A Great Empire in Decline…

Viral

Well-Known Member
This article sums up the topic of this thread…


Chris Hedges: The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan will be one more signpost of the end of the American empire

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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of RT’s On Contact, a weekly interview series on US foreign policy, economic realities and civil liberties in American society. He’s the author of 14 books, including several New York Times best-sellers.

The US empire is in terminal decline, and heading for a dystopian future. Yet no-one – not the generals, the politicians or the fawning MSM – will be held accountable for all the military follies that herald its imminent collapse.
The debacle in Afghanistan, which will unravel into chaos with lightning speed over the next few weeks and ensure the return of the Taliban to power, is one more signpost of the end of the American empire.
The two decades of combat, the one trillion dollars we spent, the 100,000 troops deployed to subdue Afghanistan, the high-tech gadgets, artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare, Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, and the Global Hawk drones with high-resolution cameras, Special Operations Command composed of elite rangers, SEALs and air commandos, black sites, torture, electronic surveillance, satellites, attack aircraft, mercenary armies, infusions of millions of dollars to buy off and bribe the local elites and train an Afghan army of 350,000 that has never exhibited the will to fight, failed to defeat a guerrilla army of 60,000 that funded itself through opium production and extortion in one of the poorest countries on Earth.
Like any empire in terminal decay, no one will be held accountable for the debacle, or for the other debacles in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, or anywhere else. Not the generals. Not the politicians. Not the CIA and intelligence agencies. Not the diplomats. Not the obsequious courtiers in the press who serve as cheerleaders for war. Not the compliant academics and area specialists. Not the defense industry. Empires at the end are collective suicide machines. The military in late empire becomes unmanageable, unaccountable, and endlessly self-perpetuating, no matter how many fiascos, blunders, and defeats it visits upon the carcass of the nation, or how much money it plunders, impoverishing the citizenry and leaving governing institutions and the physical infrastructure decayed.
The human tragedy – at least 801,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan, and 37 million have been displaced in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria, according to the Watson Institute at Brown University – is reduced to a neglected footnote.
Nearly all the roughly 70 empires during the last four thousand years, including the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Ottoman, Habsburg, imperial German, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires, collapsed in the same orgy of military folly. The Roman Republic, at its height, only lasted two centuries. We are set to disintegrate in roughly the same time. This is why, at the start of World War I in Germany, Karl Liebknecht called the German military, which imprisoned and later assassinated him, “the enemy from within.”
Mark Twain, who was a fierce opponent of the efforts to plant the seeds of empire in Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, wrote an imagined history of America in the twentieth century in which its “lust for conquest” had destroyed “the Great Republic … [because] trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake.”
Twain knew that foreign occupations, designed to enrich the ruling elites, use occupied populations as laboratory rats to perfect techniques of control that soon migrate back to the homeland. It was the brutal colonial policing practices in the Philippines, which included a vast spy network along with routine beatings, torture, and executions, which became the model for centralized domestic policing and intelligence gathering in the United States. Israeli’s arms, surveillance and drone industries test their products on the Palestinians.
It is one of the dark ironies that it was the American empire, led by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which spawned the mess in Afghanistan. Brzezinski oversaw a multibillion-dollar CIA covert operation to arm, train, and equip the Taliban to fight the Soviets. This clandestine effort sidelined the secular, democratic opposition and assured the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan, along with the spread of its radical Islam into Soviet Central Asia, once Soviet forces withdrew. The American empire would, years later, find itself desperately trying to destroy its own creation. In April 2017, in a classic example of this kind of absurd blowback, the United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” – the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal – on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan that the CIA had invested millions in building and fortifying.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 were not an existential threat to the United States. They were not politically significant. They did not disrupt the balance of global power. They were not an act of war. They were acts of nihilistic terror.
The only way to fight terrorists is to isolate them within their own societies. I was in the Middle East for the New York Times after the attacks. Most of the Muslim world was appalled and revolted at the crimes against humanity that had been carried out in the name of Islam. If we had the courage to be vulnerable, to grasp that this was an intelligence war, not a conventional war, we would be far safer and more secure today. These wars in the shadows, as the Israelis illustrated when they tracked down the assassins of their athletes in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, take months, even years of work.
But the attacks gave the ruling elites lusting for control of the Middle East – especially Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks – the excuse to carry out the greatest strategic blunder in American history: the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war, including then-Senator Joe Biden, knew little about the countries being invaded, and did not grasp the limits of industrial and technocratic war or the inevitable blowback that would see the United States reviled throughout the Muslim world. They believed they could implant client regimes by force throughout the region, and use the oil revenues in Iraq – since the war in Afghanistan would be over in a matter of weeks – to cover the cost of reconstruction and magically restore American global hegemony. It did the opposite.
Invading Iraq and Afghanistan, dropping iron fragmentation bombs on villages and towns, kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning tens of thousands of people, and using drones to sow terror from the skies, resurrected the discredited radical jihadists and was a potent recruiting tool in the fight against US and NATO forces. We were the best thing that ever happened to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
There was little objection within the power structures to these invasions. The congressional vote was 518 to one in favor of empowering President George W. Bush to launch a war, Rep. Barbara Lee being the lone dissenter. Those of us who spoke out against the idiocy of the looming bloodlust were slandered, denied media platforms, and cast into the wilderness, where most of us remain. Those who sold us the war kept their megaphones, a reward for their service to empire and the military-industrial complex. It did not matter how cynical or foolish they were.
Historians call the self-defeating military adventurism of late empires “micro-militarism.” During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), the Athenians invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain attacked Egypt in 1956 in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and was humiliated when it had to withdraw its forces, bolstering the status of Arab nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.
“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” the historian Alfred McCoy writes in ‘In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power’. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”
The death blow to the American empire will, as McCoy writes, be the loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This loss will plunge the United States into a crippling and prolonged depression. It will force a massive contraction of the global military footprint.
The ugly, squalid face of empire, with the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency, will become familiar at home. The bleak economic landscape, with its decay and hopelessness, will accelerate an array of violent and self-destructive pathologies including mass shootings, hate crimes, opioid and heroin overdoses, morbid obesity, suicides, gambling, and alcoholism. The state will increasingly dispense with the fiction of the rule of law to rely exclusively on militarized police, essentially internal armies of occupation, and the prisons and jails, which already hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners even though the United States represents less than five percent of the global population.

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Our demise will probably come more swiftly than we imagine. When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, empires become “brittle.” An economy heavily dependent on massive government subsidies to produce primarily weapons and munitions, as well as to fund military adventurism, will go into a tailspin with a heavily depreciated dollar, falling to perhaps a third of its former value. Prices will dramatically rise because of the steep increase in the cost of imports. Wages in real terms will decline. The devaluation of Treasury bonds will make paying for our massive deficits onerous, perhaps impossible. The unemployment level will climb to depression-era levels. Social assistance programs, because of a contracting budget, will be sharply curtailed or eliminated. This dystopian world will fuel the rage and hyper nationalism that put Donald Trump in the White House. It will spawn an authoritarian state to keep order and, I expect, a Christianized fascism.
The tools of control on the outer reaches of empire, already part of our existence, will become ubiquitous. The wholesale surveillance, the abolition of basic civil liberties, militarized police authorized to use indiscriminate lethal force, the use of drones and satellites to keep us monitored and fearful, along with the censorship of the press and social media, familiar to Iraqis or Afghans, will define America.
We are not the first empire to suffer this fate. It is a familiar ending. Imperialism and militarism are poisons that eradicate the separation of powers, designed to prevent tyranny and extinguish democracy. If those who orchestrated these crimes are not held accountable, and this means organizing sustained mass resistance, we will pay the price, and we may pay it soon, for their hubris and greed.
This article was first published here at Scheerpost.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member

Chris Hedges: Bless our American traitors

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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of RT’s On Contact, a weekly interview series on US foreign policy, economic realities and civil liberties in American society. He’s the author of 14 books, including several New York Times best-sellers.

