Category Archives: USA

UN Official Says Human Suffering in Yemen ‘Almost Incomprehensible’

Kanya D’Almeida reports for IPS News:

With a staggering four in five Yemenis now in need of immediate humanitarian aid, 1.5 million people displaced and a death toll that has surpassed 4,000 in just five months, a United Nations official told the Security Council on August 19 that the scale of human suffering is “almost incomprehensible”.

Briefing the 15-member body upon his return from the embattled Arab nation on Aug. 19, Under-Secretary-General for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien stressed that the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict and warned that unless warring parties came to the negotiating table there would soon be “nothing left to fight for”.

An August assessment report by Save the Children-Yemen on the humanitarian situation in the country of 26 million noted that over 21 million people, or 80 percent of the population, require urgent relief in the form of food, fuel, medicines, sanitation and shelter.

The health sector is on the verge of collapse, and the threat of famine looms large, with an estimated 12 million people facing “critical levels of food insecurity”, the organisation said.

In a sign of what O’Brien denounced as a blatant “disregard for human life” by all sides in the conflict, children have paid a heavy price for the fighting: 400 kids have lost their lives, while 600 of the estimated 22,000 wounded are children.

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Whose War in Yemen?

Daniel Larison writes for The American Conservative:

usa saudi arabia yemen flagsFor much of the past year, the country of Yemen in southern Arabia has been convulsed by civil war and foreign military intervention. Especially since the capture of the capital city, Sana’a, last September by a Zaydi Shi’ite militia called Ansar Allah—more commonly known as the Houthis—Yemen has been in political turmoil. Since then a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led military intervention has intensified the country’s civil strife and brought about a humanitarian catastrophe affecting more than 20 million civilians. Though most Americans may not realize it, the U.S. is helping to wage war on yet another country in Middle East and supporting a policy that is inflicting enormous suffering on an entire people. The effects of this reckless intervention will likely include the further empowerment of jihadist groups in Yemen, amplified resentment of U.S. interference in the region’s affairs, chronic political instability, and a massive loss of life from famine and disease.

Yet despite the central role of U.S. clients including Saudi Arabia and Egypt in prosecuting this war, and the intelligence and logistics support provided by the U.S. and Britain, the conflict in Yemen has received only sporadic coverage in Western media. The ill-advised U.S. role has gone mostly unnoticed here at home, and there has been no real debate about our involvement. By contrast, Yemenis are only too aware of U.S. support for the campaign that has wrecked their country.

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CIA Plans Huge Release of Top Secret Reports From the 1960s

Jeff Stein reports for Newsweek:

CIALogoThe Central Intelligence Agency is set to release 2,500 previously top secret briefings it gave to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s, a private pro-CIA group announced on Wednesday.

“The vast majority of the documents have never been previously released,” an informed official said, although a number of CIA presidential briefings have surfaced in heavily redacted form over the years. Intelligence officials from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations have also discussed their private conversations with the presidents in memoirs and other books.

The reports, customarily provided personally to the president each morning by a senior CIA officer, if not the director himself, will almost certainly show much of what the spy agency was telling Kennedy and Johnson about Vietnam, Cuba, the Soviet Union, China and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. They may well also include the CIA’s private assessments of world leaders.

But expectations should be low for the new materials, says Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Kai Bird. “I bet they are on the whole surprisingly dull [and only] occasionally insightful,” cautioned Bird, the author of a biography of McGeorge and William Bundy, brothers who held top national security posts in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

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Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted

Mark Mazzetti and Mark Apuzzo report for The New York Times:

Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a demonstration against Israeli military operations in Gaza, in downtown Srinagar on July 18, 2014. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.

The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said.

Fuller details of the claims were not available, including when the assessments were said to have been altered and who at Central Command, or Centcom, the analyst said was responsible. The officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity about classified matters, said that the recently opened investigation focused on whether military officials had changed the conclusions of draft intelligence assessments during a review process and then passed them on.”

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Why is Saudi Arabia Now Supporting the Iran Deal?

