Tuesday, July 24, 2012

07-24-12 Activist Newsletter

July 24, 2012, Issue #181
jacdon@earthlink.net, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561



QUOTE OF THE MONTH — Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

Activist, author and left academic Zinn was best known for writing "A People's History of the United States," but he also made a lifetime of contributions to the struggles for peace, civil rights, and the building of a better society and world. He declared:

"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.... Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty."

By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

After several months of talking diplomacy while simultaneously strengthening rebel forces in Syria and demonizing the Damascus government, the Obama Administration has openly decided to go for the kill. Violent regime change will not happen immediately, but it is obviously President Obama's goal.

The White House is now "redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad," the New York Times reported July 21. "Administration officials have been in talks with officials in Turkey and Israel over how to manage a Syrian government collapse."

McClatchy Newspapers reported July 23 that "Despite reports last week that suggested rebel forces were on the verge of major triumphs in Syria, the last few days of fighting there show that a long battle still looms. Forces loyal to Assad in recent days have tightened their grip on the Lebanese border, re-established control over at least one neighborhood in Damascus and perhaps reached an accommodation with the country’s Kurds that will free up more troops for battle."

According to the U.S. and its NATO allies, the Damascus regime is engaging in a one-sided, murderous war against its own people, who simply seek democracy. At the same time, the Tehran government is characterized as a "terrorist" regime intent upon building and using nuclear weapons in order to destroy Israel and rule the Middle East. The U.S. news media, as expected, propagates without question Washington's campaign against Syria and Iran.

The United States suggests that its principal reason for seeking regime change in Syria is to promote "democracy" — a tarnished rationale often employed in recent decades to undermine or destroy governments that displease the U.S. superpower, such as in Iran in the 1950s, the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, Chile in the 1970s, Nicaragua in the 1980s, Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Iraq in the 2000s, and Libya in the 2010s, among other instances.

Democracy has nothing to do with Washington's objectives in Syria. America's closest regional ally in the anti-Assad endeavor is the repressive anti-democratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which finances and arms the rebel opposition in Syria along with resource-rich Qatar. Both Arab countries played a similar role last year in the U.S./NATO overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya.

Having learned a bitter lesson after agreeing to support a no-fly zone in Libya — and seeing that mandate illegally expanded by U.S.-NATO forces in order to wage a vicious war for regime change — both Russia and China have three times exercised their right to veto U.S. measures in the UN to escalate the conflict in Syria. The Security Council approved a 30-day extension of the UN monitor mission July 20, but Susan Rice, Washington's ambassador to the world body, implied it may be the last continuation.

Both Moscow and Beijing seek to bring about a negotiated solution to the crisis based on a cease-fire, talks and reforms. According to  Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin "the only way to put an end to this tragic conflict is to get to the negotiating table." The Syrian government agrees, but the opposition forces — aware that Washington and its allies seek a swift regime change — reject negotiations.

Churkin warns: "Don’t be duped by humanitarian rhetoric. There is much more geopolitics in their [U.S.] policy in Syria than humanism.... Our concern is that the Syrian people have to suffer the consequences of this geopolitical struggle."

There are two principal and interlocking reasons the U.S. and its NATO and Mideast coalition allies are conspiring to oust the Assad government.

(1) The first is to secure Washington's geopolitical position in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), particularly as President Obama prepares to focus additional military and economic resources on East Asia to contain the rise of China, and on Eurasia reduce Russian influence.

British news analysis Patrick Seale, whom we consider an objective source, wrote July 19: "The keys to the Syrian crisis lie outside Syria. Indeed, the Syrian crisis cannot be separated from the massive pressures being put on Iran. President Obama is now fully mobilized against both regimes. He seems to have given up trying to secure a win-win deal with Iran over its nuclear program, and he is sabotaging Kofi Annan’s Syrian peace plan by conniving in the arming of the rebels. He seems to want to bring down the regimes in both Tehran and Damascus — either because he sees Iran as a rival in the Gulf region or to win the favors of Israel’s American supporters in an election year."

According to a July 10 report from Stratfor, the non-government commercial intelligence organization close to certain U.S. spy sources: "Human rights interests alone do not come close to explaining why this particular uprising has received a substantial amount of attention and foreign backing over the past year. The past decade enabled Iran to wrest Baghdad out of Sunni hands and bring Mesopotamia under Shi'ite control. There is little question now that Iraq, as fractured as it is, sits in the Iranian sphere of influence while Iraqi Sunnis have been pushed to the margins. Iran's gains in Baghdad shifted the regional balance of power."

(2) The second reason is to enhance the power of Sunni Islam in MENA and limit possibility of a larger regional role by the Shia Muslim minority.

There are about 2 billion Muslims in the world today. Statistics vary somewhat, but about 87% are said to be Sunnis, and the remainder are Shia — a minority that has suffered discrimination from the majority. Iran has the largest Shia population in the world — up to 95% of its 75 million people. Iraq has the second largest Shia population — over 60% of its 30 million people.

About 87% of the 26 million Syrians are Muslims — 74% of these Sunni and 13% Shia — but members of the Shi'ite Alawite sect, led by the Assad family that dominates Syria's Ba'athist regime, have essentially controlled the country for over 40 years.

The principal Obama Administration target in this complex affair is Iran, not Syria. The Syrian government must fall because it is Iran's main Arab ally (as it also is Russia's, a not insignificant factor). Washington has been intent upon gravely wounding Iran after the Iraq war blew up in its face, resulting in the Shia assumption of power in Baghdad.

Until the 2003 U.S. overthrow of the secular Ba'athist regime in Baghdad led by President Saddam Hussein, Iraq's 30% Sunni minority historically dominated the state. Sunni Iraq was in fact Iran's biggest enemy. President Hussein launched a mutually devastating, unnecessary eight-year war against Iran in 1990 with tacit U.S. support. Now, while not yet an official ally, Baghdad is friendly to Tehran.

President Obama labored long to compel Shia President Nouri al-Maliki to allow tens of thousands of U.S. troops and government "advisers" to remain in Iraq after the bulk of forces were to withdraw at the end of 2011. One purpose was to monitor and reduce future Iranian influence. But the Iraqi leader ultimately refused at the last moment — a huge setback for the administration, though Washington no doubt is continuing its efforts to manipulate Baghdad covertly while crushing Iran's ally in Damascus.

