Monday, November 30, 2009

Matthew Hoh Speaks Grim Truth To Power

Roger Morris and George Kenney, The Huffington Post, Nov 27, 2009

The rare resignation on principle is always telling in American government. When Matthew Hoh recently left the State Department — a Marine Captain in Iraq who became a diplomat in Afghanistan — his act was significant far beyond the first reports.

Hoh speaks grim truth to power. His message is that to pursue the Afghan war policy in any guise — regardless of the troop level President Obama now chooses — will be utter folly, trapping America in an unwinnable civil war in the Hindu Kush, and only fueling terrorism.

An advisor in southern Afghanistan, Hoh knew the malignancy of want behind the war. Eight years after the U.S. invasion and a third of a trillion dollars spent, half the nation faces starvation on 45 cents a day, half the children die before five, and half the surviving young have no schools, part of a torment Afghans plead in poll after poll to be understood as the core of their conflict. He knew well the source of that scourge in the U.S.-installed Kabul regime, a kleptocracy of war- and drug-lords holed up amid American bodyguards in “poppy palaces,” while clan-based “security forces” loot the countryside, sodomize its sons, and swell insurgent ranks. “We’re propping up a government,” Hoh said last week, “that isn’t worth dying for.” So pervasive and profound is that corruption, so entwined with the private exploitation and official graft of the U.S. occupation regime — including kickbacks or extortion payments from both the American military and civilian aid programs to both the new Kabul plutocracy and the multi-layered Taliban — that the morass makes every other issue of policy moot.

The 36-year-old diplomat brings unique authority to public debate. An insider confirming outside critics dispels the myth that classified information redeems a failed policy. He also speaks to and for many in government, infusing honesty where folly feeds on wary quiet and fraudulent unanimity. “There are a lot of guys, not just in the Foreign Service but in the military, who are looking at this thing and they don’t understand what we are doing there,” he told one audience. “I get mails all the time from junior and mid-level officers telling me, ‘Keep it up. This makes no sense to us.’”

Whatever this protest says outwardly, its deeper meaning is devastating. The sheer contrast between Hoh and senior officials — seeing the same reality, the same reports — exposes some dirty little secrets of policy haunting the Obama presidency.

With the 8-year enormity of waste, venality and oppression since the invasion of 2001, ravages Hoh saw climaxed around him, went the knowing silence if not collusion of a succession of U.S. diplomats and officers responsible in the defiled occupation of Afghanistan. There is a troubling legacy, too, in the policy process. In the grip of experience irrelevant in Afghanistan, a generation of military commanders comes with a crudely recycled but promotion-rich creed of counter-insurgency, avenging what some as young officers in the 1970s saw as a false defeat if not home-front betrayal in Vietnam. They are allied with the lucrative in-and-out careerism of powerful if publicly faceless civilian Pentagon officials, what State Department rivals call the “COIN-heads” of counter-insurgency dogma. Those currents run like a murky subterranean river beneath the doomed policy Hoh silhouettes.

Most telling may be the disparity between Hoh — the serious student of Afghan culture — and Washington’s decision-makers. To deal with one of the most complex settings on earth, the Obama administration relies on key figures — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Af-Pak Special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NSC Advisor James Jones — whose careers in politics or the bureaucracy (like those commanding generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal) are bereft of any substantive knowledge of a people they are supposed to master. It leaves them all dangerously dependent on staff, and prey to the absence of dissenters like Hoh among aides whose credentials are hardly more impressive than their own.

That intellectual vacuum, a mirror of Vietnam decision-making, explains the shock and hostility that greeted recent cables of US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry opposing added U.S. troops backing an irredeemable regime. As Hoh exemplifies, actual knowledge of Afghanistan is rare — and the lack scarcely recognized — in a war council prone to flippant lines like Clinton’s recent “There are warlords and there are warlords,” or Holbrooke’s definition of success, “We’ll know it when we see it.”

At the heart of Washington’s decision-making dysfunction, of course, is always a president in thrall to the hoary fears and myths of national security, the most important realm he governs and in which most take power least prepared. For Barack Obama, only historic courage and insight can surmount the multiple corruptions of policy he is heir to.

Hoh embodies that bravery. Implored by Eikenberry to stay, he chose to forgo a prized career to speak out. We know that agony. There is no easy course ahead in Afghanistan. US policies a half century before 2001 account for much of the politics now so deplored in Kabul, a breakdown inflicted as well as inherent, and a blood debt added to the toll of occupation and war.

The gruesome truth of that history is that our sacrifices so far have been largely in vain. It is Matthew Hoh’s heroism to try to stop the inseparable casualties of lives and truth.

Roger Morris and George Kenney are both Foreign Service Officers who resigned on principle — Morris at the 1970 invasion of Cambodia, Kenney in 1991 over policy in the Balkans — both writers are award-winning authors. Morris’s Between the Graves: America, Afghanistan and the Politics of Intervention, will be published by Knopf in 2010. Kenney produces and hosts a podcast at while on the Board of Editors at In These Times.