Undercover Police Have Regularly Spied On Black Lives Matter Activists in New York

George Joseph reports for The Intercept:

Documents obtained by The Intercept confirm that undercover police officers attended numerous Black Lives Matter protests in New York City between December 2014 and February 2015. The documents also show that police in New York have monitored activists, tracking their movements and keeping individual photos of them on file.

The nearly 300 documents, released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metro-North Railroad, reveal more on-the-ground surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists than previous reports have shown, conducted by a coalition of MTA counterterrorism agents and undercover police in conjunction with NYPD intelligence officers.

This appears to be the first documented proof of the frequent presence of undercover police at Black Lives Matter protests in the city of New York, though many activists have suspected their presence since mass protests erupted there last year over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.

The protest surveillance and use of undercover officers raises questions over whether New York-area law enforcement agencies are potentially criminalizing the exercise of free speech and treating activists like terrorist threats. Critics say the police files seem to document a response vastly disproportionate to the level of law breaking associated with the protests.

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The Planned Destruction of Libya

John Wright writes for CounterPunch:

With talks between various political factions in Libya beginning in Geneva with the objective of forging a unity government in a country best by chaos and lawlessness, the West’s role in this process must be questioned given its culpability in the country’s destabilization.

Out of the many examples of Western military interventions in recent times, none has been more grievous or disastrous than NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya, which only helped turn the country into a failed state.

Unleashed under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 – a UN mandate abused to effect the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli despite its official and stated objective of ‘protecting civilians’ – NATO’s intervention in the form of airstrikes did not result in the democratic society so gushingly anticipated by those responsible and their supporters. Instead it ushered in crisis and chaos as Libyan society promptly fragmented and broke down into the tribal, sectarian, and brutal internecine conflict that has turned a once functioning state and society into a dystopia into which ISIS has gained a foothold and been able to spread its malign influence. The result has been the usual barbaric ritual beheadings of ISIS prisoners, the persecution of women and minorities, and in June the slaughter of 37 tourists in Tunisia in a terrorist attack prepared and organized across the border in Libya.

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Snowden Documents Reveal AT&T’s “Extreme Willingness to Help” NSA Domestic Spy Program

John Oliver on Televangelists

Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] In the seventh year of Obama’s presidency, Guantánamo notoriously remains open, leaving one of his central vows unfulfilled. That, in turn, means that Democratic partisans have to scrounge around for excuses to justify this failure, to cast blame on someone other than the president, lest his legacy be besmirched. They long ago settled on the claim that blame (as always) lies not with Obama but with Congressional Republicans, who imposed a series of legal restrictions that impeded the camp’s closing.

As I’ve documented many times over the last several years, that excuse, while true as far as it goes, does not remotely prove that Obama sought to fulfill his pledge. That’s because Obama’s plans never included an end to what he himself constantly described as the camp’s defining evil: indefinite detention. To the contrary, he explicitly demanded the right to continue to imprison Guantánamo detainees without charges or trial –– exactly what made Guantánamo so evil in the first place — based on the hideous new phrase “cannot be tried but too dangerous to release.” Obama simply wanted to indefinitely imprison them somewhere else.

In other words, Obama never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to relocate it to a less symbolically upsetting location, with its defining injustice fully intact and, worse, institutionalized domestically. In that regard, his Guantánamo shell game was vintage Obama: He wanted to make a pretty, self-flattering symbolic gesture to get credit for “change” (I have closed Guantánamo) while not merely continuing but actually strengthening the abusive power that made it so odious in the first place.

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U.S. military cancels hearing for September 11 suspects

Reuters reports:

The U.S. military has canceled a pretrial hearing for suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a military spokesman said on Sunday, in another setback for the government in its efforts to try the five men being held at Guantanamo.

A defense department spokesman said the hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, was canceled by the military judge.

“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” said Commander Gary Ross.

News of the cancellation was first reported by ABC News.

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Neocons to Americans: Trust Us Again

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)America’s neocons insist that their only mistake was falling for some false intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and that they shouldn’t be stripped of their powerful positions of influence for just one little boo-boo. That’s the point of view taken by Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt as he whines about the unfairness of applying “a single-interest litmus test,” i.e., the Iraq War debacle, to judge him and his fellow war boosters.

