The Fight Continues…

The primary season is underway. With one state under their belt, the Republican candidates squared off in another debate Saturday night on ABC. Each of the candidates still failed to grasp Ron Paul’s view of American foreign policy:

It makes you wonder if they really believe what they say. To quote Giuliani: “It has nothing to do with our foreign policy. It has to do with their ideas, their theories, the things that they have done, and the way they have perverted their religion to a hatred of us. And what’s at stake are the things that our best about us: our freedom of religion, our freedom for women, our right to vote, our free economic system. Our foreign policy is irrelevant, totally irrelevant. If you read what they write, if you bother to listen to what they say, this comes out of their own perverted thinking.”

This is a battle of good vs. evil, freedom vs. terror, Christians vs. Muslims…thanks for clearing it all up for us, Mr. Mayor. Looks like Rudy might be sipping a bit too much of his own Kool-aid, just check out his recent fearmongering commercial:

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire (backed by “Droopy” Joe Lieberman), John McCain upped the ante on our commitment in Iraq. When asked about Bush’s talk of staying in Iraq for fifty years, McCain replied, “Make it a hundred.”

Four of the Democratic candidates also had a ‘debate’ in NH, Kucinich and Gravel once again excluded from the process. Fresh from his Iowa victory, Obama tried to stay positive. Edwards seemed to be setting himself up for a vice-presidential bid on an Obama ticket, as he continued his aggressive attack of Clinton and the ‘status quo’.

Kucinich has filed a complaint about his debate exclusion, mentioning that Disney (ABC’s parent company) has made contributions to all four of the Democratic candidates involved in the debate.

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Blackwater Worldwide

Blackwater Logo

The private security firm Blackwater is attempting to reconstruct its image, re-branding themselves Blackwater Worldwide this October. The US State Department’s largest security contractor had its operating license revoked by the Iraqi government this September after its involvement in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians. Yet they continue to operate there and are expanding operations even further. I’ll leave it to Jeremy Scahill to fill you in on the details:

Blackwater Bu$ine$$ (from The Nation)

Gunning down seventeen Iraqi civilians in an incident the military has labeled “criminal.” Multiple Congressional investigations. A federal grand jury. Allegations of illegal arms smuggling. Wrongful death lawsuits brought by families of dead employees and US soldiers. A federal lawsuit alleging war crimes. Charges of steroid use by trigger-happy mercenaries. Allegations of “significant tax evasion.” The US-installed government in Iraq labeling its forces “murderers.” With a new scandal breaking practically every day, one would think Blackwater security would be on the ropes, facing a corporate meltdown or even a total wipeout. But it seems that business for the company has never been better, as it continues to pull in major federal contracts. And its public demeanor grows bolder and cockier by the day.

Rather than hiding out and hoping for the scandals to fade, the Bush Administration’s preferred mercenary company has launched a major rebranding campaign, changing its name to Blackwater Worldwide and softening its logo: once a bear paw in the site of a sniper scope, it’s now a bear claw wrapped in two half ovals–sort of like the outline of a globe with a United Nations feel. Its website boasts of a corporate vision “guided by integrity, innovation, and a desire for a safer world.” Blackwater mercenaries are now referred to as “global stabilization professionals.” Blackwater’s 38-year-old owner, Erik Prince, was No. 11 in Details magazine’s “Power 50,” the men “who control your viewing patterns, your buying habits, your anxieties, your lust…. the people who have taken over the space in your head.”

In one of the company’s most bizarre recent actions, on December 1 Blackwater paratroopers staged a dramatic aerial landing, complete with Blackwater flags and parachutes–not in Baghdad or Kabul but in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium during the halftime show at the San Diego State/BYU football game. The location was interesting, given that Blackwater is fighting fierce local opposition to its attempt to open a new camp–Blackwater West–on 824 acres in the small rural community of Potrero, just outside San Diego. Blackwater’s parachute squad plans to land at the Armed Forces Bowl in Texas this month and the Virginia Gold Cup in May. The company recently sponsored a NASCAR racer, and it has teamed up with gun manufacturer Sig Sauer to create a Blackwater Special Edition full-sized 9-millimeter pistol with the company logo on the grip. It comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. For $18, parents can purchase infant onesies with the company logo.