Intelligence analyst Daniel Hale exposed the indiscriminate murder of noncombatants in the global US drone war. For his heroism, he faces 10 years in prison while those who oversee these war crimes continue their killing spree.
Daniel Hale, an active-duty Air Force intelligence analyst, stood in the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 in his military uniform. He held up a sign that read “Free Bradley Manning,” who had not yet announced her transition. It was a singular act of conscience few in uniform had the strength to replicate. He had taken a week off from his job to join the protesters in the park. He was present at 6am on October 14 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first attempt to clear the park. He stood in solidarity with thousands of protesters, including many unionized transit workers, teachers, Teamsters and communications workers, who formed a ring around the park. He watched the police back down as the crowd erupted into cheers. But this act of defiance and moral courage was only the beginning.
At the time, Hale was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few months later, he deployed to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base. He would later learn that that while he was in Zuccotti Park, Barack Obama ordered a drone strike some 12,000 miles away in Yemen that killed Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of radical cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier. The Obama administration claimed it was targeting the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Banna, who it believed – incorrectly – was with the boy and his cousins, all of whom were also killed in the attack. That massacre of innocents became public, but there were thousands more such attacks that wantonly killed noncombatants that only Hale and those with top-security clearances knew about.
Starting in 2013, Hale, while working as a private contractor, leaked some 17 classified documents about the drone program to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, although the reporter is not named in court documents. The leaked documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”
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Hale was coerced by Biden’s Justice Department on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power – not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. He is being held in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center in Virginia, awaiting sentencing on July 27. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison. He now faces up to a decade in prison.
Tragically, his case has not garnered the attention it should. When Nick Mottern, of the Ban Killer Drones campaign, accompanied artists projecting Hale’s image on downtown walls in Washington, DC, he found that everyone he spoke to was unaware of Hale’s plight. Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, have largely remained silent and uninvolved. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers, mounted a letter-writing campaign to the judge to request leniency, and is collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund.
“Daniel Hale is one of the most consequential whistleblowers,” Edward Snowden said on a May Day panel held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers. “He sacrificed everything – an incredibly courageous person – to tell us that the drone war, that, you know, is so obviously occurring to everyone else, but the government was still officially denying in so many ways, is here, it is happening, and 90 percent of the casualties in one five-month period were innocents or bystanders or not the target of the drone strike. We could not establish that, we could not prove that, without Daniel Hale’s voice.”
Speaking on ‘Democracy Now!’ with host Amy Goodman a few weeks later, Daniel Ellsberg agreed that Hale “acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them.”
Because Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, he, like other whistleblowers – including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou, who spent two and a half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites – was not permitted to explain his motivations and intent to the court. Nor could he provide evidence to the court that the drone assassination program killed and wounded large numbers of noncombatants, including children. He faced trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, much of whose population has links to the military or intelligence community, and whose courts have become notorious for their harsh sentences on behalf of the government.
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The 2012 Living Under Drones’ report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides a detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” – including, of course, people.
The numbers of civilian dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.
Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. Without warning, the drones, operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordnance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals, and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”
“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?”
Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force, told The Guardian. “That’s what you are made to think of the targets – as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do – they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day – and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”
The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and constant fear.
“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”
Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.
“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads. “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”
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Hale, now 33, always had doubts about the war, but he enlisted in 2009 when Obama assumed office. He hoped that Obama would undo the excesses and lawlessness of the Bush administration. Instead, a few weeks after he took office, Obama approved the deployment of an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, where 36,000 US troops and 32,000 NATO troops were already based. By the end of the year, Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan again by 30,000, doubling US casualties. He also massively expanded the drone program, raising the number of drone strikes from several dozen the year before he became president to 117 by his second year in office. By the time he left the position, Obama had presided over the killing of at least 3,000 suspected militants and hundreds of civilians. He authorized what are known as “signature strikes,” allowing the CIA to carry out drone attacks against groups of suspected militants without getting positive identification. He spread the footprint of the drone war, establishing drone bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other overseas locations to expand attacks to Syria and Yemen. The Obama administration also indicted eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous administrations combined. The Biden administration, like the Trump and Obama administrations, continues to launch widespread global drone strikes.
“Before I joined the military, I was well aware that what I was about to enter was something I was against, that I disagreed with,” Hale says in the 2016 documentary film National Bird’. “I joined anyway out of desperation. I was homeless. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to go. I was on my last leg. The Air Force was ready to accept me.”
In the film, Hale alludes to a difficult and chaotic childhood.
“It’s kind of funny, a little ironic too, because so far I’m the only adult male in my entire family, immediate and external, who had not been to prison so far,” he says. “I come from a long lineage of prisoners, actually, a very proud tradition of f**k-ups who get drunk and go driving, or sell pot, or carry a gun when they shouldn’t be carrying a gun, in the wrong place at the wrong time; a lot of that where I’m from.”
He was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg and underwent language and intelligence training. He worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst identifying targets for the drone program. His Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) security clearance gave him access to the vast, global drone war hidden from public view, and Obama’s huge secret “kill lists.”
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“There are several such lists, used to target individuals for different reasons,” he wrote in an essay titled ‘Why I Leaked the Watchlist Documents’, originally published anonymously in the book ‘The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program’ by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. The book is based on the leaked documents provided by Hale that first appeared as an eight-part series called ‘The Drone Papers’ published by The Intercept.
“Some lists are closely kept; others span multiple intelligence and local law enforcement agencies,” Hale writes in the essay. “There are lists used to kill or capture supposed ‘high-value targets,’ and others intended to threaten, coerce, or simply monitor a person’s activity. However, all the lists, whether to kill or silence, originate from the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, and they are maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center at the National Counterterrorism Center. The existence of TIDE is unclassified, yet details about how it functions in our government are completely unknown to the public. In August 2013 the database reached a milestone of one million entries. Today it is thousands of entries larger and is growing faster than it has since its inception in 2003.”
The Terrorist Screening Center, he writes, not only stores names, dates of birth, and other identifying information of potential targets, but also stores “medical records, transcripts, and passport data; license plate numbers, email, and cell-phone numbers (along with the phone’s International Mobile Subscriber Identity and International Mobile Station Equipment Identity numbers); your bank account numbers and purchases; and other sensitive information, including DNA and photographs capable of identifying you using facial recognition software.”
Data on suspects is collected and pooled by the intelligence agencies known as the Five Eyes, the intelligence alliance formed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each person on the list is assigned a TIDE personal number, or TPN.
“From Osama bin Laden (TPN 1063599) to Abdulrahman Awlaki (TPN 26350617), the American son of Anwar al Awlaki, anyone who has ever been the target of a covert operation was first assigned a TPN and closely monitored by all agencies who follow that TPN long before they were eventually put on a separate list and extrajudicially sentenced to death,” Hale wrote.
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He also exposed that the more than one million entries in the TIDE database include about 21,000 United States citizens.
After leaving the Air Force in July 2013, Hale was employed by the private defense contractor National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a political geography analyst between December 2013 and August 2014. He said he took the job, which paid $80,000 a year, because he was in desperate need of money and hoped to go to college. But by then he was disgusted with the drone program and determined to make the public aware of its abuses and lawlessness. Inspired by the peace activist David Dellinger, he, like Dellinger, had decided to become a traitor to “the American way of death.” He would make amends for his complicity in the killings, even at the cost of his own security and freedom.
“When the president gets up in front of the nation and says they are doing everything they can to ensure there is near certainty there will be no civilians killed, he is saying that because he can’t say otherwise, because anytime an action is taken to finish a target there is a certain amount of guesswork in that action,” Hale says in the film. “It’s only in the aftermath of any kind of ordinance being dropped that you know how much actual damage was done. Oftentimes, the intelligence community is reliant, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA included, is reliant on intelligence coming afterwards that confirms that who they were targeting was killed in the strike, or that they weren’t killed in that strike.”
“The people who defend drones, and the way they are used, say they protect American lives by not putting them in harm’s way,”
he says. “What they really do is embolden decision makers, because there is no threat, there is no immediate consequence. They can do this strike. They can potentially kill this person they are so desperate to eliminate because of how potentially dangerous they could be to the US. But if it just so happens that they don’t kill that person, or some other people involved in the strike get killed as well, there are no consequences for it. When it comes to high-value targets, every mission you go after one person at a time, but anybody else killed in that strike is blanketly assumed to be an associate of the targeted individual. So as long as they can reasonably identify that all of the people in the field view of the camera are military-aged males, meaning anybody who is believed to be age 16 or older, they are a legitimate target under the rules of engagement. If that strike occurs and kills all of them, they just say they got them all.”
Drones, he warns, make remote killing “too easy, too convenient.”
On August 8, 2014, the FBI raided his home. It was his last day of work for the private contractor. A male and female FBI agent shoved their badges in his face when he opened the door.
“Immediately behind them came about 20 agents, basically all of them with pistols drawn, some wearing body armor,” he says in the film. “At this point I was extremely scared. I did not understand what was going on. Altogether, there might have been at least 30 to 50 agents in and out of the house at different points throughout the evening, taking photos of every room and everything, searching for different things.”
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By the time they finished, his house was stripped of all electronics, including his cell phone.
For the next five years he lived with the uncertainty of his fate. He struggled to find work, fought off depression, and contemplated suicide. He was barred, by law, from speaking about his plight, even with a therapist. In 2019, the Trump administration indicted Hale on four counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property.
The thousands of targeted assassinations carried out by drones, often in countries that are not at war with the United States, are an egregious violation of international law. They are turning huge swathes of the planet against us. The secret kill lists, which include US citizens, have transformed the executive branch into judge, jury and executioner, obliterating the right to due process. Those that commit these killings are unaccountable. Hale sacrificed his career and his freedom to warn us. He is not a danger to the country. The danger we face comes from the secret drone program, which is spiraling out of control and ominously being adopted by domestic law enforcement agencies. If left unchecked, the terror we impose on others we will soon impose on ourselves.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member

