”; by “instant and at times inaccurate analysis,” he meant his critics, not his own fact-free claim]. Nick Kristof himself then added:

 

The truly imbecilic Joe Scarborough of MSNBC turned himself into an instant self-parody of a pseudo-tough-guy compensating for all sorts of inadequacies:

But, as usual, the most alarmist, jingoistic coverage came from the always-war-hungry CNN. For hours, they emphasized in the most alarmist of tones that the sailors had been picked up by the Revolutionary Guard which, in the words of Starr, is “one of the most aggressive elements of the military and national security apparatus in that country.” CNN host Erin Burnett intoned at the top of her prime-time show: “Next, breaking news: American sailors seized by Iran. The revolutionary guard arresting ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf.”

For hours, CNN anchors and guests all but declared war on Iran, insisting that this behavior demonstrated how aggressive and menacing they were, while warning that this could turn into another “hostage crisis.” Immediately after her opening headline-alarm, here is how Burnett “explained” the situation to CNN viewers:

Ten American navy sailors, nine men and one woman seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf tonight. The Americans ran two boats, each equipped with three 50 caliber machine gun. Iran’s news agency announcing those sailors are under arrest. U.S. officials say the sailors were simply on a training mission traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain. It is a major embarrassment for the Obama administration coming just hours before the President will be here delivering his final State of the Union Address.

Notice what’s missing? The fact that the ships had entered Iranian waters. Instead, they were “simply on a training mission traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain” when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard “seized” them. That is Baghdad-Bob-level propaganda.

They then brought on CNN national security reporter Jim Sciutto. Throughout the show, Burnett kept implying that Iran did this on purpose to humiliate Obama and the U.S. during his State of the Union speech: “Iran is acutely aware of important events in American politics tonight,” she told Sciutto. Only then did Sciutto mention that the ships were in Iranian waters as he gently pointed out the blatantly irrational nature of her conspiracy theory: “Who could have predicted that you would have two U.S. small navy boats, one of which either had a mechanical problem or a navigational error that put it into Iran’s territorial waters?” He then added: “But you know, I don’t like the sound, it sounds like a cliché to say the timing, whether accidental or not couldn’t be worse.”

CNN then brought on its White House correspondent Jim Acosta to say: “this is sort of like an October surprise right before the State of the Union Address.” They then spoke to a former U.S. intelligence official who, citing Iran’s language, suggested that “what that means is that the Geneva Convention protections that are established by international law may not be invoked by the Iranians”: in other words, they may abuse and even torture the sailors. Former CIA operative Robert Baer warned viewers: “I’m not saying that’s going to happen but it could be another hostage crisis which would very much cloud this administration’s foreign policy in a very, very ugly way.” David Gergen warned that this was part of a broader trend showing Iranian aggression: “We have understood that with the nuclear agreement it not only would contain their nuclear program but they would start behaving themselves constructively. And that is exactly what they are not doing now.”

Over and over, CNN’s on-air personalities emphasized the Revolutionary Guard angle and barely acknowledged, or outright ignored, that the ships had entered Iranian waters. This was how Sciutto “reported” the event on Jake Tapper’s The Lead:

TAPPER: Jim, you have some new details on who precisely may be behind this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is a key detail. Iran’s state Fars News Agency is reporting that the U.S. sailors were picked up by boats from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is very much tied to the hard-line camp in Iran, which has, in effect, its own military, including its own navy really in the Persian Gulf, which has contested U.S. ships before, U.S. aircraft carrier a couple of weeks ago.

To be clear, that is a hard line camp that is opposed to detente in effect with the U.S. and certainly opposed to the nuclear deal, which is meant to be implemented in the next several days. . . .

TAPPER: Obviously, we are praying for those ten sailors. Thank you so much, Jim Sciutto.

Just imagine what would happen if the situation had been reversed: if two Iranian naval ships had entered U.S. waters off the East Coast of the country without permission or notice. Wolf Blitzer would have declared war within minutes; Aaron David Miller would have sprained one his fingers madly tweeting about Iranian aggression and the need to show resolve; and Joe Scarborough would have videotaped himself throwing one of his Starbucks cups at a picture of the mullahs to show them that they cannot push America around and there “will be hell to pay.” And, needless to say, the U.S. government would have – quite rightly – detained the Iranian ships and the sailors aboard them to determine why they had entered U.S. waters (and had they released the Iranians less than 24 hours later, the U.S. media would have compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain).

But somehow, the U.S. media instantly converted the invasion by U.S. ships into Iranian waters into an act of aggression by Iran. That’s, in part, because the U.S. political and media establishment believes the world is owned by the United States (recall how the U.S., with a straight face, regularly condemned Iran for “interference” in Iraq even while the U.S. was occupying Iraq with 100,000 troops). Thus, the U.S. military has the absolute right to go anywhere it wants – even into Iranian waters – and it’s inherently an act of “aggression” for anyone else to resist. That was the clear premise of the bulk of the U.S. commentary last night.