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The truth of UK’s guilt over Iraq

Until Chilcot hears UN weapons inspectors’ testimony, the fiction of Britain honestly seeking a WMD smoking gun prevails

Scott Ritter, The Guardian/UK, Nov27, 2009

With its troops no longer engaged in military operations inside Iraq, Great Britain has been liberated politically to conduct a postmortem of that conflict, including the sensitive issue of the primary justification used by then Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war, namely Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.

The failure to find any WMD in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of that country by US and British troops continues to haunt those who were involved in making the decision for war. The issue of Iraqi WMD, and the role it played in influencing the decision for war, is at the centre of the ongoing Iraq war inquiry being conducted by Sir John Chilcot.

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Israeli War Criminal Olmert Welcomed in Australia

There is a danger that Australia could become a safe haven for Israeli war criminals.

By Sonja Karkar, The Palestine Chronicle, Nov 29, 2009

The news that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Australia and was welcomed by the honourable members of our parliament came as somewhat of a shock. It is one thing to have allowed a man on corruption charges as well as facing war crimes indictments into Australia at all; it is another thing that he was listed as a distinguished guest in Hansard – the official record of parliamentary proceedings – and received a resounding “hear, hear” from our elected representatives.

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The Meaning of Seattle: Truth Only Becomes True Through Action

By Walden Bello, ZNet, Nov 29, 2009

Source: YES! Magazine

Walden Bello’s ZSpace Page

WTO+10: Before 1999, the momentum of globalization seemed to sweep everything in front of it, including the truth. But in Seattle, ordinary women and men made truth real with collective action.

It is now generally accepted that globalization has been a failure in terms of delivering on its triple promise of lifting countries from stagnation, eliminating poverty, and reducing inequality. The current deep global downturn, which is rooted in corporate-driven globalization and financial liberalization and the ideology of neoliberalism that legitimized them, has driven the last nail into the coffin of globalization.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Iraq Inquiry bombshell: Secret letter to reveal new Blair war lies

By Simon Walters, Mail on Sunday Political Editor

Mail Online/UK, 29th November 2009

Blair and Bush in April 2002

Resolve: Blair and Bush in April 2002, when they secretly agreed on ‘regime change’ in Iraq

An explosive secret letter that exposes how Tony Blair lied over the legality of the Iraq War can be revealed.

The Chilcot Inquiry into the war will interrogate the former Prime Minister over the devastating ’smoking gun’ memo, which warned him in the starkest terms the war was illegal.

The Mail on Sunday can disclose that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wrote the letter to Mr Blair in July 2002 – a full eight months before the war – telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law.

It was intended to make Mr Blair call off the invasion, but he ignored it. Instead, a panicking Mr Blair issued instructions to gag Lord Goldsmith, banned him from attending Cabinet meetings and ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out.

He even concealed the bombshell information from his own Cabinet, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt. The only people he told were a handful of cronies who were sworn to secrecy.

Lord Goldsmith was so furious at his treatment he threatened to resign – and lost three stone as Mr Blair and his cronies bullied him into backing down.

Sources close to the peer say he was ‘more or less pinned to the wall’ in a Downing Street showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

The revelations follow a series of testimonies by key figures at the Chilcot Inquiry who have questioned Mr Blair’s judgment and honesty, and the legality of the war.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that the inquiry has been given Lord Goldsmith’s explosive letter, and that Mr Blair and the peer are likely to be interrogated about it when they give evidence in the New Year.

Lord Goldsmith gave qualified legal backing to the conflict days before the war broke out in March 2003 in a brief, carefully drafted statement. As The Mail on Sunday disclosed three years ago, even that was a distortion as Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair a week earlier he could be breaking international law.

But today’s revelations show that Lord Goldsmith told Mr Blair at the outset, and in writing, that military action against Iraq was totally illegal.

Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with BlairPressured: Lord Goldsmith leaves No10 in March 2003 after talks with Blair

The disclosures deal a massive blow to Mr Blair’s hopes of proving he acted in good faith when he and George Bush declared war on Iraq. And they are likely to fuel further calls for Mr Blair to be charged with war crimes.

Lord Goldsmith’s ’smoking gun’ letter came six days after a Cabinet meeting on July 23, 2002, at which Ministers were secretly told that the US and UK were set on ‘regime change’ in Iraq.

The peer, who attended the meeting, was horrified. On July 29, he wrote to Mr Blair on a single side of A4 headed notepaper from his office.

Friends say it was no easy thing for him to do. He was a close friend of Mr Blair, who gave him his peerage and Cabinet post. The typed letter was addressed by hand, ‘Dear Tony’, and signed by hand, ‘Yours, Peter’.

In it, Lord Goldsmith set out in uncompromising terms why he believed war was illegal. He pointed out that:

  • War could not be justified purely on the grounds of ‘regime change’.
  • Although United Nations rules permitted ‘military intervention on the basis of self-defence’, they did not apply in this case because Britain was not under threat from Iraq.
  • While the UN allowed ‘humanitarian intervention’ in certain instances, that too was not relevant to Iraq.
  • It would be very hard to rely on earlier UN resolutions in the Nineties approving the use of force against Saddam.