US home-made drones are inferior and cost more than the Chinese ones they’ve replaced... and that spells trouble for Biden


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The difficulties of America’s efforts to wean itself off Chinese technology have been revealed, after the Pentagon spent over $13m developing far less capable aerial devices. It’s a stark illustration of wider economic woes.
Last year the Trump administration took the step of grounding the entire federal government fleet of drones, many of which were made by Chinese company DJI. Amounting to an inventory of more than 800, the White House was concerned they were being used for espionage and demanded that they be made in America instead.
Biden has embraced this policy wholeheartedly, Congress is currently busy pushing legislation which will restrict them even further. But as a recent Financial Times report has revealed, this is not having the intended results. Being forced to produce drones made in the US, the government now finds itself paying eight to 14 times more for a product which doesn't even have 95% of the sensors seen on its Chinese counterpart. Who could have ever seen that coming?
Lessons learnt? Nope. Arguably the worst has not yet come, as the Biden administration is enthusiastically pursuing this botched strategy of protectionism across a whole range of other areas, too. He wants to make things in America and rival China's industrial policy with his own brand of ‘America First’, optimistically accusing Chinese products of all kinds of malign things in order to discredit their place in the US market. This includes allegations of human rights abuses, of using forced labour and, of course, playing the espionage card.
Apparently, so it goes, doing this will create American jobs and win back the country’s industrial base, which Beijing is apparently “solely responsible” for diminishing in public mythology. But all indications so far show this isn't working... even Janet Yellen recently commented that Trump's tariffs had hurt American consumers.
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The costs of aggressive economic nationalism with an anti-China overcoating are literally ‘costs’ in the true sense of the word, coming not in the form of metaphorical penalties, but of soaring production and labour costs. While the US has been quick to attack China's economic model, claiming it is ‘unfair’ for a variety of reasons, in the midst of all this hysteria what might constitute actual ‘reason’ and analysis of market dynamics has been lost.
China's market is more competitive than America’s not because it apparently ‘cheats’, as is lazily assumed, but because it is floated on a much cheaper and surplus labour force combined with a much more integrated and larger supply chain, buffeted by a much larger market both at home and abroad.
America doesn’t have 1.4 billion people to fall back on, nor such a globally spanning market as China does. Thus, in both ‘supply’ and ‘demand’, China's options are much larger, which allows goods to be produced and sold more cheaply, but also with much larger profit margins.
The United States, no matter how much it tries or wishes to, can't emulate this, with the primary reason being that its economic structure is based exclusively on consumer capitalism and services, which has incentivized ‘offshoring’ of jobs and production to meet the needs of the market – not because “China is to blame” and has “stolen our jobs.”
To put it bluntly, America is not China, therefore it cannot copy China. Beijing’s economic model is advantageous owing to its size of population, its scale, and its different trajectory in development. Therefore, when an American company tries to make a drone, not only is it more expensive, but it’s also of a lesser quality in order to try and keep costs down, which turns the logic of the old ‘made in China’ stereotype on its head.
In this case, along with already rising prices in the United States, what the ‘Biden economy’ risks if it keeps hammering China across multiple fields, in the worst-case scenario, is the re-emergence of a 1970s-style industrial policy which sees inflation spiral out of control and the return of ‘stagflation’.
The administration is already lockstepped against supporting expansive free trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which were core to countering China in the first place. Countries such as India and Vietnam have been touted as manufacturing alternatives, but they do not have the resilience nor the capability to match China, and nor does Washington have the political capital to outsource ‘jobs’ there again when the onus is solely on building them back home. It is currently politically unacceptable for any country to gain an ‘advantage’ on the US when it comes to trade – be it the UK, Europe, or whoever.
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So if Biden pushes this model too aggressively, the outcome will be that the incentive for profit-making against the practical reality of more expensive production costs will cause the costs of goods to rise, which will be passed onto the consumer, who will require drastic wage increases to keep up with it (and this is also impossible in America’s economic system), otherwise real consumption falls and then the economy stagnates.
Even if this worst-case scenario does not happen, this principle alone illustrates why the US’ stimulus-led stellar growth can’t continue. If the US is to keep growing in a stable manner, then it needs to stick to the neoliberal, low-price, low-inflation model it’s adhered to since Reagan, as immoral as it may be. If, on the other hand, Biden’s strategy is to be successful in the long term, this entire economic structure has to be rewritten from bottom up. Is this going to happen? No. He’s trying to blend them both, and it won’t work.
America's fundamental weakness here is that it remains an ultra-capitalist economy that has subsequently offshored manufacturing and embraced global markets as big corporations do, but then on a political level decided against the flow of the market that it does not like this system anymore, because a rival country dominates it. This is the inherent contradiction of US capitalism, and it may ultimately prove the undoing of the Biden model as it risks driving up costs and making false promises.
 

