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.

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US military presence in Africa growing in small ways

WASHINGTON — Amid a surge of Islamic militancy in North Africa, a team of fewer than 50 U.S. special operations troops with a single helicopter arrived at a remote base in western Tunisia last month.

Their mission: train Tunisian troops in counterterrorism tactics.

The operation was one of dozens of U.S. military deployments in Africa over the last year, often to tiny and temporary outposts. The goal is to leverage American military expertise against an arc of growing instability in North Africa and many sub-Saharan countries, from Mali in the west to Somalia in the east.

The small-scale operations by the Pentagon’s 6-year-old Africa Command reflect an effort to avoid provoking anti-U.S. militants in the region — and wariness of getting drawn into new conflicts after 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. commanders for Africa face tight limits on the forces and equipment they can put on the ground or in the air, despite responsibility for a vast geographic area.

Classified guidance approved by the White House last fall called for the Pentagon to “deter” terrorist attacks from Africa on U.S. territory, facilities or allies without creating a large military footprint, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.

Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Africa Command has only about 2,000 military and civilian personnel assigned to coordinate U.S. defense programs in about 38 African countries, although 5,000 or more U.S. troops are frequently on the continent for operations and training missions.

It’s still a tiny fraction of the combined forces under Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan and bases in the Middle East, or under Pacific Command, which has become a Pentagon priority since the White House announced a strategic “rebalancing” of forces to Asia in 2012.

U.S. military commanders working in Africa thus rely on small teams of special operations troops, U.S.-trained forces from friendly African countries, and European allies, especially France, that have stepped up their own military presence and operations.

In Niger, for example, U.S. and French air forces based at an airport in Niamey, the capital, are flying unarmed Reaper drones to gather intelligence. They conduct aerial surveillance across several Saharan countries where some members of the Tuareg minority group have joined Islamist warlords and farther south in Nigeria, U.S. military officers say.

Three violent extremist organizations are the chief U.S. concern. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is active in northern and western Africa, especially Mali, and is considered the greatest threat to Americans.

But U.S. troops also are advising the Nigerian army as it establishes a special operations command to combat Boko Haram — which has launched hundreds of violent attacks across Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria — and supporting African Union troops against extremist al-Shabab militants in Somalia.

The U.S. command acknowledged in January that it had sent a small team of advisers to Somalia in December, the first time American troops have been stationed there since militia fighters in Mogadishu, the capital, shot down two helicopters and killed 18 U.S. servicemen in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident.

“Most of the countries we’re dealing with don’t want a large U.S. presence,” said Army Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee Magee, the commander of a 130-soldier “crisis response” unit stationed in Djibouti, a tiny former French colony in the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. maintains its only major military base on the continent. National security adviser Susan Rice is scheduled to visit the base this weekend.

Known as the East Africa Response Force, Magee’s unit was formed after the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and nearby CIA base in Benghazi, Libya. Africa Command was unable to send troops in time to help CIA and State Department security personnel fend off militants who stormed the compounds and left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

If a U.S. diplomatic post in East Africa comes under attack or U.S. citizens need to be quickly evacuated, Magee said, his unit can deploy within 18 hours and up to 1,500 miles from Djibouti.

Another new quick reaction force of 550 Marines, stationed at an air base in Moron, Spain, is charged with responding to crises in North and West Africa, officials say. The force has six V-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor aircraft that take off and land like helicopters, as well as two refueling tankers. They give the Marines the capability to fly thousands of miles to remote locations in Africa, said Col. Scott Benedict, the commander.

The Pentagon said Friday that the Spanish government had approved an expansion of the force to 850 Marines in April, with the number of aircraft increasing to 16.

Both units were sent to South Sudan in December to help evacuate Americans and guard the U.S. Embassy after fierce fighting broke out between rival armed factions.

But the operation also highlighted the risks the Pentagon faces when it seeks to intervene with light forces in remote places. Three Ospreys were hit by gunfire and had to abort their mission.