But the media reaction last night is also explained by the fact their self-assigned role in life is to instantly defend their government and demonize any governments that defy it. Even when the White House was saying they did not yet regard the Iranian conduct as an act of aggression, American journalists were insisting that it was. The U.S. does not officially have state TV; it has something much better and more effective: journalists who are nominally independent, legally free to say what they want, who are voluntarily even more nationalistic and jingoistic and government-defending than U.S. government spokespeople themselves.
Image Source (same as source)
Pyongyang

Understanding North Korea

What follows is an extensive interview with Yongho Thae, Minister of the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in London, conducted by Carlos Martinez. The interview took place at the DPRK embassy in London in October 2013. Topics covered include the DPRK’s nuclear programme, the nature of the DPRK’s political system, the DPRK’s place in a changing global political landscape, tourism, Syria, and Latin America. Given that the DPRK is considered by the imperialist states as ‘enemy number one’, it is essential for anti-imperialists to make an effort to understand and defend it.

The western media narrative claims that DPR Korea’s nuclear programme is a major threat to world peace. Why does the DPRK have nuclear weapons?

When the western press comments on the nuclear programme of the DPRK, it never talks about the core reasons behind that programme; it is only interested in justifying US bullying; it wants people to be blind to the underlying logic of our position. Our policy is simple and easy to understand: we need a nuclear deterrent.

Before I go into this issue, I’d like to clarify that it is still the DPRK’s policy to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. It has always been our policy to get our country out of the threat of nuclear war. In order to reach that aim, there was no choice but to develop our own nuclear capacity.

After the Second World War, the US was the only country in the world that had nuclear weapons. In order to further their strategy of global domination, they decided to use an atomic bomb against Japan. The facts show that there was no need for the US to use such a weapon in that situation. In Europe, in May 1945, Hitler was defeated and the war ended. In the Pacific, the tide had turned totally against Japanese imperialism. It was obvious that the Soviet army would take part in the war against Japan, and Japan was losing the war with the US. It was just a matter of time before the Japanese war effort collapsed. Japan could not win against the combined forces of the Soviet Union, Europe, China and the US, so they were looking for a way out. There was absolutely no need for the US to use nuclear weapons. Inside the US establishment, there were fierce arguments as to whether these weapons should be used. The people of the world didn’t understand about the destructive power of nuclear weapons—only US leaders knew. They wanted the world to find out about how mighty these weapons were, so that the world would be forced to go along with US policy. In order to achieve this aim, they didn’t take into account how many lives would be lost. To them, the lives of ordinary Japanese people are like the lives of dogs, of animals. They would kill as many as possible in support of their geopolitical aims.

So the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Later on the USSR developed nuclear weapons too. As time went on, the Soviet nuclear arsenal played the role of counterbalancing the possibility of US nuclear weapon usage. That is the main reason that the US couldn’t use these weapons in the second half of the 20th century. Later on the nuclear weapons club was expanded to include China, Britain and France. In terms of world peace as a whole, the enlargement of the nuclear club would intuitively be seen as a bad thing, but the reality was that the possession of nuclear weapons by China and the Soviet Union was able to check the use of nuclear weapons by anyone for any purposes. I think this is a fact we should admit.

As far as Korea is concerned, you know that Korea is just next door to Japan. Many Japanese lived in Korea, because Korea was a colony of Japan. Our media system at the time was run by Japanese. So when Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred, we heard about it and we understood very well the scale of this disaster. The Korean people understood very well how many people were killed in the space of just a minute. So the Korean people have a very direct experience of nuclear warfare from the beginning.

The Korean War started in 1950. The Americans thought they could easily win this war, because they had all the advanced conventional weapons and they mobilised 16 satellite countries. At this time China was only just liberated – the People’s Republic of China was just one year old. Meanwhile the Soviet Union was still recovering from the vast destruction of the Second World War. So, the US thought it could easily win the Korean War. However, they found out that their arrogance was misplaced. In fact, the Korean War was the first war that checked US ambitions.

The Korean People’s Army and the Chinese volunteers fought with incredible strength against the US. From the US point of view, this was a war against communism. But the communists had the full support of the people of these countries. Korea and China were rural countries, where the people were motivated by the idea of getting their own land. It is the Communist Party—the Workers’ Party of Korea—that distributed land equally to all farmers. So the WPK had the full support of the people, and the masses of the people took part in the Korean War. They knew the situation of their brothers and sisters in South Korea—dominated by landlords and US interests—and understood that if the DPRK lost the war, the rule of the landlords would be restored and the land reform reversed. So that is why the ordinary Korean people got involved. Everybody got involved and did not hesitate to make every sacrifice.

When he saw that the war was not going according to plan, Eisenhower asked his advisers: how can we win this war? The American generals suggested [1] using the nuclear threat. The US felt that if they warned the population that they were going to drop a nuclear bomb, the people would flee from the front. Having witnessed the effects of nuclear warfare just five years previously, millions of people fled North Korea and went to the south. The result of this is that there are still 10 million [2] separated families.

