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Talking to Taliban and Tribal Warlords

Posted by Admin on March 29, 2010

Talking to Taliban and Tribal Warlords

Sunday 28 March 2010

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Across the sands

Across the sands

From October 7, 2001, until about a year ago, the world was hearing of the “war on terror” in the Af-Pak region as one on Taliban and tribal warlords allied to them. No longer. What assails our ears increasingly over the recent period is talk of a campaign to woo and win over a section of the same “enemies of civilization.”

All the avowed “anti-terror” warriors are engaged in the campaign. The US administration and the Afghanistan government are publicly committed to this policy change, with powerful quarters emulating the example despite protestations of uncompromising opposition to terrorism. Voices from within India, meanwhile, suggest pressures for a similar attempt by New Delhi. South Asia’s biggest power is being nudged to do business with forces officially regarded until the other day as implacably fundamentalist foes.

The campaign is approaching its culmination, with the highest international forum extending far-from-hidden support to the process. The United Nations, too, is now involved in not-so-secret talks with those considered not long ago as too terrorist for such UN-conferred legitimacy.

In one sense, it all began with President Barack Obama’s moves for a new Afghanistan strategy. Weeks before the strategy was announced on March 27, 2009, Obama said in a newspaper interview that the US “was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.”

Around the same time, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Vice President Joe Biden claimed that “at least 70 percent” of Taliban guerrilla fighters were “mercenaries” who could be “persuaded” to lay down their arms and join the “peace process.”

These signals could not but have strengthened the hands of those in Pakistan who were never excited about engaging in a serious conflict with Afghan insurgents – particularly the Taliban, perceived as largely a creation of Pakistan during the days of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Officially, of course, Pakistan is supposed to have abandoned all its reservations about an all-out “war on terror” with its offensive in the Swat region in May 2009. Ties with the Taliban, however, are still cherished in powerful quarters.

Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, caused much more than a ripple recently when he issued an appeal to the Taliban as the chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and leading province closely identified with the country’s army. Shahbaz requested his “friendly” terrorists to spare Punjab because his party, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), had “something in common with them” (opposition to former President General Pervez Musharrf).

The appeal came in the wake of 12 terror attacks in less than a year, which left hundreds killed, including women and children, in Punjab’s Lahore, considered the country’s cultural capital. It has led to an outrage.

In a newspaper article captioned “The terror is next door, Mr. CM,” leading cultural activist Naeem Tahir says: “Rarely had he (Shahbaz) been noticed as much as he was noticed this time. Explanations followed, but these explained nothing. Everyone, including parliamentarians, journalists, government functionaries and the general public tried to figure out the meaning of this request.”

“Did he mean to suggest” – asked Tahir – “that the terrorists should spare Punjab and try Balochistan? Or Sindh or, for convenience of proximity to the Punjabi Taliban, try the capital Islamabad?” No convincing answer has been forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army has undertaken an agitprop operation alleging links between India and the Taliban. Military aircraft drop pamphlets in North Waziristan on ties between the Taliban and India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The pamphlets also talk of relations between Israeli intelligence outfit Mossad and Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

Until recently, the official Indian stand was against attempts to differentiate between “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban.” Of late, however, New Delhi has signaled its willingness to try out the line. The policy draws support from the thinking of the country’s security establishment over more than a decade of experience in the Af-Pak region as well.

A case for some ties with the Taliban is argued, for example, in an over-a-decade-old document authored by a former RAW official who is an informed and influential security analyst today. B. Raman, now a well-known columnist as well, talks in this paper titled “Bin Laden, Taliban and India” of the al-Qaeda leader’s ambiguous stance on Pakistan’s chief adversary.

Noting that the Taliban had issued no “call for killing Indians or Hindus,” Raman says: “The past anti-India comments of Osama and the Taliban were restricted to supporting the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination … It has repeatedly denied Indian allegations that its volunteers were active in Kashmir.”

Raman quotes the Taliban’s “most comprehensive statement to date on this subject (September 20, 1998)” as saying: “Afghanistan and India had friendly relations in the past. We don’t have any diplomatic ties now, but we won’t mind resuming relations with India as, at least, we won’t have to contend with an enemy India…. We obviously support the jihad in Kashmir… It is also true that some Afghans are fighting against Indian troops in Kashmir. The Taliban has not sent them…. We have no intention of exporting our jihad or revolution to any country.”

Raman’s counsel: “… India should test out the sincerity of the Taliban’s interest in a non-adversarial relationship with India by maintaining a line of communication with the Taliban leadership through their office in New York. Its professions of innocence should be tested out and not dismissed out of hand.” He adds: “The USA too, while taking strong action against the Taliban’s support to Osama and its violation of human rights, has at the same time maintained a dialogue with the Taliban leadership through their New York office and during the visits of US officials to Islamabad.”

Whether the counsel is heeded at last remains to be seen. Meanwhile, however, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has opened talks with the country’s second-largest militant group linked to the Taliban. The Hizb-e-Islami has reportedly submitted to Karzai a 15-point plan for possible peace talks. The main point envisages withdrawal of all foreign forces from July this year, to be completed within six months.

At the helm of the Hizb-e-Islami stands Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord and former prime minister classified as a terrorist by the US and the UN. This, however, has not stopped the world body from joining the bandwagon and initiating its own parleys with the insurgents.

First came former UN special envoy Kai Eide’s secret talks with Taliban leaders during his two-year tenure (from March 2008) in Afghanistan. The process was made public on March 25, 2010, with Staffan de Mistura, special UN representative in Afghanistan, meeting the men of UN-blacklisted Hekmatyar.

We do not know where the process will lead. It will be a strange end to the “war on terror,” however, if it leaves the Taliban and tribal warlords tyrannizing over their wild terrain and threatening peace over a larger South Asian region.

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Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2010

De-Dollarization:

Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire


The Yekaterinburg Turning Point

By Prof. Michael Hudson

Global Research,

June 13, 2009

The city of Yakaterinburg, Russia’s largest east of the Urals, may become known not only as the death place of the tsars but of American hegemony too – and not only where US U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down in 1960, but where the US-centered international financial order was brought to ground.