In recent weeks, Blackwater has indicated it might quit Iraq. “We see the security market diminishing,” Prince told the Wall Street Journal in October. Yet on December 3 Blackwater posted job listings for “security specialists” and snipers as a result of its State Department diplomatic security “contract expansion.” While its name may be mud in the human rights world, Blackwater has not only made big money in Iraq (about $1 billion in State Department contracts); it has secured a reputation as a company that keeps US officials alive by any means necessary. The dirty open secret in Washington is that Blackwater has done its job in Iraq, even if it has done so by valuing the lives of Iraqis much lower than those of US VIPs. That badass image will serve it well as it expands globally.

Prince promises that Blackwater “is going to be more of a full spectrum” operation. Amid the cornucopia of scandals, Blackwater is bidding for a share of a five-year, $15 billion contract with the Pentagon to “fight terrorists with drug-trade ties.” Perhaps the firm will join the mercenary giant DynCorp in Colombia or Bolivia or be sent into Mexico on a “training” mission. This “war on drugs” contract would put Blackwater in the arena with the godfathers of the war business, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

In addition to its robust business in law enforcement, military and homeland security training, Blackwater is branching out. Here are some of its current projects and initiatives:

§ Blackwater affiliate Greystone Ltd., registered offshore in Barbados, is an old-fashioned mercenary operation offering “personnel from the best militaries throughout the world” for hire by governments and private organizations. It also boasts of a “multi-national peacekeeping program,” with forces “specializing in crowd control and less than lethal techniques and military personnel for the less stable areas of operation.”

§ Prince’s Total Intelligence Solutions, headed by three CIA veterans (among them Blackwater’s number two, Cofer Black), puts CIA-type services on the open market for hire by corporations or governments.

§ Blackwater is launching an armored vehicle called the Grizzly, which the company characterizes as the most versatile in history. Blackwater intends to modify it to be legal for use on US highways.

§ Blackwater’s aviation division has some forty aircraft, including turboprop planes that can be used for unorthodox landings. It has ordered a Super Tucano paramilitary plane from Brazil, which can be used in counterinsurgency operations. In August the aviation division won a $92 million contract with the Pentagon to operate flights in Central Asia.

§ It recently flight-tested the unmanned Polar 400 airship, which may be marketed to the Department of Homeland Security for use in monitoring the US-Mexico border and to “military, law enforcement, and non-government customers.”

§ A fast-growing maritime division has a new, 184-foot vessel that has been fitted for potential paramilitary use.

Meanwhile, Blackwater is deep in the camp of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Cofer Black is Romney’s senior adviser on counterterrorism. At the recent CNN/YouTube debate, when Romney refused to call waterboarding torture, he said, “I’m not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we’re able to do and what things we’re not able to do. And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some thirty-five years.” That was an exaggeration of Black’s career at the CIA (he was there twenty-eight years and head of counterterrorism for only three), but a Romney presidency could make Blackwater’s business under Bush look like a church bake sale.

In short, Blackwater is moving ahead at full steam. Individual scandals clearly aren’t enough to slow it down. The company’s critics in the Democratic-controlled Congress must confront the root of the problem: the government is in the midst of its most radical privatization in history, and companies like Blackwater are becoming ever more deeply embedded in the war apparatus. Until this system is brought down, the world’s the limit for Blackwater Worldwide–and as its rebranding campaign shows, Blackwater knows it.

The Wolf Returns…

Wolfowitz

The disgraced ex-president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, has managed to find new work in familiar surroundings. Wolfowitz, known as one of the primary architects of Bush’s Iraq policy, was forced to resign as president of the World Bank after approving an illegal high-paying promotion for his girlfriend Shaha Riza.

Despite the disgraced departure, Wolfowitz was quickly welcomed back as a ‘visiting scholar’ to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank that has placed many of its members in the current administration. So he didn’t have to wait long before landing a post back in the Bush administration, serving under Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The ‘Wolf’ had formerly served as Deputy Secretary of Defense under Bush II and under every president from Nixon to Bush I.