So you can see that the Korean people are the direct victims of nuclear bullying—us more so than anybody in the world. The nuclear issue is not an abstract one for us; it is something we have to take very seriously.

After the Korean War, the US never stopped its hostile policy towards Korea. Today they say that they cannot normalise relations with the DPRK because the DPRK has nuclear weapons. But in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we didn’t have nuclear weapons – did they normalise relations then? No. Rather, they continued trying to dominate the Korean peninsula with their own military force. It is the US that introduced nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. In the 70s, in order to check the influence of the Soviet Union, they deployed nuclear weapons in Europe and also in South Korea. The US never stopped threatening the DPRK with these weapons, which were just next to us, the other side of the demilitarised zone. Korea is a very small country, with a high population density. It is quite clear that if the US used its nuclear weapons, the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe would be unimaginable.

The DPRK government had to find a strategy to prevent the US from using these weapons against us. In the 1970s, there were discussions among the big powers as to how they could prevent nuclear war. What the big five counties agreed is that they would stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Only five countries would be allowed to have nuclear weapons; the others would not. The Non-Proliferation Treaty [4] (NPT) was born in 1970. The NPT clearly states that nuclear power states cannot use nuclear weapons for the purpose of threatening or endangering non-nuclear states. So the DPRK thought that if we joined the NPT, we would be able to get rid of the nuclear threat from the US. Therefore we joined. However, the US never withdrew its right of pre-emptive nuclear strike. They always said that, once US interests are threatened, they always have the right to use their nuclear weapons for pre-emptive purposes. So it’s quite obvious that the NPT cannot ensure our safety. On this basis, we decided to withdraw and to formulate a different strategy to protect ourselves.
The world situation changed again after 11 September 2001. After this, Bush said that if the US wants to protect its safety, then it must remove the ‘axis of evil’ countries from the earth. The three countries he listed as members of this ‘axis of evil’ were Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Bush said that, in order to remove these evils from the earth, the US would not hesitate even to use nuclear weapons. Events since then have proved that this was not a simply rhetorical threat – they have carried out this threat [5] against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now it comes to North Korea. There was DPRK Framework Agreement between the Clinton administration and the DPRK in 1994, but the Bush administration canceled this, saying that America should not negotiate with evil. The neo-cons said that ‘evil states’ should be removed by force. Having witnessed what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, we came to realise that we couldn’t put a stop to the threat from the US with conventional weapons alone. So we realised that we needed our own nuclear weapons in order to defend the DPRK and its people.

In additional to the direct nuclear threat, I must point out that there is also the issue of the ‘nuclear umbrella’. The US extends its nuclear umbrella to its friends, such as Japan [6], South Korea [7] and the Nato countries. But Russia and China aren’t willing to open up a nuclear umbrella to other countries, because they are afraid of the response from the US. We realised that no country will protect us from US nuclear weapons, and therefore we came to understand that we must develop our own.

We can say now that the choice to develop our own nuclear deterrent force was a correct decision. What happened to Libya? When Gaddafi wanted to improve Libya’s relations with the US and UK, the imperialists said that in order to attract international investment he would have to give up his weapons programmes. Gaddafi even said that he would visit the DPRK to convince us to give up our nuclear programme. But once Libya dismantled all its nuclear programmes and this was confirmed by western intelligence, the west changed its tune. This led to a situation where Gaddafi could not protect Libya’s sovereignty; he could not even protect his own life. This is an important historical lesson.

The DPRK wants to protect its security. We ask the US to give up its hostile policy; to give up its military threat; to normalise relations with the DPRK; to replace the armistice treaty with a peace treaty. Only when the American military threat against the DPRK is removed; only when peace-guaranteeing mechanisms are established on the Korean peninsula; only then can we talk of giving up our nuclear weapons. In other words, the US should take the issue seriously; it should take a positive approach to solve this matter.

We are proud that, even though there is a huge US military presence in the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia, so far we have been very successful in preventing another war on the Korean peninsula. The US war machine never stops. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria … every day, hundreds of innocent people are dying because of imperialist policy led by the US. But after the Korean War finished in 1953, the DPRK has been able to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula, and we think this is a great achievement.

Were you hopeful that, with the election of Barack Obama, the US position on Korea would improve?

Well, Obama’s policy is different from that of Bush and the conservatives. Instead of solving these problems directly, he is moving to a position of ‘strategic neglect’. Obama wants to keep the issue as it is rather than taking real steps to improve the situation. The current administration says that there are too many pending issues for the US to solve.

There have been some interesting visits to the DPRK recently, for example by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and by Dennis Rodman, the basketball star. Do these perhaps—even in a very small way—indicate that there are some people within US ruling circles that are interested in improving relations with the DPRK?

It’s very difficult to say whether those visits will have a positive influence. What the DPRK wants to do is to deliver a message to the American people that the DPRK is always willing to address and solve problems; that the DPRK wants to improve its relations with the US; that the DPRK does not consider the US as its permanent enemy. We hope that these visits of prominent US citizens will help to convey this message.

