The U.S. Middle East Killing Racket

Consider the following two headlines during the past three weeks:

U.S. Strike Kills ‘150 al-Shabaab Terrorists’ in Somalia” (March 7, The Telegraph)

49 Killed in U.S. Airstrike Targeting Terrorists in Libya” (February 20, CNN)

The reason for the Somalia killings? U.S. officials say that the 150 dead people were terrorists who were planning to carry out an attack in Somalia.

The reason for the Libya killings? U.S. officials say that the 49 dead people were ISIS terrorists.

Now, let’s just take U.S. officials at their word. Let’s assume that all the people they killed were terrorists who were planning to carry out attacks in Somalia and Libya.

Questions naturally arises: What business is that of the U.S. government? Under what constitutional authority does the U.S. national-security establishment kill people with impunity overseas? How do we really know that they were guilty? What impact will those killings have on the American people, especially in terms of terrorist retaliation?

After all, there is no allegation that any of those 199 dead people planned to invade and conquer the United States, take over the IRS, and establish a nation-wide Muslim caliphate here in the United States.

Let’s acknowledge that that part of the world is rife with civil war. Groups are battling to take control over regimes in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere. Let’s acknowledge that the opposing factions are violent. Let’s acknowledge that if the insurgents were to win the civil wars, they would establish regimes that are even more oppressive than the ones currently in power.

I repeat: What business is that of the U.S. government? And under what constitutional authority does the U.S. national-security establishment embroil our nation in such conflicts by killing people? And what good does embroiling the United States into those conflicts do for the American people?

Let’s not forget another factor about all this chaos: It was the U.S. national-security state’s killing campaign that unleashed most of the chaos in the first place.

Think Iraq. Here was a nation headed by a brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, who had been a loyal partner of the U.S. government. Then they turned on him, as they do with many of their dictatorial partners, but failed to oust him from power during the Persian Gulf War and during the 11 period of the brutal and deadly sanctions against Iraq. Finally, 9/11 gave them the excuse for invading Iraq and ousting Saddam from power.

But all that accomplished was to convert Iraq into a horrendous hellhole, one that unleashed a violent civil war. That’s what ISIS is all about. Consisting in large part of members of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, ISIS has initiated a violent civil war in the attempt to regain the reins of power in Iraq.

Did U.S. interventionists really think that the people they ousted from power were going to go quietly into the night and passively accept a regime change brought about through foreign interventionism?

Think Libya, another “successful” U.S. regime-change operation. The U.S. national-security state succeeded in ousting Qaddafi from power, which then unleashed a violent civil war in that country as well. And guess who is vying for power in that civil war: Yep, ISIS, the group that the U.S. regime change operation in Iraq brought into existence.

It’s the same in Syria.

It’s the same all over the Middle East.

The U.S. government goes into the region, initiates regime-change operations, and produces mass chaos, including civil wars, mass exoduses of immigrants, massive death and destruction, and crooked, corrupt, and tyrannical regimes.

And then all that chaos is used as the excuse for killing more people in the name of waging a “war on terrorism.”

And the more people the kill, the worse the chaos. The worst the chaos, the great number of people they feel they have to target for killing.

It’s really the perfect racket. It’s the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history. And it ensures that Americans don’t question the existence of the Cold War era national-security establishment. “We are here to protect you from the terrorists,” the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA tell us. “We are killing them before they come to get you and cart you away to study the Koran,” they explain. “Without the national-security establishment, American would fall to the terrorists, the Muslims, the radical jihadists, the drug dealers, and maybe even the communists.”

The war on terrorism is actually better than the war on drugs, a war that they’ve been waging for decades. They’ve been killing or capturing drug dealers for years. What good has it done? Those who are killed or captured are quickly replaced by others.

And that’s what’s been going on for the past 25 years in the Middle East. As soon as they get rid of one “bad guy,” he is replaced by another “bad guy.” The death and replacement process is perpetual.

And as everyone knows by now, whenever they kill a “bad guy,” the anger and rage and thirst for retaliation arises among his friends and family and people who share his religious convictions. That then means that they have to “keep us safe” with ever growing totalitarian powers, including secret surveillance schemes as well as the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to kill American citizens the same way they recently killed those 199 “terrorists” — without notice, without trial, without due process.