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Chris Hedges: The price of conscience

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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of RT’s On Contact, a weekly interview series on US foreign policy, economic realities and civil liberties in American society. He’s the author of 14 books, including several New York Times best-sellers.

This week, drone warfare whistleblower Daniel Hale has been sentenced to 45 months in prison for telling the American people the truth.
Daniel Hale, a former intelligence analyst in the drone program for the Air Force who as a private contractor in 2013 leaked some 17 classified documents about drone strikes to the press, was just sentenced to 45 months in prison.
The documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013 US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90% of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”
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The Justice Department coerced Hale, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison.
The sentencing of Hale is one more potentially mortal blow to the freedom of the press. It follows in the wake of the prosecutions and imprisonment of other whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites. Those charged under the act are treated as if they were spies. They are barred from explaining motivations and intent to the court. They cannot provide evidence to the court of the government lawlessness and war crimes they exposed. Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, along with mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and CNN, have largely remained silent about the prosecution of Hale. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers. It is also collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund. The bipartisan onslaught against the press – Barack Obama used the Espionage Act eight times against whistleblowers, more than all other previous administrations combined – by criminalizing those within the system who seek to inform the public is ominous for our democracy. It is effectively extinguishing all investigations into the inner workings of power.
Hale, in a handwritten letter to Judge Liam O’Grady on July 18, explained why he leaked classified information, writing that the drone attacks and the war in Afghanistan “had little to do with preventing terror from coming into the United States and a lot more to do with protecting the profits of weapons manufacturers and so-called defense contractors.”
At the top of the 11-page letter Hale quoted US Navy Admiral Gene LaRocque, speaking to a reporter in 1995: “We now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away… Since it’s all done by remote control, there’s no remorse…and then we come home in triumph.”
“In my capacity as a signals intelligence analyst stationed at Bagram Airbase, I was made to track down the geographic location of handset cellphone devices believed to be in the possession of so-called enemy combatants,”
Hale explained to the judge. “To accomplish this mission required access to a complex chain of globe-spanning satellites capable of maintaining an unbroken connection with remotely piloted aircraft, commonly referred to as drones. Once a steady connection is made and a targeted cell phone device is acquired, an imagery analyst in the U.S., in coordination with a drone pilot and camera operator, would take over using information I provided to surveil everything that occurred within the drone’s field of vision. This was done, most often, to document the day-to-day lives of suspected militants. Sometimes, under the right conditions, an attempt at capture would be made. Other times, a decision to strike and kill them where they stood would be weighed.”
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He recalled the first time he witnessed a drone strike, a few days after he arrived in Afghanistan.
“Early that morning, before dawn, a group of men had gathered together in the mountain ranges of Patika province around a campfire carrying weapons and brewing tea,” he wrote. “That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities. Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cell phone device in his pocket. As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well. Despite having peacefully assembled, posing no threat, the fate of the now tea drinking men had all but been fulfilled. I could only look on as I sat by and watched through a computer monitor when a sudden, terrifying flurry of hellfire missiles came crashing down, splattering, purple-colored crystal guts on the side of the morning mountain.”
This was his first experience with “scenes of graphic violence carried out from the cold comfort of a computer chair.” There would be many more.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” he wrote. “By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped to kill those men – whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify – in the gruesome manner that I did. Watch them die. But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time. Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States of America to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation. Notwithstanding, in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, I was a part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11.”
He and other service members were confronted with the privatization of war where “contract mercenaries outnumbered uniform wearing soldiers 2 to 1 and earned as much as 10 times their salary.”
“Meanwhile, it did not matter whether it was, as I had seen, an Afghan farmer blown in half, yet miraculously conscious and pointlessly trying to scoop his insides off the ground, or whether it was an American flag-draped coffin lowered into Arlington National Cemetery to the sound of a 21-gun salute,”
he wrote. “Bang, bang, bang. Both served to justify the easy flow of capital at the cost of blood – theirs and ours. When I think about this, I am grief-stricken and ashamed of myself for the things I’ve done to support it.”
He described to the judge “the most harrowing day of my life” that took place a few months into his deployment “when a routine surveillance mission turned into disaster.”
“For weeks we had been tracking the movements of a ring of car bomb manufacturers living around Jalalabad,”
he wrote. “Car bombs directed at US bases had become an increasingly frequent and deadly problem that summer, so much effort was put into stopping them. It was a windy and clouded afternoon when one of the suspects had been discovered headed eastbound, driving at a high rate of speed. This alarmed my superiors who believed he might be attempting to escape across the border into Pakistan.”
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“A drone strike was our only chance and already it began lining up to take the shot,” he continued. “But the less advanced predator drone found it difficult to see through clouds and compete against strong headwinds. The single payload MQ-1 failed to connect with its target, instead missing by a few meters. The vehicle, damaged, but still driveable, continued on ahead after narrowly avoiding destruction. Eventually, once the concern of another incoming missile subsided, the driver stopped, got out of the car, and checked himself as though he could not believe he was still alive. Out of the passenger side came a woman wearing an unmistakable burka. As astounding as it was to have just learned there had been a woman, possibly his wife, there with the man we intended to kill moments ago, I did not have the chance to see what happened next before the drone diverted its camera when she began frantically to pull out something from the back of the car.”
He learned a few days later from his commanding officer what next took place.
“There indeed had been the suspect’s wife with him in the car,” he wrote. “And in the back were their two young daughters, ages 5 and 3 years old. A cadre of Afghan soldiers were sent to investigate where the car had stopped the following day. It was there they found them placed in the dumpster nearby. The eldest was found dead due to unspecified wounds caused by shrapnel that pierced her body. Her younger sister was alive but severely dehydrated. As my commanding officer relayed this information to us, she seemed to express disgust, not for the fact that we had errantly fired on a man and his family, having killed one of his daughters; but for the suspected bomb maker having ordered his wife to dump the bodies of their daughters in the trash, so that the two of them could more quickly escape across the border. Now, whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe, I remember that time and ask myself how could I possibly continue to believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness.”
“One year later, at a farewell gathering for those of us who would soon be leaving military service, I sat alone, transfixed by the television, while others reminisced together,”
he continued. “On television was breaking news of the president giving his first public remarks about the policy surrounding the use of drone technology in warfare. His remarks were made to reassure the public of reports scrutinizing the death of civilians in drone strikes and the targeting of American citizens. The president said that a high standard of ‘near certainty’ needed to be met in order to ensure that no civilians were present. But from what I knew, of the instances where civilians plausibly could have been present, those killed were nearly always designated enemies killed in action unless proven otherwise. Nonetheless, I continued to heed his words as the president went on to explain how a drone could be used to eliminate someone who posed an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States. Using the analogy of taking out a sniper, with his sights set on an unassuming crowd of people, the president likened the use of drones to prevent a would-be terrorist from carrying out his evil plot. But, as I understood it to be, the unassuming crowd had been those who lived in fear and the terror of drones in their skies and the sniper in this scenario had been me. I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe, and when I finally left the military, still processing what I’d been a part of, I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong.”
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Hale threw himself into anti-war activism when he left the military, speaking out about the indiscriminate killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of noncombatants, including children in drone strikes. He took part in a peace conference held in Washington, DC in November 2013. The Yemeni, Fazil bin Ali Jaber, spoke at the conference about the drone strike that killed his brother, Salem bin Ali Jaber, and their cousin Waleed. Waleed was a policeman. Salem was an Imam who was an outspoken critic of the armed attacks carried out by radical jihadists.
“One day in August 2012, local members of Al Qaeda traveling through Fazil’s village in a car spotted Salem in the shade, pulled up towards him, and beckoned him to come over and speak to them,” Hale wrote. “Not one to miss an opportunity to evangelize to the youth, Salem proceeded cautiously with Waleed by his side. Fazil and other villagers began looking on from afar. Further still was an ever present reaper drone looking too.”
“As Fazil recounted what happened next, I felt myself transported back in time to where I had been on that day, 2012,”
Hale told the judge. “Unbeknownst to Fazil and those of his village at the time was that they had not been the only ones watching Salem approach the jihadist in the car. From Afghanistan, I and everyone on duty paused their work to witness the carnage that was about to unfold. At the press of a button from thousands of miles away, two hellfire missiles screeched out of the sky, followed by two more. Showing no signs of remorse, I, and those around me, clapped and cheered triumphantly. In front of a speechless auditorium, Fazil wept.”
A week after the conference Hale was offered a job as a government contractor. Desperate for money and steady employment, hoping to go to college, he took the job, which paid $80,000 a year. But by then he was disgusted by the drone program.
“For a long time, I was uncomfortable with myself over the thought of taking advantage of my military background to land a cushy desk job,” he wrote. “During that time, I was still processing what I had been through, and I was starting to wonder if I was contributing again to the problem of money and war by accepting to return as a defense contractor. Worse was my growing apprehension that everyone around me was also taking part in a collective delusion and denial that was used to justify our exorbitant salaries, for comparatively easy labor. The thing I feared most at the time was the temptation not to question it.”
“Then it came to be that one day after work I stuck around to socialize with a pair of co-workers whose talented work I had come to greatly admire,”
he wrote. “They made me feel welcomed, and I was happy to have earned their approval. But then, to my dismay, our brand-new friendship took an unexpectedly dark turn. They elected that we should take a moment and view together some archived footage of past drone strikes. Such bonding ceremonies around a computer to watch so-called ‘war porn’ had not been new to me. I partook in them all the time while deployed to Afghanistan. But on that day, years after the fact, my new friends gaped and sneered, just as my old one’s had, at the sight of faceless men in the final moments of their lives. I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.”
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“Your Honor,” Hale wrote to the judge, “the truest truism that I’ve come to understand about the nature of war is that war is trauma. I believe that any person either called-upon or coerced to participate in war against their fellow man is promised to be exposed to some form of trauma. In that way, no soldier blessed to have returned home from war does so uninjured. The crux of PTSD is that it is a moral conundrum that afflicts invisible wounds on the psyche of a person made to burden the weight of experience after surviving a traumatic event. How PTSD manifests depends on the circumstances of the event. So how is the drone operator to process this? The victorious rifleman, unquestioningly remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy on the battlefield. The determined fighter pilot has the luxury of not having to witness the gruesome aftermath. But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetuated?”
“My conscience, once held at bay, came roaring back to life,”
he wrote. “At first, I tried to ignore it. Wishing instead that someone, better placed than I, should come along to take this cup from me. But this too was folly. Left to decide whether to act, I only could do that which I ought to do before God and my own conscience. The answer came to me, that to stop the cycle of violence, I ought to sacrifice my own life and not that of another person. So, I contacted an investigative reporter, with whom I had had an established prior relationship, and told him that I had something the American people needed to know.”
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Hale, who has admitted to being suicidal and depressed, said in the letter he, like many veterans, struggles with the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, aggravated by an impoverished and turbulent childhood.
“Depression is a constant,” he told the judge.
“Though stress, particularly stress caused by war, can manifest itself at different times and in different ways. The tell-tale signs of a person afflicted by PTSD and depression can often be outwardly observed and are practically universally recognizable. Hard lines about the face and jaw. Eyes, once bright and wide, now deep-set, and fearful. And an inexplicably sudden loss of interest in things that used to spark joy. These are the noticeable changes in my demeanor marked by those who knew me before and after military service. To say that the period of my life spent serving in the United States Air Force had an impression on me would be an understatement. It is more accurate to say that it irreversibly transformed my identity as an American. Having forever altered the thread of my life’s story, weaved into the fabric of our nation’s history.”
 

