Jeffrey Sterling Completes One Year Of Unjust Prison Sentence

Yesterday, June 16th, marked one year since Jeffrey Sterling began his 3.5 year prison sentence for divulging classified information to a New York Times journalist, a crime he did not commit. One year he was deprived of the freedom that so many of us take for granted every day; one year separated from his loving wife, his friends and his family, and one year of wasted talent as a licensed attorney, a former CIA case officer fluent in Farsi, and a successful investigator who uncovered over 32 million dollars in healthcare fraud.

Today we want to remind the American people that Jeffrey’s conviction and sentence were unjust and renew our appeal to President Barack Obama to pardon him.

Why has he had to suffer such an injustice? Because the United States government wanted to punish Jeffrey for blowing the whistle and for fighting for his civil rights against the CIA?

Jeffrey is a beloved husband, a brother, a friend and an honorable man who consistently worked to keep our country safe. He was one of the few African Americans to work as a CIA case officer, and he was incredibly proud of this accomplishment. But he soon became disillusioned by a work environment characterized by racial disparity and was dismayed to learn that the government he worked for was shrouded in mistruths and secrecy.

The CIA planned to use a former Russian nuclear engineer to pass flawed designs to Iranian scientists, a program that was revealed in New York Times Journalist James Risen’s book “State of War.” Jeffrey had grave concerns about the mismanagement of this program and the potential harm to the citizens of our country and so he used proper legal channels to inform the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

During Jeffrey’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to James Risen. To convict him, the DOJ relied solely on circumstantial evidence — emails and telephone conversations — to try to prove that Jeffrey was Risen’s source. In the end, Jeffrey was severely punished for merely communicating with a journalist, which caused public outcry from press freedom organizations like Reporters Without Borders.

How did the government justify that Jeffrey was their only suspect when over 90 additional individuals had access to the same classified information and could have easily leaked it to James Risen?

As Jeffrey repeatedly made clear throughout his trial, his relationship with Risen was related to his interest in Jeffrey’s discrimination lawsuit against the CIA.

When Jeffrey was preparing for his first overseas post for the agency in Germany, his supervisor told him “we are concerned you would stick out as a big black guy speaking Farsi” and informed him that another person would be taking the assignment. When he filed an Equal Opportunity Employment complaint, the CIA fired him. Shortly afterwards he became the first African American to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the CIA, but his suit was never allowed to go forward because the government claimed it would reveal “state secrets.”

According to the United States government, Jeffrey then “retaliated” against the CIA by leaking classified information to James Risen. The moment that the administration felt there was an opportunity to incriminate him for fighting for his civil rights, every finger pointed to Jeffrey and no amount of evidence or lack thereof could defy the verdict that followed.

Jeffrey’s case drastically differs from that of former CIA Director General David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to divulging huge amounts of classified information to his biographer and lying to an FBI agent, far more egregious acts than Jeffrey was accused of. Yet Petraeus was able to walk away with two years probation and a fine. If one strips away the race, financial status, and political clout of each of these men, and solely compares their alleged crimes, it is glaringly obvious that this was selective prosecution and sentencing.

Petraeus’ treatment solidified the belief in this country that the white man is presumed to be innocent and can do no wrong, and at worst receives a slap on the wrist, while the black man is guilty until proven innocent and belongs behind bars. Never in the history of this nation has there been a black person who had the courage to fight racial discrimination in the CIA, and a black man in the White House that would allow him to go to jail unjustly.

Justice must be served for this mockery of the truth. Jeffrey is innocent, and always has been. Our appeal to the President to pardon Jeffrey is a request for the acknowledgment of this undeniable injustice done to Jeffrey and amends to the wrongful conviction that changed our lives forever. Please don’t forget him as he serves time for a crime he didn’t commit.

— source commondreams.org By Holly Sterling, Cornel West

Why I refuse to join Kindle Unlimited

Lots of my self-pub writer friends urge me to sign on with Kindle Unlimited. They tell me I’ll make more money by making my books only available on Amazon.

They’re probably correct… in the short term.

But if you have only one customer, and only one sales channel, that sales channel can destroy yo without warning. And today, Amazon’s scam-fighting techniques are crushing authors guilty of only one thing: trusting Amazon as their sole customer.

Puzzled? It took me a while to figure out how this scam was working, too. And it’s driven home that signing on with Kindle Unlimited is like playing Russian roulette. Eventually, it will burn you.

Understanding why means understanding how Kindle Unlimited works.

An author places a book in Kindle Unlimited agrees that the title will be exclusive to Amazon. You won’t be able to get it on iBooks, Kobo, or sell it on your own store. Authors can place any fraction of their books in Kindle Unlimited.

Readers who sign on with Kindle Unlimited get unlimited access to books in KU for $10/month. Readers can try the service for free for 30 days.

Amazon sets aside a pot of money each month. This money is divided between KU authors each month, based on the number of pages of the author’s books people read. Amazon increases the pool each month, keeping the payout per page somewhat constant.

An author who violates KU’s terms of service gets their publishing account suspended. All of the books published with that account get yanked from sale, and any money Amazon hasn’t paid out is lost.

An a businessman, I have problems with Kindle Unlimited. The price you get paid has nothing to do with how many you “sell”–it’s entirely in Amazon’s control. They can change that at any time, and you have no recourse. The exclusivity clause means that readers who like Kobo or another ereader have no way to legally get your book.

Also as a businessman, Amazon offers little interaction with suppliers. Yes, I write books, but that’s with my author hat on. Once I take off the author hat and put my business hat on, I sell widgets. (Strictly speaking, I sell nothing: I license copyright. That’s a separate discussion, though.) If Amazon has a problem with me, they’ll shut me off with minimal explanation and not give me an opportunity to get back in compliance. They might offer a big publisher a chance to make whole, but not a little company like mine.

I’m a full time author. Yes, my wife works, but she’s not supporting me. Our goal is to be able to live on one person’s income, so that if something happens to one of us we will be okay. If I do not make enough money to realistically contribute to my family, then I need to get a job that does.

By that measure, I’m successful. (Thank you, loyal readers!)

An amount of money sufficient to support my family is small enough that Amazon does not care about me. My business is quite literally not worth an hour of an Amazon support rep’s time.

So: if I screw up, if I anger the 800-kilogram capybara that is Amazon, and Amazon is my sole customer…

I’m out of business. Kaput. Done. Finished.