The whole crooked, corrupt, and deadly racket — one that the president, Congress, and Supreme Court are scared to death to interfere with — only goes to show how the national-security establishment has become the most powerful and dominant section of the federal government.

There is but one solution to all this madness: stop the U.S. killings now. Bring all the troops home and discharge them into the private sector. They’re not needed. Dismantle the U.S. military empire and dismantle the Cold War-era dinosauric national-security establishment. Restore a constitutional republic to our land. Embrace liberty and free markets and unleash the private sector of Americans to freely interact with the people of the world.

That’s the only way that America can lead the world out of this morass. It depends on the will, courage, and wisdom of the American people.


Pentagon report justifies deployment of military spy drones over the U.S.

The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade according to a new report.

The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights have been rare and lawful, according to a new report.

The report by a Pentagon inspector general, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said spy drones on non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and always in compliance with existing law.

The report, which did not provide details on any of the domestic spying missions,  said the Pentagon takes the issue of military drones used on American soil “very seriously.”

The Pentagon has publicly posted at least a partial list of the drone missions that have flown in non-military airspace over the United States and explains the use of the aircraft. The site lists nine missions flown between 2011 and 2016, largely to assist with search and rescue, floods, fires or National Guard exercises.

A senior policy analyst for the ACLU, Jay Stanley, said it is good news no legal violations were found, yet the technology is so advanced that it’s possible laws may require revision.

us-drones“Sometimes, new technology changes so rapidly that existing law no longer fits what people think is appropriate,” Stanley said. “It’s important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic.”

Other federal agencies own and operate drones. The use of unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS) drones over the USA surfaced in 2013 when then-FBI director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the bureau employed spy drones to aid investigations but in a “very, very minimal way, very seldom.”

The inspector general analysis was completed March 20, 2015, but not released publicly until last Friday.

It said that with advancements in drone technology along with widespread military use overseas, the Pentagon established interim guidance in 2006 governing when and whether the unmanned aircraft could be used domestically. The interim policy allowed spy drones to be used for homeland defense purposes in the U.S. and to assist civil authorities.

But the policy said that any use of military drones for civil authorities had to be approved by the Secretary of Defense or someone delegated by the secretary. The report found that defense secretaries have never delegated that responsibility.

The report quoted a military law review article that said “the appetite to use them (spy drones) in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow, as does Congressional and media interest in their deployment.”

Military units that operate drones told the inspector general they would like more opportunities to fly them on domestic missions if for no other reason than to give pilots more experience to improve their skills, the report said. “Multiple units told us that as forces using the UAS capabilities continue to draw down overseas, opportunities for UAS realistic training and use have decreased,” the report said.

A request for all cases between 2006 and 2015 in which civil authorities asked the military for use of spy drones produced a list of “less than twenty events,”  the report said. The list included requests granted and denied.

The list was not made public in the report. But a few examples were cited, including one case in which an unnamed mayor asked the Marine Corps to use a drone to find potholes in the mayor’s city. The Marines denied the request because obtaining the defense secretary’s “approval to conduct a UAS mission of this type did not make operational sense.”

Shortly before the inspector general report was completed a year ago, the Pentagon issued a new policy governing the use of spy drones. It requires the defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It says that unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary, drones “may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons.” It also bans the use of armed drones over the United States for anything other than training and testing.


Indigenous Rights Leader Assassinated in Honduras

Jesse Freeston, the director of the documentary “Resistencia,” tells us how Berta Caceres has become a martyr in the struggle against the Honduran post-coup regime and how the Obama administration bears responsibility for the current situation in Honduras. –   March 3, 2016

Political Corruption & Environmental Profiteering

Several months ago, I produced a documentary about Charles and David Koch for Global News, Canada’s largest private television chain. The film focused on the Koch’s vast holdings in Alberta’s controversial tar sands, their campaign to deny climate change, and the political power wielded by Koch Industries. The Koch brothers are some of the richest people in the world, yet the mainstream media rarely covers their efforts to flood big money into elections to further their corporate interests.