The U.S. now views Iraq as positioned within neighboring Iran's sphere of influence, a significant shift in the regional balance of power. This can only be perceived as a serious danger to American hegemony throughout the region and particularly the Persian Gulf/Arabian Peninsula, from whence much of the world's petroleum issues. Washington's greatest fear is that Iran and Iraq — two of the world's principal oil producers — might develop a genuine alliance.

This is a chief reason why the Obama government has contrived pretexts to impose heavy sanctions and threaten military action against the Tehran government. This also explains why ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia so enthusiastically backs sanctions and threats against Iran and is investing heavily in overthrowing Assad. The Saudi royal family, devotees of a fundamentalist brand of Sunni religion, wants to expunge Shia influence throughout the region, as well as keep its own discriminated-against 15% Shi'ite minority under tight control.

One pay back for the Saudis is Washington's indifference to the cruelty toward the Shi'ite majority demanding a modicum of democracy in Bahrain, which is ruled by a dictatorial Sunni monarchy under the protection of Saudi Arabia.

Obama's immediate goal is to break up the developing relationship between three contiguous Shia-led countries  — Persian Iran and Arab Iraq and Syria — covering some 1,600 miles from the Afghan border to the Mediterranean.

All other states in MENA circulate well within Washington's hegemonic orbit. The Arab Spring has not diminished U.S. hegemony in the region where regimes were overthrown —Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Indeed, U.S./NATO control  of Libya and now the Syrian situation appear to have enhanced Washington's regional power. Last week the Arab League, representing all the Arab states, proposed Assad should resign and that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which leads the armed struggle, should form a transitional regime. Iraq dissented, declaring that it was for the Syrian people alone to decide his fate.

Most Arab countries, and non-Arab NATO member Turkey as well — which flaunts the opportunity to flex its Sunni credentials as it strains to reassert its influence and even leadership in the Middle East — are part of the regime change coalition. Turkey is playing a key role, providing a reliable rear area for the FSA and as a transmission point for arms bound for the opposition.

Even Israel shows public signs of getting directly involved in Assad's downfall. Last week right wing Prime Minister Netanyahu told Fox News Israel "was ready to act" in Syria. Over the years, Tel-Aviv had been more than willing to tolerate the Assad government rather than a Sunni regime until the recent period when Tehran and Damascus began developing much closer ties.

Interestingly, Hamas — the Islamic organization elected to govern the Palestinian territory of Gaza — has recently announced its support for the Sunni rebels in Syria, after receiving decades of solidarity and support from the Assad government. Hamas is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood now leading Egypt which recently guaranteed it would maintain peace and commerce with Israel. Another branch of the Brotherhood is expected to acquire greater political power in Syria if regime change succeeds.

Syria is a strongly nationalist capitalist country which promoted pan-Arabism when it was in vogue in the 1960s. It has been ruled by the Ba'ath Party for over four decades. There are a number of other parties but they are subordinate to the Ba'athists. It is not a western-type democracy and the government is repressive toward dissent. Further, Syria dealt harshly with peaceful demonstrators before the armed opposition was a major factor.

The Damascus government also has positive aspects. The Assad regime is secular in nature, is opposed to colonialism and imperialism, and does not bend the knee — as so do many Arab governments these days — to the U.S. The Assad government strongly opposed America's war in Iraq. It materially and politically backs the rights of the Palestinian people and the Shia Lebanese political party Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran.

In addition, the government appears to have the allegiance of a substantial proportion of the population, including the several minority sects — Christians (10% of the population), Druze, Turkmen, Jews, Yazidis and others. All seem to prefer a secular government to the possibility of a more religious Sunni state, perhaps led by  the Muslim Brotherhood.

The oppositional forces include various often contending civil and exile organizations and individuals associated with the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group, and the approximately 100 different armed urban guerrilla groups broadly identified with the Syrian Free Army. Disunity characterizes the relations between many of these groups, virtually all of which are Sunni. Major rivalries have been reported between a number of military commanders, and sharp splits have taken place within the SNC and between leaders within Syria and influential exiles largely based in Turkey and Egypt. The U.S. has been working for months to identify and promote the leaders it wishes to put into power.

According to Middle East correspondent Pepe Escobar writing July 24 in Asia Times, "There's no way to understand the Syrian dynamics without learning that most FSA commanders are not Syrians, but Iraqi Sunnis. The FSA could only capture the Abu Kamal border crossing between Syria and Iraq because the whole area is controlled by Sunni tribes viscerally antagonistic towards the al-Maliki government in Baghdad. The free flow of mujahedeen, hardcore jihadis and weapons between Iraq and Syria is now more than established.... As it stands, the romanticized Syrian 'rebels' plus the insurgents formerly known as terrorists cannot win against the Syria military — not even with the Saudis and Qataris showering them with loads of cash and weapons."

Repeated reports from many sources indicate that contingents of fundamentalist jihadists have joined the anti-Assad campaign. Stratfor comments that "The Syrian rebellion contains a growing assortment of Sunni Islamists, Salafist jihadists and transnational al Qaeda-style jihadists. Foreign fighters belonging to the latter two categories are believed to be making their way into Syria from Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq." 

According to a report this week in the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
German intelligence estimates that "around 90" terror attacks that "can be attributed to organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups" were carried out in Syria between the end of December and the beginning of July.

Even the New York Times, a vigorous proponent of overthrowing Assad had to acknowledge July 25 that "evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda.,,, Al Qaeda, through an audio statement, has just made an undisguised bid to link its insurgency in Iraq with the revolution in Syria, depicting both as sectarian conflicts — Sunnis versus Shi'ites."

Despite such attacks, the Damascus government announced this week that it would not use its chemical weapons "against the Syrian people or civilians during this crisis, under any circumstances.” It did, however, suggest it might deploy such weapons against foreign military intervention.

In the U.S. most liberals and Democrats support Obama's Syrian adventure as well Republicans, just as they approved of what little they knew of the White House involvement in the Libyan regime change.  GOP candidate Mitt Romney and some Republican politicians demand "tougher action," but that's just for show.