Most one-person publishing businesses are smaller than mine. And Amazon cares even less about them. I don’t know if you can have negative caring, but if you can it’s in Amazon’s software.

Let’s go back to how Kindle Unlimited works. The rules are simple. The purpose of simple rules is to be abused. Anyone who knows anything about fraud, or anyone with a security background, can come up with half a dozen ways to scam Amazon out of a share of the profits.

Here’s a way that seems to be in play today.

Start a “book-booster” service. The service automatically generates Amazon accounts and signs them up for the free 30-day Kindle Unlimited trial. It can also “read” the books. This can be built out of the same freely-available software used for building web sites.
When an author buys the service for one of his books, the service checks out “reads” the book.
Poof! The book climbs in the bestseller lists.
The boosted ranking makes the book more visible. Perhaps some real humans will notice it.
The author gets money from Amazon’s pool.

This is a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service. If you get caught, the Amazon Capybara will eat you. You’re out of business.

Depending on how you ask, the current book-boosting algorithm is either naive, or takes advantage of Amazon’s ranking methods. It borrows the books all in one day. In reality, book sales are spread out and erratic, achieving averages only on a quarterly or even yearly basis.

It seems that when Amazon sees a book getting a one-day sales spike, from accounts that act in concert, it concludes that the author has hired a book-boosting service and closes the author’s account.

How do these book-boosting services attempt to hide their customers?

By also boosting Kindle Unlimited authors who have not hired the service. They’re attempting to make this seem like normal activity.

The catch is–again, Amazon does not care. To Amazon, authors are plentiful and of low value.

If Amazon sees this kind of boost on a KU author, they unilaterally close the publishing account. All books, including those not on Kindle Unlimited, are removed from sale.

And this is only one scam among many. Amazon crushes these scams with extreme prejudice. It isn’t looking to crush one-person publishers, but if a few low-value publishers like mine get caught up in scam-fighting software, that’s an acceptable loss.

There’s no way to know when one of these scam-fighting measures is about to hit you. Amazon’s decision-making processes are opaque.

Now, let’s look at life without Kindle Unlimited.

As a publisher who uses Amazon as one of many sales channels: Amazon is about half my income. Losing them would suck.

If I signed on with Kindle Unlimited, I would probably get enough additional reads to more than compensate for the loss of Kobo, iBooks, and so on. But then I’m completely and utterly at Amazon’s mercy.

I’m playing the long game. No, not a year-long game, or a five-year game. Try twenty years, a hundred years.

My ultimate goal is to guide readers directly to my site for everything, providing a disintermediated revenue stream for myself and my heirs. I want to transform Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and all the other bookstores into billboards that pay me. That directly conflicts with using Kindle Unlimited.

Where do you want to be in twenty years?

— source blather.michaelwlucas.com By Michael Lucas

Man-made pollutants found in Earth’s deepest ocean trenches

Toxic chemicals are accumulating in marine creatures in Earth’s deepest oceanic trenches, the first measurements of organic pollutants in these regions have revealed.

“We often think deep-sea trenches are remote and pristine, untouched by humans,” says Alan Jamieson, a deep-ocean researcher at the University of Aberdeen, UK. But Jamieson and his colleagues have found man-made organic pollutants at high levels in shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods that they collected from two deep-ocean trenches, he told a conference on deep-ocean exploration in Shanghai on 8 June.

“It’s really surprising to find pollutants so deep in the ocean at such high concentrations,” says Jeffrey Drazen, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

Before this work — which has not yet been published — the study of pollutants in deep-sea organisms had been limited to those that live at depths of 2,000 metres or less1, 2. The latest research tested for levels of organic chemicals in amphipods collected at 7,000–10,000 metres depth, from the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean — the world’s deepest trench — and from the Kermadec Trench near New Zealand.

The creatures were captured during two international expeditions in 2014, when researchers lowered uncrewed landers into the trenches as part of a research programme to study deep-ocean ecosystems, sponsored by the US National Science Foundation.
Polluted depths

In both trenches, the amphipods contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — used to make plastics and as anti-fouling agents to stop barnacles growing on ships’ hulls — and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used as flame retardants.

Both chemicals are man-made and belong to a category of carbon-based compounds called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they are hard to break down. Production of PCBs — which are carcinogens — has been banned in many countries since the late 1970s; PBDEs, which animal studies suggest may disrupt hormone systems and interfere with neural development, are only now being phased out.

The concentrations of PCBs in the amphipods from the Mariana Trench were particularly high, and 15 times greater than those found in the Kermadec. “It’s even higher than in the estuaries of two of the most polluted rivers — the Pearl River and the Liao River — in China,” says Jamieson.

By contrast, the Kermadec Trench contains PBDEs at concentrations five times greater than the Mariana — and at a level that is higher than in the coastal waters of New Zealand’s North Island, the study finds.

Douglas Bartlett, a deep-sea microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, says that the discovery is fascinating. “It hits home very dramatically that the trenches are not that remote after all, and the world is all connected,” he says.
That sinking feeling

“The take-home message is that when you dump rubbish into the sea, it will ultimately sink. When [pollutants] fall into the trenches, they have nowhere else to go. So they’re just going to keep building up,” says Jamieson. Eventually, the trenches will have higher levels of pollutants than in estuaries, where chemicals are constantly flushed out to open waters, he says.

The researchers suspect that the proximity of the Mariana Trench to large plastic manufacturers in Asia, as well as to a long-term US military base on the island of Guam, may have contributed to its high PCB levels. The waters above the trench are also part of the North Pacific gyre, a system of strong swirling ocean currents that might be sucking materials on the surface down into the deep sea. Both the Mariana and Kermadec trenches are around 11 kilometres deep. “It sounds quite deep, but it’s not in terms of pollutant transport,” says Jamieson.

The high POP levels are a cause for concern, researchers say. The deep-ocean canyons are “untapped natural resources” — a potential supply of organisms that could be valuable for a range of commercial applications, including drug discovery, but which might be affected by the pollutants, says Drazen.

Scientists think that deep-ocean trenches could also be an important carbon sink, playing a key part in regulating climate, Bartlett says. In part, that is because in the trenches, carbon is pushed deep into Earth’s interior when one tectonic plate is thrust underneath another. The trenches are also teeming with microbes that may convert carbon-containing chemicals into forms that aren’t easily converted into carbon dioxide.

“If somehow microbial activities are adversely affected because of all this pollution, I’d wonder what that’s doing to the carbon cycle in general,” says Bartlett.