My documentary shed light on the controversial practices of the Koch brothers and the media blackout that abets them. But days before the video was set to air, executives at Global News pulled it from their broadcast schedule and I was fired. With no outlet for my story and no access to my video footage, I was forced to start from scratch and search elsewhere for a sponsor. That’s where The Real News Network stepped in.

I am teaming up with TRNN, to expose the Koch brothers’ war on the environment and their plan to influence the 2016 presidential election – and we need your help.

We need to raise $50,000 to produce and distribute How the Kochs and the Rich Buy Elections – a documentary exploring how big money corrupts the democratic process. The film will include interviews with insiders, experts, and activists who are both familiar with the Koch brothers and how they spend their cash and with the detrimental impact of money in elections.

You can watch my documentary promo below:

As a nonprofit, TRNN relies on the generosity of viewers like you to produce news and documentaries that explore the most critical issues of our time. We can’t do it without you! Too much is at stake to sit back and do nothing. Consider this:

The Kochs control one to two million acres of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, worth tens of billions of dollars. But climate scientists say up to 240 billion tons of carbon would be released into the atmosphere if the oil sands are developed. Meanwhile, the Kochs’ are waging well-financed campaigns to deny climate change and using their wealth to get conservatives elected to office to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and further their corporate interests. 

Your dedication to the truth is the most powerful force we have to expose Koch Industries and all those who seek to exploit our planet’s resources for profit. Please make a donation today and help us take a stand against the Koch brothers.


Bruce Livesey, Investigative Journalist 

Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue

In 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City. Leading the charge against them was a real estate mogul whose divisive rhetoric can be found in his presidential campaign today

Yusef Salaam was 15 years old when Donald Trump demanded his execution for a crime he did not commit.

Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted.

The miscarriage of justice is widely remembered as a definitive moment in New York’s fractured race relations. But Trump’s intervention – he signed full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to die – has been gradually overlooked as the businessman’s chances of winning the Republican nomination have rapidly increased. Now those involved in the case of the so-called Central Park Five and its aftermath say Trump’s rhetoric served as an unlikely precursor to a unique brand of divisive populism that has powered his rise to political prominence in 2016.


Yusef Salaam, left, is led away by a detective after being arrested in Central Park for allegedly attacking Trisha Meili. Photograph: New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images

“He was the fire starter,” Salaam said of Trump, in his first extended interview since Trump announced his run for the White House. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.”

It was 1989. The crack epidemic had torn through New York as poverty soared to 25% and the city’s elites reaped the rewards of a booming Wall Street. The murder rate had risen to 1,896 killings a year; 3,254 rapes would be reported in the five boroughs, but only one captured the city’s extended attention and later exposed bias in its criminal justice system and media establishment.

On the evening of 19 April, as 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili, who was white, jogged across the northern, dilapidated section of Central Park, she was brutally attacked – bludgeoned with a rock, gagged, tied and raped. She was left for dead but discovered hours later, unconscious and suffering from hypothermia and severe brain damage.

The New York police department believed they already had the culprits in custody.

That same night, a group of more than 30 youths had entered the park from East Harlem. Some engaged in a rampage of random criminality, hurling rocks at cars, assaulting and mugging passersby. Among the group was Salaam, along with 14-year-olds Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson, 15-year-old Antron McCray and 16-year-old Korey Wise. The teenagers – four African American and one Hispanic – would become known collectively as the Central Park Five.


They would all later deny any involvement in criminality that night, but as they were rounded up and interrogated by the police at length, they said, they were forced into confessing to the rape.

“I would hear them beating up Korey Wise in the next room,” recalled Salaam. “They would come and look at me and say: ‘You realise you’re next.’ The fear made me feel really like I was not going to be able to make it out.”

Four of the boys signed confessions and appeared on video without a lawyer, each arguing that while they had not been the individual to commit the rape they had witnessed one of the others do it, thereby implicating the entire group.

The city erupted. The case came to embody not only fears that accompanied the dramatic rise of violent crime in New York, but also its perceived racial dynamics. The case of a black woman, raped the same day in Brooklyn by two men who threw her from the roof of a four-story building, received little media attention.