Lord Goldsmith ended his letter by saying ‘the situation might change’ – although in legal terms, it never did.

The letter caused pandemonium in Downing Street. Mr Blair was furious. No10 told Lord Goldsmith he should never have put his views on paper, and he was not to do so again unless told to by Mr Blair.

The reason was simple: if it became public, Lord Goldsmith’s letter could make it impossible for Mr Blair to fulfil his secret pledge to back Mr Bush in any circumstances. More importantly, it could never be expunged from the record as copies were stored in No10 and in the Attorney General’s office.

Although Lord Goldsmith had Cabinet status, he attended meetings only when asked. After his letter, he barely attended another meeting until the eve of the war. Mr Blair kept him out to reduce the chance of him blurting out his views to other Ministers.

When Mr Blair is quizzed by the Chilcot Inquiry, he will be asked why he never admitted he was told from the start that the war was illegal.

Equally ominously for Mr Blair, a defiant Lord Goldsmith is ready to defend the letter when he appears before the inquiry. Friends of the peer, widely derided for his role in the Iraq War, believe it will vindicate him.

A source close to Lord Goldsmith said: ‘He assumed, perhaps naively, that Blair wanted a proper legal assessment. No10 went berserk because they knew that once he had put it in writing, it could not be unsaid.

‘They liked to do things with no note-takers, and often no officials, present. That way, there was no record. Everything could be denied.

Baroness Sally Morgan
Lord Falconer

Heavy-handed: Baroness Morgan and Lord Falconer are said to have ‘more or less pinned Lord Goldsmith to the wall and told him what Blair wanted’

‘Goldsmith threatened to resign at least once. He lost three stone in that period. He is an honourable man and it was a terribly stressful experience.’

Lord Goldsmith’s wife Joy, a prominent figure in New Labour dining circles, played a crucial role in talking him out of quitting.

‘Joy was always very ambitious on Peter’s behalf and did not want to see him throw it all away,’ said a source.

Lord Goldsmith’s letter contradicts Mr Blair’s repeated statements, before, during and after the war on its legality.

In April 2005, the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman repeatedly asked him if he had seen confidential Foreign Office advice that the war would be illegal without specific UN support.

Mr Blair said: ‘No. I had the Attorney General’s advice to guide me.’ At best, it was dissembling. At worst, it was a blatant lie.

Mr Blair knew all along that Lord Goldsmith had told him the war was illegal, and that when the peer finally gave it his cautious backing, he did so only under extreme duress.

The Mail on Sunday has also obtained new evidence about the way Lord Goldsmith was bullied into backing the war at the 11th hour.

He was summoned to a No10 meeting with Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Baroness Sally Morgan, Mr Blair’s senior Labour ‘fixer’ in Downing Street. No officials were present.

A source said: ‘Falconer and Morgan performed a pincer movement on Goldsmith. They more or less pinned him up against the wall and told him to do what Blair wanted.’

After the meeting, Lord Goldsmith issued his brief statement stating the war was lawful.

Lord Falconer said in response to the latest revelations: ‘This version of events is totally false. The meeting was Lord Goldsmith’s suggestion and he told us what his view was.’

Baroness Morgan has also denied trying to pressure Lord Goldsmith.

The legal row came to a head days before the war, when the UN refused to approve military action. Stranded, Mr Blair had to win Lord Goldsmith’s legal backing, not least because British military chiefs refused to send troops into action without it.

On March 17, three days before the conflict started, Lord Goldsmith said the war was legal on the basis of previous UN resolutions threatening action against Saddam – even though in his secret letter of July 2002, he had ruled out this argument.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith said: ‘This letter is probably in the bundle that has been supplied to the inquiry by the Attorney General’s department. It is presumed they will want to discuss it with him. If so, Lord Goldsmith is content to do so.

‘His focus is on the legality of the war, its morality is for others.’

A spokesman for the Chilcot Inquiry said: ‘We are content we have obtained all the relevant documents.’

A spokesman for Mr Blair refused to say why the former Prime Minister had not disclosed Lord Goldsmith’s July 2002 letter.

‘The Attorney General set out the legal basis for action in Iraq in March 2003,’ he said. ‘Beyond that, we are not getting into a running commentary before Mr Blair appears in front of the Chilcot committee.’

Leading international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands said: ‘The Chilcot Inquiry must make Lord Goldsmith’s note of 29 July, 2002, publicly available to restore public confidence in the Government.’

Diary of deceit … and how the Attorney General lost three stone


April 6: Blair meets Bush at Crawford, Texas. They secretly agree ‘regime change’ war against Iraq.

July 23: Blair tells secret Cabinet meeting of war plan. Goldsmith is asked to check legal position.

July 24: Blair tells MPs: ‘We have not got to the stage of military action…or point of decision.’

Lord Goldsmith JULY 19, 2002JULY 19, 2002: Lord Goldsmith photographed ten days before he tells Blair war is illegal

Lord Goldsmith MARCH 20, 2003MARCH 20, 2003: Haggard Goldsmith arrives for War Cabinet on day Iraq is invaded

July 29: Goldsmith secretly writes to Blair to tell him war is illegal.