Do any of the other imperialist powers – for example Britain, France, Australia – have a more constructive position in relation to the DPRK, or do they follow the US lead?

There is a bit of a different approach. For instance, the US government has never extended diplomatic recognition to the DPRK as a sovereign state, whereas US allies such as Britain and Australia do accept our existence; these countries support a policy of engagement with the DPRK.

Does the US still maintain nuclear weapons in South Korea?

That is really hard to say, because US nuclear weapons are more sophisticated and modernised compared with the 70s and 80s. They have more nuclear submarines. They have weapons that are smaller and more difficult to detect. So it is difficult to say if there are nuclear weapons permanently stationed in South Korea. But it is very obvious that US nuclear weapons visit South Korea on a regular basis. Just recently, the US engaged in joint military exercises with Japan and South Korea. For those exercises, the US aircraft carrier George Washington entered the South Korean harbour of Busan [8] for three days. What kind of planes are carried on the George Washington? Fighters and bombers that can easily drop nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

In March this year, the US introduced B52 bombers on the Korean peninsula [9] for military exercises, simulating nuclear bombing raids on North Korea.

The US policy is to neither deny nor confirm whether they have nuclear weapons on South Korea. But the fact is that they can introduce these weapons and launch a strike at any time, so whether these weapons are actually there on the ground right now is not so relevant.

You’ve lived here in London for some time and presumably have some idea about how British people think about North Korea. The stereotype is that it’s an ‘undemocratic’ country where people don’t have the right to vote; where people don’t have any freedom of speech; they don’t have the right to criticise the government; they don’t have the right to participate in the running of the country. Is that a fair characterisation?

I think the general impression the British people have is shaped by the bourgeois media. What I can say is that those people who have done more serious investigation, especially those who have visited the DPRK and have seen our achievements with their own eyes, have a totally different impression of my country.

The number of British tourists has been increasing in recent years—this year alone it will be almost 500. There are nine British travel agencies who operate tours of the DPRK. Visas are never denied for tourists. I have met with some British tourists who had just returned from the DPRK, and they were so surprised to see how different it is from their impressions that they had picked up in the media. They didn’t know that the DPRK is a socialist country where there is free education, where there is free medical care, where people’s health is fully guaranteed, where there is free housing. They didn’t know all these good aspects of North Korea. Most of them, before they visit my country, imagine that our streets are full of malnourished people, that there is no decent transportation, that everyone looks sad, that there is no real cultural life, etc. But when they get to Korea they see that it is entirely different. For example, public transportation is almost free – you pay a little money but compared with what you pay in Britain or the US it is basically free. They couldn’t believe that Pyongyang city is full of big apartments and houses, built and given to the people free of charge. They were also surprised that there were so many schools, much better equipped than British state schools. They found out that North Korean children are generally at a much higher educational level than their British counterparts; that the vast majority of North Korean children enjoy free after-school activities, learning piano, violin and so on. They found out that there was no begging in the streets, no drug problems. They found out that they could leave their hotels at any time of night and go out in the streets without fearing for their safety, since there are no problems of robberies and gangs.

So they were shocked, and they asked me why the British media is so negative all the time about the DPRK and never mentions its positive aspects. My answer is that the media wants to depict the DPRK as an evil, as a type of hell, because they want to tell the British public that there is no alternative to capitalism, to imperialism. They want people to believe there is only one economic and political system; therefore it is against their interests to say anything positive about the socialist system.

So if people in this country want to visit North Korea, it’s easy to do so?

Yes. There are many well-known companies such as Regent Holidays, Voyagers, Koryo Tours and others that organise group tours. Because the media depicts the DPRK so badly, the number of people interested in visiting is actually getting bigger and bigger.

If you go on a tour, would you typically visit only Pyongyang?

Pyongyang school No, you can visit any place you like. There are more and more options emerging all the time. For example, many tourists want to visit for just one day, so they can do a one-day trip via the border with China. Another trip we have started is a train trip, with trains going from China to Korea. Also now there is an air trip, with outdated passenger aeroplanes (typically made in the USSR in the 50s or 60s), which are quite fashionable with many tourists. Now a New Zealand company is organising a motorcycle tour of the whole Korean peninsula. One can find such tours available on the internet.

These tours have increased a lot over the last 3-4 years, as we have much more of the supporting infrastructure now, so the tourist industry is more open and diverse. We feel that it helps us to establish stronger cultural relations with other countries.

Each socialist country has had its own way of organising popular democracy and participation, for example the Soviets in the USSR, and the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in Cuba—structures that allow people to manage the affairs of their workplaces and localities, solving their basic problems and electing people to higher bodies at regional and national levels. Is there something along these lines in North Korea?

Of course. We operate democracy at every level of our party and government. As you know, the major party of government is the Workers’ Party of Korea. This party is a mass party with a membership of millions, and is organised along democratic centralist lines. If someone in a given party structure (a cell) is not working according to the party line that has been discussed and agreed upon, then there would be a criticism by other party members and that member is given a chance to correct his behaviour. At each level of the party we use this system of criticism, self-criticism and accountability in order to maintain efficient and correct work.