Trump’s ad in the New York Daily News. Photograph: NY Daily News Archive

‘He poisoned the minds of New York’

Just two weeks after the Central Park attack, before any of the boys had faced trial and while Meili remained critically ill in a coma, Donald Trump, whose office on Fifth Avenue commanded an exquisite view of the park’s opulent southern frontier, intervened.

He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back The Police!” and above his signature, Trump wrote: “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”

Salaam, now 41, cannot remember exactly where he was when he first saw the ads. He had no idea who Trump was. “I knew that this famous person calling for us to die was very serious,” he recalled.

“We were all afraid. Our families were afraid. Our loved ones were afraid. For us to walk around as if we had a target on our backs, that’s how things were.”

All five minors had already been paraded in front of the cameras and had their names and addresses published, but Salaam said he and his family received more death threats after the papers ran Trump’s full-page screed. On a daytime TV show two days later, a female audience member called for the boys to be castrated and echoed the calls for the death penalty if Meili died. Pat Buchanan, the former Republican White House aide, called for the oldest of the group, Wise, to be “tried, convicted and hanged in Central Park by June 1”.

“Had this been the 1950s, that sick type of justice that they wanted – somebody from that darker place of society would have most certainly came to our homes, dragged us from our beds and hung us from trees in Central Park. It would have been similar to what they did to Emmett Till,” Salaam said.


Kharey Wise in court when he was arraigned in the Central Park jogger case. Photograph: NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images


All five boys pleaded not guilty at trial the following year. The prosecution’s case rested almost entirely on the confessions they had given shortly after the incident. As would become crucial later on, there was no DNA evidence linking any of them to the crime scene and Meili, who made a miraculous recovery and testified in court, could not remember any details of the attack.

The jury found all five boys guilty. The court condemned them to prison to serve sentences ranging from five to 10 years and five to 15 years. Wise, who had remained in the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail, was sentenced as an adult.

Michael Warren, the veteran New York civil rights lawyer who would later come to represent the Central Park Five, is certain that Trump’s advertisements played a role in securing conviction.

“He poisoned the minds of many people who lived in New York and who, rightfully, had a natural affinity for the victim,” said Warren. “Notwithstanding the jurors’ assertions that they could be fair and impartial, some of them or their families, who naturally have influence, had to be affected by the inflammatory rhetoric in the ads.”

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign declined to comment.

An impulse to run at controversy


For many who have studied Trump’s rise to prominence, the Central Park case provided an early glimpse into how his racially charged views entered his political and tactical mindset.

“He has this penchant for what you might call otherising,” said Michael D’Antonio, the author of Never Enough, a recently published Trump biography.

“I think he knew what he was doing by taking a side, and I think he knew he was aligning himself with law and order, especially white law and order. I don’t think that he was consciously saying ‘I’d like to whip up racial animosity’, but his impulse is to run into conflict and controversy rather than try to help people understand what might be going on in a reasoned way.”

Two years before the Central Park case, Trump had briefly considered a run for president that most dismissed as a naked attempt to drum up publicity for his book The Art of the Deal, released later that year.

But he couldn’t resist the opportunity to speak in New Hampshire at the invitation of the Portsmouth Republican committee, using the platform to single out allies in Saudi Arabia and Japan while critiquing US foreign policy in the Persian Gulf. He employed the same tactics as he would in 1989, publishing full-page ads in three of America’s biggest newspapers that called for the US to impose taxes on these allies, whom he argued were “taking advantage of the United States”.

In February 2000, when Trump was again flirting with a run for the White House, he took out anonymous ads in local upstate New York newspapers, in an effort to shut down a rival casino backed by a group of Native Americans. Beneath a picture of needles and drug paraphernalia, the ad stated: “Are these the new neighbors we want?” It added: “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.”

Trump later apologised, but his biographer argued the incident underlined a “willingness to use rhetoric that other people won’t use under the guise of talking straight” that is now a fixture on the campaign trail.

After declaring in his campaign announcement that Mexico was “bringing crime” and “rapists” to the US, Trump quickly seized on the murder case of a 32-year-old white woman in San Francisco in which an undocumented Mexican migrant is the chief suspect. He has since frequently condoned and incited violence against protesters at his rallies, and has vowed to bring back waterboarding of terror suspects. In referencing a promise to issue an executive order to mandatorily execute anyone in the US who kills a police officer, he said: “We just can’t afford any more to be so politically correct.”