July 30: No10 rebukes Goldsmith. He is excluded from most War Cabinet meetings.

November 8: UN urges Saddam to disarm, but stops short of backing war.

March 7: Despite duress from No10, Goldsmith tells Blair war could be unlawful.

March 13: Goldsmith is allegedly ‘pinned against wall’ by Blair cronies Charlie Falconer and Sally Morgan.

March 17: UN rules out backing war.

March 17: Goldsmith U-turn. In carefully worded brief ’summary’, he says war is lawful.

March 20: War begins.

April 21: Jeremy Paxman asks Blair if he saw Foreign Office advice saying war was illegal. Blair says: ‘No. I had Lord Goldsmith’s advice to guide me.’

April 24: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith told Blair two weeks before war that it could be illegal.

November 24: Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry begins.

Today: Mail on Sunday reveals Goldsmith’s ’smoking gun’ letter to Blair in July 2002.

Blair ‘knew WMD claim was false’


David Rose

By the time Tony Blair led Britain to attack Iraq, he had stopped believing his own lurid claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, according to an unpublished interview with the late Robin Cook, the former Leader of the Commons who resigned from the Cabinet just before the invasion in March 2003.

In the interview, which Cook gave me in 2004, the year before his death, he described Blair’s actions as ‘a scandalous manipulation of the British constitution’, adding that if the then Prime Minister had revealed his doubts, they would have rendered the war illegal.

Cook, who was in almost daily contact with Blair in the months before his resignation, said that in September 2002, when the Government published its infamous dossier claiming Saddam had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons and could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes, Blair did believe these claims were true. But he added:

‘By February or March, he knew it was wrong. As far as I know, at no point after the end of 2002 did he ever repeat those claims.’

Tony Blair secures MPs' support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks onTony Blair secures MPs’ support for war on March 18, 2003, as Clare Short looks on. But according to Robin Cook, the PM already knew WMD claims were untrue

On March 18, Blair had to face the Commons to ask it to vote for war but he knew, Cook added, ‘that if he now publicly withdrew the dossier’s claims, his position would be lost’.

Therefore Blair kept silent and so secured the war resolution, though 139 Labour MPs voted against him.

Cook added that if Blair had revealed his doubts, this would also have made it impossible for Lord Goldsmith to issue the fateful legal advice that Britain’s Service chiefs had been demanding: that war would be lawful.

‘What I’ve never seen satisfactorily defended by the Government is whether that opinion still stands up if the premise on which it was based – the claims in the dossier – turn out to be false,’ Cook said.

‘Tony didn’t focus on WMDs only for political reasons, but for legal reasons. He knew he was not going to get the Attorney General on side on any basis other than that Saddam had illegal weapons and could not be disarmed by any means other than war.’

Cook’s is not the only bombshell that remains unpublished. Last week, Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, told the Chilcot Inquiry that though Blair kept insisting almost to the end that ‘nothing was decided’ on Iraq, his decision to support the invasion actually went back to April 2002, when he visited President Bush’s Texas ranch.

However, both Meyer and other British and American officials told me in 2004 that Blair made up his mind even before April and that even then, Blair was saying in private that Britain would join the attack as long as Bush got UN backing. That meant proving Saddam had active WMDs, as the UN would not authorise an attack on any other basis.

Sir Christopher Meyer
Robin Cook

Revelations: Sir Christopher Meyer and the late Robin Cook

Meyer told me: ‘Some time during the first quarter of 2002, Blair had become resigned to war.’

Having committed himself to war, Blair believed he had to get military action approved by the UN to make the invasion legal, and to get the support of his own party back home. But leading figures close to Bush were deeply hostile to this idea, and would have much preferred to attack unilaterally.

Perhaps the most shocking disclosures concerned Blair’s propensity to bend the truth. For example, on July 26, 2002, Clare Short, then International Development Secretary, asked Blair whether war was looming.

His response was that she should go on holiday untroubled, because ‘nothing had been decided, and would not be over the summer’.

In fact, at that very moment, his adviser Sir David Manning was engaged in feverish diplomacy in Washington – because although Blair thought Bush had promised to go to the UN, he seemed to be changing his mind. Manning even had a personal audience with Bush.

A few days later, Bush and Blair spoke by telephone. A senior White House official who read the transcript told me: ‘The way it read was that, come what may, they were going to take out the regime. I remember reading it and thinking, “OK, now I know what we’re going to be doing for the next year.”‘

Later, both leaders would state repeatedly that they had not decided to go to war. But the official said: ‘War was avoidable only if Saddam ceased to be president of Iraq. It was a done deal.’

Yet the hawkish neo-conservatives at the Pentagon were still fighting hard to avoid the UN route, which would require a narrowing of focus on to WMDs. The crunch came at a summit at Camp David on September 7, 2002, when, most unusually, not only Bush but the neo-con vice president Dick Cheney met Blair. Cheney’s role, Meyer said, was solely to try to persuade Bush not to go to the UN.