Challenging America will be the prime focus of extended meetings in Yekaterinburg, Russia (formerly Sverdlovsk) today and tomorrow (June 15-16) for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance is comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. It will be joined on Tuesday by Brazil for trade discussions among the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

The attendees have assured American diplomats that dismantling the US financial and military empire is not their aim. They simply want to discuss mutual aid – but in a way that has no role for the United States, NATO or the US dollar as a vehicle for trade. US diplomats may well ask what this really means, if not a move to make US hegemony obsolete. That is what a multipolar world means, after all. For starters, in 2005 the SCO asked Washington to set a timeline to withdraw from its military bases in Central Asia. Two years later the SCO countries formally aligned themselves with the former CIS republics belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), established in 2002 as a counterweight to NATO.

Yet the meeting has elicited only a collective yawn from the US and even European press despite its agenda is to replace the global dollar standard with a new financial and military defense system. A Council on Foreign Relations spokesman has said he hardly can imagine that Russia and China can overcome their geopolitical rivalry,1 suggesting that America can use the divide-and-conquer that Britain used so deftly for many centuries in fragmenting foreign opposition to its own empire. But George W. Bush (“I’m a uniter, not a divider”) built on the Clinton administration’s legacy in driving Russia, China and their neighbors to find a common ground when it comes to finding an alternative to the dollar and hence to the US ability to run balance-of-payments deficits ad infinitum.

What may prove to be the last rites of American hegemony began already in April at the G-20 conference, and became even more explicit at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 5, when Mr. Medvedev called for China, Russia and India to “build an increasingly multipolar world order.” What this means in plain English is: We have reached our limit in subsidizing the United States’ military encirclement of Eurasia while also allowing the US to appropriate our exports, companies, stocks and real estate in exchange for paper money of questionable worth.
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Why the Central Bankers Are Meeting In Secret

Posted by Admin on February 14, 2010

Why the Central Bankers Are Meeting In Secret

Many of the world’s central bankers are meeting in Sydney today, at a secret location, to coordinate their drive to force draconian austerity measures on nations, in order to prop up their failed monetary system.

That’s why they are meeting in secret—if the people understood that the central bankers are working out how many people they’ll need to kill to save the banking system, the people might object to them being here.

Consider the chronology of how the world got to this point:

  • In July 2007, after a decade of warnings by American physical economist Lyndon LaRouche that the world financial system would disintegrate, the U.S. sub-prime crisis triggered the global financial collapse (Bear Sterns), which by September 2008 turned into a full-blown meltdown of the $1.4 quadrillion global derivatives bubble (Lehman Brothers, AIG).
  • In August 2007, LaRouche proposed the Homeowners and Bank Protection Act: to keep people in their homes; to preserve the functionality of the banking system by putting it into bankruptcy protection, to write off their unpayable derivatives and bad debts; and to return the system to Glass-Steagall regulations.
  • LaRouche’s solution was rejected, and instead in October 2008, the very central banks which created the crisis, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank, dictated a $24 trillion global bail-out of the system by national governments. In Australia, Kevin Rudd implemented the bank guarantee, stimulus spending and the first homebuyers grant, and the Future Fund was put at the disposal of the banks to prop them up.
  • By July 2009, it was obvious the bail-out had transferred the bankruptcy of the banking system onto the governments which were propping it up. LaRouche forecast that by October the bankruptcy of national governments would trigger the final meltdown.
  • In October 2009, Dubai defaulted on debts of US$59 billion; it was bailed out by Abu Dhabi, but 13 other default risks quickly emerged, including the PIGS in Europe—Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain—Great Britain, and the biggest danger of all, the U.S.
  • 2010: on 17th January, Sunday Telegraph economics writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard revealed advanced plans by the European Central Bank (ECB) to enforce draconian austerity measures on the PIGS, dictating massive cuts to wages, pensions and social services so those nations avoided debt default to save the euro. The ECB intoned sovereignty is a “largely obsolete concept” as it declared it would impose a “permanent limitation” on the PIGS. The chief economist of the IMF, Olivier Blanchard, has since called for the PIGS to impose wage cuts to save the euro. Vicious austerity is on the agenda in other places too: In Australia, Kevin Rudd is blaming the deficit on old people living too long, and in the U.S., Barack Obama is slashing Medicare for the elderly to rein in the U.S. deficit.

The world’s central bankers meeting in Sydney are unaccountable powerbrokers, disguised as “independent”, who have replaced accountable governments as managers of the economy, and globalised the financial system under private control. Through them, the financier oligarchs in the City of London, and its satellites in Wall Street, Amsterdam and Zürich etc., are in charge of the financial system—not elected governments.

Just like in the 1930s, the austerity measures planned by the central bankers cannot be implemented through democratic means, because people tend to object to being killed. To save their system in the Great Depression, the leading central bankers in the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements, backed the rise of Hitler and Europe’s other fascist régimes to impose their austerity program.

What is Sydney’s secret central bank gathering planning to do this time?

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US MILITARY: A Mindset of Barbarism

Posted by Admin on February 8, 2010

The US Military: A Mindset of Barbarism, Part 2

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Interview

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Uncontrolled

Yesterday, Truthout ran the first part of an interview with Dr. Stjepan Mestrovic, a Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University who has written three books on US misconduct in Iraq: “The Trials of Abu Ghraib: An Expert Witness Account of Shame and Honor,” “Rules of Engagement?: Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq” and “The ‘Good Soldier’ on Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq.” He has three degrees from Harvard University, including a Master’s degree in clinical psychology, and has been an expert witness in psychology and sociology at several Article 32 hearings, courts-martial and clemency hearings involving US soldiers accused of committing crimes of war in Iraq, including the trials of prison guards involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Dr. Mestrovic’s books meticulously document how the US Army, as an institution, has become dysfunctional, and how illegal rules of engagement (ROE) are issued by officers and politicians at the top of the Army’s hierarchy, but only low-ranking soldiers are punished for carrying out those same rules and orders. As an example, in one of the several hearings Dr. Mestrovic has attended as an expert witness, US soldiers openly admitted they had shot a 75-year-old man who had emerged unarmed from his house, but because the soldiers were following the rule to shoot all “military aged males,” neither they nor their officers were charged for that death.

In the second part of his interview with Truthout, Dr. Mestrovic examines the fallacious nature of the rules of engagement, Operation Iron Triangle in Iraq, the rampant nature of atrocities in the US military today, and the possibility of a solution. In Operation Iron Triangle, Iraqi detainees were murdered by US soldiers under the command of a legendary American colonel, Michael Steele. On May 9, 2006, American soldiers executed three unarmed men they had captured in an operation in the so-called Sunni Triangle in Iraq. Several of these soldiers were court-martialed and imprisoned, but some within the military say that responsibility ultimately lies with Colonel Steele.)