The operation in Tunisia highlights another challenge.

Government security forces have been battling militants from the banned Islamist movement Ansar al Sharia, one of the radical groups to emerge since the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising that ousted President Zine el Abidine ben Ali. Tunisia has seen a sharp increase in suicide attacks and assassinations in the last two years.

But because of Tunisian government concern that the presence of U.S. soldiers could provoke public opposition, the Americans operate far from the deserts of southern Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, where attacks by rebel groups, tribal gangs and Islamist militants, some with ties to al-Qaida, have been increasing, the officials say.

“They’re not able to do a whole lot, and they are in a place where there isn’t a lot of activity,” said a senior military officer who requested anonymity in discussing sensitive details of the U.S. force in Tunisia.

Anne Wolf, a Tunis-based analyst who has written for the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, said even a small number of U.S. troops could inflame Tunisia’s tense security situation.

“Any involvement of foreign troops would risk provoking further responses from violent Salafists,” she said, referring to Tunisia’s Sunni Muslim extremists. “It would confirm their allegations that the government is controlled by foreign powers who are meddling into Tunisian affairs.”

Except for major exercises, Africa Command officials normally don’t announce deployments for reasons of operational security. They confirmed the current mission in western Tunisia, but the statement had few details, including how long the troops would remain.

“At the request of the government of Tunisia,” U.S. troops are conducting “an episodic training event … after months of planning” that “improves the capabilities of Tunisian forces to protect civilians from current and emerging threats,” the statement reads.

Hinting at Pullback, Is France Rethinking Mali War?

Officials Back Off Pledges to Destroy All Rebels in Mali

Only eight days ago French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was promising to continue the French invasion of Mali at all costs under all resistance was wiped out, terming his goal a “total reconquest” of Mali.

maliToday, French President Francois Hollande suggested that the French role in the war as the lead invasion forces are virtually over, saying it was time the “Africans can take over.

Officially, French officials are treating this as victory, with Le Drian saying that the military’s goal of seizing control of population centers in the north has been met, even though troops have gone no further north than Timbuktu and nearly 2/3 of the nation remains rebel-held.

In practice this change comes as France is facing criticism for its civilian killings and as officials have conceded the fight is tougher than anticipated. This suggests that France is rethinking a war they figured would be a sweeping victory in a matter of weeks and is backing away from the pledge to turn Mali into a terror-free democracy as a practical matter.

By Jason Ditz

Al-Qaida-linked militants seize BP complex in Algeria, take hostages in revenge for Mali

AP – ALGIERS, Algeria — As Algerian army helicopters clattered overhead deep in the Sahara desert, Islamist militants hunkered down for the night in a natural gas complex they had assaulted Wednesday morning, killing two people and taking dozens of foreigners hostage in what could be the first spillover from France’s intervention in Mali.

The Algerian army has surrounded the complex and about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the coast, there is no obvious way for the kidnappers to escape in their four wheel drive vehicles with their hostages.

A militant group claimed responsibility for the rare attack on one of oil-rich Algeria’s energy facilities, saying it came in revenge for the North African nation’s support foralgeria France’s military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali. The militants said they were holding 41 foreigners from the energy complex, including seven Americans.

The group — called Katibat Moulathamine or the Masked Brigade — phoned a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation at the Ain Amenas gas field, located 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) south of Algiers, the Algerian capital, and that France must cease its intervention in Mali to ensure the safety of the hostages.

BP, together with the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, operates the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services for the facility as well.

In Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the U.S. “will take all necessary and proper steps” to deal with the attack in Algeria. He would not detail what such steps might be but condemned the action as “terrorist attack” and likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Algeria’s top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila, said that “security forces have surrounded the area and cornered the terrorists, who are in one wing of the complex’s living quarters.”

He said one Briton and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while a Norwegian and two other Britons were among the six wounded.