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How US military pullback in Iraq could benefit Iran


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First Afghanistan, now Iraq. As Iraq's prime minister visits the White House for talks with President Joe Biden, an announcement has been made that all remaining US combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year as part of an ongoing "US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue".
This prompts two key questions: what difference will this make on the ground, and does this open the door for a return of Islamic State (IS), the group that terrorised much of the Middle East and attracted recruits from as far afield as London, Trinidad and Australia?
Eighteen years on from the US-led invasion of Iraq, America only has about 2,500 regular troops left in Iraq, plus a small and undisclosed number of Special Operations forces fighting IS.
Concentrated in just three bases, they are a tiny fraction of the 160,000-strong force that occupied Iraq post-invasion - but they are still subject to rocket and drone attacks from suspected Iranian-backed militias.
The US military's job is training and assisting the Iraqi security forces who are still battling a sporadic but deadly insurgency by IS jihadists.

But the US military's presence in the country is controversial.

Iranian-backed politicians and militias want them out, especially after the US assassinated the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, and a top Iraqi Shia Muslim militia commander at Baghdad airport in January 2020.
Even non-aligned Iraqis would like to see their country rid of foreign forces; the notion of foreign occupation is an emotive one.
This suits some in Washington just fine, although not at the cost of "handing over Iraq to Iran".
The US has long been trying to extricate itself from what President Biden calls its "forever wars" in the Middle East. Hence the accelerated withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, as the US and its allies turn their attention increasingly towards the Asia-Pacific region and the South China Sea.

Islamic State 2.0?​

Lurking in the background here is the spectre of an IS revival and the possibility of history repeating itself.
In 2011, President Barack Obama announced that US troops were pulling out of Iraq.

Although a small number have remained since, that drawdown, combined with a toxic Iraqi political mix and a burgeoning civil war across the border in Syria, created the perfect space for IS to eventually seize Mosul, the second city, and then control territory the size of a European country.
Could this now happen again? Could a reconstituted IS 2.0 once again sweep aside a demoralised Iraqi army deprived of US combat support?

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It's a lot less likely, for several reasons.
IS was able to capitalise back then on the massive discontent felt by Iraq's Sunni Muslims towards the highly partisan Shia government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. He ran the country from 2006-2014 and systematically disenfranchised the Sunnis, pushing many into the waiting arms of IS.
Today's political equation, while far from perfect, is more acceptable to Iraq's competing ethnic groups.
Since the defeat of IS, the US and Britain have also spent a lot of time and effort in training up Iraq's counter-insurgency forces and that training is set to continue, with Nato backing.

Thirdly, IS' strategic leadership, or what's left of it, appears to be more focussed on exploiting the ungoverned spaces in Africa and Afghanistan than battling well-armed security forces in its Arab heartland.
"Attacks by IS insurgents appear to be containable by Iraqi government forces," says Brig Ben Barry, a former British Army officer and now defence analyst at the think-tank International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"Although," he adds, "without a political settlement with Iraqi Sunnis the root causes of the insurgency will remain."
IS was able to conduct a successful lightning campaign across the region in the summer of 2014 partly because the West had taken its eye off the ball in Iraq.
It then took an 80-nation coalition five long years and billions of dollars to defeat it and no-one wants to go through all that again.
So despite the US drawdown, which may still see small numbers of American troops remaining, the West will be watching to see if IS or any other jihadist groups look like using Iraq as a springboard to carry out transnational attacks, especially in the West.
"Should the US detect that IS in Iraq were preparing an attack on US interests outside Iraq, Washington would probably unilaterally attack," says Mr Barry. And with sizable resources nearby and offshore in the Gulf, the Pentagon certainly has the means to do so.