In desperation, Blair, according to another White House official, told Bush and Cheney that he could be ousted at the Labour conference later that month if Bush ignored the UN. Afterwards, the official said, he and his colleagues pored over the party’s constitution, discovering that it was most unlikely that this threat would materialise.

But by then it was too late: a week after the summit, Bush spoke at the UN General Assembly, and announced America would be seeking what became Resolution 1442 – the resolution that, in Lord Goldsmith’s eyes, allowed British soldiers to kill Iraqis without being prosecuted for murder.

But not all who once saw Blair as a friend have forgiven him. ‘Blair was absolutely the reason why we went to the UN, because it was believed that his political fortunes absolutely demanded it,’ said David Wurmser, formerly Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser. ‘It really was a political concession to Blair – and also a disastrous misjudgment.’

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

PM Netanyahu’s three-card trick

John Haylet, Morning Star Online, November 27, 2009

Scarcely had Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unveiled Israel’s latest fraudulent “far-reaching step towards peace” than US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leapt forward to welcome it.

Netanyahu spouted the usual rhetoric about a “historic peace agreement to finally end the conflict,” knowing that his offer lacked honesty and integrity.

And Clinton gave it the White House seal of approval, aware that it had no chance of being acceptable to the Palestinian people’s negotiators and, equally, that it fell short of Barack Obama’s earlier demand that Israel freeze all construction projects on the occupied West Bank.

Since Netanyahu gave this demand the bum’s rush, Clinton has repackaged it as a vacuous call for “restraint.”

And, as if sharing a scriptwriter, Netanyahu passed off his 10-month partial halt to housing construction as evidence of Israeli government restraint.

As so often with heavily touted Israeli initiatives, there is a lot less to this offer than meets the eye.

First, it does not apply to east Jerusalem, which was captured in the 1967 war with the rest of the West Bank. Tel Aviv has unilaterally and illegally declared the annexation of east Jerusalem, together with several settlements to the east of the city, with the intention of designating a unified Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal” capital.

Not even the most abject Palestinian supplicant could accept such a negotiating precondition.

Second, whereas most people might believe that halt equals stop, in Israel’s lexicon, halting construction signifies no such thing.

It means not starting any new projects over and above those dozens that have already been either begun or authorised.

Nor does it apply to the building of synagogues and schools, which are essential elements of Israel’s ethnic-cleansing strategy.

Despite the fraudulent nature of Netanyahu’s three-card trick, Clinton categorised it as helping to “move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

She also echoed Netanyahu’s reference to Israel’s racist goal of a “Jewish state,” which would put the current 20 per cent Arab minority in legal jeopardy.

Whatever the excitement in Washington, no Palestinian representative regards the Netanyahu plan as a starter.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat suggested that it had more to do with placating the US president, pointing out: “At the end of the day, Netanyahu needs to make peace with us, the Palestinians. He doesn’t need to make peace with Americans.”

Hamas dismissed it as a “cosmetic step,” designed to restart “pointless negotiations.”

Many Palestinians have been increasingly critical of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his handpicked but never ratified prime minister, the US-educated economist and former senior World Bank official Salam Fayyad.

This, together with Obama’s failure to achieve a settlement freeze, has led the authority to call on West Bank residents to boycott large supermarket chains that stock Israeli products.

Palestinian Economy Minister Hassan abu Libdeh estimates that illegal Israeli settlements currently have a 15 per cent share of the Palestinian market and is determined to implement an already existing law that bans the sale of settlement produce.

According to Stop the Wall co-ordinator Jamal Juma, “if the Palestinian Authority insists on implementing this decision, it means the authority will participate in boycotting one-third of the Israeli products that come to the West Bank.

“The decision will allow Palestinians to say: ‘No to the occupation, we are not going to pay for the bulldozers that destroy our houses and for the bullets that kill our people’.”

And President Abbas is pressing all Arab countries to cancel their business ties with French companies Veolia and Alstom, which are involved in the construction of a Jerusalem-based light railway through the West Bank.

He announced this at a press conference organised by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, which is made up of several non-governmental organisations.

Abbas’s chief of staff Rafiq Husseini lambasted Arab countries, chief among them Saudi Arabia, that continue to work with the two companies, accusing them of “not fulfilling their duties” despite repeated requests by the Palestinians and from the Arab League.

Alstom has several Saudi contracts, including one to build a railway to Mecca.

It is illustrative that even Abbas, who has announced his impending retirement, is sufficiently disillusioned with the US administration and the road map to throw his weight behind the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

These developments give additional importance to next Saturday’s trade union conference, organised by colleges union UCU, for BDS supporters to discuss practical implementation in the light of the resolution carried at this year’s TUC annual conference in September.

With speakers of the calibre of Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian BDS committee, former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, Congress of South African Trade Unions international secretary Bongani Masuku, Dr Ilan Pappe of Exeter University and Palestine Solidarity chairman Hugh Lanning, this conference could be vital in putting mass pressure on Israel.

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US imperialism, 9/11 and the Iraq war

Patrick Martin,, Nov 28, 2009

While the American corporate media has given little attention to it, an official British inquiry into the war with Iraq has brought to light damning testimony about the Bush administration’s deliberate launching of an invasion to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein and subjugate Iraq to American domination.