— source nature.com By Jane Qiu

Terror in East Africa

Since the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, the constant struggle and chaos had engulfed the country. Corruption, violence, strong external influence and insecurity are some of the factors which are common in Somali’s day-to-day politics. From all of this, radicalised and extremist groups have emerged and started to take hold of the society, especially in the south of the country. Al Shabaab was originally formed from the Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya group, which emerged in the post regime change in the nineties. Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya (AIAI) was focused on implementing strong Sharia law, seizing strategic locations in the country and bringing order and control in previously lawless areas. Though this may seem like a solid plan, establishing some kind of order in a chaotic region, even through Sharia, is better than total lawlessness; the Ethiopian government had other plans. Neighbouring state, Ethiopia, which is predominantly Christian, saw the rise of Islamism, Wahhabism and Salafism as a serious threat in Somalia. Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya as well as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) were destroyed by the Ethiopian military operations in 2004 and 2006, leaving only the most hardcore elements of these organisations still standing, thus the Al Shabaab, or “the youth”, emerged. The rise of Al Shabaab from the shadows was rather quick, the group rapidly grew from a core of just 33 to a force of more than 5,000 troops in less than four years. Their motivation and main objective at that time was to drive the Ethiopian forces out of the country; of course, that had to be done by a strong insurgency, which Al Shabaab was eager to lead. Though the Ethiopians managed to quell ICU and the AIAI, Al Shabaab, which rose from it ashes, was much more radical and determined in its ideas of implementing Sharia law and some form of an Islamic caliphate/state. Ethiopia’s military actions hardened Somalis’ religious views and made a fertile ground for spreading extreme religious ideologies, which made recruitment and funding for Al Shabaab much easier. After the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in 2009, a split occurred in Al Shaabab: two conflicting factions were trying to impose their own views and doctrine on the group. One was led by Sheikh Aweys, a spiritual leader with fundamentally domestic aims, and Sheikh Moktar Ali Zubeyr also known as Godane (educated in Pakistan), who had a more ambitious and extremist agenda, which ultimately prevailed and took control over the group. At that moment, the Al Shabaab agenda changed from nationalistic to a more global and ideological rhetoric, which ended with pledging allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and promoting Al Qaeda’s jihad across the horn of Africa. Although Al Shabaab’s impact during the past couple of years has decreased, mainly because of new battlefields in Syria and Libya, the group still poses a major threat in the region with the probability of expanding its influence further into the Sahel and also in Yemen. Despite their grievous loss of their leader, Godane in 2014, his successor, Abu Ubaidah, is eager to follow in his footsteps. This can be seen in their constant raids and harassment in Mogadishu targeting primarily non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations (UN) facilities, extending their reach in Kenya, attracting young fighters and establishing some kind of limited government in some parts of the country which are under Al Shabaab’s control.

Before we go any deeper into understanding the structure of Al Shabaab, we first need to determine the doctrine and the ideology behind this radical group. Most of the time, the group is described as a Sunni extremist organisation supplemented with Salafism and Wahhabism. Besides this, Al Shabaab has a strict policy against takfir (bad Muslims), who usually get excommunicated or worse (punishments such as stoning and decapitation are common). The practice of Salafism and Wahhabism is not only used as some kind of ideology, but also as an instrument for attracting funds and finance (there had been rumours that some Gulf states are eager when it comes to funding organisations with this type of doctrine). One of their most important goals is the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in the Horn of Africa; it should include not only Somalia but Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti as well. Various analysts cite that these radical pan-Islamic ideas come from AIAI, which was a predecessor of Al Shabaab which gave training and needed-knowledge for the future leaders of “the youth”. The concept of AIAI, and later ICU, is important in understanding the complex structure of Al Shabaab. Though it is radical and fundamental, it is not monolithic; tribal divides and internal fissures are rather common, especially when more leaders try to take control over the group, differences in their origin and training as well as indoctrination usually leads to conflict between them. Ahmed Abdi Godane, who triumphed over these internal conflicts in 2011 and 2013, suggests that core group doctrine and affiliation have been settled. Before Godane’s victory, the core leadership of Al Shabaab was heterogeneous with strong nationalist and politically pragmatic characters like Hassan Dahir Aweys and Mukhtar Roobow. After the “cleansing” of the leadership, Godane saw a clear future which apparently lies with a strong affiliation with Al Qaeda. After the official pledge to Al Qaeda in 2012, these two organisations began close cooperation with each other in further indoctrination and training of the new recruits. Al Qaeda also played a major role in widening Al Shabaab’s vision in terms of globalised jihad rhetoric and propaganda. Implementation of strong Sharia law has become regular; punishments like stoning, decapitation and amputation are common for criminals and also apostates.

Structure, more precisely, the military organisation of Al Shabaab, consists out of five formations/brigades:

Abu Dalha Al-Sudaani: Lower and Middle Juba
Sa’ad Bin Mu’aad: Gedo
Saalah Nabhaan: Bay and Bakool
Ali Bin Abu Daalib: Banaadir, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle
Khaalid Bin Wliid: Hiiraan, Mudug, Galgaduud
Liwaa’ul Qudus: Eastern Sanaag and Bari regions “Sharqistan”

Besides these formations, an important structure inside Al Shabaab is the “Amniyaad”. The Amniyaad is something resembling a secret police; at first they were in charge of providing intelligence (especially for internal purposes), but Godane managed to strengthen their position and gave them much wider authority. Al Shabaab’s internal coherency relies heavily on the work of Amniyaad, especially in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas. Some of the common tactics used by this “secret police” are targeted killings/assassinations, bombing and planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Amniyaad is also responsible for devising new tactics in order to improve Al Shabaab’s asymmetrical warfare. Last but not least is the media section, Al-Kataib: production of video materials for global and domestic audiences is used for spreading terror as well as for recruitment purposes.