Truthout: What are your thoughts about the “Rules of Engagement?” How are these brought into being? Are they truly expected to work in the field? Given that they are clearly not working, why is that?

Dr. Mestrovic:There is insufficient information to answer the first question at the present time. The creation and actual wording of the written ROE are shrouded in secrecy. At the courts-martial of the accused soldiers in the Operation Iron Triangle killings, the government forbade the introduction of the actual, written ROE into testimony. It only allowed verbal testimony as to what the soldiers heard as to the ROE. The soldiers testified that the order was “to kill every military-aged male.” The brigade commander who apparently issued the order, Col. Michael D. Steele, refused and still refuses to testify and to be cross-examined, so that the question you are asking may never be answered. Presumably, he would know how the ROE are and were brought into being.

Are these ROE expected to work in the field? Again, there does not exist sufficient public information as to what commanders and Pentagon officials believe with regard to this and similar ROE in theory. But I can give you an answer that is concrete and specific to this case. On November 5, 2009, Col. Nathaniel Johnson testified at William Hunsaker’s clemency hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. Hunsaker is one of the convicted soldiers from the Operation Iron Triangle case. Colonel Johnson was one of Colonel Steele’s battalion commanders, and was the “convening authority” who sets the courts-martial into motion. I was an eyewitness to Colonel Johnson’s mesmerizing testimony. He testified that Colonel Steele had created a “toxic command climate” by constantly threatening to remove any of his subordinates, from battalion commanders to first sergeants, who disagreed or questioned his orders. Johnson gave the example that when Steele told the soldiers, “We do not give warning shots,” he would tell his men, “We do give warning shots.” These simmering discrepancies and discontent among the commanders clearly confused the soldiers.

Obviously, in the field, the soldiers encounter many problems in carrying out this ROE. What if the alleged target is holding a child or hiding behind women? In fact, such tactics are so common among the targets that the Army refers to them as a “tactical training point,” namely, that insurgents use human shields to avoid being killed. What should a soldier do in that situation? Do they give warning shots? Do they shoot to wound? Do they take prisoners? Do they carry out the order regardless of consequences? Common sense suggests that the soldier cannot be expected to act as a legal scholar in the heat of battle and debate or discuss what he should do. It is an open question how often situations like this arise in combat. But what I do know is that Colonel Johnson testified that the soldiers were confused, and he recommended that Hunsaker’s sentence be reduced to time served and upgraded to a general discharge so that he could use VA benefits to get treated for PTSD. The clemency board ignored his recommendation and offered no clemency or explanation.

These ROE do not work for the straightforward reason that the “targets” are not abstractions but are human beings who associate with women, children and civilians who are not targets. Therefore, one can rarely “take out the target” without also “taking out” innocent civilians. Moreover, the targets are pre-designated based upon “intelligence.” But in all the cases on which I have worked, I have found that the so-called intelligence was grossly inaccurate. In the Abu Ghraib cases, the government now admits that 90 percent of the detainees were not terrorists or insurgents and were not a threat to Americans. In the Operation Iron Triangle case, the government never determined whether the “targets” were real “bad guys” or just innocent farmers. Who are these secret “sources” that have the power to pre-designate targets for execution? Next to nothing is known about them or the process of using such “intelligence.” What is clear is that the local populations in Iraq and Afghanistan come to hate Americans when innocents are killed by mistake on missions of this sort.

But again, the Army is not a democratic society, so I do not foresee seminars, discussions or public airing of these important issues. These issues are covered up for the most part, and emerge – only partially – through the window into Army society that is offered through the court-martial process. On the other hand, the US is a democratic society and the public has a right to know the ROE that are being carried out in its name.

Truthout: What did you find in your research about Operation Iron Triangle that led to that atrocity?

Dr. Mestrovic: Well, that’s the problem: the killings were apparently routine and were not regarded as an atrocity. Soldiers told me that they were routinely sent out on missions to kill designated “targets.” Their graphic descriptions included finding a shopkeeper and killing him in front of his wife and children. The court transcripts also refer to testimony of “kill-kill” orders, which apparently mean that the target does not have the option to surrender (which would be a “kill-capture” order). In effect, a lot of the missions seem to amount to the “execution squads” that Vice President Cheney mentioned while he was in office. So, in the eyes of the Army, government and soldiers, missions of this sort were not considered “atrocities.”

What made this one episode of Operation Iron Triangle different does not seem to lie in the acts that were committed. As court documents show, at the same time that these particular soldiers who went to prison were carrying out their mission, a different platoon was carrying out a similar mission on another part of the island. The platoon leader, Lieutenant Horne, is quoted as ordering his soldiers, “Kill them all.” Nobody was prosecuted for any of these other killings on the mission.

So the question becomes, why were Hunsaker, Clagett and Girouard prosecuted and sent to prison? Part of the answer lies in the prosecutor’s opening and closing statements. Apparently, the Army wants to send a “message” to the world that it is better than the enemy. And it seems that one way it does this is to periodically send some of its soldiers to prison as a way of making the statement that it does not tolerate war crimes, even though the routine kill-kill orders may be construed as being war crimes. In other words, this particular case, and some related murder cases, appear to be politically motivated, and the soldiers who are picked for prosecution appear to be random, and are definitely treated as expendable by the Army.

In a similar case of killings that CNN dubbed the “Baghdad Canal Killings,” (hyperlink “Baghdad Canal Killings” with HYPERLINK “http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/11/17/army.tapes.canal.killings/index.html” http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/11/17/army.tapes.canal.killings/index.html) it is well-known that the entire platoon participated in the killings, although only three were prosecuted. One of the soldiers, Joshua Hartson, admitted to CNN that he thinks he should have been sent to prison as well, but instead, the government granted immunity from prosecution to him and some of his comrades to testify against the soldiers who were chosen for prosecution.

It is important to note that in all these cases, scores of “atrocities” are included in the court records but were never prosecuted. The real atrocities at Abu Ghraib occurred in the interrogation rooms at the hands of intelligence personnel, and some detainees were murdered, but the government went out of its way to exclude these events from the courts-martial. In every case I have studied, sworn statements report scores of atrocities similar to the ones prosecuted, but again, all references to these other events are excluded from evidence. There appears to be a definite, politically motivated, “social construction” of reality to issues pertaining to how acts are defined, prosecuted or ignored as “atrocities” and war crimes.