Former British diplomats and security officials from the 2001-2003 period began testifying this week under oath before a panel headed by Sir John Chilcot, charged with examining the entire course of the war, from its origins to the final British pullout in June 2009.

Continues >>

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Pakistan corruption amnesty expires

Al Jazeera, Nov 28, 2009

Some experts say Zardari’s eligibility for
office could be called into question[AFP]

An amnesty on corruption cases protecting the Pakistani president and thousands of government bureaucrats and politicians is set to expire, threatening to cause a major political crisis in the country.

The so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance could be extended by the parliament, but the government is seen as too weak to win an extension after Saturday’s deadline.

Last week, a minister of state published the names of 8,041 people who have benefited from the amnesty, including Asif Ali Zardari, the president, and four cabinet ministers.

The list is connected to 3,478 cases ranging from murder, embezzlement, abuse of power and write-offs of bank loans worth millions of dollars.

Continues >>

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Profiteering from the spoils of war

Morning Star Online, Thursday 26 November 2009

Solomon Hughes

The wheels are coming off the war on terror. Nobody expects the Chilcot Commission to pass judgement, but every day it sits, new details about the lies and incompetence behind the Iraq war dribble out.

Revelations about British involvement in torture in the “rendition” programme are also building. And dismal tales about British troops abusing and killing Iraqis are being told.

Continues >>

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Iraq inquiry: deal might have been ‘signed in blood’ by Blair and Bush in 2002

Tony Blair and George Bush might have “signed in blood” their agreement to topple Saddam Hussein a year before the Iraq war, according to Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador to Washington.

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter, The Telegraph/UK, Nov 26, 2009

Sir Christopher Meyer told the Iraq Inquiry that the two men spent an afternoon meeting in private at the former president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, which appeared to lead to a shift in the then Prime Minister’s stance on Iraq.

Sir Christopher said: “I took no part in any of the discussions and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there.

“The two men were alone in the ranch so I’m not entirely clear to this day what degree of convergence (on Iraq policy) was signed in blood, if you like, at the Crawford ranch.

“But there are clues in the speech Tony Blair gave the next day, which was the first time he had said in public ‘regime change’. He was trying to draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq which led – I think not inadvertently but deliberately – to a conflation of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

“When I read that I thought ‘this represents a tightening of the UK/US alliance and a degree of convergence on the danger Saddam Hussein presented’.”

Sir Christopher, who was Britain’s ambassador to the US between 1997 and 2003, was called to give evidence about the changing nature of British and American policy towards Iraq in the two years before the invasion of March 2003.

Before the September 11 attacks on the US, Iraq was a low priority for the Bush administration, which was already “running out of steam”, said Sir Christopher.

But the terrorist attacks immediately elevated Iraq towards the top of the US agenda.

“On 9/11 itself in the course of the day I had a telephone conversation with (then national security adviser) Condoleezza Rice and I said ‘who do you think did it?’ She said: ‘There’s no doubt it was an Al-Qaeda operation.’ At the end of the conversation she said: ‘We’re just looking at the possibility that there could be any link to Saddam Hussein.’

“That little reference to him, by the following weekend, turned into a big debate between Bush and his advisers.”

Sir Christopher said hardliners in the Bush administration became increasingly convinced that Saddam was linked to Al-Qaeda, largely because of intelligence which proved to be wrong.

He said: “Paul Wolfowitz (then US deputy defence secretary) was quite convinced that there was a strong connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. There was a constant reference to the fact that Mohammed Atta (one of the 9/11 hijackers) had met Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague. That wasn’t true, but you couldn’t dig it out of the bloodstream of certain members of the US administration.

“There was another idea that there was an Al-Qaeda camp on the Iraqi border where Saddam would allow them to do things. That wasn’t true either.”

Sir Christopher said the US Department of Defense became so “irritated” by the CIA’s “bias” against this incorrect intelligence that a “rival and replacement” in-house intelligence unit was set up by the White House.

The former ambassador said that when he first met President Bush in 1999, before he was elected, Mr Bush told him: “I don’t know much about foreign policy. I’m going to have to learn pretty damn fast. I’m going to have to surround myself with good people.”

Sir Christopher said Mr Bush’s key advisers at the time – known as the Vulcans – included Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr Bush and Mr Blair immediately struck up a good relationship when they first met in 2001, said Sir Christopher, and during subsequent international conferences “Condoleezza Rice once said to me that the only human being (Bush) felt he could talk to was Tony, and the rest were creatures from outer space”.

Sir Christopher said Tony Blair’s speech immediately after 9/11, in which he promised to support America in its hour of need, “sealed Tony Blair’s reputation in America, which remains sealed to this day”.

“Wherever you went, people would rise to their feet and give you a warming round of applause. You had to be careful not to be swept away by this stuff.”

Sir Christopher said Mr Blair’s decision to support the US invasion was not “as poodle-ish” as has been suggested by critics, as he was “a true believer about the wickedness of Saddam Hussein” as early as 1998.