Tactics and strategies which are implemented by Al Shabaab are heavily based on local knowledge and experience from veterans and fighters who participated in former radical organisations in the nineties. This comes as no surprise – many members of Al Shabaab were active during the nineties and especially during the Ethiopian intervention. Also, their expertise in those battles was welcomed by Al Shabaab’s leadership in order to train new recruits and improve general combat. A main aspect of the tactics and strategies used by this radical organisation is the asymmetrical warfare, which was executed with wide knowledge and precision. The group was cautious when it came to large-scale battles against larger and better-equipped adversaries, usually they would withdrew their forces in order to reorganise and strike at the right moment. This tactic was further improved by Godane, who decentralised much of the authority within the group making it more flexible and agile. Commanders or regional “governors” have been appointed, including field commanders who have improved intelligence gathering (Amniyaad), counter-intelligence work, better command of the troops etc. This decentralisation allowed Al Shabaab to easily shift into guerilla warfare style in 2013 and 2014 when the Somali government managed to extend its control over major towns, especially in the south of the country. The jihadists, with their vast knowledge of the region, fled to the countryside and continued their fight. Though they have been driven from some populated areas, there is a growing sense of fear because of the sporadic raids and the retribution, which the terrorists pledged to carry out. Unlike its adversaries, Al Shabaab is quite mobile, which gives it the edge when it comes to fighting in urban areas. Constant raids and pressure, which they keep up thanks to their networks, allows Amniyaad a lot of freedom when conducting assassinations or even suicide attacks. The flow of foreign fighters into the group, especially those from Iraq and Afghanistan, has broadened the knowledge of military and guerilla tactics with a couple of major aspects:

Extensive use of IEDs and suicide bombers which was not a common sight in Somalia in the past.
Combat units consist out of nine members, unlike the regular Somali army, which practices with 11 member units, or the Ethiopian army with six member units.
Heavy emphasis on infantry.
High mobility of troops due to a limited number of members and a wide area which needs to be covered.
Distinctive deployment of troops. Al Shabaab usually masses its troops on the borders of the areas which it controls, while there are not many of them in urban areas or city centers. Despite this, the strong psychological effects of fear and retaliation keep citizens in line, who are unable to revolt or oppose their aggressors.

Still two main weapons of Al Shabaab’s arsenal are IEDs and suicide bombers: a common tool for various Salafist/Wahhabist terrorist organisations. Al Shabaab also implements brutal tactics when initiating skirmishes. Although it usually targets government/military or international institutions, the group is always trying to fight in heavily populated areas. Interestingly enough, despite this bloody strategy, there isn’t an outrage from the domestic population against this terrorist organisation.

Recruitment and training of Al Shabaab members usually takes place in Somalia and Kenya, but foreign continents like Europe and North America (the US especially) are not the exception. The organisation started as a populist militarist group, focusing on younger parts of the population (staying true to its name, Al Shabaab/”the youth”) for mobilisation with constant struggle with the authority of the domestic and foreign factors. With its recruitment programme, Al Shabaab quickly realized that in order to amass new recruits, the idea of waging jihad should be constantly pushed on a daily basis. A regular flow of new recruits needed a population and land from which they could gather them. These factors pushed Al Shabaab to become embedded into the Somali society, as some former members testified (which are often children or teenagers), the organisation gives a mobile phone and a monthly payment of 50 dollars, which for young people in Somalia, seems quite a lot. There are three basic principles on which Al Shabaab recruits its members:

The use of da’wa [literally means “issuing a summons” or “making an invitation”] gives a strong impact on the youth mainly because they usually lack any deeper religious knowledge. This is often done by various propaganda techniques including videos, books and preaching the importance of jihad.
Economic motivation also plays a major role. As I mentioned, earlier 50 dollars can mean a lot to a young man in the Somali society. Violence, which is a daily phenomenon in Somalia, makes people used to it and organisations like Al Shabaab largely profit from it. Payment for killing a man can sustain someone’s family for a period of time.
The final part is de-socialisation and re-socialisation of the new recruits. This process can be highly rewarding for the terrorist organisation, since it usually promotes further unification of the new members.

Forced conscription is not an exception. In areas where Al Shabaab dominates, forced recruitment can often take place, though the exact line between forceful and “normal” recruitment is not always clear. Those who are forcefully made to join the group are often isolated from the outside world, they are later mixed with other recruits who have willingly joined the group (this is usually done in training courses). This constant shuffle of recruits finally blends them together and in the end, they are born again as fully-fledged jihadists. This has proven to be rather efficient with some political minorities since the feeling of belonging to some stronger organisation can be overwhelming. Part of the recruitment is also exercised in schools or in religious institutions where Sheiks can usually navigate younger people to the way of Sharia and eventually, to Al Shabaab. The finance factor, which plays a major role in the recruitment phase is not only reserved for the fighters, suicide bombers or assassins; Al Shabaab employs workers for various duties inside the group. One of those positions is the clerical duty. Most of the training is done in Somalia due to the lack of government and military control. Al Shabaab is able to manage highly specialised training camps without much domestic interference. There are a couple of training camps which are specialised for hand-to-hand combat in Ras Kiamboni, suicide bombing camps in Elberde and Mogadishu and a hostage training camp in Eel Arfid. There have also been reports on Al Qaeda operatives who have instructor duties, some of them are from Pakistan/Afghanistan and some come from the Arabian peninsula. The training courses usually last for six months, after which the new recruits become full members of the organisation. The trainees are also able to choose which branch of Al Shabaab they want to join; possibilities include combat units, bomb makers or the security apparatus of the Amniyat.