Sectors of the U.S. left are split over America's role in Syria. Some groups support the uprising in the name of democracy, ignoring that Washington and the royal family in Riyadh will be the biggest winners. Those who identify with the anti-imperialist perspective strongly oppose U.S/Saudi involvement. (1)

Our view is that it is the responsibility of the people of a country, such as Syria — and not outside forces — to determine the political character of their government, up to and including armed revolution.

And the anti-Assad international coalition is not just any "outside force." It takes orders from the United States — the most powerful military state in the world responsible for violent aggression and millions of deaths in recent decades —  and is also backed by a couple of anti-democratic monarchies and NATO, including two of the region's former colonial overlords, France and Great Britain.

The extent of American involvement with the opposition was partially exposed by the New York Times July 21: "American diplomats are also meeting regularly with representatives of various Syrian opposition groups outside the country to help map out a possible post-Assad government. 'Our focus with the opposition is on working with them so that they have a political transition in place to stand up a new Syria,' Patrick Ventrell, a State Department spokesman, said last week."

As such, in our understanding, the  principal aspect of the struggle for power in Syria is not popular forces fighting for democracy but an international coalition led by imperialism seeking to overthrow a government allied to Iran in order to serve Washington's geopolitical objectives and Saudi Arabia's sectarian goal of diminishing Shia influence in the region.

— Readers interested in the left debate may wish to read the article  "Cruise Missile Socialists" by By Mazda Majidi, putting forward an anti-imperialist argument against the U.S.-led overthrow of Assad. It is at

[This article casts additional light on the Syrian situation, elaborating on Turkey's role in the plans for regime change in Damascus. It appeared in Asia Times July 23. The author, Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar, was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.]

By M. K. Bhadrakumar

Israel's emergence from the woodwork can signal only one thing: the Syrian crisis is moving towards the decisive phase. The lights have been switched on in the operation theatre and the carving of Syria is beginning. What is going to follow won't be a pretty sight at all since the patient is not under anesthesia, and the chief surgeon prefers to lead from behind while sidekicks do the dirty job.

So far, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have done the maximum they could to destabilize Syria and remove the regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad. But Assad is still holding out. Israeli expertise is now needed to complete the unfinished business.

Someone is needed to plunge a sharp knife deep into Assad's back. Jordan's king can't do the job; he measures up only to Assad's knees. The Saudi and Qatari sheikhs with their ponderous, flabby body are not used to physical activity; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prefers to be left alone, having burnt its fingers in Libya with a bloody operation that borders on war crime. That leaves Turkey.

In principle, Turkey has the muscle power, but intervention in Syria is fraught with risks and one of the enduring legacies of Kemal Atatürk is that Turkey avoids taking risks. Besides, Turkey's military is not quite in top form.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also unable to carry the majority opinion within Turkey in favor of a war in Syria, and he is navigating a tricky path himself, trying to amend his country's constitution and make himself a real sultan. Obviously, Erdogan can't risk his career.

Besides, there are imponderables — a potential backlash from the Alawite minority within Turkey (which resents the surge of [extreme fundamentalist] Salafism under Erdogan's watch) and the perennial danger of walking into a trap set up by militant Kurds.... The Alawites in Turkey see Assad "trying to hold together a tolerant, pluralist Syria.

But all that is becoming irrelevant. The New York Times reported July 20, quoting American officials in Washington, that President Barack Obama is "increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the [Syrian] government."

It further reported that the CIA operatives who are based in southern Turkey "for several weeks" will continue with their mission to create violence against the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, the U.S and Turkey will also be working on putting together a post-Assad "provisional government" in Syria.

Accordingly, the leaders of Syria's proscribed Muslim Brotherhood held a four-day conclave in Istanbul and announced plans July 20 to create an "Islamic party." The Brotherhood's spokesman announced, "We are ready for the post-Assad era, we have plans for the economy, the courts, [and] politics."

The emergent operational plan is that while Ankara steps up the covert operations inside Syria (bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and Qatar), Israel will cross the border into Syria from the south and attack Assad's military and degrade its capacity to resist the Turkish threat.

Turkey has stepped up the psywar, projecting through the media that the Syrian regime is already tottering....

But such accounts also reflect the Turkish establishment's worry that the Syrian regime is still not showing signs of capitulation despite all the hits it took from the "rebels."

Erdogan's best hope is that the Turkish intelligence could orchestrate some sort of "palace coup" in Damascus in the coming days or weeks. What suits Ankara will be to have Assad replaced by a transitional structure that retains elements of the existing Ba'athist state structure, which could facilitate an orderly transfer of power to a new administration — that is to say, ideally, a transition not different from what followed in Egypt once Hosni Mubarak exited.

But Erdogan is unsure whether Turkey can swing an Egypt-like coup in Damascus. His dash to Moscow July 18 aimed at sounding out Russia if a new and stable transitional structure could be put together in Damascus through some kind of international cooperation. (Obama lent his weight to Erdogan's mission by telephoning Russian President Vladimir Putin the next day to discuss Syria.)

Just before Erdogan went into his scheduled meeting with Putin in the Kremlin, a massive terrorist attack took place in Damascus, killing the Syrian defense minister and its intelligence chief. In the event, Moscow politely heard him out and assured Erdogan it would make a clinical separation between Russia's long-term strategic ties with Turkey and the Syrian issue. At any rate, the Russian stance remained unchanged, as evident from its veto at the United Security Council a week later....

Prior to the Moscow visit, Erdogan also traveled to Beijing, which senses that the U.S. is closing the deal on Syria. The official Global Times newspaper commented in an editorial July 20 that "It's likely that the Assad administration will be overthrown...."

In the final analysis, only Israel can resolve Erdogan's dilemma. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated over the weekend, "Syria has advanced anti-aircraft missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and elements of chemical weapons. I directed the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] to prepare for a situation where we will need to consider the possibility of an attack."

Barak added that the "moment [Assad] starts to fall, we [Israel] will conduct intelligence monitoring and will liaise with other agencies." He spoke after a secret visit to Israel the previous weekend by Obama's National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon. Close on the heels of Donilon's consultations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Tel Aviv after a historic meeting in Cairo with the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who assured Washington that he wouldn't contemplate creating any problems for Israel in a conceivable future.