Iran's long game​

The bigger, long-term picture here is one that favours Iran.
Ever since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 it has been trying to evict US forces from its neighbourhood and become the premier power in the region.
It has had little success in the Arab Gulf states where mistrust of Tehran runs deep and where the US military has facilities in all six countries, including the headquarters of the US Navy's powerful 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

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But the US-led toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2003 removed the most effective obstacle to Iranian expansion, and Tehran has not passed up on the opportunity since then. It has successfully inserted its Shia militias into the fabric of Iraq's security establishment, and its allies have a powerful voice in parliament.
Syria's civil war has opened the door for a major Iranian military presence there, while next door in Lebanon Iran's ally Hezbollah has become the most potent force in the country.
Iran is playing the long game. Its leaders hope that if it keeps up the pressure, both overt and covert, it will eventually make the Middle East a region not worth America's effort to stay engaged in, militarily.
Hence the frequent rocket attacks on US bases and Iran's support for civil protest calling for US troops to leave.
An agreement that sees the end of US combat operations in Iraq will be seen by many in Tehran as a step in the right direction.
 

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After 18 years, US announces to end combat mission in Iraq



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US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimihave sealed an agreement formally ending the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after US troops were sent to the country.

The agreement comes at a politically delicate time for the Iraqi government and could be a boost for Baghdad. Kadhimi has faced increasing pressure from Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups who oppose the US military role in the country.Biden and Kadhimi met in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.

“Our role in Iraq will be … to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises, but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden told reporters as he and Kadhimi met.


There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of Islamic State. The US role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military to defend itself.The shift is not expected to have a major operational impact since the United States has already moved toward focusing on training Iraqi forces.

Still, for Biden, the deal to end the combat mission in Iraq follows decisions to carry out an unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan and wrap up the U.S. military mission there by the end of August.

Together with his agreement on Iraq, the Democratic president is moving to formally complete U.S. combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W. Bush began under his watch nearly two decades ago.


A U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 based on charges that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was ousted from power, but such weapons were never found.

In recent years, the US mission was focused on helping defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.”Nobody is going to declare mission accomplished. The goal is the enduring defeat of ISIS,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of Kadhimi’s visit.

The reference was reminiscent of the large “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier above where Bush gave a speech declaring major combat operations over in Iraq on May 1, 2003.

“If you look to where we were, where we had Apache helicopters in combat, when we had U.S. special forces doing regular operations, it’s a significant evolution. So by the end of the year we think we’ll be in a good place to really formally move into an advisory and capacity-building role,” the official said.

US diplomats and troops in Iraq and Syria were targeted in three rocket and drone attacks earlier this month. Analysts believed the attacks were part of a campaign by Iranian-backed militias.

The senior administration official would not say how many U.S. troops would remain on the ground in Iraq for advising and training. Kadhimi also declined to speculate about a future U.S. drawdown, saying troop levels would be determined by technical reviews.

Kadhimi, who is seen as friendly to the United States, has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militias. But his government condemned U.S. air strikes against Iran-aligned fighters along its border with Syria in late June, calling it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. read more

In remarks to a small group of reporters after the talks, Kadhimi stressed that his government was responsible for responding to such attacks. He acknowledged that he had reached out to Tehran to address them.

“We speak to Iranians and others in an attempt to put a limit to these attacks, which are undermining Iraq and its role,” he said. The United States plans to provide Iraq with 500,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N), COVID-19 vaccine under the global COVAX vaccine-sharing program. Biden said the doses should arrive in a couple of weeks.The United States will also provide $5.2 million to help fund a U.N. mission to monitor October elections in Iraq.”We’re looking forward to seeing an election in October,” said Biden.
 

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A new Great Game is afoot in Afghanistan, as China hosts the Taliban and eyes a key role in the country’s future


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The inviting of a delegation from the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist group to Beijing this week has raised eyebrows across the world. Is China being clever, or does it face grave dangers on entering the “graveyard of empires”?
China this week took the highly unusual step of hosting a delegation from the Taliban in Beijing for talks, as concerns rise about the future of Afghanistan, amidst growing fighting and a massive offensive by the Islamist group against the government, whose days are increasingly seen as numbered.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated he expected the Taliban to play a role in the “peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process” in Afghanistan. The visit was interpreted widely by the mainstream media that China was giving its blessing to the legitimacy of the Taliban on the international stage, and this has occurred despite huge ideological and theological differences between the two sides.
Despite all that, they have found a set of “common interests” to collude in, concerning the future of the country. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while visiting India, said that the Taliban risks creating a “pariah state” but nonetheless admitted that China may have a “positive role to play” in the country.
Afghanistan is often touted as the “graveyard of empires,” with good reason, and the recent withdrawal of the US is the latest evidence. The strategic position of this country is as a pivotal gateway to all Eurasia. To its north is Central Asia and Russia, to its East is China, to its South is the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan and India, and to its West is Iran and the Middle East.
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Placed between all these regions, geography has put Afghanistan at the heart of almost every single generation of great power competition, from the Mughals, to the British Empire, to the Cold War, to the War on Terror and now, the increasingly strenuous global rivalry between the United States and China. Beijing has made it clear in hosting this meeting that it embraces a policy of “non-interference” in other countries, but Afghanistan is on its doorstep, and it’s far too important and strategically significant to ignore.
Thus, China has jumped in head first. The Taliban, of course, would hardly be Beijing's first choice of partner: it’s an Islamic fundamentalist group in a country that borders China’s politically sensitive Xinjiang region and the group has previously allied themselves with Uighur militants, much to Beijing’s disdain.
The Taliban also thrive on a legacy of anti-communism, which the US opportunistically weaponized against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Their re-revival is undesirable, to say the least, yet it has to be dealt with “as it is.” The Taliban are now a dominant power in the country and have endured 20 years of war against the US and its allies and still managed to prevail. This war has made the reality plainly obvious, that you cannot bomb the Taliban out of existence, you have to work with them... and working with groups you might not like or agree with on shared interests is the staple definition of realpolitik.
In this case, China is scrambling to secure its own interests in the wake of the vacuum left by the United States, whose “irresponsible pullout” it staunchly criticizes. It is now being strong-armed into taking a leading role in shaping the future of Afghanistan. What does it want, exactly? Beijing wants peace, stability and economic growth in the country, a fresh start, and for it to be incorporated into the Belt and Road initiative.
Its biggest ally in this quest is Pakistan, who is Beijing’s best positioned partner to help leverage and negotiate with the Taliban. Beijing is not openly pushing a Taliban takeover; it is picking what it perceives as the inevitable, even if unwanted, victor. China’s message is that it expects the Taliban to behave and will demand assurances that the group will not resume sponsoring international terrorism. If this criterion can be met, then there’s space to work together.
The Taliban have signalled in turn they will not support China’s Uighurs, and see opportunity in Beijing's invitations. But what is also worth considering is the bigger picture: that China is now discreetly and de-facto locked in a competition with India for influence over Afghanistan. India supports Kabul’s current government and staunchly opposes the Taliban.
ALSO ON RT.COMChina discusses security with Taliban following concerns of instability in Afghanistan after US troops withdrawal
Prime minister Modi pursues a “neighbourhood first” policy against Beijing, aimed at building India’s own local sphere of influence in light of tensions between the two. He sees Afghanistan as a pivotal and logical part of that “neighbourhood” – aiming to checkmate Pakistan, who it sees as using the Taliban as influence against it. New Delhi in turn frequently denounces what it sees as a China-Pakistan alliance to support the Taliban to create problems for India.
This means the struggle for Afghanistan's future is wrapped in a number of localized geopolitical struggles alongside the pressing need to try and make things work in the country, one the United States is seemingly relieved to get out of after 20 years of failure. It is the new Great Game, a modern equivalent of the 19th century political and diplomatic confrontation between the British Empire and the Russian Empire, over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central and South Asia, which had repercussions for Persia and India.
Not only are the Taliban finding they have momentum on the ground, but, irrespective of who actually prevails in the wider struggle, its leaders are very much enjoying their renewed status and diplomatic clout. It’s going to be a fascinating few years…