After Tony Blair came out in support of regime change in April 2002, Britain hoped Saddam could be removed by a combination of diplomatic pressure and the threat of force, which Mr Blair hoped would lead to Saddam either stepping down or being toppled by an internal coup.

But after President Bush set out a timetable for an invasion, the shortage of time meant that “instead of Saddam proving his innocence we had to prove his guilt by finding a smoking gun. We have never really recovered from that because there was no smoking gun”.

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Afghanistan: next test, last lesson

Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy, 26 November 2009

The war in Afghanistan may now be beyond the point where any military-centred United States strategy can work.

Barack Obama is after a lengthy period of consultation moving towards the announcement of a revised strategy towards the war in Afghanistan, now scheduled to take place in a live broadcast from the West Point military academy on 1 December 2009. It is highly likely that the United States president will order a substantially increased deployment of troop numbers to Afghanistan, probably over 30,000 if not as high as the upwards of 40,000 requested by the senior US general in the country, Stanley A McChrystal (see “Obama May Add 30,000 Troops in Afghanistan”, New York Times, 24 November 2009).

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US headache over Afghan deserters

By Gareth Porter, Asia Times, Nov 26, 2009

WASHINGTON – One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan National Army (ANA) during the year ending in September, published data by the US Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan reveals.

That high rate of turnover in the ANA, driven by extremely high rates of desertion, spells trouble for the strategy that US President Barack Obama has reportedly decided on, which is said to include the dispatch of thousands of additional US military trainers to rapidly increase the size of the ANA.

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Diane Abbott: It was all about Tony Blair

The evidence on Iraq is now clear. The former PM was dizzied by Bush, and misled gullible MPs
Diane Abbott, The Guardian/UK, Nov 27, 2009

The limitations of the Chilcot inquiry are obvious. It is a group of establishment trusties, evidence will not be on oath and the government is doing its best to keep key documents from the inquiry. Even yesterday, in the very first week of the inquiry, former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, mentioned four key documents that he knew existed but the Chilcot inquiry had not seen.

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Killing of Indigenous Guatemalan Lawyer Fausto Otzín

Human Rights First, Nov 25, 2009

Demand Investigation into Killing of Indigenous Guatemalan Lawyer Fausto Otzín


Take action now to urge Guatemalan authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killing Fausto Otzín, a celebrated indigenous rights activist.

Read HRF Petition in English
| in Spanish

Take  Action

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

British Inquiry: Blair Conspired with Bush as Early as 2002 to Plot Iraq Invasion

By Dave Lindorff, The Public Record, Nov 24, 2009

Tony Blair at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009. Photo by Andy Mettler/flickrTony Blair at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009. Photo by Andy Mettler/flickr

Most Americans are blissfully in the dark about it, but across the Atlantic in the UK, a commission reluctantly established by Prime Minister Gordon Brown under pressure from anti-war activists in Britain is beginning hearings into the actions and statements of British leaders that led to the country’s joining the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Even before testimony began in hearings that started yesterday, news began to leak out from documents obtained by the commission that the government of former PM Tony Blair had lied to Parliament and the public about the country’s involvement in war planning.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper over the weekend published documents from British military leaders, including a memo from British special forces head Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb, saying that he had been instructed to begin “working the war up since early 2002.”

This means that Blair, who in July 2002, had assured members of a House of Commons committee that there were “no preparations to invade Iraq,” was lying.

Things are likely to heat up when the commission begins hearing testimony. It has the power, and intends to compel testimony from top government officials, including Blair himself.

While some American newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, have run an Associated Press report on the new disclosures and on the commission, key news organizations, including the New York Times, have not. The Times ignored the Telegraph report, but a day later ran an article about the British commission that focused entirely on evidence that British military leaders in Iraq felt “slighted” by “arrogant” American military leaders who, the article reported, pushed for aggressive military action against insurgent groups, while British leaders preferred negotiating with them.

While that may be of some historical interest, it hardly compares with the evidence that Blair and the Bush/Cheney administration were secretly conspiring to invade Iraq as early as February and March 2002.

Recall that the Bush/Cheney argument to Congress and the American people for initiating a war against Iraq in the fall of 2002 was that Iraq was allegedly behind the 9-11 attacks and that it posed an “imminent” danger of attack against the US and Britain with its alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, such arguments, which have subsequently been shown to have been bogus, would have had no merit if the planning began a year earlier, and if no such urgency was expressed by the two leaders at that time. Imminent, after all, means imminent, and if Blair, Bush and Cheney had genuinely thought an attack with WMDs was imminent back in the early days of the Bush administration, they would have been acting immediately, not secretly conjuring up a war scheduled for a year later. (The actual invasion began on March 19, 2003).

As I documented in my book, The Case for Impeachment, there is plenty of evidence that Bush and Cheney had a scheme to put the US at war with Iraq even before Bush took office on Jan. 20, 2001. Then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill in his own tell-all book, The Price of Loyalty, written after he was dumped from the Bush Administration, recounts that at the first meeting of Bush’s new National Security Council, the question of going to war and ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was on the agenda.