Barak's disclosure tears apart the thin veil of indifference that Tel-Aviv so far maintained over the Syrian developments. What emerges, in retrospect, is that Washington kept Israel in abeyance for the ripe moment to physically demolish Assad's war machinery, an enterprise that Erdogan is unwilling or incapable of undertaking.

Most certainly, Erdogan was in the loop that he was going to partner Barak, but being a shrewd politician he kept up an appearance of agonizing publicly over the Syrian crisis —while, of course, covertly fueling it.

Simply put, Washington has outwitted Moscow and Beijing. It kept assuring Russia and China that a military intervention by the U.S. all by itself or a Libya-style NATO operation was the last thing on Obama's mind. No doubt, Obama kept its word.

What is unfolding is a startling sight — Salafism riding the wings of the Israeli air force and landing in Damascus. Erdogan will now set out with renewed vigor to shake up the Assad tree in Damascus, while any day from now Barak will begin chopping off the tree's branches in a lightning sweep.

Erdogan and Barak will make the Assad tree so naked and helpless that it will realize the futility of standing upright any more. There is no "military intervention" involved here, no NATO operations, no Libya-like analogy can be drawn. Nor is Erdogan to order his army to march into Syria.

Secretary of State Clinton would say this is the [use of] "smart power." In a magnificent essay titled "The Art of Smart Power" penned by her last week as she surveyed the curious twist to the tale of the Arab Spring, Clinton wrote that the U.S. is nowadays "leading in new ways." [1]

Clinton underscored that Washington is expanding its "foreign-policy toolbox [to] integrate every asset and partner, and fundamentally change the way we [U.S.] do business .... [The] common thread running through all our efforts is a commitment to adapt America's global leadership for the needs of a changing world."

At the end of the day, Erdogan will bite the bullet. The plain truth is that Israel is going to complete the messy job for him in Syria.

Erdogan has no choice but to accept that he belongs to Washington's "toolbox" — nothing more, nothing less. He was never destined for the role to lead the Muslim Middle East. The West was merely pandering to his well-known vanity. That role is Washington's exclusive prerogative.

Note: 1. The art of smart power, New Statesman, July 18, 2012, http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/07/hillary-clinton-art-smart-power

By Conn Hallinan

Now that talks with Iran on its nuclear program appear to be on the ropes, are we on the road to war? The Israelis threaten it almost weekly, and the Barack Obama administration has reportedly drawn up an attack plan. But in a sense, we are already at war with Iran.

Carl von Clausewitz, the great theoretician of modern warfare, defined war as the continuation of politics by other means. In the case of Iran, international politics has become a de-facto state of war. According to reports, the annual inflation rate in Iran is 22.2%, although many economists estimate it at double that. In the last week of June, the price of chicken rose 30%, grains were up 55.8%, fruits up 66.6%, and vegetables up 99.5%. Iran's Central Bank estimates unemployment among the young is 22.5%, although the Financial Times says "the official figures are vastly underestimated". The production sector is working at half its capacity.

The value of the Iranian rial has fallen 40% since last year, and there is a wave of business closings and bankruptcies due to rising energy costs and imports made expensive by the sanctions.

Oil exports, Iran's major source of income, have fallen 40% in 2012, according to the International Energy Agency, costing the country nearly U.S.$32 billion over the past year. The 27-member European Union ban on buying Iranian oil will further depress sales, and an EU withdrawal of shipping insurance will make it difficult for Tehran to ship oil and gas to its diminishing number of customers. Loss of insurance coverage could reduce Iran's oil exports by 200,000 barrels a day, or $4.5 billion a month. Energy accounts for about 80% of Iran's public revenues.

Whipsawed by energy sanctions, the worst may be yet to come. The United States has already made it difficult for countries to deal with Iran's Central Bank, and the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would declare the Iranian energy sector a "zone of proliferation concern," which would strangle Tehran's ability to collect payments for its oil exports. Other proposals would essentially make it impossible to do business with Iran's other banks. Any country that dared to do so would find itself unable to conduct virtually any kind of international banking.

If the blizzard of legislation does pass, "this would be a significant ratcheting-up of the economic war against Iran," Mark Dubowitz told the Financial Times. Dubowitz is executive director of the neo-conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which has lobbied for a series of economic assaults against the Palestinians, China, and Hezbollah.

But the "war" has already gone far beyond the economic sphere.

In the past two years, five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. The hits have been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and the People's Mujahidin of Iran (MEK), an organization the U.S. State Department designates as "terrorist."

Last year, a massive explosion rocked the Bid Ganeh military base near Tehran, killing 17 people, including the founder of Iran's missile program, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam. According to Israeli media, the camp was sabotaged by the MEK working with Mossad. Deadly attacks directed at Iran's Revolutionary Guard have been tied to Jundullah, a Sunni group with ties to U.S. and Israeli intelligence.

It is no secret —indeed, President Obama openly admitted it — that under the codename "Olympic Games" the United States has been waging cyber war against Iran. The Stuxnet virus shut down a considerable portion of Iran's nuclear program, although it also infected infrastructure systems, including power plants, oil rigs, and water supplies. The virus was designed to attack systems made by the German company Siemens and has apparently spread to China, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

The United States is also suspected of being behind the Flame virus, a spyware program able to record keystrokes, eavesdrop on conversations near an infected computer, and tap into screen images. Besides Iran, Flame has been found in computers in the Palestinian West Bank, Lebanon, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates. Because "malware" seeks out undefended computers no matter where they are, it has a habit of spreading beyond its initial target.

Most of the media is focused on whether the failure of the talks will lead to an Israeli or American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, and there is certainly considerable smoke out there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been threatening to attack Iran for the past two years. According to Gideon Rachman, a leading columnist for the Financial Times, some Israeli officials have told him Tel Aviv will attack sometime this summer or early fall. One source told him "Israel will wait until September or October because the weather is better and it's closer to the U.S. elections."

But the Independent's (UK) Patrick Cockburn, one of the more reliable analysts on the Middle East, thinks the Israeli threats are "the bluff of the century." Cockburn argues that there is simply no reason for Tel-Aviv to go to war, since the Iranian economy is being effectively strangled by the sanctions. But the saber rattling is useful because it scares the EU into toughing up the siege of Tehran, while also shifting the Palestinian issue to a back burner.