“We reject all negotiations with the group, which is holding some 20 hostages from several nationalities,” Kabila said on national television, raising the specter of a possible armed assault to try to free the hostages.

The head of a catering company working on the base told the French Journal de Dimanche that helicopters were flying over the complex and the army waited outside. There were even reports of clashes between the two sides and a member of the militant group told the Mauritanian news outlet they had already repelled one assault by Algerian soldiers late Wednesday night.

It was not immediately possible to rectify the discrepancies in the number of reported hostages. Their identities were also unclear, but Ireland announced that they included a 36-year-old married Irish man and Japan, Britain and the U.S. said their citizens were involved as well. A Norwegian woman said her husband called her saying that he had been taken hostage.

Hundreds of Algerians work at the plant and were also taken hostage in the Islamist attack, but the Algerian state news agency reported they were gradually released unharmed Wednesday in small groups.

The Algerian minister said the militants appeared to be hoping to negotiate their departure from the area, something he rejected. He also dismissed theories that the militants came from across the border in Libya, which is just 60 miles (100 kilometers) away, or from Mali, more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) away.

Kabila said the roughly 20 well armed gunmen were from Algeria itself, operating under orders from Moktar Belmoktar, al-Qaida’s strongman in the Sahara.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that “U.S. citizens were among the hostages.”

The caller to the Nouakchott Information Agency, which often carries announcements from extremist groups, said the kidnapping was carried out by “Those Who Signed in Blood,” a group created to attack the countries participating in the offensive against Islamist groups in Mali.

The Masked Brigade was formed by Belmoktar, a one-eyed Algerian who recently declared he was leaving the terror network’s Algerian branch, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, to create his own group. He said at the time he would still maintain ties with the central organization based in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The name of his group could be a reference to the nomadic Tuareg inhabitants of the Sahara, known for masking their faces with blue veils.

A close associate of Belmoktar blamed the West for France’s recent air and ground intervention against Islamist fighters in Mali.algeria-french

“It’s the United Nations that gave the green light to this intervention and all Western countries are now going to pay a price. We are now globalizing our conflict,” Oumar Ould Hamaha told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday night from an undisclosed location.

French President Francois Hollande launched the surprise operation in Mali, a former French colony in West Africa, on Friday, hoping to stop the al-Qaida-linked and other Islamist extremists whom he believes pose a danger to the world.

Further kidnappings could well be on the horizon, warned Sajjan Gohel, the international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

“The chances are that this may not be a one-off event, that there could be other attempts in Africa — especially north and western Africa — to directly target foreign interests,” he said. “It’s unclear as to what fate these individuals may meet, whether these terrorists are going to want a ransom or whether they’ll utilize this for propaganda purposes.”

Wednesday’s attack in Algeria began with an ambush on a bus carrying employees from the massive gas plant to the nearby airport but the attackers were driven off, according to the Algerian government, which said three vehicles of heavily armed men were involved.

“After their failed attempt, the terrorist group headed to the complex’s living quarters and took a number of workers with foreign nationalities hostage,” the government said in a statement.

Attacks on oil-rich Algeria’s hydrocarbon facilities are very rare, despite decades of fighting an Islamist insurgency, mostly in northern Algeria.

In the last several years, however, al-Qaida’s influence in the poorly patrolled desert of southern Algeria and northern Mali and Niger has grown and the group operates smuggling and kidnapping networks throughout the area. Militant groups that seized control of a vast section of northern Mali last year already hold seven French hostages as well as four Algerian diplomats.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said “several British nationals” were involved, while Japanese news agencies, citing unnamed government officials, said there are three Japanese hostages.

Late Wednesday, Statoil said five employees —four Norwegians and a Canadian — were safe at an Algerian military camp and two of them had suffered minor injuries. It said 12 employees were unaccounted for.

mali-soldierThe Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende said a 55-year-old Norwegian working on the site called his wife to say he had been abducted.