Truthout: How rampant do you believe instances like this are, in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

Dr. Mestrovic: Even though no one has access to the secret ROE or the secret ways in which they are devised, it is clear that ROE similar to the ones used at Operation Iron Triangle are still being used, including in Afghanistan. Numerous news stories report that the government is currently using drones to kill pre-designated human targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan based upon “intelligence.” These news stories also routinely report that women, children, and civilians are often killed in the process. The mechanical drones are used exactly the same way as human soldiers are used: to carry out the same ROE that applied to Operation Iron Triangle. Incidentally, news stories suggest that the drone operators who execute these missions while sitting in remote control areas in the US are developing PTSD rates faster than the soldiers who actually engage in battle.

It seems to be the case that we are supposed to be mesmerized by the “postmodern” technology that leads to the use of “simulacra” soldiers and missions. The “target” becomes an image on a screen. But real human beings are carrying out the same ROE, whether in face-to-face confrontations or “simulacra” remote control engagements. And the human toll on both the soldiers and the civilian populations is not “simulacra,” but is very real.

Truthout: What would need to happen in the Army in order for soldiers to behave more along the lines of international law whilst abroad?

Dr. Mestrovic: The most important thing would be for the government to decide to adhere to international law, and the soldiers would follow orders. In any case, the low-ranking soldiers always follow orders. It really comes down to following the letter as well as the spirit of the Nuremberg Principles. In his opening remarks at the Nuremberg Trials, chief US prosecutor Robert Jackson said: “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.” I put emphasis on Jackson’s phrase, “common sense.” Even though he was a lawyer, he did not refer to the law, which often uses law-speak to justify such crimes. He referred to “common sense,” which resonates with usages of this term by pragmatist philosophers (William James, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead). In other words, everyone knows that it is wrong to kill people who do not show an active hostile intent, no matter how one justifies such acts legally. The “little people” to whom Jackson refers are, in this case, the low-ranking soldiers who were sent to Fort Leavenworth for carrying out the orders of many civilian and military commanders above them in the chain of command. It is a fact that not a single commissioned officer has ever been prosecuted for all the war crimes in the current war, from Abu Ghraib to Operation Iron Triangle. In a complete reversal of Nuremberg Principles, the government prosecutes and imprisons only the “little people” or low-ranking soldiers.

Jackson also specifically referred to the “men of station and rank who do not soil their own hands with blood” as the ones who should be prosecuted for war crimes. I do not foresee a day when the US will prosecute its colonels, generals or high-ranking civilian officials for establishing the policies and ROE that result in atrocities. There is simply no precedent for such a move in the US in the past century. The last time the US prosecuted a high-ranking officer for atrocities committed by his soldiers was in 1860, when it hung the commander of the infamous Andersonville Prison, in which Union soldiers were systematically exterminated by Confederate soldiers. But in other similar historical incidents, the government went out of its way to protect its “men of station and rank.” For example, the Biscari Massacre of 1943 was most likely the result of Gen. George Patton’s speech in which he told his soldiers to take no prisoners and to show no mercy. (In fact, General Patton’s and Colonel Steele’s speeches to their troops are very similar.) But Patton was not indicted, while a Sergeant West was given a life sentence and a Captain Compton was acquitted on the grounds that he was following Patton’s orders. Similarly, many historians believe that Lieutenant Calley was made to be a scapegoat for the “search and destroy” policies that led to My Lai.

In general, and despite its democratic base, the US does not resort to the established doctrine of command responsibility to prosecute “men of station and rank” whose orders result in atrocities. Again, this is not merely a military or legal issue, but a wider, cultural issue. In the recent Wall Street meltdown, the “robber barons” (as Thorstein Veblen called them) who caused the current economic crisis have escaped responsibility, and are rewarding themselves with bonuses. Meanwhile, many average Americans are losing homes, businesses and futures due to the errors in judgment made by the robber barons. The government bailed out the Wall Street firms, but not the average American in economic trouble. A similar principle seems to operate in today’s Army. Colonel Steele, whose ROE resulted in the Operation Iron Triangle tragedy, will no doubt retire with all his benefits intact. Meanwhile, the low-ranking soldiers who carried out his orders are languishing in prison. This American, cultural discrepancy between elitism and democracy has already been explored by sociologists such as C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite and White Collar.” But without some great cultural awakening, it does not seem that this strange feature of American culture will change anytime soon.

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False Profits…

Posted by Admin on February 8, 2010

False Profits

Sunday 07 February 2010

by: Leslie Thatcher, t r u t h o u t | Book Review

photo

The Neo-Cons

False Profits: Recovering From the Bubble Economy

By Dean Baker

PoliPoint Press, 2010

He who feels punctured must once have been a bubble.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 6th century BCE

As the nation struggled to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the people who got us here are desperately working to rewrite history. The basic story of this economic collapse is very simple. The Federal Reserve Board, guided by its revered chairman, Alan Greenspan, allowed an $8 trillion housing bubble to grow unchecked.

– Dean Baker’s “False Profits”

The delicious double-entendre of Dean Baker’s most recent title is enhanced by the book’s cover photo of a trio of false prophets, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and Henry (Hank) Paulson, all of whom are thoroughly excoriated within the book’s pages for their responsibility in feeding, prolonging, misdiagnosing and incorrectly responding to the 2007-2009 financial meltdown and the associated economic collapse. However, the book also chronicles the loss of $8 trillion of housing “wealth,” $1.4 trillion in annual demand, whatever financial security the vast majority of baby-boomers ever had, “increases” in homeownership rates and any other widespread economic gains associated to the post-2000 period. Truthout has published Dean Baker’s columns about net job losses for 2000-2010, a decade that also saw a 26 percent drop in the stock market, the elimination of the $236 billion federal budget surplus President Bush inherited and its transformation into a record deficit and the overall deliquescence of any societal and most people’s personal economic “profits.”

While most of us find ourselves economically worse off after the last ten years, some have done extremely well and most of those who bear the burden of responsibility for the American economic catastrophe have suffered no consequences whatsoever: financial, social or professional. Writing about Bernanke specifically, Baker’s remarks are equally apposite to other titans of finance, central banking and the financial regulatory regimes:

It would difficult to imagine someone with a comparable record of disastrous failures being allowed to remain in most jobs. Would a nurse who routinely administers the wrong medicine and causes his patients to die be allowed to keep his job? Would a bank teller who leaves the cash drawer open remain in her position? How about the school bus driver who comes drunk to work?

In most lines of work, a certain level of competence is expected. Unfortunately, this is not the case for those who set US economic policy.