There are serious divisions within Israel on whether to go to war, with Israeli intelligence and the military generally opposed. The latter's reasons are simple: militarily Tel-Aviv couldn't pull it off, and politically an attack would garner worldwide sympathy for Iran. Recent statements downgrading the threat of Iran by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggest the Netanyahu government is finally feeling the pressure from divisions within its own ranks and may be backing off from a military confrontation.

And the United States? According to Paul Rogers, a Department of Peace Studies professor at Bradford University and OpenDemocracy's international security editor, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a concentrated attack on Iran's nuclear industry, using a combination of bombers and cruise missiles. The United States recently beefed up its military footprint in the region.

But while the possibility of such an attack is real — especially if congressional hawks get their way — the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence establishment are hardly enthusiastic about it. In any case, the United States is carpet-bombing Iran's economy without firing a shot or sending air crews into harm's way.

Although Iran is generally depicted as the recalcitrant party in the current nuclear talks, it has already compromised extensively, even agreeing to ship some of its enriched uranium out of the country and to guarantee the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all nuclear facilities. Tehran has also converted one-third of its 20%-enriched uranium into plates, making it almost impossible to use the fuel for nuclear weapons. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90%.

In return, Tehran is demanding the right to enrich to 3.5% — the level needed to power a civilian reactor — and an end to sanctions.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not ban enriching uranium — indeed, it is guaranteed by Articles III and IV — as long as the fuel is not weaponized. "Iran is raising eyebrows," says Yousaf M. Butt of the American Federation of Scientists, "but what it is doing is a concern — not illegal."

However, the P5+1 — the permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany — is demanding an end to all enrichment, an Iranian commitment to ship the enriched fuel out of the country, and closure of the enrichment plant at Fordo: "stop, shut, and ship."

In return, Iran would get enriched fuel for medical use and some spare parts for its civilian airlines. The sanctions would remain in place, however, although it would open the subject up for discussion. The problem is that many of the more onerous sanctions are those independently applied by the United States and the EU. Russia and China have expressed opposition to the independent sanctions, but so far have not shown a willingness to openly flaunt them.

It will be hard for Tehran to make further concessions, particularly if there is no light at the end of the sanction tunnel. Indeed, some of the demands seem almost crafted to derail a diplomatic solution, raising the suspicion that the dispute is less about Iran's nuclear program than a concerted drive to marginalize a country that has resisted European and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Isolate Iran enough, the thinking goes, and it might bring about regime change. Moscow and Beijing don't support such an outcome, but they have little influence over what Washington and Brussels do independently.

There is still no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Indeed, the body of evidence suggests the opposite, including the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that Tehran mothballed its program in 2003. But evidence is irrelevant when the enormous economic power of the United States and the EU can cow the rest of the world, and force a country to its knees without resorting to open hostilities.

In short, war by other means.

— Originally published at Dispatches From the Edge, July 15. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus.

By David Vine

The first thing I saw last month when I walked into the belly of the dark grey C-17 Air Force cargo plane was a void -- something missing. A missing left arm, to be exact, severed at the shoulder, temporarily patched and held together.  Thick, pale flesh, flecked with bright red at the edges. It looked like meat sliced open. The face and what remained of the rest of the man were obscured by blankets, an American flag quilt, and a jumble of tubes and tape, wires, drip bags, and medical monitors.

That man and two other critically wounded soldiers -- one with two stumps where legs had been, the other missing a leg below the thigh -- were intubated, unconscious, and lying on stretchers hooked to the walls of the plane that had just landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. A tattoo on the soldier’s remaining arm read, “DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR.”

I asked a member of the Air Force medical team about the casualties they see like these. Many, as with this flight, were coming from Afghanistan, he told me. “A lot from the Horn of Africa,” he added. “You don’t really hear about that in the media.”

“Where in Africa?” I asked.  He said he didn’t know exactly, but generally from the Horn, often with critical injuries. “A lot out of Djibouti,” he added, referring to Camp Lemonnier, the main U.S. military base in Africa, but from “elsewhere” in the region, too.

Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”

Disappearing are the days when Ramstein was the signature U.S. base, an American-town-sized behemoth filled with thousands or tens of thousands of Americans, PXs, Pizza Huts, and other amenities of home. But don’t for a second think that the Pentagon is packing up, downsizing its global mission, and heading home. In fact, based on developments in recent years, the opposite may be true. While the collection of Cold War-era giant bases around the world is shrinking, the global infrastructure of bases overseas has exploded in size and scope.

Unknown to most Americans, Washington’s garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.

Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia’s tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can. Although statistics are hard to assemble, given the often-secretive nature of such bases, the Pentagon has probably built upwards of 50 lily pads and other small bases since around 2000, while exploring the construction of dozens more.

As Mark Gillem, author of America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire, explains, “avoidance” of local populations, publicity, and potential opposition is the new aim. “To project its power,” he says, the United States wants “secluded and self-contained outposts strategically located” around the world. According to some of the strategy’s strongest proponents at the American Enterprise Institute, the goal should be “to create a worldwide network of frontier forts,” with the U.S. military “the ‘global cavalry’ of the twenty-first century.”

Such lily-pad bases have become a critical part of an evolving Washington military strategy aimed at maintaining U.S. global dominance by doing far more with less in an increasingly competitive, ever more multi-polar world. Central as it’s becoming to the long-term U.S. stance, this global-basing reset policy has, remarkably enough, received almost no public attention, nor significant Congressional oversight. Meanwhile, as the arrival of the first casualties from Africa shows, the U.S. military is getting involved in new areas of the world and new conflicts, with potentially disastrous consequences.

You might think that the U.S. military is in the process of shrinking, rather than expanding, its little noticed but enormous collection of bases abroad. After all, it was forced to close the full panoply of 505 bases, mega to micro, that it built in Iraq, and it's now beginning the process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan. In Europe, the Pentagon is continuing to close its massive bases in Germany and will soon remove two combat brigades from that country. Global troop numbers are set to shrink by around 100,000.