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More than 200 Afghans land in Washington as US starts evacuating its allies after drawdown – media​


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Former Afghan interpreters, who worked with US troops in Afghanistan, demonstrate in front of the US embassy in Kabul (FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo


The first flight of Afghans who worked alongside American troops during the protracted war in their homeland has arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport as the US commences Operation Allies Refuge.
On Friday, a flight carrying 221 Afghans, including 57 children and 15 babies, according to an internal document obtained by the Associated Press, touched down in Washington. According to tracking by FlightAware, the commercial airliner touched down in the early hours of Friday morning.
Unverified footage from the Association of Wartime Allies appears to show the flight landing.
Friday’s arrival is the first evacuation flight to take place as part of an operation dubbed “Allies Refuge.” According to the Associated Press, those on it included former translators and others who worked alongside the US forces in Afghanistan but now fear retaliation, as well as their families.
Earlier this month, US officials said the Afghans would probably stay at the US Army’s garrison Fort Lee, in Virginia, for several days. Further efforts to airlift Afghan allies to the US have already won approval and cleared security screening.
ALSO ON RT.COM‘Baseless’: Kabul refutes Taliban’s claims that militant group controls 90% of Afghan border
On Thursday, an emergency bill was passed by the Senate 98-0 to allow for further rapid evacuation efforts, including 8,000 expedited visas and the allocation of $500 million for transportation and housing.
With the Pentagon’s drawdown in Afghanistan almost complete, concern has grown for those who worked alongside the US during the protracted conflict. The Taliban claims it has regained most of the country’s territory in recent months, as it looks to reassert its authority.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member

قائد الحرس الثوري الإيراني: جزء مهم من زوال الولايات المتحدة من الساحة العالمية حدث في العراق




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قال القائد العام للحرس الثوري الإيراني، اللواء حسين سلامي، إن الولايات المتحدة في طريق الزوال من الساحة العالمية.

وأضاف، خلال استقباله يوم الأحد في طهران رئيس هيئة الحشد الشعبي العراقي فالح الفياض، أن "جزءا مهما من زوال الولايات المتحدة من الساحة العالمية حدث في العراق، حيث أصبحوا بين شرين، فإن بقوا يتكبدون الأضرار وإن غادروا فهم مهزومون".

وتابع أن "الكلمة الأساسية تقال في الميدان دوما والقدرات السياسية الحقيقية هي القدرات الميدانية، وأداء الحشد الشعبي رائع جدا في هذا الميدان وستتوسع قدراته إن شاء الله تعالى كقوة دفاعية وجهادية ذات أهداف كبيرة وإيمان قوي وانسجام داخلي وانتظام وانضباط عالي المستوى".

وختم تصريحاته بالقول "نحن داعمون لكم في جبهة المقاومة واستمرار هذه المعركة الكبرى ونأمل بأن يتحقق قرار المجلس الوطني العراقي في خروج القوات العسكرية الأميركية من العراق بصورة عملية وبأفضل صورة ممكنة وأن يواصل العراق المستقل والمقتدر والآمن طريقه من دون تواجد المحتلين".
 

Gsheb

New Member
Eh remember Trump met with the Taliban?

There is clearly a deal between the US and Taliban. It's just that trump was dumb enough to publicize it.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member
Eh remember Trump met with the Taliban?

There is clearly a deal between the US and Taliban. It's just that trump was dumb enough to publicize it.
He also bent over backwards to N Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Yet some don’t understand why Hezbollah won’t disarm, Iran is building its military as fast they could and no one messes with India and Pakistan anymore.
La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure” is as old as the Universe.
But some still don’t get it why Iraq was invaded, destroyed and occupied but Iran is shooting down US drones without hesitation when they dare violating their airspace while the West is begging them to sit at the table with them to talk.
 

HmsBThn

Legendary Member
He also bent over backwards to N Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Yet some don’t understand why Hezbollah won’t disarm, Iran is building its military as fast they could and no one messes with India and Pakistan anymore.
La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure” is as old as the Universe.
But some still don’t get it why Iraq was invaded, destroyed and occupied but Iran is shooting down US drones without hesitation when they dare violating their airspace while the West is begging them to sit at the table with them to talk.

you cannot be so arrogant, while just being a supporter of mercenaries who are tyrants, living off illegal drug dealing and sucking off the resources of the state. Iran can arm all it wants, tyrants will fall one after the other. Saddam armed himself to the teeth and bombed Israel, invaded Kuweit and flexed his muscles 10 times more than Iran.
Hizbullah has already lost. Stop listening to Manar. Nobody can win in Lebanon, by being a tyrant. The opposition never been stronger. The support is finished, morally and militarily. In the daylight, HA militant was stopped and humiliated, all what HA did what to apologize that it didn't lunch from the village.
You can't even pick up your garbage, have electricity, or gas, and have basic drugs to the sick and you want to fight the empires. Fout nem :)
 

Viral

Well-Known Member
you cannot be so arrogant, while just being a supporter of mercenaries who are tyrants, living off illegal drug dealing and sucking off the resources of the state. Iran can arm all it wants, tyrants will fall one after the other. Saddam armed himself to the teeth and bombed Israel, invaded Kuweit and flexed his muscles 10 times more than Iran.
Hizbullah has already lost. Stop listening to Manar. Nobody can win in Lebanon, by being a tyrant. The opposition never been stronger. The support is finished, morally and militarily. In the daylight, HA militant was stopped and humiliated, all what HA did what to apologize that it didn't lunch from the village.
You can't even pick up your garbage, have electricity, or gas, and have basic drugs to the sick and you want to fight the empires. Fout nem :)
I’m not addressing you.

[...]
 
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Viral

Well-Known Member
Does that sound familiar?
If not ask your parents they'll tell you...
History repeating itself.... Our rookies need educations...