Baker places the burden of blame on regulators and the political establishment because they utterly perverted their mission:

Progressives do conservatives’ bidding when we denounce them as “market fundamentalists.” We should, instead, be exposing their use of government to set up structures that ensure the market works to benefit the wealthy. We could then bring our policies into focus as those designed to ensure that market outcomes will benefit the bulk of the population.

The market is just a tool, like a wheel or a hammer. It would be bad politics and bad policy for progressives to make a big scene attacking the wheel. It is similarly bad politics and bad policy to put these attacks on the market at the center of a political agenda.

Baker never attacks the wheel; instead he demonstrates how it was deliberately allowed to run wild. As Baker himself warned as early as summer 2002, all indicators pointed to the rise in housing prices as a classic bubble, divorced from any tether in reality, yet the regulators, media and most mainstream economists kept pumping hot air into that bubble. Further, Dean Baker exposes the pathetic excuses that the regulators did not have the necessary tools to put on the brakes for the self-serving and specious rationalizations they are. Ever debunking the myth that somehow it was the “free” market at work, he relentlessly exposes how regulation, regulatory bodies and the public officials charged with supervising the financial industry have used their power to favor a narrow swathe of private interests over the public good. And, as always, Baker highlights what alternatives were and are available to turn that equation around. Baker’s relentless exposé of what is actually subsidized and who profits from specific policies, how wealth is transferred and how all this activity is disguised fuels his narrative with “true prophet” power.

“False Profits” combines impeccable scholarship – assembling an array of relevant facts and data totally accessible to non-economists – with Baker’s acerbic, but unforced, wit and verve. His iconoclasm constantly renews its sources and consistently targets those “false prophets” in all sectors who contribute to misleading the American people. Baker is the journalists’ economist, the reality-based economist: whatever other case he may be making, he invariably demonstrates why correct and timely information and clear understanding are essential to economic problem-solving, as well as how “fudges” harm everyone.

The book’s structure begins by a backward look, an analysis of precisely how we reached the present situation and what our present situation actually is (in chapters, “Economic Collapse: It Is Their Fault,” “Surveying the Damage” and “The Terrible Tale of the TARP”), then pivots on an exposition of why correct diagnosis and analysis are so crucial (“Will They Ever Discover the Housing Bubble?”), develops the case he has presented with three chapters of prescription (“Stimulus: It Is Just Spending,” “Real Stimulus: Programs to Boost the Economy” and “Reforming the Financial System”) and concludes with a resounding final call for accountability (“Remember the Housing Bubble”).

Unfortunately, recent events – the absence of any effective policy to slow down foreclosures; the most probably ineffective and unquestionably inadequate stimulus measures in the just-presented budget; financial services regulatory proposals that do not address the causes for regulatory failure – suggest that the present administration is only slightly more willing to learn from Dean Baker’s acute analyses than was its predecessor. And Ben Bernanke’s reconfirmation as Fed chairman is just the most recent and flagrant sign that the administration has no intention of investigating, let alone punishing, the regulatory – and individual regulators’ – blunders that led to the present pass.

Economics is a science of human behavior. It rests on the observation that people respond to incentives. Consequently, Baker’s apparently political argument that there must be consequences for the failures of judgment and action that resulted in the economic meltdown is a quintessentially economic one. With no disincentives for failure and the ever-present incentives for complicity offered by the industry that has captured them, regulators will continue to fail the whipping boy who pays for their transgressions – us.

1. Dean Baker, “False Profits,” p.5.

2. OpCit. p.9.

3. Read the book for the argument, but the unequivocal conclusion is, “The regulators – first and foremost the Fed – had all the tools necessary to combat the bubble. They chose not to.” (p.153)

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Leslie Thatcher is Truthout’s French Language Editor and sometime book reviewer.

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Chapter Four: Extraordinary Experiences

Posted by Admin on February 5, 2010

Chapter Four

Extraordinary Experiences

Much has been made over Tesla’s amazing ability to visualize images from his mind. This talent came mostly involuntarily and often at inopportune moments. When he was younger, Tesla worried that he was suffering from some sort of madness when his visions would appear. Later he came to realize that this particular trait was a gift and the basis of all his inventions.

Tesla’s visions were so vivid that he was sometimes unsure of what was real and what imaginary. Strong flashes of light often accompanied these images. He would wave his hand in front of his eyes to determine whether the objects were simply in his mind or outside.

In 1919, Tesla wrote of these images and of his efforts to find an explanation for them. He had consulted with several doctors and psychologists, but no one was able to help.

“The theory I have formulated is that the images were the result of a reflex action from the brain on the retina under great excitation. They certainly were not hallucinations, for in other respects I was normal and composed.

“To give and idea of my distress, suppose that I had witnessed a funeral or some such nerve wracking spectacle. Then, inevitably, in the stillness of the night, a vivid picture of the scene would thrust itself before my eyes and persist despite all my efforts to banish it. Sometimes it would even remain fixed in space though I pushed my hand through it.”

It is well known that Tesla’s conception of his AC (alternating current) motor came to him during one of his visions.

“One afternoon … I was enjoying a walk with my friend in the city park and reciting poetry. At that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethes Faust. The sun was just setting and reminded me of a glorious passage: The glow retreats, done is the day of toil; It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring; Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil Upon its tract to follow, follow soaring!

“As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightning and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand the diagram shown six years later in my address before the American institute of Electrical Engineers.

“The images were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal. ‘See my motor here; watch me reverse it.'”

Tesla used his incredible power throughout his amazing career. He disliked drawing his conceptions down onto paper because they lacked the reality that Tesla’s internal drawing board could provide. For Tesla, drawing was utterly unrealistic and a nuisance.

Read the rest of this entry »

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In 2010 expect the unexpected

Posted by Admin on January 16, 2010

pal

Expect the Unexpected!

January 15th, 2010  A.D

Question: I’ve received many emails from readers asking why haven’t you addressed the 2012 issue yet?

Beloved Brothers and Sisters of Earth, we of the Higher Realms are in great joy witnessing the new Gaia being born.  This is the first time a whole planet attempt to duplicate itself into a higher plane of existence in your solar system. The duplication is the first step on Gaia’s ascension process, and although is not complete yet, we believe it will be accomplished soon. The second step is the separation of the two planets; this step could be compared to cell reproduction. In the case of cells, the process is Mitosis, and the original cell divides itself into two complete new cells that are identical to the original one. In Gaia’s case the process is more like Meiosis, being the cells created by this process not identical to the original cells. In your density this is apply especially to females’ bodies.