Yet Washington still easily maintains the largest collection of foreign bases in world history: more than 1,000 military installations outside the 50 states and Washington, DC. They include everything from decades-old bases in Germany and Japan to brand-new drone bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and even resorts for military vacationers in Italy and South Korea.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.-led international force still occupies more than 450 bases. In total, the U.S. military has some form of troop presence in approximately 150 foreign countries, not to mention 11 aircraft carrier task forces -- essentially floating bases -- and a significant, and growing, military presence in space. The United States currently spends an estimated $250 billion annually maintaining bases and troops overseas.

Some bases, like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, date to the late nineteenth century. Most were built or occupied during or just after World War II on every continent, including Antarctica. Although the U.S. military vacated around 60% of its foreign bases following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Cold War base infrastructure remained relatively intact, with 60,000 American troops remaining in Germany alone, despite the absence of a superpower adversary.

However, in the early months of 2001, even before the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration launched a major global realignment of bases and troops that’s continuing today with Obama’s “Asia pivot.” Bush’s original plan was to close more than one-third of the nation’s overseas bases and shift troops east and south, closer to predicted conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Pentagon began to focus on creating smaller and more flexible “forward operating bases” and even smaller “cooperative security locations” or “lily pads.” Major troop concentrations were to be restricted to a reduced number of “main operating bases” (MOBs) -- like Ramstein, Guam in the Pacific, and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean -- which were to be expanded.

Despite the rhetoric of consolidation and closure that went with this plan, in the post-9/11 era the Pentagon has actually been expanding its base infrastructure dramatically, including dozens of major bases in every Persian Gulf country save Iran, and in several Central Asian countries critical to the war in Afghanistan.

Obama’s recently announced “Asia pivot” signals that East Asia will be at the center of the explosion of lily-pad bases and related developments. Already in Australia, U.S. marines are settling into a shared base in Darwin. Elsewhere, the Pentagon is pursuing plans for a drone and surveillance base in Australia’s Cocos Islands and deployments to Brisbane and Perth. In Thailand, the Pentagon has negotiated rights for new Navy port visits and a “disaster-relief hub” at U-Tapao.

In the Philippines, whose government evicted the U.S. from the massive Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base in the early 1990s, as many as 600 special forces troops have quietly been operating in the country’s south since January 2002. Last month, the two governments reached an agreement on the future U.S. use of Clark and Subic, as well as other repair and supply hubs from the Vietnam War era. In a sign of changing times, U.S. officials even signed a 2011 defense agreement with former enemy Vietnam and have begun negotiations over the Navy’s increased use of Vietnamese ports.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Pentagon has rebuilt a runway on tiny Tinian island near Guam, and it’s considering future bases in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, while pushing stronger military ties with India. Every year in the region, the military conducts around 170 military exercises and 250 port visits. On South Korea’s Jeju island, the Korean military is building a base that will be part of the U.S. missile defense system and to which U.S. forces will have regular access.

“We just can’t be in one place to do what we’ve got to do,” Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III has said. For military planners, “what we’ve got to do” is clearly defined as isolating and (in the terminology of the Cold War) “containing” the new power in the region, China. This evidently means “peppering” new bases throughout the region, adding to the more than 200 U.S. bases that have encircled China for decades in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Hawaii.

And Asia is just the beginning. In Africa, the Pentagon has quietly created “about a dozen air bases” for drones and surveillance since 2007. In addition to Camp Lemonnier, we know that the military has created or will soon create installations in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Sudan, and Uganda. The Pentagon has also investigated building bases in Algeria, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria, among other places.

Next year, a brigade-sized force of 3,000 troops, and “likely more,” will arrive for exercises and training missions across the continent. In the nearby Persian Gulf, the Navy is developing an “afloat forward-staging base,” or “mothership,” to serve as a sea-borne “lily pad” for helicopters and patrol craft, and has been involved in a massive build-up of forces in the region.

In Latin America, following the military's eviction from Panama in 1999 and Ecuador in 2009, the Pentagon has created or upgraded new bases in Aruba and Curaçao, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru.  Elsewhere, the Pentagon has funded the creation of military and police bases capable of hosting U.S. forces in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and even Ecuador. In 2008, the Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, inactive since 1950, to patrol the region. The military may want a base in Brazil and unsuccessfully tried to create bases, ostensibly for humanitarian and emergency relief, in Paraguay and Argentina.

Finally, in Europe, after arriving in the Balkans during 1990’s interventions, U.S. bases have moved eastward into some of the former Eastern Bloc states of the Soviet empire. The Pentagon is now developing installations capable of supporting rotating, brigade-sized deployments in Romania and Bulgaria, and a missile defense base and aviation facilities in Poland. Previously, the Bush administration maintained two CIA black sites (secret prisons) in Lithuania and another in Poland. Citizens of the Czech Republic rejected a planned radar base for the Pentagon’s still unproven missile defense system, and now Romania will host ground-based missiles.

A lily pad on one of the Gulf of Guinea islands of S­ão Tomé and Príncipe, off the oil-rich west coast of Africa, helps explain what’s going on. A U.S. official has described the base as “another Diego Garcia,” referring to the Indian Ocean base that’s helped ensure decades of U.S. domination over Middle Eastern energy supplies. Without the freedom to create new large bases in Africa, the Pentagon is using S­ão Tomé and a growing collection of other lily pads on the continent in an attempt to control another crucial oil-rich region.

Far beyond West Africa, the nineteenth century “Great Game” competition for Central Asia has returned with a passion -- and this time gone global.  It’s spreading to resource-rich lands in Africa, Asia, and South America, as the United States, China, Russia, and members of the European Union find themselves locked in an increasingly intense competition for economic and geopolitical supremacy.

While Beijing, in particular, has pursued this competition in a largely economic fashion, dotting the globe with strategic investments, Washington has focused relentlessly on military might as its global trump card, dotting the planet with new bases and other forms of military power. “Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland,” Nick Turse has written of this new twenty-first century military strategy. “Instead, think: special operations forces... proxy armies... the militarization of spying and intelligence... drone aircraft... cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized ‘civilian’ government agencies.”

Add to this unparalleled long-range air and naval power; arms sales besting any nation on Earth; humanitarian and disaster relief missions that clearly serve military intelligence, patrol, and “hearts and minds” functions; the rotational deployment of regular U.S. forces globally; port visits and an expanding array of joint military exercises and training missions that give the U.S. military de facto “presence” worldwide and help turn foreign militaries into proxy forces.