We have a Supreme People’s Assembly, which could be considered the equivalent of the British parliament. Under this Supreme People’s Assembly, there are assemblies at province, city and county levels. The members are all elected, and these bodies meet frequently. They are responsible for taking important decisions, in a normal democratic way. For example, given a limited budget, they might have to take a vote as to whether to spend money on building a new kindergarten, or improving a hospital, and so on. In this way, broad masses of people are involved in the process of managing society. If the bodies don’t function correctly, there are mechanisms for people to criticise them and to appeal against bad decisions and negative work. For example, if water sanitation in a particular village needs to be improved, then local people can go to the council to protest. If their protest is taken into account and the situation is improved, that is good. If not, people can appeal higher up—to the city or province level—to make sure that the council is representing them properly.

Is the WPK the only political party in North Korea?

There are many parties and mass organisations besides the WPK, such as the Catholic Party and the Social Democratic Party. We do not consider that we have ‘ruling’ and ‘opposition’ parties – the parties are all on friendly terms and cooperate in developing our society. These other parties all participate in the people’s assemblies—as long as they get enough votes. They are even represented in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

People have a prejudice against our country that decisions are only made at the top by only one person, but how is this even possible? Running a country is a complicated process that needs the energy and creativity of many people.

I’m interested to understand how has DPRK been able to survive the last two decades, in such a difficult global political context. The Soviet Union – the biggest socialist country – collapsed; the people’s democracies in Eastern Europe no longer exist. How is it that, in a hostile international environment, the DPRK has been able to keep going?

The past two decades have been the most difficult period for us. We suddenly lost our major trading partners, out of nowhere, with no warning. This had a major impact on our economy. And with the disappearance of the USSR, the US moved to a policy of intensification, believing that our days were numbered. The US intensified its economic blockade and its military threat. They stopped all financial transactions between the DPRK and the rest of the world. The US controls the flow of foreign currency: if they say that any bank will be the target of sanctions if it does business with the DPRK, then obviously that bank has to go along with them. The US issued such an ultimatum to all companies: if they do business with North Korea, they will be subject to sanctions by the US. This is still in place. The US government thought that if they cut economic relations between the DPRK and the rest of the world, we would have to submit to them. The only reason that we have been able to survive is the single-hearted unity of the people. The people united firmly around the leadership. We worked extremely hard to solve our problems by ourselves.
If the UK one day suddenly lost its markets in the US and Europe, would it survive? If all financial transactions are stopped, how can a country survive? And yet we did survive.

Is the global situation more favourable now for North Korea and for other countries that are pursuing an independent path?

Yes. The past two decades were very difficult: not only did we have to survive economically but we also had to frustrate US military intentions; therefore we had to put a lot of investment and focus on strengthening our army, building weapons and developing our nuclear capability. Now that we have nuclear weapons, we can reduce our military investment, because even a small nuclear arsenal can play a deterrent role. We are in a position where we can make the US hesitate to attack us. Therefore we can focus more on people’s welfare now.

Do you think that the relative economic decline of the US and Western Europe will help Korea?

We have to wait and see. It is true that US economic power is declining, but precisely because of this, the US is trying to consolidate its political and military power. At the moment, this is reflected in the ‘pivot to Asia’, which is really about China. The importance of the Korean peninsula is therefore increasing, due to its proximity to China and Russia. The Korean peninsula is sort of a pivot point from which the US thinks it can exercise control over the big powers.

The war in Syria has been a key issue in world politics over the last 2-3 years. The DRPK continues to be a supporter of, and friend to, Syria. What is the basis for this relationship?

In the past, our late president Kim Il Sung had very comradely relations [14] with President Hafez al-Assad. Both leaders shared the viewpoint that they should fight against imperialist policy. Syria was always a strong supporter of Palestinian self-determination, and was an important pillar against US and Israeli policy in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the DPRK was an important pillar against US policy in the Korean peninsula. So both countries share the same policy in relation to struggling against imperialist policy worldwide. This is the basis for the solidarity between the two countries.

Historically, Syria was not our only friend in the Middle East: we were very close with Nasser’s Egypt and with Yasser Arafat and the PLO—these leaders and countries shared the same philosophy of independence and development. This shared philosophy still exists between Syria and North Korea.

Under the pretext of introducing human rights and democracy in the Middle East, the US and its partners are creating chaos. Their so-called ‘Arab Spring’ policy has created a situation where hundreds of innocent people are killed every day. People are fighting each other in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, everywhere. This is a reflection of US divide and rule policy. Israel – the most important regional partner of the US—is a small country, whereas the Arab world is quite big; so the US and Israel are afraid of the unity of the Arab world. How can they break this unity? They try to create hatred among the different political organisations, among different religious groups, among different countries. Once this hatred is created, they encourage people to fight each other. This is the “freedom” they have brought: the freedom for people to kill each other. This is the strategy for guaranteeing the security of Israel.