Many of the terrorist or insurgent groups have two main principles of funding which include “lootable” and “unlootable” resources. Those resources may include diamonds, narcotics, gas and similar riches which one territory may possess. Since Al Shabaab lacks this method of funding, the organisation was forced to create an innovative method of gathering financial resources. This new method can be defined as financial control and surveillance of cash flows. This control extends to both domestic and external funding and is directly controlled by the group so it does not rely on third parties. The UN report from 2011 suggests that Al Shabaab was able to collect around 100 million dollars from fees at airports and seaports, taxes on various goods and checkpoints, jihad contributions and extortions justified by religious obligations. In order to maintain its “taxation” and healthy financial flows, good governance and discipline are essential. In this manner, Al Shabaab has made a wide range of administrative bodies that are far more efficient than the Somali government. These bodies include Maktabatu Maaliya (Ministry of Finance), which has domestic and international responsibilities. On the local level when it comes to gathering taxes, the Amniyat plays a crucial role, while Maktabatu Maaliya is responsible for the macro-economy and development (example: controlling the charcoal exports). These “institutions” give a sense of government and order. For people who live in a state of perpetual chaos these administrative bodies, which were developed by the Al Shabaab, are seen as a more or less good thing; it also helps the organisation maintain its population and recruitment without the use of brutal force. Besides the domestic flow of funds which is reliable and easy to control, there is also an external source of funding. External sources include the Somali diaspora and “deep-pocket” individuals who sympathize with the rhetoric or have other interests in mind when donating financial resources to this group. According to some estimates, 14% of the Somali population lives abroad. These people have certain moral obligations but also relatives who need help back at home. The much-needed help which is delivered from the Somali diaspora sometimes comes to Al Shabaab as well. In the past, especially when the ICU was active, the foreign aid coming from the Somalis living abroad was relatively easy to acquire. Luckily today this type of “foreign aid” is dramatically reduced, mostly due to international actions against those who fund Al Shabaab and domestic prosecutions. The group also has so-called “deep-pocketed” donors. These donors come from all over the world and when Al Shabaab pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda, it became much more attractive for these donors. Motivations for donating large amounts of money to terrorist organisations are various and they include: performing a proxy jihad by donating large sums of money to radical organisations, sponsoring those kinds of organisations since the donors themselves cannot be physically present, fight for that organisation or achieve honour for waging a proxy jihad. A 2013 US Treasury Designation Order on Umayr Al-Nuaymi (Qatar businessman) suggests that he allegedly funded Al Shabaab with more than 250,000 dollars. Though Al Shabaab promotes global jihad, it still has donors which support the nationalistic doctrine of the past. Aligning themselves with Al Qaeda (which is strictly orientated to global jihad), there is a probability that some of the donors, domestic and international, who support the nationalistic doctrine, will cut the funds because of this shift in Al Shabaab’s goals and doctrine. This was even pointed out by the former leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden.

As an organisation, Al Shabaab demonstrated impressive talent for planning, strategy and military tactics, which must not be underestimated. Their social roots in Somalia still remain deep. According to some reports from 2014, the group is still controlling much of the southern part of the country. With the rise of Islamic State and chaos which engulfed much of North Africa and the Middle East, Al Shabaab is positioning itself accordingly, promoting Sharia rule, allaying with Al Qaeda and promoting the idea of an Islamic caliphate. Though the pan-Islamic idea is powerful, with Al Shabaab’s rhetoric they retain a strong grip over domestic affairs; this can be seen in their ways of funding via taxes. Despite their rigorous ways of exercising Sharia law in a state such as Somalia, Al Shabaab does not necessarily represent the biggest threat or the biggest problem, hence the absence of any serious uprising from the local population against this organisation. There are also practical benefits provided by the Al Shabaab group, like religious education and some sort of basic institutions and administration. Yet these steps seem insignificant. Looking from abroad, for the locals they can mean a lot. Rooting themselves deep into the sociological sphere and bolstering their relations with the domestic population, it will not be an easy task to remove this radical organisation. In geopolitical terms, Al Shabaab does not represent a major threat. Unlike the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, it lacks the logistic and foreign support in order to accomplish and spread terror on a global scale. On the other hand, they do represent a major threat in the region; something similar can be observed with Boko Haram. Though they are positioned in the south of the country, Somalia is the Horn of Africa. Somalia has access to the Gulf of Aden, and the proximity to Yemen and the Red Sea can serve not only the interests of Al Shabaab, but also those of foreign organisations which are present in Yemen and maintain contact with Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab’s regional influence can also be dangerous because of the instability of the Sahel region. If Al Shabaab manages to use the conflicts in the Middle East and Libya, it can spread further into Sahel. They already have the pattern of Islamic State, which uses different regions and countries in order to avoid total eradication. Thus, dealing with Al Shabaab must be done cautiously. Ethiopian direct military engagement in the past destroyed two radical organisations but also delivered the third one, which is much stronger than its predecessors. Learning from their previous experience is one of the trademarks of Al Shabaab. Directly engaging this organisation may cause unwanted casualties and destruction, which will only strengthen the position of Al Shabaab in the Somali society (we must not forget that Al Shabaab also maintains nationalistic ideas besides global jihad). Thus, the approach must be done through soft power, political reconciliation, mediation support, political and religious education, military support and assistance. Only when the foreign powers realize the realty of Somalis’ struggle, can there be hope for a total eradication of radical organisations in that country.

MA IGOR PEJIC, graduated in Political Science from the Foreign Affairs Department at the Faculty of Political Science. He is currently completing an MA in Terrorism, Security and Organised Crime at the University of Belgrade, Serbia.

— source southfront.org

Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer

Rudolf Elmer, the Swiss whistleblower who has been pursued by Swiss courts for a decade and served over half a year in prison while accused of (according to Switzerland’s peculiar courts) violating the Swiss banking secrecy law, now faces two more court trials: one, on June 23rd, as part of the ongoing case for which he has already been in prison; and one on June 24th, relating to the symbolic handover of a data file to Julian Assange at the Frontline Club in London.

Journalists, save the date: June 23 and June 24. Though the Brexit vote will dominate media coverage around that time, don’t forget Elmer.

In an email to TJN last week, Elmer said:

“I really think that Zürich’s financial centre and Zürich’s justice wants me to be cruficied at Paradeplatz in Zurich, in front of UBS, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and HSBC, in order to threaten other bankers.”

Paradeplatz in Zurich, in the picture here, is the world headquarters for Credit Suisse and UBS, and contains offices of many financial sector players.

We cannot stress strongly enough – do go and look at the detailed evidence – that Switzerland appears to have corrupted its courts system, in order to nail him. (In short, he is accused of breaking Swiss bank secrecy, even though he wasn’t in Switzerland at the relevant time, and he wasn’t working for a “Swiss bank” under the relevant definition in the law. The courts have selectively refused to consider large sections of evidence.)

His forthcoming trials follow a number of severe attacks on whistleblowers against tax havens recently. Beyond Elmer, there is the case of Luxleaks whistleblowers Antoine Deltour, Edouard Perrin and Raphael Halet (read this excellent article for a summary of Luxembourg’s corrupt financial machine in action;) the Mossack Fonseca/Panama Papers case, where there appears to be a whistleblower arrest; the Hervé Falciani case (where, again, the whistleblower has got it in the neck;) and now – much less well known in western circles – the case of Hernán Arbizu in Argentina, apparently a JP Morgan whistleblower. As Argentina’s Pagina 12 summarises:

“The bankers who launder and flee seem to get protection, and those who expose them are condemned. Arbizu’s whistleblowing ends with his arrest and extradition.”

We asked Elmer for his reaction to the difficulties facing other whistleblowers, and he said, firstly in response to the Luxleaks whistleblower scandal:

“This case clearly shows again that any judicial system is a tool of the powerful oligarchs and multinationals in a country, and the judges have to bend and stretch the law in a way that fits the purpose and liking of the powerful. If the interests of the powerful are at risk, the rule of law will be bent or even ignored while the man in the street eventually pays the bill.