After noting that many other important people were on the same pro-war bandwagon with him, Hiatt criticizes President Barack Obama for citing the Iraq War as an argument not to listen to many of the same neocons who now are trying to sabotage the Iran nuclear agreement. Hiatt thinks it’s the height of unfairness for Obama or anyone else to suggest that people who want to kill the Iran deal — and thus keep alive the option to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran — “are lusting for another war.”

Hiatt also faults Obama for not issuing a serious war threat to Iran, a missing ultimatum that explains why the nuclear agreement falls “so far short.” Hiatt adds: “war is not always avoidable, and the judicious use of force early in a crisis, or even the threat of force, can sometimes forestall worse bloodshed later.”

But it should be noted that the neocons – and Hiatt in particular – did not simply make one mistake when they joined President George W. Bush’s rush to war in 2002-03. They continued with their warmongering in Iraq for years, often bashing the handful of brave souls in Official Washington who dared challenge the neocons’ pro-war enthusiasm. Hiatt and his fellow “opinion leaders” were, in effect, the enforcers of the Iraq War “group think” – and they have never sought to make amends for that bullying.

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Iran Deal: Don’t expect much change in post-Vienna US Middle East policy

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

If and when the Iran nuclear agreement gets through Congress, many people in Washington hope that Obama will articulate a more realistic strategy for the Middle East than what we have heard from his administration in the past.

But Obama has evidently decided this is not the time to articulate anything about the region’s future that he does not see as helping to sell the agreement on Capitol Hill. The real question is whether there is a clear idea waiting to be made public when the timing is right.

If there was ever an appropriate moment for Obama to articulate an overarching post-agreement policy vision that integrated the Iran nuclear agreement into a broader strategy for dealing with a Middle East at war, it was his speech at American University on 5 August. The time and place for the speech were chosen in explicit acknowledgement of John F. Kennedy’s speech at that same university 52 years earlier. In his speech, JFK offered a vision of a transformation of US policy toward the Soviet Union and the Cold War from one of confrontation to negotiations. But instead of using that occasion to explain how US diplomacy might play a transformational role in the Middle East, Obama limited the speech to defending the Vienna agreement in the narrowest terms.

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Warnings of jihadists among Syria’s rebels came early, were ignored

Hannah Allam reports for McClatchy:

[…] By all accounts – internal memos, intelligence briefings, dispatches from the ground – conventional wisdom was that the extremists were recruiting or routing mainstream fighters, and that the loosely affiliated moderate factions known collectively as the Free Syrian Army were no match for the more disciplined and better armed jihadists.

Extensive interviews with Syria policymakers from the Obama administration, some of whom spoke on the record and others who requested anonymity so as to freely describe the administration’s behind-the-scenes debates, reveal that the Obama administration was warned early on that al Qaida-linked fighters were gaining prominence within the anti-Assad struggle.

Senior officials chose to look the other way, however, and flog a misleading narrative of a viable moderate force. Today, the same extremists have seized wide swaths of Syria and Iraq, uprooting millions of people, threatening the stability of U.S. regional allies, and sucking the United States into another open-ended conflict in the Middle East.

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The Rise and Fall of Death Row Records

Jeffrey St. Clair writes for CounterPunch:

On August 7, 2001, Marion “Suge” Knight, the 350-pound boss of Death Row records, was released from prison after serving five years on charges stemming from a 1992 assault. About the time Knight regained his freedom, a documentary film, Welcome to Death Row, about the rise and fall of his company was making the rounds looking for a distributor to show it in theaters.

Fourteen years later, as the much-hyped Hollywood biopic about NWA Straight Outta Compton is set for nationwide release, Welcome to Death Row still hasn’t had much of a public airing. The dozen or so artists who spoke on camera faced various forms of intimidation. Some received death threats. Others saw their careers sabotaged.

The story told by Welcome to Death Row is a cautionary tale about the grimy realities of the entertainment industry, one that has made billions exploiting the talents of songwriters and musicians. It’s a story of mercenary lawyers, drug gangs, and unremitting harassment by police and the FBI. In the end, although the label generated more than $400 million in sales, its top star was dead, its business manager was in jail and all the money was gone, most of it filched by white businessmen.