The duplication process of a whole planet takes around 9 of your years to complete, while the separation will occur in a split second. At the end of the Galactic cycle, Gaia will have a very short period of time during which the separation must occur. Once this process is completed, the new Gaia will exist in 5th density, while the old Gaia will remain in 3rd density. That is why there is so much confusion about what is going to happen in the year 2012. Some individuals say catastrophe, some say ascension, and others say nothing will happen. And they are all right.

The year 2012 cannot be understood if observed only from the third-density point of view, because in fact it is a multi-dimensional/galactic alignment happening at all consciousness levels, from where the spreading of a stream of electrons, protons, etc will occur, due to their mutual electrostatic repulsion. The total amount of flux spreading is an infinite volume at any point of the vector field, and its manifestation/result is determinate by the net flow of consciousness in a given region of the vector field.

This means that there will be many different outcomes from the same event. Everything depends of the vibratory rate of your consciousness, meaning every individual will experience a different outcome.

Some will experience catastrophe, some will experience ascension, and others will experience nothing at all. Two individuals will experience the same outcome only when their consciousness vibrates at the same rate, because when two individuals focus their awareness on the same part of the consciousness’ energetic spectrum, they become contemporaries, they are no longer separate by the illusion of space and time.

To understand this concept, first you have to understand that you are a multi-dimensional being living simultaneously in thousands of superimposed parallel planes of existence.

Many of you are able to sense this, but many think they have one ‘main-self’ (the one who is reading right now) and all the ‘other-selves’ are less real. When in fact your consciousness is equally distributed in all your-selves, making all of them your ‘main-self’.

With every single decision you make, you redirect your awareness into one of your thousands-self. When this happens, you don’t feel anything at all, but you –literarily- have moved into another world. Everything will look as it was ten minutes ago, you will be living in the same house, married to the same person, working at the same place, etc. but from a vibrational point of view, all that things are totally new, since you are now living in a new world.

The superimposed parallel universes model was designed by the Creator with the purpose of enriching your soul experience, now it is up to your free will to decide which one of yourselves will attend the 2012 shift with full awareness.

For example, you and your neighbor will not have the same experience. Each of you will continue living in different Earths. All those who do not have the same vibratory rate than you, will simply vanish from your reality. That is why most of the ‘mass predictions’ made lately do not happen, because a prediction is made at a specific point in the vector field, where the predictor awareness is integrated with his/her consciousness, but a second later he/she, and most important, you have shifted your awareness into another-self, and now you are living in another parallel timeline, where the predicted outcome will not occur.

Your awareness is what determinates in which timeline you exist right now, and your beliefs is what fix the awareness in certain portion of the timeline.

If you believe that the year 2012 marks the end of humankind, then you will experience some kind of ending. On the other hand, if you believe that in 2012 the ascension harvest will begin, then you will experience some kind of beginning.

Remember, your thought-pattern creates feelings, your feelings creates emotions, and your emotions create your reality.

Question: You have mention many times that we must leave fear behind, a reader from Australia asked: How to substitute Fear for Love?

Love is a gift from the beyond and exists beyond duality. There is no way to substitute one for the other; this has to be understood deeply. Fear and Love are not two different things; they are different qualities of the same energy. Fear is a negative aspect of Love. If the highest vibrations of the primal energy do not flow through your energetic field, that energy becomes Fear. If the higher part of the frequency spectrum is allowed to flow, Fear disappears and Love remains.

The idea of Fear and Love being two different things has been rooted in the collective mind throughout the ages with the only purpose of turning humanity into slavery, because an individual cannot be reduced to slavery if he/she understands that Fear and Love are the same energy and all depends on which part of the spectrum he/she focus the attention.Because when two individuals focus on the same part of the energetic spectrum, they are no longer separate, they are one. Love vibrations help you to dissolve with others.

Question: You have mentioned that our DNA is being activated through beams of high vibratory energy pouring down onto Earth, a reader from France would like to know how many of the 12 DNA strands can be activated at the present state of human consciousness?

Third-density human beings are potentially able to activate countless DNA strands, however, at the present moment in human evolution there is 144 main strands that need to be active in order to wakeup your full human potential. The Great Divine Director and the Council of Lords of Karma has set the number of strands needed at this specific point in the evolutionary line to 144. In addition to these 144 strands, there is an upgrade package of 144000 ‘galactic’ DNA strands available at the moment.

Question: A reader from Russia asked:  The further I am in the spiritual path, the more insecure I feel, what am I doing wrong?

You are doing nothing wrong, simply you can sense that real security does not exist. Security means nothing but complacency to the circumstances of your reality. It is merely an ideal implanted in your mind to fool you into fearing the unknown. Because if you remain in the known there is no growth. When you enter the unknown and embrace the uncertainty, you would have taken a quantum leap in opening the doors to your real self and your part in the Devine Plan.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters of Earth, you are living in amazing times!

The energies pouring down into Earth are increasing significantly each new day, the newborn babies’ DNA contains genetic information never seen on Earth before, and your scientists can confirm the presence of a new active DNA strand in many newborns. Your skies are full of ‘lights’ seeing by thousands on a daily bases. The collective consciousness is creating new connections between individuals belonging to the same ‘soul group’, regardless the physical distance between them. Telepathic abilities are now available to almost everyone. Your energetic body started to remember its potential and is activating its auto-healing capacities.

More and more individuals understand that they have a life-contract to fulfill, and are changing their attitude towards life, changing the very world in which they exist. Many, many have come out of their conditioning, and can see total freedom just few steps away. The majority of your collective is dropping all fixed ideas from the past, and a new paradigm is being born.

The idea of separation between individuals of your collective is fading faster than you can imagine, your souls started to remember that separation only exists on the surface, and deep down you (we) are all one.The cycle of limitation is coming to an end.

Amazing times for Mankind indeed!

But the new opportunities bring new responsibilities. Just look around, whatever you have been doing, now it seems it is not enough.It is time to bring in something new, a new start in the journey, a new beginning.You have been preparing through many lives for this moment, do not miss it.

It is time for deliberated co-creation of your future. The secret of co-creation of a whole new reality is simply to break down big goals into series of little ones. With every little achievement, the ultimate goal will come closer.Be a person of action, only action oriented individuals make things happen. Do not wait until tomorrow. Today is a good day to start.