It is essential that the Arab people understand the policy of divide and rule. This policy has been used for hundreds of years by the British Empire, the Americans and other imperialist empires. People have to unite in order to protect their children.

Over the past 10-15 years, there have been some important changes in South and Central America, the region historically considered as the US ‘backyard’. There are now progressive governments not only in Cuba, but also in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Do you think this is a promising development?

I think so, yes. The people of South America are more conscious than ever before. Previously, Latin America was dominated by US imperialism, with most governments—many of them brutal military dictatorships—directly supported by the US. But these states didn’t improve the lives of the ordinary people. So now people have come to understand that they must break the relationship of dependency with the US. They have decided to take up their own destinies. Just look at Venezuela: Venezuela has been an oil-rich country for a long time, but only once Chávez got into power was the oil wealth distributed so that ordinary people could benefit.

The DPRK has positive relations with Latin American countries. We have now opened our embassy in Brazil. We have good relations with Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela; Cuba of course. Chávez wanted to visit [15] North Korea, but in the end his health didn’t allow it. But he always promoted good relations [16] between Venezuela and North Korea. He is certainly very much missed.

Source: http://www.liberationnews.org/interview-understanding-defending-north-korea/

Image Source: Same as above

The Article on Saudi Arabia that Al-Jazeera Blocked

Reports emerged last week that Saudi Arabia intends to imminently execute more than 50 people on a single day for alleged terrorist crimes.

Although the kingdom hasn’t officially confirmed the reports, the evidence is building. Okas, the first outlet to publish the report, has close ties to the Saudi Ministry of Interior and would not have published the story without obtaining government consent. Some of the prisoners slated for execution were likewise recently subject to an unscheduled medical exam, a sign that many believe portends imminent execution. There has already been a spike in capital punishment in Saudi Arabia this year, with at least 151 executions, compared with 90 for all of 2014.

The cases of six Shia activists from Awamiya, a largely Shia town in the oil-rich Eastern province, are particularly disconcerting. The majority of Saudi’s minority Shia population is concentrated in the Eastern province and has long faced government persecution. The six activists were convicted for protesting this mistreatment and other related crimes amid the Arab uprisings in 2011. Three of them were arrested when they were juveniles. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia religious leader who was convicted of similar charges, also faces imminent execution.

All the convictions were obtained through unfair trials marred by human and civil rights violations, including in some cases torture, forced confessions and lack of access to counsel. Each defendant was tried before the Specialized Criminal Court, a counterterrorism tribunal controlled by the Ministry of Interior that has few procedural safeguards and is often used to persecute political dissidents. Lawyers are generally prohibited from counseling their clients during interrogation and have limited participatory rights at trial. Prosecutors aren’t even required to disclose the charges and relevant evidence to defendants.

The problems aren’t just procedural. Saudi law criminalizes dissent and the expression of fundamental civil rights. Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2014, for example, individuals may be executed for vague acts such as participating in or inciting protests, “contact or correspondence with any groups … or individuals hostile to the kingdom” or “calling for atheist thought.”

One of the defendants, Ali al-Nimr, was convicted of crimes such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “going out to a number of marches, demonstrations and gathering against the state and repeating some chants against the state.” For these offenses, he has been sentenced to beheading and crucifixion, with his beheaded body to be put on public display as a warning to others.

Because of these procedural and legal abominations, the planned executions for these Shia activists must not proceed. They should be retried in public proceedings and afforded due process protections consistent with international law, which includes a ban on the death penalty for anyone under the age of 18.

No other executions should take place in Saudi Arabia. Capital punishment is morally repugnant and rife with error and bias, as we know all too well in the United States. Moreover, any outcome produced by the Saudi criminal justice system is inherently suspect. Inadequate due process, violations of basic human rights and draconian laws that criminalize petty offenses and exercising of civil rights are fixtures of Saudi rule.

They’re also fixtures of authoritarian regimes in general. Those who simply expect Saudi Arabia to reform its criminal justice system ignore the fact that the kingdom is an authoritarian regime that uses the law as a tool to maintain and consolidate power. They also ignore the reality that Saudi Arabia often escapes moral condemnation in large part because of its close relationship with the U.S.

In 2014, for example, President Barack Obama visited the kingdom but made no mention of its ongoing human rights violations. In return, he and the first family received $1.4 million in gifts from the Saudi king. (By law U.S. presidents must either pay for such gifts or turn them over to the National Archives.) The two leaders discussed energy security and military intelligence, shared interests that have connected the U.S. and Saudi Arabia for nearly a century.

Obama traveled to the kingdom earlier this year to offer his condolences on the passing of King Abdullah and to meet with the new ruler, King Salman. Again, human rights were never mentioned. Instead, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice tweeted that Abdullah was a “close and valued friend of the United States.”