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War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever

Lee Billings reports for Scientific American:

The world’s most worrisome military flashpoint is arguably not in the Strait of Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israel, Kashmir or Ukraine. In fact, it cannot be located on any map of Earth, even though it is very easy to find. To see it, just look up into a clear sky, to the no-man’s-land of Earth orbit, where a conflict is unfolding that is an arms race in all but name.

The emptiness of outer space might be the last place you’d expect militaries to vie over contested territory, except that outer space isn’t so empty anymore. About 1,300 active satellites wreathe the globe in a crowded nest of orbits, providing worldwide communications, GPS navigation, weather forecasting and planetary surveillance. For militaries that rely on some of those satellites for modern warfare, space has become the ultimate high ground, with the U.S. as the undisputed king of the hill. Now, as China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge U.S. superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own, the power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planet’s space-based infrastructure. And though it might begin in space, such a conflict could easily ignite full-blown war on Earth.

The long-simmering tensions are now approaching a boiling point due to several events, including recent and ongoing tests of possible anti-satellite weapons by China and Russia, as well as last month’s failure of tension-easing talks at the United Nations.

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When Roger Stone met Antiwar.com

Mark Ames writes for Pando:

During my research, I came across a story about how, in 1973, the GOP infiltrated and bought off California’s socialist Peace and Freedom Party, using one of the co-founders of the popular Bay Area libertarian website, Antiwar.com. It’s too fascinating a story not to share.

The Peace and Freedom Party was founded in the Bay Area in 1968, at the height of leftist radicalism and the antiwar movement, nominating Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver as the party’s candidate for president.

Nixon’s CREEP campaign operatives, including young Roger Stone, specialized in manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to help Nixon (and later, Reagan, Bush, and who knows who else). As I wrote about in my Roger Stone-Donald Trump article, the Nixon people in 1971 laid out a campaign strategy centered on exploiting and manipulating anti-establishment politics in order to destroy their real competition in the Democratic Party.

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Assange Denied the Right to Defend Himself Against Sexual Assault Allegations: Interview with attorney Carey Shenkman

U.S. Military Says It Is Committed to Fairness in Chelsea Manning Case

Roxana Hegeman reports for AP:

People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California on 28 June 2015.The U.S. military said Thursday that it is committed to “a fair and equitable process” in the case of national security leaker Chelsea Manning and other prisoners accused of breaking rules at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth.

The response comes a day after Manning’s lawyer disclosed that the transgender Army private faces charges at an Aug. 18 hearing for allegedly having a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and an expired tube of toothpaste, among other things. The maximum penalty is indefinite solitary confinement.

The former intelligence analyst, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 of espionage and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks while working in Iraq. She is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking reams of war logs, diplomatic cables and battlefield video to the anti-secrecy website in 2010.

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Officials: Islamic State arose from US support for al-Qaeda in Iraq

Nafeez Ahmed writes for INSURGE INTELLIGENCE:

A new memoir by a former senior State Department analyst provides stunning details on how decades of support for Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden brought about the emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS).

The book establishes a crucial context for recent admissions by Michael T. Flynn, the retired head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), confirming that White House officials made a “willful decision” to support al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in Syria — despite being warned by the DIA that doing so would likely create an ‘ISIS’-like entity in the region.

J. Michael Springmann, a retired career US diplomat whose last government post was in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, reveals in his new book that US covert operations in alliance with Middle East states funding anti-Western terrorist groups are nothing new. Such operations, he shows, have been carried out for various short-sighted reasons since the Cold War and after.

In the 1980s, as US support for mujahideen fighters accelerated in Afghanistan to kick out the Soviet Union, Springmann found himself unwittingly at the heart of highly classified operations that allowed Islamist militants linked to Osama bin Laden to establish a foothold within the United States.

After the end of the Cold War, Springman alleged, similar operations continued in different contexts for different purposes — in the former Yugoslavia, in Libya and elsewhere. The rise of ISIS, he contends, was a predictable outcome of this counterproductive policy.

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The Google Search That Made the CIA Spy on the US Senate

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

John Brennan was about to say he was sorry.