In the case of my family and me, we had to go into exile to Mauritius in 2006 because I would not have found a job in Switzerland: I was called a thief, a blackmailer, a terrorist, a mentally ill person etc. — and on top of this, my family was stalked for more than two years, unprotected by the Swiss police or a witness protection program. I was made an outlaw: an enemy of Switzerland, and it seems that in a certain part of Swiss society I will be called this for the rest of my life.”

— source taxjustice.net

Breakdown of American Society and a World in Transition

Noam Chomsky interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou
Truthout, June 12, 2016

CJ Polychroniou: Noam, you have said that the rise of Donald Trump is largely due to the breakdown of American society. What exactly do you mean by this?

Noam Chomsky: The state-corporate programs of the past 35 or so years have had devastating effects on the majority of the population, with stagnation, decline and sharply enhanced inequality being the most direct outcomes. This has created fear and has left people feeling isolated, helpless, victims of powerful forces they can neither understand or influence. The breakdown is not caused by economic laws. They are policies, a kind of class war initiated by the rich and powerful against the working population and the poor. This is what defines the neoliberalism period, not only in the US but in Europe and elsewhere. Trump is appealing to those who sense and experience the breakdown of American society — to deep feelings of anger, fear, frustration, hopelessness, probably among sectors of the population that are seeing an increase in mortality, something unheard of apart from war.

CJP: Class warfare remains as vicious and one-sided as ever. Neoliberal governance over the last thirty years, regardless if there was a Republican or a Democratic administration in place, has intensified immensely the processes of exploitation and induced ever-larger gaps between haves and have-nots in American society. Moreover, I don’t see neoliberal class politics being on retreat in spite of the opportunities that opened up because of the last financial crisis and by having a centrist Democrat in the White House.

NC: The business classes, which largely run the country, are highly class conscious. It is not a distortion to describe them as vulgar Marxists, with values and commitments reversed. It was not until 30 years ago that the head of the most powerful union recognized and criticized the “one-sided class war” that is relentlessly waged by the business world. It has succeeded in achieving the results you describe. However, neoliberal policies are in shambles. They have come to harm the most powerful and privileged (who only partially accepted them for themselves in the first place), so they cannot be sustained.

It is rather striking to observe that the policies that the rich and powerful adopt for themselves are the precise opposite of those they dictate to the weak and poor. Thus, when Indonesia has a deep financial crisis, the instructions from the US Treasury Department (via the IMF) are to pay off the debt (to the West), to raise interest rates and thus slow the economy, to privatize (so that Western corporations can buy up their assets), and the rest of the neoliberal dogma. For ourselves, the policies are to forget about debt, to reduce interest rates to zero, to nationalize (but not to use the word) and to pour public funds into the pockets of the financial institutions, and so on. It is also striking that the dramatic contrast passes unnoticed, along with the fact that this conforms to the record of the economic history of the past several centuries, a primary reason for the separation of the first and third worlds.

Class politics is so far only marginally under attack. The Obama administration has avoided even minimal steps to end and reverse the attack on unions. Obama has even indirectly indicated his support for this attack, in interesting ways. It is worth recalling that his first trip to show his solidarity with working people (called “the middle class,” in US rhetoric) was to the Caterpillar plant in Illinois. He went there in defiance of pleas by church and human rights organizations because of Caterpillar’s grotesque role in the Israeli occupied territories, where it is a prime instrument in devastating the land and villages of “the wrong people.” But it seems not even to have been noticed that, adopting Reagan’s anti-labor policies, Caterpillar became the first industrial corporation in generations to break a powerful union by employing strike-breakers, in radical violation of international labor conventions. That left the US alone in the industrial world, along with apartheid South Africa, in tolerating such means of undermining workers’ rights and democracy — and now I presume the US is alone. It is hard to believe that the choice was accidental.

CJP: There is a widespread belief at least among some well-known political strategists that issues do not define American elections — even if the rhetoric is that candidates need to understand public opinion in order to woo voters — and we do know of course that media provide a wealth of false information on critical issues (take the mass media’s role before and during the launching of the Iraq war) or fail to provide any information at all (on labor issues, for example). Yet, there is strong evidence indicating that the American public cares about the great social, economic and foreign policy issues facing the country. For example, according to a research study released some years ago by the University of Minnesota, Americans ranked health care among the most important problems facing the country. We also know that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in support of unions. Or that they judged the war against terror to be a total failure. In the light of all of this, what’s the best way to understand the relation between media, politics and the public in contemporary American society?

NC: It is well-established that electoral campaigns are designed so as to marginalize issues and focus on personalities, rhetorical style, body language, etc. And there are good reasons. Party managers read polls, and are well aware that on a host of major issues, both parties are well to the right of the population — not surprisingly; they are, after all, business parties. Polls show that a large majority of voters object, but those are the only choices offered to them in the business-managed electoral system, in which the most heavily funded candidate almost always wins.

Similarly, consumers might prefer decent mass transportation to a choice between two automobiles, but that option is not provided by advertisers — indeed, by markets. Ads on TV do not provide information about products; rather, they provide illusion and imagery. The same Public Relations firms that seek to undermine markets by ensuring that uninformed consumers will make irrational choices (contrary to abstract economic theories) seek to undermine democracy in the same way. And the managers are well aware of all of this. Leading figures in the industry have exulted in the business press that they have been marketing candidates like commodities ever since Reagan, and this is their greatest success yet, which they predict will provide a model for corporate executives and the marketing industry in the future.

You mentioned the Minnesota poll on health care. It is typical. For decades, polls have shown that health care is at or near the top of public concerns — not surprisingly, given the disastrous failure of the health care system, with per capita costs twice as high as comparable societies and some of the worst outcomes. Polls also consistently show that large majorities want a nationalized system, called “single payer,” rather like the existing Medicare system for the elderly, which is far more efficient than the privatized systems or the one introduced by Obama. When any of this is mentioned, which is rare, it is called “politically impossible” or “lacking political support” — meaning that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and others who benefit from the current system, object. We gained an interesting insight into the workings of American democracy from the fact that in 2008, unlike 2004, the Democratic candidates — first Edwards, then Clinton and Obama — came forward with proposals that at least begun to approach what the public has wanted for decades. Why? Not because of a shift in public attitudes, which have remained steady. Rather, [the] manufacturing industry has been suffering from the costly and inefficient privatized health care system, and the enormous privileges granted, by law, to the pharmaceutical industries. When a large sector of concentrated capital favors some program, it becomes “politically possible” and has “political support.” Just as revealing as the facts themselves is that they are not noticed.