This deafening silence is not lost on Saudi Arabia and has emboldened its impunity. In the wake of the Arab uprisings, the kingdom’s brutal campaign against its Shia minority and political opposition has deepened. Shias have limited access to government employment and public education, few rights under the criminal justice system and diminished religious rights. Those who protest this discrimination face arbitrary trial and the prospect of execution for terrorism. Consider that Saudi Arabia has not carried out a mass execution for terrorism-related offenses since 1980, a year after an armed group occupied the Grand Mosque of Mecca.

Dissent of any kind is quelled. In November, Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and artist born in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing Islam. His supporters allege that he’s being punished for posting a video of police lashing a man in public.

Even the kingdom’s neighbors aren’t immune from its authoritarian agenda. Numerous reports suggest that the Saudi-led coalition against opposition groups in Yemen has indiscriminately attacked civilians and used cluster bombs in civilian-populated areas, in violation of international law.

Despite its appalling human rights record, Saudi Arabia was awarded a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council last year and this summer was selected to oversee an influential committee within the council that appoints officials to report on country-specific and thematic human rights challenges. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia has used its newfound power to thwart an international inquiry into allegations that it committed war crimes in Yemen.

It’s not by happenstance that the kingdom announced the mass execution just days after 130 people were killed in Paris in the worst terrorist attacks in Europe in more than a decade. Even before Paris, the U.S. used its “war on terrorism” to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, engage in mass surveillance and develop an assassination program immune from judicial oversight. Is it any surprise that Saudi Arabia feels emboldened to intensify its own “war on terrorism”?

Source: The Intercept

IMG Source: http://www.dw.com/image/0,,18217369_303,00.jpg

Pakistan and the Saudi Attack on Yemen

From In Defense of Marxism

The Pakistani masses have reacted very negatively to the prospects of becoming an accomplice in the Saudi Monarchy’s brutal aggression against Yemen. This response has shocked Pakistan’s ruling elite, the state’s bosses, the media and the intelligentsia. Even some in the media have dared to reveal the vicious character of the despotic Saudi regime and its atrocious treatment of more than 2.5 million Pakistani immigrant workers banished into slavery and drudgery by these tyrannical monarchs

The hesitation, lack of any confidence, and hypocrisy of the rulers is pathetic. An official Press report stated that, “Pakistan called upon the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. An official statement from the PM House (Prime Minister’s Office) had said the meeting concluded that Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It was also emphasised in the meeting that Pakistan is committed to playing a meaningful role in resolving the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.”

What a laughable, pathetic and spineless response! What is said about consulting the ‘parliament’ and informing the people is a reeking cynical farce. These rulers themselves are mere timid puppets. Usually they are only informed about military operations and crucial foreign policy decisions after the fact by the top bosses of the state and their imperialist masters. These are the real people calling the shots.

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Criminality in Support of Hegemony

From The Guardian

Last week Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, announced that Saudi Arabia had commenced military operations against the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement in Yemen. The Saudi intervention was not unexpected. Over the last few weeks there were signs that the US and the Saudis were preparing the ground for direct military intervention in Yemen in response to the Houthis seizing state power in January.

The appearance of a previously unknown ISIS element that was supposedly responsible for the massive bomb attack that killed over 130 people and the withdrawal of US personnel were the clear signals that direct intervention by the Saudis was imminent.

And last week with the fall of al-Anad military base, the base where the US military and CIA conducted its drone warfare in Yemen, to Ansarullah fighters and the capture of the port city of Aden where disposed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had fled, it was almost certain that the US would give the green light for its client states to intervene.

The Saudi Ambassador cloaked the role of Saudi Arabia within the fictitious context of another grand coalition, this time led by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – the corrupt collection of authoritarian monarchies allied with the US and the other Western colonial powers.

Ambassador Al-Jubeir announced that before launching operations in Yemen all of its allies were consulted. The meaning of that statement is that the US was fully involved in the operation. Even though the Ambassador stressed that the US was not directly involved in the military component of the assault, CNN reported that an interagency US coordination team was in Saudi Arabia and that a US official confirmed that the US would be providing logistical and intelligence support for the operation.

And what was the justification for launching a military operation not sanction by the United Nations Security Council? According to the Saudis they have legitimate regional security concerns in Yemen. Their argument was that since they share a border with Yemen, the chaos that erupted over the last few months that culminated in what they characterise as a coup by the Houthi insurgency, forced them to intervene to establish order and defend by “all efforts” the legitimate government of President Hadi.

But this is becoming an old and tired justification for criminality in support of hegemony.

The intervention by the Saudis and the GCC continues the international lawlessness that the US precipitated with its War on Terror over the last decade and a half. Violations of the UN Charter and international law modelled by the powerful states of the West has now become normalised resulting in an overall diminution of international law and morality over the last 15 years.

The double standard and hypocrisy of US support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen and Western and US condemnations of Russia’s regional security concerns in response to the right-wing coup in Ukraine will not be missed by most people.

And so the conflagration in the Middle East continues.

US and Saudi geo-strategic interest in containing the influence of Iran has trumped international law and any concerns about the lives of the people of Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain. Militarism and war as first options has now become commonplace as instruments of statecraft in an international order in which power trumps morality and law is only applied to the powerless.