On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel’s ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.

The letter was notable in part because Brennan initially denied the January 2014 search of the Senate’s computer network even took place. And later, when it became clear that it had — and that he had known of it while publicly denying that it happened — he refused to acknowledge that it was wrong. For months, Feinstein and other committee members were clamoring for a written apology to make part of the official record.

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To Defend Iran Deal, Obama Boasts That He’s Bombed Seven Countries

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Beyond accurately describing Iran deal opponents, Obama also accurately described himself and his own record of militarism. To defend against charges that he Loves the Terrorists, he boasted:

As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.

I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.

By “ordered military actions in seven countries,” what he means is that he has ordered bombs dropped, and he has extinguished the lives of thousands of innocent people, in seven different countries, all of which just so happen to be predominantly Muslim.

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In times of war, Pentagon reserves right to treat journalists like spies

Frank Smyth writes for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

The Pentagon has produced its first Department of Defense-wide Law of WarManual and the results are not encouraging for journalists who, the documents states, may be treated as “unprivileged belligerents.” But the manual’s justification for categorizing journalists this way is not based on any specific case, law or treaty. Instead, the relevant passages have footnotes referring to either other parts of the document or matters not germane to this legal assertion. And the language used to attempt to justify this categorization is weak at best.

This broad and poorly defined category gives U.S. military commanders across all services the purported right to at least detain journalists without charge, and without any apparent need to show evidence or bring a suspect to trial. The Obama administration’s Defense Department appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the War on Terror and codified them to formally govern the way U.S. military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.

The manual’s impact overseas, especially in the short run, may be even worse. The language used to justify treating journalists as “unprivileged belligerents” comes at a time when international law for conflict is being flouted by armed groups–including government, militia, and insurgent forces–from Ukraine and Iraq to Nigeria and the Congo–and during a time in which CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists being imprisoned and killed. At a time when international leadership on human rights and press freedom is most needed, the Pentagon has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar.

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Iraq: “A War Crime, Pure and Simple”

Dahr Jamail writes for Truthout:

A dozen years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, that country, now effectively another Middle East failed state, remains a bloody, chaotic symbol of the failed US imperial project.

Margaret Griffis, a journalist who has been covering casualty numbers in Iraq since 2006 for Antiwar.com, has published these recent headlines that give one an idea of how life is in today’s Iraq:

“Mass Executions Terrorize Mosul; 141 Killed in Iraq”; “132 Killed across Iraq as Airstrikes Continue”; “At Least 4,693 Killed across Iraq in July”; “154 Killed in Iraq, including Dozens of Displaced Children” and “Mass Grave Unearthed in Mosul; 194 Killed across Iraq”.

Those are only the articles published by Griffis since July 30. The casualties are acute and ongoing, yet most people in the US, the very country that generated this hellish situation, are willfully ignorant of the situation caused by their government.

Truthout reached out to three expert analysts who provided their perspective on why the war was waged, what the goal of the occupation has been, and which proposed solutions are the most promising.

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U.S. Government Celebrates Its Arming of the Egyptian Regime With a YouTube Video

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The Egyptian regime run by the despotic General Abdelfattah al-Sisi is one of the world’s most brutal and repressive. Last year, Human Rights Watch documented that that Egyptian “security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.” Just two months ago, the group warned that the abuses have “escalated,” and that Sisi, “governing by decree in the absence of an elected parliament, ha[s] provided near total impunity for security force abuses and issued a raft of laws that severely curtailed civil and political rights, effectively erasing the human rights gains of the 2011 uprising that ousted the longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.”

Despite that repression — or, more accurately, because of it — the Obama administration has lavished the regime with aid, money and weapons, just as the U.S. government did for decades in order to prop up Hosni Mubarak. When Sisi took power in a coup, not only did the U.S. government support him but it praised him for restoring “democracy.” Since then, the U.S. has repeatedly sent arms and money to the regime as its abuses became more severe. As the New York Times delicately put it yesterday, “American officials . . . signaled that they would not let their concerns with human rights stand in the way of increased security cooperation with Egypt.”