Taliban seizes 8th provincial capital amid massive offensive as Biden calls on Afghans to ‘fight for themselves’


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An Afghan militia fighter keeps watch for Taliban insurgents at an outpost in Balkh province, Afghanistan, July 11, 2021. © AFP / Farshad Usyan

The Taliban has seized two more provincial capitals in Afghanistan, taking control of eight major cities in just four days amid a relentless wave of attacks as US President Joe Biden urges Afghans to fight for their country.
After a series of attacks on Tuesday, the militant group captured Farah city in the southwest – capital of the province of the same name – as well as the capital of Baghlan province, Pul-e-Khumri, located just 125 miles (200km) from the national capital of Kabul. Local officials confirmed that both cities had fallen to reporters with Al Jazeera and AFP.
“The Taliban are now in the city,” Baghlan MP Mamoor Ahmadzai told AFP, adding that the group “raised their flag in the main square and on the governor's office building.”
The Taliban announced the successful operations in a series of tweets, also sharing a video of victorious fighters in Pul-e-Khumri.
The Taliban has captured a total of eight provincial capitals in the space of four days as it intensifies attacks across Afghanistan. The group took Zaranj in Nimroz province on Friday, followed by Sheberghan in Jowzjan province the next day. Sunday saw the cities of Sar-e-Pol and Taloqan fall, as well as Kunduz – one of the largest cities in the northeast – while Taliban fighters overran Aibak in Samangan province on Monday.
Responding to the latest Taliban gains, President Joe Biden insisted that he did not regret his decision to withdraw American forces from the country after a 20-year campaign, telling reporters the plan “will not change.” He also urged Afghan officials to unite to defend their country, arguing they were well-equipped to do so.
“We spent over $1 trillion over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden said during a press conference, adding that “Afghan leaders have to come together.”

We lost thousands, we lost to death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves. Fight for their nation.
ALSO ON RT.COMWATCH: Taliban fighters ride in Humvees after capturing Nimroz provincial capital & seizing more US-made weaponry
Afghan forces have largely folded under the Taliban onslaught, and the group is likely to expand its gains in the coming days as it begins to threaten other provincial centers. Taliban fighters are now besieging the capitals of Helmand and Kandahar in the south, while the group announced on Tuesday that it is “on the verge of entering Feyzabad city,” capital of the Badakhshan region, saying local government forces had “suffered heavy casualties” there. The major city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province is also under attack, though the Afghan government said it repelled an incursion there on Tuesday.
Perhaps most alarming for Afghan officials – and their American counterparts – are Taliban strikes in Kabul itself, the seat of the central government. Over the last week, the group has set off several car bombs in the city and carried out a number of targeted assassinations, stoking fears it could soon threaten the nation’s capital.
While the Pentagon said the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was more than 90% complete last month, American airstrikes on the Taliban have seen a major uptick, with the New York Times reporting “dozens” in recent weeks. US officials also told the Times that the Pentagon is “likely” to seek authorization for another air campaign in the coming months should insurgents seriously threaten Kabul or Kandahar city, raising questions about whether Washington truly intends to leave the country by Biden’s September 11 deadline.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member
Not for the faint-hearted trolls...


WATCH: Taliban fighters ride in Humvees after capturing Nimroz provincial capital & seizing more US-made weaponry


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Taliban militants were spotted parading around in US-made Humvees after seizing a major city in Nimroz province, footage shows – the first regional capital to fall to the group as it launches a wave of attacks across Afghanistan.
The militants were seen making victory laps around the city of Zaranj on Friday afternoon in the captured vehicles, having just captured the provincial capital after overrunning Afghan government forces.


Multiple videos circulating online showed the aftermath of the assault, including American-made Humvees flying the Islamist group’s flag.



Other footage purported to show a deserted airfield in Zaranj – where American forces once had a presence – apparently abandoned by government troops during the invasion.


Situated far in Afghanistan’s southwest along the border with Iran, Zaranj is the first regional capital to fall to the Taliban since it launched a major offensive in the spring, though the group has made an aggressive push into other parts of the country.


Earlier this week, the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah, was nearly taken by Taliban fighters, who grabbed nine of its 10 districts. Afghanistan’s second-largest city of Kandahar – capital of the province of the same name – has also come under assault, with one local police chief claiming on Thursday that the group has killed nearly 1,000 people as it besieges the city.


Perhaps most concerning for Afghan officials – and their American counterparts, who are now overseeing a full military withdrawal after a 20-year occupation – are attacks on the national capital of Kabul. Earlier this week, Taliban car bombs rocked the city as militants struck the home of acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. Though the minister escaped unharmed, at least eight were killed in the assault, while the group assassinated a top media official in Kabul days later.

READ MORE: Taliban takes first provincial capital in Afghanistan as city of Zaranj falls into group's hands

According to the latest report from the US government’s top watchdog for the Afghan war, John Sopko, the Taliban controls at least half of Afghanistan’s 419 districts, nearly doubling its territorial holdings between June and July as its offensive picked up momentum. Though Sopko’s report said the group did not control any provincial capitals when it was published in late July, facts on the ground have quickly changed in the days since, seeing the Taliban capture a major city and threaten several others.

President Joe Biden has set a September 11 withdrawal deadline for US forces in Afghanistan, extending a May date initially agreed between the Taliban and the prior administration. While the Pentagon said in July that the exit was more than 90% complete, American airstrikes have continued against the Taliban, with the New York Times reporting “dozens” of bombings over the last two weeks. Administration officials also told the Times that the Pentagon is “likely” to seek another air campaign in the coming months should insurgents seriously threaten Kabul or Kandahar, raising questions about whether Washington truly intends to leave the country by September.
 

Viral

Well-Known Member

US embassy calls on all American citizens to leave Afghanistan IMMEDIATELY, right after Taliban claims to capture 2nd largest city


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Amid the whirlwind advance of the Taliban, the US embassy in Kabul has urged all American citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately, offering to loan them cash for plane tickets if necessary.
“The US Embassy urges US citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options,” read a security alert from the diplomatic outpost on Thursday. The embassy offered loans to Americans unable to afford plane tickets home, and assistance with immigrant visas for foreign family members.
The alert went out shortly after the Taliban claimed to have captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. Earlier, they claimed victory in the city of Ghazni, 150km (95 miles) from the capital. Ghazni is the 10th Afghan provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan began in May.
ALSO ON RT.COMTaliban capture 10th Afghan provincial city, Ghazni, as insurgents edge closer to capital, Kabul
The pullout is expected to be complete by the end of August, and US intelligence officials predict that the Taliban will control the capital sometime within the next several weeks to six months, according to a Washington Post report earlier this week.
Several hundred US troops remain stationed in Kabul, at the embassy and at the city’s airport. However, embassy employees who can perform their work remotely were already advised in April to leave, with the State Department citing “increasing violence and threat reports.”
Without US support, Afghanistan’s military has quickly wilted in the face of the Taliban threat. Troops stationed near the country’s borders have been driven out into neighboring countries, and earlier on Thursday, the US embassy in Kabul reported that surrendering Afghan troops have been executed and their military and civilian leaders unlawfully detained by Taliban forces.
ALSO ON RT.COMTaliban fighters now in complete control of Afghanistan’s borders with Uzbekistan & Tajikistan, Russia’s Defense Minister claims
The embassy described the alleged executions as “deeply disturbing,” adding that they “could constitute war crimes.”
With the majority of its troops gone, such strongly-worded statements are all that remain in the US’ diplomatic arsenal. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki caught flak from critics on Wednesday for calling on the Taliban to reach a peaceful settlement with the Afghan government and assess “what they want their role to be in the international community.”
ALSO ON RT.COMPsaki roasted for saying Taliban must ‘assess role in international community’ as militants seize 60% of Afghanistan
Though US-mediated peace talks are currently underway in Qatar, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani told Bloomberg on Monday that the group is only interested in “trying to grab power by force,” while Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Axios on Wednesday that the group has
“never yielded to any foreign pressure tactics before and we do not plan to capitulate any time soon either.”
 

Viral

Well-Known Member

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