Algeria had long warned against any military intervention against the rebels in northern Mali, fearing the violence could spill over its own long and porous border. Though its position softened slightly after Hollande visited Algiers in December, Algerian authorities remain skeptical about the operation and worried about its consequences on the region.

Algeria, Africa’s biggest country, has been an ally of the U.S. and France in fighting terrorism for years. But its relationship with France has been fraught with lingering resentment over colonialism and the bloody war for independence that left Algeria a free country 50 years ago.

Algeria’s strong security forces have struggled for years against Islamist extremists, and have in recent years managed to nearly snuff out violence by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb around its home base in northern Algeria. In the meantime, AQIM moved its focus southward.

AQIM has made tens of millions of dollars off kidnapping in the region, abducting Algerian businessmen or politicians, and sometimes foreigners, for ransom.

_____

Paul Schemm reported from Rabat, Morocco. Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Rukmini Callimachi in Bamako, Mali, Bradley Klapper in Washington, Jill Lawless in London, Elaine Ganely in Paris, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

Leader of Mali military coup trained in U.S.

The leader of a military coup in the West African country of Mali received military training in the United States on “several” occasions, a U.S. defense official said Friday.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led a renegade military faction that on Thursday deposed Mali’s democratically elected president, visited the United States several times to receive professional military education, including basic officer training, said Patrick Barnes, a U.S. Africa Command official based in Washington.

malimapBarnes said he could not immediately provide further details about the duration or nature of Sanogo’s participation in the International Military Education and Training program. The State Department funds that program, and foreign officers are generally selected by U.S. Embassy officials.

The State Department has condemned the coup and called for restoration of democratic rule. So far, however, it has not suspended aid or diplomatic relations with the impoverished country.

The U.S. government was set to deliver $140 million in aid to Mali this year, about half of it for humanitarian programs. The State Department said that humanitarian aid would continue but that it was reviewing the rest of the money, slated primarily for development and security purposes.

“If this situation is not resolved democratically, the remaining portion of that aid could very seriously be affected,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.

By law, the U.S. government will be required to suspend military relations with Mali because of the coup. The European Union said it would stop non-humanitarian aid, and the African Union on Friday suspended Mali’s membership in that organization.

“The actions of the mutineers run contrary to everything that is taught in U.S. military schools, where students are exposed to American concepts of the role of a military in a free society,” said Hilary F. Renner, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.

Mali, a large, landlocked country that covers part of the Sahara Desert, is a key U.S. counterterrorism partner in efforts to contain al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa. The U.S. government has sought for years to bolster Malian security forces so they can improve their ability to track down al-Qaeda sympathizers who kidnap Europeans and other foreigners for ransom.

The Africa Command had planned to hold a major regional military exercise in Mali last month but canceled because of Mali’s struggles to contain a
Tuareg insurgency in the northern part of the country. The exercise, called Flintlock 2012, was supposed to bring together security forces from West Africa, Europe and the United States to coordinate counterterrorism missions.

The Malian armed forces are relatively small, with about 7,000 personnel. Given the even smaller size of the officer corps, it is not surprising that Sanogo would have been selected for military education in the United States, said J. Peter Pham, an African affairs specialist at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

“It would be hard to find an officer at his rank or higher in the Malian military who hasn’t received training,” Pham said. “They’ve been a pretty reliable partner in terms of counterterrorism training.”

In appearances on African television since Thursday, Sanogo has stated that he received U.S. military and intelligence training but did not reveal details.

The coup leaders have pledged a return to democracy and said they deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure because of his incompetence in combating the
Tuareg insurgency, which has been fueled by the return of Malian fighters from Libya.

Reuters reported that soldiers looted gas stations and hijacked cars in the capital, Bamako, and the African Union said it had assurances that Toure was safe. Rumors swirled of an imminent countercoup led by Toure loyalists and that Sanogo had been killed, a suggestion denied on state television.

The coup comes a month before Mali — one of the few established democracies in the region — was to hold a presidential election.

By Craig Whitlock

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