Start by trusting in yourself, in your potential, in your connection with All That Is, and in your utterly irreplaceable part in the Divine Plan. When you trust in yourself wholeheartedly your awareness will guide you on living a life that is honorable and meaningful!

I AM Emmanuel

©2009 Langa http://www.emmanuelmessages.com

Permission is granted to copy and share this information only in its entirety, including this copyright notice and without altering content information.

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666 to 1: The US Military, Al-Qaeda and a War of Futility

Posted by Admin on January 15, 2010

666 to 1: The US Military, Al-Qaeda and a War of Futility

Thursday 14 January 2010

by: Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt  |  TomDispatch.com

In his book on World War II in the Pacific, War Without Mercy, John Dower tells an extraordinary tale about the changing American image of the Japanese fighting man. In the period before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was well accepted in military and political circles that the Japanese were inferior fighters on the land, in the air, and at sea — “little men,” in the phrase of the moment. It was a commonplace of “expert” opinion, for instance, that the Japanese had supposedly congenital nearsightedness and certain inner-ear defects, while lacking individualism, making it hard to show initiative. In battle, the result was poor pilots in Japanese-made (and so inferior) planes, who could not fly effectively at night or launch successful attacks.

In the wake of their precision assault on Pearl Harbor, their wiping out of U.S. air power in the Philippines in the first moments of the war, and a sweeping set of other victories, the Japanese suddenly went from “little men” to supermen in the American imagination (without ever passing through a human phase). They became “invincible” — natural-born jungle- and night-fighters, as well as “utterly ruthless, utterly cruel and utterly blind to any of the values which make up our civilization.”

Sound familiar? It should. Following September 11, 2001, news headlines screamed “A NEW DAY OF INFAMY,” and the attacks were instantly labeled “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.” Soon enough, al-Qaeda, like the Japanese in 1941, went from a distant threat — the Bush administration, on coming into office, paid next to no attention to al-Qaeda’s possible plans — to a team of arch-villains with little short of superpowers. After all, they had already destroyed some of the mightiest buildings on the planet, were known to be on the verge of seizing weapons of mass destruction, and, if nothing was done, might soon enough turn the Muslim world into their “caliphate.”

Al-Qaeda was suddenly an organization against which you wouldn’t launch anything less than the full strength of the armed forces of the world’s “sole superpower.” To a surprising extent, they are still dealt with this way. You can feel it, for instance, in the recent 24/7 panic over the thoroughly inept underwear bomber and the sudden threat of a few hundred self-proclaimed al-Qaeda members in Yemen. You can feel it in the ramping up of the Af-Pak War. You can hear it in the “debate” over moving al-Qaeda detainees from Guantanamo to U.S. maximum security prisons. The way some politicians talk, you might think those detainees were all Lex Luthors and Magnetos, super-villains incapable of being held by any prison, just like the almost magically impossible-to-find Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in the wild borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Because most Americans have never dealt with or thought of al-Qaeda as a group made up of actual human beings or accepted that, for every televisually striking success, they have an operation (or several) that go bust, the U.S. can’t begin to imagine what it’s actually up against. The current president, like the last one, claims that we are “at war.” If so, it’s a war of one, since al-Qaeda and the U.S. military are essentially not in the same war-fighting universe, which helps explain why repeatedly knocking off significant punortions of al-Qaeda’s leadership (even if never finding bin Laden and Zawahiri) doesn’t seem to end the threat.

But let’s stop here and try, for a moment, to imagine these two enemies side by side in the same universe of war. What, in that case, would the line-up of forces look like?

Assessing al-Qaeda’s “Troops”

According to U.S. intelligence estimates, there are currently about 100 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, as well as “several hundred” in Pakistan and, so the latest reports tell us, a similar number in Yemen. Members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania) and those based in Somalia undoubtedly fall into the same category at several hundred each. According to authorities from the Iraq Study Group to the U.S. State Department, even at the height of the insurgency and civil war in Iraq, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia never had more than 1,300-4,000 active fighters. Today, it is believed to consist only of “small, roving cells.”

Combined, these groups — think of them as al-Qaeda’s shock troops — add up to perhaps 2,100 fighters, about one-fifth the number of U.S. troops now based in Italy. As the 9/11 attacks, the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and the failure to disrupt the underwear-bomber’s plot indicate, U.S. intelligence has long been flying blind, but even if al-Qaeda turned out to have sleeper cells with 300 additional committed members in every nation on Earth, its clandestine operatives would only moderately exceed the number of U.S. forces now based in Germany.

Al-Qaeda does, of course, have some “training camps” in the backlands of countries like Yemen, and it has civilian supporters, financiers, and other scattered allies. Over the years, and sometimes with good reason, Washington has lumped Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan with al-Qaeda and counted various militant groups, including Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamic rebels, as al-Qaeda affiliates. Add such fighters in and you would swell these numbers by many thousands.

Additionally, al-Qaeda has an arsenal of weaponry. Members have access to rocket-propelled grenades, small arms of various sorts, the materials for making deadly roadside bombs, car bombs, and of course underwear bombs.

Assessing America’s Troops

U.S. efforts to crush al-Qaeda have certainly not failed for lack of resources. The U.S. military has spent about one trillion dollars on its post-9/11 wars so far. It has an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, and a Marine Corps which, like the Navy, has its very own air force. It possesses trillions of dollars in weapons, materiel, and other assets. It can mobilize spy satellites, advanced fighter planes and bombers, high-tech drones and helicopters, fleets of trucks, tanks, and other armored vehicles. It has advanced missiles and smart bombs, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and state-of-the-art ships in all shapes and sizes.

It also has incredibly well-trained special operations forces — almost 56,000 elite troops, including Army Rangers and Special Forces, Navy SEALs and Special Boat Teams, Air Force Special Tactics Teams, and Marine Corps Special Operations Battalions, armed with incredibly advanced weaponry. It has military academies that churn out highly-educated officers and specialized training camps, schools, and universities. It has more than half-a-million buildings and structures on more than 800 bases sitting on millions of acres of prime real estate scattered around the world, including in or near lands where various branches of al-Qaeda operate.

In addition, the U.S. military has manpower — lots of it. All told, the United States has approximately 1.4 million active duty men and women under arms and another 1.3 million reserve personnel. It employs more than 700,000 civilians in support roles — from stocking shelves and serving food at stateside bases to assisting in intelligence analysis in war zones — and utilizes untold tens of thousands of private security hired-guns and various other kinds of private contractors all around the globe. These numbers would be further swelled by intelligence agents who aid military efforts, including 100,000 members of the civilian intelligence community. And then there are the allies the U.S. can draw on ranging, in Afghanistan alone, from the Afghan army and police to tens of thousands of NATO and other foreign allied troops from more than 40 countries.