And lots and lots of lily-pad bases.

Military planners see a future of endless small-scale interventions in which a large, geographically dispersed collection of bases will always be primed for instant operational access. With bases in as many places as possible, military planners want to be able to turn to another conveniently close country if the United States is ever prevented from using a base, as it was by Turkey prior to the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Pentagon officials dream of nearly limitless flexibility, the ability to react with remarkable rapidity to developments anywhere on Earth, and thus, something approaching total military control over the planet.

Beyond their military utility, the lily pads and other forms of power projection are also political and economic tools used to build and maintain alliances and provide privileged U.S. access to overseas markets, resources, and investment opportunities. Washington is planning to use lily-pad bases and other military projects to bind countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America as closely as possible to the U.S. military -- and so to continued U.S. political-economic hegemony. In short, American officials are hoping military might will entrench their influence and keep as many countries as possible within an American orbit at a time when some are asserting their independence ever more forcefully or gravitating toward China and other rising powers.

While relying on smaller bases may sound smarter and more cost effective than maintaining huge bases that have often caused anger in places like Okinawa and South Korea, lily pads threaten U.S. and global security in several ways:

First, the “lily pad” language can be misleading, since by design or otherwise, such installations are capable of quickly growing into bloated behemoths.

Second, despite the rhetoric about spreading democracy that still lingers in Washington, building more lily pads actually guarantees collaboration with an increasing number of despotic, corrupt, and murderous regimes.

Third, there is a well-documented pattern of damage that military facilities of various sizes inflict on local communities. Although lily pads seem to promise insulation from local opposition, over time even small bases have often led to anger and protest movements.

Finally, a proliferation of lily pads means the creeping militarization of large swaths of the globe. Like real lily pads -- which are actually aquatic weeds -- bases have a way of growing and reproducing uncontrollably. Indeed, bases tend to beget bases, creating “base races” with other nations, heightening military tensions, and discouraging diplomatic solutions to conflicts. After all, how would the United States respond if China, Russia, or Iran were to build even a single lily-pad base of its own in Mexico or the Caribbean?

For China and Russia in particular, ever more U.S. bases near their borders threaten to set off new cold wars. Most troublingly, the creation of new bases to protect against an alleged future Chinese military threat may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: such bases in Asia are likely to create the threat they are supposedly designed to protect against, making a catastrophic war with China more, not less, likely.

Encouragingly, however, overseas bases have recently begun to generate critical scrutiny across the political spectrum from Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to Democratic Senator Jon Tester and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. With everyone looking for ways to trim the deficit, closing overseas bases offers easy savings. Indeed, increasingly influential types are recognizing that the country simply can’t afford more than 1,000 bases abroad.

Great Britain, like empires before it, had to close most of its remaining foreign bases in the midst of an economic crisis in the 1960s and 1970s. The United States is undoubtedly headed in that direction sooner or later. The only question is whether the country will give up its bases and downsize its global mission by choice, or if it will follow Britain’s path as a fading power forced to give up its bases from a position of weakness.

Of course, the consequences of not choosing another path extend beyond economics. If the proliferation of lily pads, special operations forces, and drone wars continues, the United States is likely to be drawn into new conflicts and new wars, generating unknown forms of blowback, and untold death and destruction. In that case, we’d better prepare for a lot more incoming flights -- from the Horn of Africa to Honduras -- carrying not just amputees but caskets.

— This article was posted July 15 on TomDispatch.com. David Vine is an assistant professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia" (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States.

Written by Bev Grant and Daniel A. Weiss,
performed by Ina May Wool and Bev Grant.
[You can listen to this at the Labor Notes website at

Gas man came calling just the other day.
Said you lease me your land and I promise we will pay
For what you got underground; we’ll bring it to the top.
But first we gotta drill a hole, make those bubbles pop.
We got a cocktail to inject. Best not to drink it, don’t you know.
We’ll shoot it deep inside the shale rock shatter what’s below,

To get the natural gas.
Your lucky day will come at last,
When we frack over here.

My neighbor told me he got that same song and dance.
The money sounded good and so he thought he’d take a chance.
Now his chickens lost their feathers, some are now belated,
‘Cause the water in his well has been contaminated.
Strike a match in his sink, watch the faucet catch on fire.
The gas man says it’s not his fault. We know he’s no liar.

Natural gas,
Hope this don't sound too crass.
Get the frack outa here

Between a rock and a hard place, that's where I am.
Lord knows we need the money, but I don’t understand.

How you can stand there and tell me, this is a good thing,
While you poison our water with lead and benzene.
Hydraulic fracturing, sure, it's making you a buck,
While the rest of us get sick and die and you just say “tough luck.”
You try to make us think it’s safe. You even try to say it’s green.
By showing pretty pictures on our tv screen.

Natural gas,
You can kiss my ass.
Get the frack outa here.

Ain’t nothin’ natural ‘bout your
Natural gas,
Kiss my natural ass, and
Get the frack outa here.

[Personnel: Bev Grant, vocals, acoustic guitar; Ina May Wool, vocals; Daniel A. Weiss, dobro, Trilian bass, mandolin, drum programming, sound, producer.]

[The following article, originally titled "Tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror," is by Amira Hass, a writer for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, where it appeared July 18.]

Here's a statistic that you won't see in research on anti-Semitism, no matter how meticulous the study is. In the first six months of the year, 154 anti-Semitic assaults have been recorded, 45 of them around one village alone. Some fear that last year's record high of 411 attacks —  significantly more than the 312 attacks in 2010 and 168 in 2009 —  could be broken this year.

Fifty-eight incidents were recorded in June alone, including stone-throwing targeting farmers and shepherds, shattered windows, arson, damaged water pipes and water-storage facilities, uprooted fruit trees and one damaged house of worship. The assailants are sometimes masked, sometimes not; sometimes they attack surreptitiously, sometimes in the light of day.

There were two violent attacks a day, in separate venues, on July 13, 14 and 15. The words "death" and "revenge" have been scrawled in various areas; a more original message promises that "We will yet slaughter."