Much the same is true on many other issues, domestic and international.

CJP: The US economy is facing myriad problems, although profits for the rich and corporations returned long ago to the levels they were prior to the eruption of the 2008 financial crisis. But the one single problem which most of academic and financial analysts seem to focus on as being of most critical nature is that of government debt. According to mainstream analysts, US debt is already out of control, which is why they have been arguing consistently against big economic stimulus packages to boost growth, contending that such measures will only push the US deeper into debt. What is the likely impact that a ballooning debt will have on the American economy and on international investor’s confidence in the event of a new financial crisis?

NC: No one really knows. Debt has been far higher in the past, particularly after World War II. But that was overcome thanks to the remarkable economic growth under the wartime semi-command economy. So we know that if government stimulus spurs sustained economic growth, the debt can be controlled. And there are other devices, such as inflation. But the rest is very much guesswork. The main funders — primarily China, Japan, oil producers — might decide to shift their funds elsewhere for higher profits. But there are few signs of such developments, and they are not too likely. The funders have a stake in sustaining the US considerable economy for their own exports. There is no way to make confident predictions, but it seems clear that the entire world is in a tenuous situation, to say the least.

CJP: You seem to believe, in contrast to so many others, that the US remains a global economic, political and of course military superpower even after the latest crisis — and I do have the same impression, as well, as the rest of the world economies are not only not in any shape to challenge America’s hegemony but are looking toward the US as a savior of the global economy. What do you see as the competitive advantages that US capitalism has over the EU economy and the newly emerging economies in Asia?

NC: The 2007-08 financial crisis in large measure originated in the US, but its major competitors — Europe and Japan — ended up suffering more severely, and the US remained the choice location for investors who are looking for security in a time of crisis. The advantages of the US are substantial. It has extensive internal resources. It is unified, an important fact. Until the civil war in the 1860s, the phrase “United States” was plural (as it still is in European languages). But since then the phrase has been singular, in standard English. Policies designed in Washington by state power and concentrated capital apply to the whole country. That is far harder in Europe. A couple of years after the eruption of the latest global financial crisis, the European Commission task force issued a report saying that “Europe needs new bodies to monitor systemic risk and co-ordinate oversight of financial institutions across the region’s patchwork of supervision,” though the task force, headed then by a former French central banker, “stopped well short of suggesting a single European watchdog” — which the US can have any time it wants. For Europe, it would be “an almost impossible mission,” the task force leader said. [Several] analysts, including the Financial Times, have described such a goal as politically impossible, “a step too far for many member states reluctant to cede authority in this area.” There are many other advantages to unity. Some of the harmful effects of European inability to coordinate reactions to the crisis have been widely discussed by European economists.

The historical roots of these differences between Europe and the US are familiar. Centuries of … conflict imposed a nation-state system in Europe, and the experience of World War II convinced Europeans that they must abandon their traditional sport of slaughtering one another, because the next try would be the last. So we have what political scientists like to call “a democratic peace,” though it is far from clear that democracy has much to do with it. In contrast, the US is a settler-colonial state, which [murdered] the indigenous population and consigned the remnants to “reservations,” while conquering half of Mexico, then expanding beyond. Far more than in Europe, the rich internal diversity was destroyed. The civil war cemented central authority, and uniformity in other domains as well: national language, cultural patterns, huge state-corporate social engineering projects such as the suburbanization of the society, massive central subsidy of advanced industry by research and development, procurement and other devices, and much else.

The new emerging economies in Asia have incredible internal problems, unknown in the West. We know more about India than China, because it is a more open society. There are reasons why it ranks 130th in the Human Development Index (about where it was before the partial neoliberal reforms); China ranks 90th, and the rank could be worse if more were known about it. That only scratches the surface. In the 18th century, China and India were the commercial and industrial centers of the world, with sophisticated market systems, advanced health levels by comparative standards, and so on. But imperial conquest and economic policies (state intervention for the rich, free markets rammed down the throats of the poor) left them in miserable conditions. It is notable that the one country of the [global] South that developed was Japan, the one country that was not colonized. The correlation is not accidental.

CJP: Is the US still dictating IMF policies?

NC: It’s opaque, but my understanding is that IMF’s economists are supposed to be, maybe are, somewhat independent of the political people. In the case of Greece, and austerity generally, the economists have come out with some strongly critical papers in the Brussels programs, but the political people seem to be ignoring them.

CJP: On the foreign policy front, the “war on terror” seems to be a never ending enterprise and, as with the Hydra monster, a new head pops when one is cut off. Can massive interventions of force wipe out terrorist organizations like ISIS?

NC: Upon taking office, Obama expanded intervention forces and stepped up the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as he had promised he would do. There were peaceful options, some recommended right in the mainstream: in Foreign Affairs, for example. But these did not fall under consideration. Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s first message to Obama, which went unanswered, was a request to stop bombing civilians. Karzai also informed a UN delegation that he wanted a timetable for withdrawal of foreign (meaning US) troops. Immediately he fell out of favor in Washington, and accordingly shifted from a media favorite to “unreliable,” “corrupt,” etc. — which was no more true than when he was feted as our “our man” in Kabul. Obama sent many more troops and stepped up bombing on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border — the Durand line, an artificial border established by the British, which cuts the Pashtun areas in two and which the people have never accepted. Afghanistan in the past often pressed for obliterating it.

That is the central component of the “war on terror.” It was certain to stimulate terror, just as the invasion of Iraq did, and as resort to force does quite generally. Force can succeed. The existence of the US is one illustration. The Russians in Chechnya is another. But it has to be overwhelming, and there are probably too many tentacles to wipe out the terrorist monster that was largely created by Reagan and his associates, since nurtured by others. ISIS is the latest one, and a far more brutal organization than al-Qaeda. It is also different in the sense that it has territorial claims. It can be wiped out through massive employment of troops on the ground, but that won’t end the emergence of similar-minded organizations. Violence begets violence.

CJP: US relations with China have gone through different phases over the past few decades, and it is hard to get a handle on where things stand today. Do you anticipate future US-Sino relations to improve or deteriorate?