A bit of background on Wolfowitz:

  • He famously served as Reagan’s Ambassador to Indonesia, strongly supporting the brutal dictator Suharto, one of the worst mass murderers of the last century.
  • He also served as the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan. He oversaw support for the murderous dictators Marcos of the Philippines and Chun of South Korea.
  • He is a long-time advocate of preemptive military policy. He is the guy that publicly claimed in 2003 that Iraq “can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”
  • When Turkey sided with 95% of its population by choosing not to allow U.S. troops use their country as a base for the war against Iraq, Wolfowitz berated the Turkish military for permitting this to happen. He said, “Look, you have power, you can force the civilian government to do what we want them to do. The idea that they should listen to 95% of the population is outrageous.” He demanded that Turkey apologize to the United States and say that it understands its job to help the United States.

Despite his long-standing opposition to democracy, isn’t it nice to see the Wolf returning to the pack?
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Mid-week Roundup 12/5

Here are some headlines rounded up from this week:

Is “Save Darfur” a PR Scam?

Drug giant Pfizer will boost outsourcing to Asia; also their Celebrex expert testifies in court without a license.

Private Contractors look to profit from domestic spying.

Hillary is quite tied up with Big Oil and defense contractors.

Guiliani’s ties to a terror shiek

Virginia primaries will demand oath of loyalty from Republican voters.

Bush Justice Department is okay with kidnapping.

100 Students walk out on former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Guantanamo heading to the Supreme Court.

The human costs of the Iraq Occupation.

Join the military, go to college… The Pentagon’s education recruitment pitch is a scam?

Iraq Vet is punished for seeking help.

US War Vets to speak publicly about war crimes this March.

Bush and Maliki agree to long-term US troop presence in Iraq.

Also, John Pilger has a new book called ‘Freedom Next Time,’ and here is a speech he gave in Chicago concerning media journalism…if you have 45 minutes to spare.

Al-Anbar: Progress in Iraq?

When we hear talk of progress in Iraq, administration officials often point to the success in Al-Anbar province, where attacks on US troops have declined in previous months.

They had attributed this success to Abu Risha (recently deceased), who was credited with allying Sunni tribes to fight against al Qaeda in Iraq. (shown below with Pres. Bush)

Bush & Abu Risha in Al-Anbar province

So the new US military strategy this year has been arming and funding Sunni Arab tribes that have promised to fight Al Qaeda militants. These are the same militants to which they were previously allied when they were fighting against American forces. This strategy is quite controversial, amid fears that we are building up Sunni forces for a future civil war in Iraq, especially with the predominantly Shiite government.

What you won’t hear about in the news is that Abu Rashi was not a shiek; in fact, he was no longer welcome in Al-Anbar province. He claimed to be the “leader of all Iraqi tribes,” but he lead no one. He was a PR stunt used to sell the success of the surge in Iraq to the American people, in return for reported millions in ‘reconstruction contracts’.

The real cause of the success in Al-Anbar province was ethnic cleansing by the Sunni tribes that we are continuing to arm. Thousands of Shi’a families were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint, then dumped in slums on the skirts of Baghdad.

If this is of concern to you, and you can spare twenty minutes, I highly recommend the following video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

McCain attacks Paul

In last nights Republican debate, Senator John McCain was asked a question about taxes, then took the opportunity to attack Rep. Ron Paul for his stance on Iraq. He accused Paul of the same sort of appeasement that allowed Hitler to take power and WWII to happen, which was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers. See it for yourself here:

Paul 1, McCain 0.

Mid-week Roundup 11/28

Okay, I think I might start doing a semi-regular blog round-up. Some of the entries I’ve been making have been quite lengthy, so rather than boring you with text, I’ll occasionally make posts with a few links in them, commonly referred to as a ’round-up’. That way you can choose any stories that interest you and move past ones that don’t.

On that note, here are a few stories of interest:

  • And for anyone not scared of the future yet….a creepy video.