But examples of overt racism were perhaps kept behind closed doors in the late 1980s.

One year after the Central Park Five were convicted, John O’Donnell, a former executive who ran Trump Plaza hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, published a tell-all alluding to his former boss’s casual racism behind closed doors.

He quoted Trump as saying: “I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

In a later interview with Playboy magazine, Trump labelled his former employee a “fucking loser” but added: “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

Trump holds up the March 1990 issue of Playboy with him on the cover as he works the rope line after a campaign rally in Farmington, New Hampshire. Photograph: Gretchen Ertl/Reuters

Trump holds up the March 1990 issue of Playboy with him on the cover as he works the rope line after a campaign rally in Farmington, New Hampshire. Photograph: Gretchen Ertl/Reuters

But Barbara Res, a member of Trump’s inner circle through much of the 1980s who served as his executive vice-president in 1989, told the Guardian she never witnessed any signs of racism throughout her time at his company and was “surprised” by his inflammatory rhetoric today.

“I think he got angry when he saw what happened to that woman, and I think he reacted to it,” she said of the Central Park jogger case. “I think we were all horrified at what happened. I think everybody basically supported Donald. I don’t think he was trying to be racist – I think he was trying to be a proponent of law and order.”

For Salaam, however, the intent was explicit: “If we were white, would Donald Trump had written this in the paper?”

‘He’s still the same person’

In 2002, after Salaam had served seven years in prison, Matias Reyes, a violent serial rapist and murderer already serving life inside, came forward and confessed to the Central Park rape. He stated that he had acted by himself. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was his semen alone found on Meili’s body, and just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s supreme court.

Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise outside a theater before the New York premiere of the Central Park Five, in 2012. Photograph: Michael Nagle/New York Times / Redux / eyevine

Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise outside a theater before the New York premiere of the Central Park Five, in 2012. Photograph: Michael Nagle/New York Times / Redux / eyevine

By this point, Trump had gotten his wish: the death penalty had been reinstated in New York since 1995, at great cost to the state. It was subsequently abolished in 2007, without a single execution carried out.

Following a 14-year court battle, the Central Park Five settled a civil case with the city for $41m in 2014. But far from offering an apology for his conduct in 1989, Trump was furious.

In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, he described the case as the “heist of the century”.

“Settling doesn’t mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels,” Trump wrote, alluding to how police and prosecutors initially involved in the case have long maintained the five boys were involved in the rape, even after the convictions were thrown out.

D’Antonio, the biographer, met with Trump shortly after the settlement was announced. The billionaire was once again considering a shot at the presidency and would, this time, actually run.

Trump was asked if he worried that his publicly confrontational style would affect his political prospects. He retorted instantly with a reference to the Central Park Five.

“I think it will help me,” he said. “I think people are tired of politically correct. I just attacked the Central Park Five settlement. Who’s going to do that?”

The biographer was shocked by what he heard. “His insensitivity and inability to adjust to reality is sometimes shocking,” D’Antonio said of Trump. “But I don’t think that he is necessarily interested in reality as others experience it or as it’s determined by the courts.

“There have been few cases of injustice that are as clear and profound as this one is, but he’s not able to consider that.”


Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five: ‘What would this country look like with Donald Trump as being a president? That’s a scary thing.’ Photograph: The Guardian

Salaam, who said he had been scarred for life by his experiences in prison, also felt insulted. But it was the announcement last June that Trump had finally decided to run for president that was, in a way, more alarming.

“To see that he has not changed his position of being a hateful person, to see that he has not changed his position of inciting people, to see that he’s still the same person and in many ways he has perfected his sense of being that number-one inciter, you know, I was scared,” Salaam said.

He was unsurprised that Trump currently leads polling averages by nearly 20 points in South Carolina, a state that votes for the Republican nomination on Saturday and where only last year the Confederate flag was withdrawn from the state house grounds. (A survey released this week suggests 70% of Trump’s supporters in south Carolina believe that decision was wrong and 38% of his supporters wish the south had won the civil war.)

“I thought for a moment: What would this country look like with Donald Trump as being a president? That’s a scary thing,” Salaam said. “That’s a very scary thing.”

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