None of that is new: A staple of U.S. foreign policy has long been to support heinous regimes as long as they carry out U.S. dictates, all in order to keep domestic populations in check and prevent their views and beliefs (which are often averse to the U.S.) from having any effect on the actions of their own government.

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The Firebombing of Tokyo

Rory Fanning wrote for Jacobin back in March:

Charred remains of Japanese civilians after the firebombing of Tokyo. Ishikawa Kouyou / Wikimedia Commons[9th March marked] the seventieth anniversary of the American firebombing of Tokyo, World War II’s deadliest day. More people died that night from napalm bombs than in the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But few in the United States are aware that the attack even took place.

The lack of ceremonies or official state apologies for the firebombing is unsurprising considering that many Americans see World War II as the “just war” fought by the “greatest generation.” These labels leave the war and the atrocities Americans committed during it largely untouched by critique.

The little that is available to study on the firebombing, at least here in the US, is told from the perspective of American crewmen and brass, through usually biased American military historians. Those seeking better understanding of the March 9 tragedy must wade through reams of history primarily devoted to strategy; the heroics of American soldiers; the awesome power behind the bombs unleashed that day; and a cult-like devotion to the B-29 Superfortress, the plane that dropped the napalm over Tokyo and the atomic bombs, and was the inspiration for George Lucas’s Millennium Falcon.

The overriding narrative surrounding the events of March 9, 1945 is that the American pilots and military strategists such as Gen. Curtis LeMay, the architect of the firebombing, had no other option but to carry out the mission. The Americans had “no choice” but to burn to death nearly one hundred thousand Japanese civilians.

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After 27 Years, Reporter Who Exposed ECHELON Finds Vindication in Snowden Archive

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Ever since legendary British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told the world in a 1988 magazine article about ECHELON — a massive, automated surveillance dragnet that indiscriminately intercepted phone and Internet data from communications satellites — Western intelligence officials have refused to acknowledge that it existed.

Despite sporadic continuing press reports, people who complained about the program — which, as Campbell disclosed, automatically searched text-based communications using a dictionary of keywords to flag suspicious content — were routinely dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

The only real conspiracy, it turns out, was a conspiracy of silence among the governments that benefited from the program.

As Campbell writes today, in a first-person article in The Intercept, the archive of top-secret documents provided to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contains a stunning 2005 document that not only confirms ECHELON’s existence as “a system targeting communications satellites”– it shows how the program was kept an official secret for so long.

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Suing the State: The Hidden Rules Within the EU-US Trade Deal

Donald Trump Says He Can Buy Politicians, None of His Rivals Disagree

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Donald Trump bragged Thursday night that he could buy politicians — even the ones sharing the stage with him at a Republican presidential debate.

Trump was asked about something he said in a previous interview: “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

“You’d better believe it,” Trump said. “If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.”

[…] Though it surely wasn’t his intention, Trump was illustrating the key problem with the current campaign finance system. Campaign contributions are legally considered bribes only when there is an explicit quid-pro-quo. But as Trump explained, giving money to politicians bought him access and relationships, which he could leverage down the road in the form of favors. Such conflicts of interest are inherent in privately funded election systems.

No one on stage disputed Trump’s depiction of the American political system. In fact, it was taken as a given.

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Kim Kardashian Tweets Selfie With Armenian Genocide Flip-Flopper Hillary Clinton

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

It turns out Kim Kardashian isn’t as politically sophisticated as I’d hoped.

Kardashian’s father Robert was Armenian, and I was impressed when she traveled to Armenia with Kanye West in a blaze of publicity this past April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time she wrote a piece for Time describing her father’s family’s escape from Armenia and her deep disappointment that Obama had broken his iron-clad promise to call what happened there genocide.

There aren’t many celebrities who’ll stick their necks out on anything at all, so this was brave, even though it’s unlikely that talking about the Armenian Genocide will screw up your endorsement deal with Carl’s Jr.

So I’m bummed out to see Kardashian kvelling about her selfie with Hillary Clinton at a Hollywood fundraiser Thursday night. Just like President Obama, Clinton has cynically abused the trust of Armenian Americans by calling it genocide when she was looking for votes, but not when it mattered.

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