Comparing the Sides: The Mark of the Beast or the Mark of Futility?

Even excluding from the U.S. side of the equation all those U.S. reserves, Defense Department civilians, intelligence operatives and analysts, private contractors and allies of various sorts, if you compare the two enemies in the current “war,” you still end up with either the Mark of the Beast or a marker for futility.

The active duty U.S. military alone enjoys a 666:1 advantage over the estimated number of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, and Somalia. Adding in the reserves, the ratio jumps to an embarrassingly-high 1,286:1. Even if you were to factor in those hordes of nonexistent al-Qaeda sleeper agents, 300 each for 195 countries from Australia to Vatican City, the U.S. military would still enjoy a 23:1 advantage (or 45:1 if you included the reserves, now regularly sent into war zones on multiple tours of duty).

In sum, after the better part of a decade of conflict, the United States has spent trillions of taxpayer dollars on bullets and bombs, soldiers and drones. It has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have yet to end, launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, dispatched Special Ops troops to those nations and others, like the Philippines, and built or expanded hundreds of new bases all over the world. Yet Osama bin Laden remains at large and al-Qaeda continues to target and kill Americans.

Open-Source al-Qaeda

Founded in 1988, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda formally issued a “declaration of war” on the United States in 1996, primarily over the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. While Washington has been hunting bin Laden and al-Qaeda since the mid-1990s, a post-9/11 Congressional resolution authorized the president to use force against that group and the Taliban. Ever since, the Pentagon has been waging one of the most ineffective campaigns of modern times in an effort to destroy it.

During these years, President George W. Bush declared himself a “war president” heading a country “at war” and living in “wartime.” In a milder way, President Obama has repeatedly declared the U.S. to be “at war” and, as in his surge speech at West Point in December, has identified the main enemy in that war as al-Qaeda. In the process, the U.S. military has unleashed tremendous destructive power on parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia causing the deaths of al-Qaeda fighters, non-Qaeda militants, and innocent civilians. Thousands of its own troops have died and tens of thousands have been wounded in the process, not to mention the losses to allied forces.

In these years, new al-Qaeda “affiliates” like al-Qaeda in Iraq/Mesopotamia have nonetheless sprung to life regularly and, as in Yemen, have even been officially crushed, only to be reborn. These groups have often made up their own “al-Qaeda” membership requirements, and focused on their own chosen targets. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda wannabes and look-alikes have proliferated and the organization (or those sympathetic to it or praising it) has reportedly spurred further attacks in the U.S. and encouraged men from New York to California, Nigeria to Jordan, to join the movement, and then work, fight, kill, and die for it, sometimes in attacks on Americans.

Al-Qaeda has no tanks, Humvees, nuclear submarines, or aircraft carriers, no fleets of attack helicopters or fighter jets. Al-Qaeda has never launched a spy satellite and isn’t developing advanced drone technology (although it may be hacking into U.S. video feeds). Al-Qaeda specializes in low-budget operations ranging from the incredibly deadly to the incredibly ineffectual — from murderous car bombs and airplanes-used-as-missiles to faulty shoe- and underwear-explosives.

Of course, comparisons of the strengths of the U.S. military and al-Qaeda “at war” would be absurd, if it weren’t for the fact that the United States actually went to war against such a group. It was a decision about as effective as firing a machine gun at a swarm of gnats. Some may die, but the process is visibly self-defeating.

In the present War on Terror, called by whatever name (or, as at present, by no name at all), the two “sides” might as well be in different worlds. After all, al-Qaeda today isn’t even an organization in the normal sense of the term, no less a fighting bureaucracy. It is a loose collection of ideas and a looser collection of individuals waging open-source warfare.

You don’t sign up for al-Qaeda the way you would for the U.S. Army. If you and two friends are sitting around a table in some country and you’re angry, alienated, and dissatisfied with the state of the world, you can simply claim to adhere to the basic ideas of Osama bin Laden and declare yourself al-Qaeda in [fill in the blank]. Who then gets into your organization and how you link up, if at all, with other “al-Qaedas” is up to you.

That’s why groups like al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia are always referred to in the press as “homegrown.” What you have, then, in this post-War-on-Terror war is a massive global military force aided and abetted by allied troops, “native” forces, and all sorts of corporate contractors facing off against something fluid and “homegrown,” fierce but strangely undefined, constantly morphing and shape-shifting. Every one of its “members” could be destroyed without the “enemy” being destroyed, because the enemy is a set of ideas, however extreme or strange to most Americans.

The Pentagon, with its giant bureaucracy and its miles of offices and corridors, is the headquarters of the U.S. war effort, but there is no central al-Qaeda headquarters, not in Afghanistan or Pakistan — not anywhere. There is probably no longer even an “al-Qaeda central.” Osama bin Laden has vanished or, for all we know, may be dead. Think of it, at best, as an open-source organization that is remarkably capable of replicating by a process of self-franchising.

Isn’t it time, then, to stop imagining al-Qaeda as a complex organization of terrorist supermen capable of committing super-deeds, or as an organization that bears any resemblance to a traditional enemy military force? With al-Qaeda, the path of war has undoubtedly been the road to perdition — as we should have discovered by now, more than one trillion dollars later.

When this “war” began, George W. Bush and his followers, like Osama bin Laden and his followers, were eager to proclaim future “victory” and to say with bravado to the other side: “Bring ’em on!” The word “victory” has long since fled Washington’s lips, along with boasts that the U.S. is a new Rome.

So far, no matter how many of its operatives may be dead, “victory” remains on the lips of those calling themselves al-Qaeda-in-anywhere. After all, they did get Washington to “bring ’em on” and the results have been disastrous and draining for the United States. The U.S. military has killed many al-Qaeda operatives, but it cannot annihilate its appeal by “surging” in Afghanistan and making war, with all the civilian destruction involved, in Muslim lands.

It’s time to put al-Qaeda back in perspective — a human perspective, which would include its stunning successes, its dismal failures, and its monumental goof-ups, as well as its unrealizable dreams. (No, Virginia, there will never be an al-Qaeda caliphate in or across the Greater Middle East.) The fact is: al-Qaeda is not an apocalyptic threat. Its partisans can cause damage, but only Americans can bring down this country.

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