NC: The US has a love-hate relation with China. China’s abysmal wages, working conditions, and lack of environmental constraints are a great boon to US and other Western manufacturers who transfer operations there, and to the huge retail industry, which can obtain cheap goods. And the US now relies on China, Japan and others to sustain its own economy. But China poses problems as well. It does not intimidate easily… When the US shakes its fist at Europe and tells Europeans to stop doing business with Iran, they mostly comply. China doesn’t pay much attention. That’s frightening. There is a long history of conjuring up imaginary Chinese threats. It continues.

CJP: Do you see China being in a position any time soon to pose a threat to US global interests?

NC: Among the great powers, China has been the most reserved in use of force, even military preparations. So much so that leading US strategic analysts (John Steinbrunner and Nancy Gallagher, writing in the journal of the ultra-respectable American Academy of Arts and Sciences) called on China some years ago to lead a coalition of peace-loving nations to confront the US aggressive militarism that they think is leading to “ultimate doom.” There is little indication of any significant change in that respect. But China does not follow orders, and is taking steps to gain access to energy and other resources around the world. That constitutes a threat.

CJP: Indian-Pakistani relations pose clearly a major challenge in US foreign policy. Is this a situation the US can actually have under control?

NC: To a limited extent. And the situation is highly volatile. There is constant ongoing violence in Kashmir — state terror by India, Pakistan-based terrorists. And much more, as the recent Mumbai bombings revealed. There are also possible ways to reduce tensions. One is a planned pipeline to India through Pakistan from Iran, the natural source of energy for India. Presumably, Washington’s decision to undermine the Nonproliferation treaty by granting India access to nuclear technology was in part motivated by the hope of undercutting this option, and bringing India to join in Washington’s campaign against Iran. It also may be a related issue in Afghanistan, where there has long been discussion of a pipeline (TAPI) from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and then India. It is probably not a very live issue, but quite possibly is in the background. The “great game” of the 19th century is alive and well.

CJP: In many circles, there is a widespread impression that the Israel lobby calls the shots in US foreign policy in the Middle East. Is the power of the Israel lobby so strong that it can have sway over a superpower?

NC: My friend Gilbert Achcar, a noted specialist on the Middle East and international affairs generally, describes that idea as “phantasmagoric.” Rightly. It is not the lobby that intimidates US high tech industry to expand its investments in Israel, or that twists the arm of the US government so that it will pre-position supplies there for later US military operations and intensify close military and intelligence relations.

When the lobby’s goals conform to perceived US strategic and economic interests, it generally gets its way: crushing of Palestinians, for example, a matter of little concern to US state-corporate power. When goals diverge, as often happens, the Lobby quickly disappears, knowing better than to confront authentic power.

CJP: I agree totally with your analysis, but I think you would also agree that the Israel lobby is influential enough, and beyond whatever economic and political leverage it carries, that criticisms of Israel still cause hysterical reactions in the US — and you certainly have been a target of right-wing Zionists for many years. To what do we attribute this intangible influence on the part of the Israel lobby over American public opinion?

NC: That is all true, though much less so than in recent years. It is not really power over public opinion. In numbers, by far the largest support for Israeli actions is independent of the lobby: Christian religious fundamentalist. British and American Zionism preceded the Zionist movement, based on providentialist interpretations of Biblical prophecies. The population at large supports the two-state settlement, doubtless unaware that the US has been unilaterally blocking it. Among educated sectors, including Jewish intellectuals, there was little interest in Israel before its great military victory in 1967, which really established the US-Israeli alliance. That led to a major love affair with Israel on the part of the educated classes. Israel’s military prowess and the US-Israel alliance provided an irresistible temptation to combine support for Washington with worship of power and humanitarian pretexts… But to put it in perspective, reactions to criticism of US crimes are at least as severe, often more so. If I count up the death threats I have received over the years, or the diatribes in journals of opinion, Israel is far from the leading factor. The phenomenon is by no means restricted to the US. Despite much self-delusion, Western Europe is not very different — though, of course, it is more open to criticism of US actions. The crimes of others usually tend to be welcome, offering opportunities to posture about one’s profound moral commitments.

CJP: Under Erdogan, Turkey has been in a process of unfolding a new-Ottoman strategy towards the Middle East and Central Asia. Is the unfolding of this grand strategy taking place with the collaboration or the opposition of the United States?

NC: Turkey of course has been a very significant US ally, so much so that under Clinton it became the leading recipient of US arms (after Israel and Egypt, in a separate category). Clinton poured arms into Turkey to help it carry out a vast campaign of murder, destruction, and terror against its Kurdish minority. Turkey has also been a major ally of Israel since 1958, part of a general alliance of non-Arab states, under the US aegis, with the task of ensuring control over the world’s major energy sources by protecting the ruling dictators against what is called “radical nationalism” — a euphemism for the populations. US-Turkish relations have sometimes been strained. That was particularly true in the build-up to the US invasion of Iraq, when the Turkish government, bowing to the will of 95% of the population, refused to join. That caused fury in the US. Paul Wolfowitz was dispatched to order the disobedient government to mend its evil ways, to apologize to the US and to recognize that its duty is to help the US. These well-publicized events in no way undermined Wolfowitz’s reputation in the liberal media as the “idealist-in-chief” of the Bush administration, utterly dedicated to promoting democracy. Relations are somewhat tense today too, though the alliance is in place. Turkey has quite natural potential relations with Iran and Central Asia and might be inclined to pursue them, perhaps raising tensions with Washington again. But it does not look too likely right now.

CJP: On the western front, are plans for the eastward expansion of NATO, which go back to the era of Bill Clinton, still in place?

NC: One of Clinton’s major crimes in my opinion — and there were many — was to expand NATO to the East, in violation of a firm pledge to Gorbachev by his predecessors after Gorbachev made the astonishing concession to allow a united German to join a hostile military alliance. These very serious provocations were carried forward by Bush, along with a posture of aggressive militarism which, as predicted, elicited strong reactions from Russia. But American redlines are already placed on Russia’s borders.

CJP: What are your views about the EU? It is still largely a trailblazer for neoliberalism and hardly a bulwark for US aggression. But do you see any signs that it can emerge at some point as a constructive, influential actor on the world stage?

NC: It could. That is a decision for Europeans to make. Some have favored taking an independent stance, notably De Gaulle. But by and large European elites have preferred passivity, following pretty much in Washington’s footsteps.

— source chomsky.info