U.S. Defense Secretary: We Might Bomb Iran Even If a Peace Agreement Is Signed

From Global Research

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that a deal with Iran wouldn’t necessarily prevent war.

Military.com reports:

The U.S. will reserve the right to use military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon even if a deal is reached Iran’s nuclear program, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.

“The military option certainly will remain on the table,” Carter said as negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland, struggled to reach an agreement ahead of a March 31 deadline.

“One of my jobs is to make sure all options are on the table,’ Carter said in remarks at Syracuse University and earlier on NBC’s “Today” program.

We thought that Iran getting nuclear weapons was the main reason we were thinking of bombing them. So if a peace deal is signed with the U.S., why are we still talking about bombing them?

What’s going on?

In reality, top American and Israeli military and intelligence officials say that Iran poses no danger.

But the hawks have desperately been trying to stir up war with Iran for decades, as part of a 65-year program of regime change all over the world carried out by the U.S.

And the U.S. has inserted itself smack dab in the middle of a religious war … and is backing the most violent side. And see this.

The American people want peace, but the military-industrial complex wants war.

Islamic State is the Cancer of Modern Capitalism

From Information Clearing House

Debate about the origins of the Islamic State (IS) has largely oscillated between two extreme perspectives. One blames the West. IS is nothing more than a predictable reaction to the occupation of Iraq, yet another result of Western foreign policy blowback. The other attributes IS’s emergence purely to the historic or cultural barbarism of the Muslim world, whose backward medieval beliefs and values are a natural incubator for such violent extremism.

The biggest elephant in the room as this banal debate drones on is material infrastructure. Anyone can have bad, horrific, disgusting ideas. But they can only be fantasies unless we find a way to manifest them materially in the world around us.

So to understand how the ideology that animates IS has managed to garner the material resources to conquer an area bigger than the United Kingdom, we need to inspect its material context more closely.

Follow the money

The foundations for al-Qaeda’s ideology were born in the 1970s. Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden‘s Palestinian mentor, formulated a new theory justifying continuous, low-intensity war by dispersed mujahideen cells for a pan-Islamist state. Azzam’s violent Islamist doctrines were popularised in the context of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

As is well-known, the Afghan mujahideen networks were trained and financed under the supervision of the CIA, MI6 and the Pentagon. The Gulf states provided huge sums of money, while Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) liaised on the ground with the militant networks being coordinated by Azzam, bin Laden, and others.

The Reagan administration, for instance, provided $2 billion to the Afghan mujahideen, which was matched by another $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.

In Afghanistan, USAID invested millions of dollars to supply schoolchildren with “textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings”, according to the Washington Post. Theology justifying violent jihad was interspersed with “drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines”. The textbooks even extolled the heavenly rewards if children were to “pluck out the eyes of the Soviet enemy and cut off his legs”.

The conventional wisdom is that this disastrous configuration of Western-Muslim world collaboration in financing Islamist extremists ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As I said in Congressional testimony a year after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, the conventional wisdom is false.

Protection racket

A classified US intelligence report revealed by journalist Gerald Posner confirmed that the US was fully aware of a secret deal struck in April 1991 between Saudi Arabia and bin Laden, then under house arrest. Under the deal, bin Laden could leave the kingdom with his funding and supporters, and continue to receive financial support from the Saudi royal family, on one condition: that he refrain from targeting and destabilising the Saudi kingdom itself.

Far from being a distant observer of this covert agreement, the US and Britain were active participants.

Saudi Arabia’s massive oil supply underpins the health and growth of the global economy. We could not afford it to be destabilised. It was pro quid pro: to protect the kingdom, allow it to fund bin Laden outside the kingdom.

As British historian Mark Curtis documents meticulously in his sensational book, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, the US and UK government continued to covertly support al-Qaeda-affiliated networks in Central Asia and the Balkans after the Cold War, for much the same reasons as before – countering Russian, and now Chinese, influence to extend US hegemony over the global capitalist economy. Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil hub, remained the conduit for this short-sighted Anglo-American strategy.

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US Threatens Military Intervention as UN Warns of “Disintegration” in Yemen

From WSWS

Yemen faces “civil war and disintegration” in the wake of the overthrow of the US-backed government by a Houthi insurgency, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon declared Thursday.

“Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch. The current instability is creating conditions which are conducive to a reemergence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” Moon said.

The comments from Moon come in the aftermath of moves by the Houthis to take over the presidential palace last week, formally dissolving the US-backed regime of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Houthis have simultaneously launched new invasions of provinces to the south of Sanaa, in an effort to bring larger sections of the country under the direct control of their new regime.

This has been accompanied by reports of the seizure of a major government military installation, manned by some 2,000 troops, by Sunni militants affiliated with AQAP.

Comments from US officials late this week suggested that the US ruling elite is preparing to respond to the breakup of the Yemeni state with a new military escalation, ostensibly directed at combatting AQAP, but aimed more broadly at asserting control over the geostrategically key country.

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