It's no accident that the diligent anti-Semitism researchers have left out this data. That's because they don't see it as relevant, since the Semites who were attacked live in villages with names like Jalud, Mughayer and At-Tuwani, Yanun and Beitilu. The daily dose of terrorizing (otherwise known as terrorism ) that is inflicted on these Semites isn't compiled into a neat statistical report, nor is it noticed by most of the Jewish population in Israel and around the world —  even though the incidents resemble the stories told by our grandparents.

The day our grandparents feared was Sunday, the Christian Sabbath; the Semites, who are not of interest to the researchers monitoring anti-Semitism, fear Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Our grandparents knew that the order-enforcement authorities wouldn't intervene to help a Jewish family under attack; we know that the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Civil Administration, the Border Police and the courts all stand on the sidelines, closing their eyes, softballing investigations, ignoring evidence, downplaying the severity of the acts, protecting the attackers, and giving a boost to those pogromtchiks. The hands behind these attacks belong to Israeli Jews who violate international law by living in the West Bank. But the aims and goals behind the attacks are the flesh and blood of the Israeli non-occupation. This systemic violence is part of the existing order. It complements and facilitates the violence of the regime, and what the representatives —  the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, the generals and the Civil Administration officers —  are doing while "bearing the burden" of military service.

They are grabbing as much land as possible, using pretexts and tricks made kosher by the High Court of Justice; they are confining the natives to densely populated reservations. That is the essence of the tremendous success known as Area C: a deliberate thinning of the Palestinian population in about 62% of the West Bank, as preparation for formal annexation.

Day after day, tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror. Will there be an attack today on the homes at the edge of the village? Will we be able to get to the well, to the orchard, to the wheat field? Will our children get to school okay, or make it to their cousins' house unharmed? How many olive trees were damaged overnight?

In exceptional cases, when there is luck to be had, a video camera operated by B'Tselem volunteers (1) documents an incident and pierces the armor of willful ignorance donned by the citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East. When there is no camera, the matter is of negligible importance, because after all, you can't believe the Palestinians. But this routine of escalating violence is very real, even if it is underreported.

For the human rights organization Al-Haq (2), the escalation is reminiscent of what happened in 1993-1994, when they warned that the increasing violence, combined with the authorities' failure to take action, would lead to mass casualties. And then Dr. Baruch Goldstein of Kiryat Arba came along and gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahim Mosque. The massacre set the stage for a consistent Israeli policy of emptying the Old City of Hebron of its Palestinian residents, with the assistance of Israeli Jewish pogromtchiks. Is there someone among the country's decision-makers and decision-implementers who is hoping for a second round?

(1) B'Tselem is the name of the volunteer civil organization titled "The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories."  They have an informative website, including a number of one-the-spot videos of rights violations at http://www.btselem.org/video
(2) Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah, West Bank. The web address: http://www.alhaq.org/.

By Bill McKibben

It's turning into a hot climate summer in two ways, only one of which you can measure with a thermometer.

Amidst the deepening drought, the summer's fourth heat wave, and the continued western fires, there's something else breaking out: a siege of citizen uprisings at key points around the country all designed to keep coal in the hole, oil in the soil, gas... underground.

Ever since the mass arrests protesting the Keystone pipeline last summer (the largest civil disobedience action in the U.S. in 30 years) there's been renewed interest in confronting the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers. Some have been following this path for years, of course -- late next week, beginning July 25, opponents of mountain-top removal coal-mining will resume their long-standing (and increasingly successful fight), with a week-long Mountain Mobilization that will likely include civil disobedience.

A few days later, activists from around the country will descend on D.C. for a rally against fracking -- perhaps the fastest-growing wing of the environmental movement. That gathering won't lead to arrests -- but others will.

Earlier this week, for instance, Ohio protesters chained themselves to the gates outside a so-called injection well, not far from where earlier this year disposal of fracking water had helped trigger a swarm of earthquakes. And just yesterday Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo announced plans for an August 25 gathering designed to keep fracking at bay in New York State.

From August 10-20, Montana protesters will hold a multi-day sit-in designed to stop opening up of massive new coal mines -- and across the Pacific Northwest others are joining in to fight the proposed ports that would send that coal to Asia for burning.

And just so oil doesn't feel left out of the party, Texans in August and September are planning civil disobedience to block the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, the part that's been given a green light by the Obama administration.

Taken one by one, these might seem like mosquito bites against the tough hide of the planet's richest and most politically connected industry. But taken together, they show an ever-savvier movement that's figuring out the choke points that make fossil fuel corporations vulnerable. If you can't pipe tar sands oil to the ocean, there's no reason to mine it in the first place; if you've got no port for your coal, you might as well leave it in the ground.

And here's the thing -- each of these actions is magnified by the temperature, multiplied by the humidity, underscored by the smoke in the sky. "Long hot summer" has two meanings now, and they amplify each other.

— From Common Dreams, July 19. Bill McKibben teaches at Middlebury (VT) College and is co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet." McKibben's other new article, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," has been published in Rolling Stone and is available at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719?print=true

By the Bradley Manning Support Network

FORT MEADE, Maryland: Establishing yet another obstacle for PFC Bradley Manning's legal defense, military judge Denise Lind ruled July 19 that defense lawyer David Coombs will be substantially hindered from showing how WikiLeaks' releases didn’t bring damage to U.S. national security. In largely granting a government motion to preclude discussion of actual damage, Lind said that harm or lack thereof is irrelevant to Manning’s guilt or innocence.

"Bradley should be able to argue that he had a reasonable belief that no harm would come from his alleged actions by showing that no harm actually occurred," explained Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  The prosecution continues to argue that the releases “could” cause harm at some point in the future.

Manning's next hearing at Fort Meade, Aug. 27-31, will highlight the illegal and torturous treatment the military subjected him to at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. Coombs is expected to argue for dismissal of all charges based on the military's flagrant violation of Article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that prohibits all pre-trial punishment "any more rigorous" than required to ensure the accused appears at court hearings.

Judge Lind ruled July 20 that she would not allow United Nations torture rapporteur Juan Mendez to testify about Manning's unlawful confinement conditions, declaring his testimony irrelevant, even though the torture chief called Manning's treatment "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" after a 14-month investigation

Supporters will underscore the cruelty of Manning's conditions by holding a rally at the Fort Meade Main Gate on Aug. 27.

—The Support Network address is http://www.bradleymanning.org.