Immediately after the 9-11 attacks, NSC anti-terrorism program czar Richard Clarke also recalled Bush ordering him to “find a link” to Iraq. Meanwhile, within days, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was ordering top generals to prepare for an Iraq invasion. Gen. Tommy Franks, who was heading up the military effort in Afghanistan that was reportedly closing in on Osama Bin Laden, found the rug being pulled out from under him as Rumsfeld began shifting troops out of Afghanistan and to Kuwait in preparation for the new war.

It is nothing less than astonishing that so little news of the British investigation into the origins of the illegal Iraq War is being conveyed to Americans by this country’s corporate media—yet another example demonstrating that American journalism is dead or dying.

It is even more astonishing that neither the Congress nor the president here in America is making any similar effort to put America’s leaders in the dock to tell the truth about their machinations in engineering a war that has cost the US over $1 trillion (perhaps $3 trillion eventually when debt payments and the cost of veterans care is added in), and over 4000 lives, not to mention as many as one million innocent Iraqi lives.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003) and The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at

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The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Show Trial

By J.R. Dunn, American Thinker, November 26, 2009

AG Eric Holder’s statement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will remain in custody no matter the verdict in his upcoming Manhattan trial coupled with Obama’s instructions to the jury that KSM be “convicted and executed” reveals the entire exercise as a show trial — a ritual effort intended not to achieve justice, but to make a public political point. The question is, what could that point possibly be?

Continued >>

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War and Profits

by Stephen Fleischman |The Smirking Chimp, November 23, 2009

We know why there are wars, and we’ve known it for a long time. Good wars, that is, necessary wars, not wars by powerful foreign invaders, wars that might threaten our country.

Everybody knows we’re in the process of old-hat empire building, the kind designed by the British in the salad days of colonialism and for which they eventually took hits around the world by the likes of George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi.

No lessons learned there. President Obama is about to make a momentous decision on Afghanistan. He has been mulling over, for the last few weeks, how many more troops he will be sending to McChrystal, to further his counter-insurgency in that country. Ten thousand? Eighty thousand? Whichever, it’s a process of foregone futility. And everybody knows it. But the mainstream media, heavy with punditry, spends endless hours hashing over every detail. And you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. The propaganda circle from government handout to media coverage is complete.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region

By Nick Turse , ZNet, Nov 24, 2009
Source: TomDispatch

Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) “forgotten war” in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.

Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn’t mean getting out of the Middle East. For one thing, it’s likely that a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces will remain garrisoned on several large and remotely situated U.S. bases in Iraq well past December 2011. Still others will be stationed close by — on bases throughout the region where, with little media attention since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, construction to harden, expand, and upgrade U.S. and allied facilities has gone on to this day.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee early this year, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), stated: “The Arabian Peninsula commands significant U.S. attention and focus because of its importance to our interests and the potential for insecurity.” He continued:

“[T]he countries of the Arabian Peninsula are key partners… CENTCOM ground, air, maritime, and special operations forces participate in numerous operations and training events, bilateral and multilateral, with our partners from the Peninsula. We help develop indigenous capabilities for counter terrorism; border, maritime, and critical infrastructure security; and deterring Iranian aggression. As a part of all this, our FMS [Foreign Military Sales] and FMF [Foreign Military Financing] programs are helping to improve the capabilities and interoperability of our partners’ forces. We are also working toward an integrated air and missile defense network for the Gulf. All of these cooperative efforts are facilitated by the critical base and port facilities that Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], and others provide for US forces.”

In fact, since 2001 the Pentagon has been pouring significant sums of money into the “critical base and port facilities” mentioned by the general — both U.S. sites and those of its key regional partners. These are often ignored facts-on-the-ground, which signal just how enduring the U.S. military presence in the region is likely to be, no matter what happens in Iraq. Press coverage of this long-term infrastructural build-up has been remarkably minimal, given the implications for future conflicts in the oil heartlands of the planet. After all, Washington is sending tremendous amounts of military materiel into autocratic Middle Eastern nations and building-up bases in countries whose governments, due to domestic public opinion, often prefer that no publicity be given to the growing American military “footprint.”

Given that the current conflict with al-Qaeda stemmed, in no small part, from the U.S. military presence in the region, the issue is obviously of importance. Nonetheless, coverage has been so poor that much about U.S. military efforts there remains unknown. A review of U.S. government documents, financial data, and other open-source material by TomDispatch, however, reveals that an American military building boom yet to be seriously scrutinized, analyzed, or assessed is underway in the Middle East.

Consider, then, what we can at present know now about this Pentagon build-up, country by country from Qatar to Jordan, and while you’re reading, think about what we don’t know — and why Washington has chosen this path.

Qatar: The Pentagon’s Persian Gulf Pentagon

In 1996, although it had no air force of its own, the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base at a cost of more than $1 billion. The goal: attracting the U.S. military. In September 2001, U.S. aircraft began to operate out of the facility. By 2002, tanks, armored vehicles, dozens of warehouses, communications and computing equipment, and thousands of troops were based at and around Al Udeid. In 2005, the Qatari government spent almost $400 million to build a cutting-edge regional air operations center.

Today, Qatar is all but indispensable to the U.S. military. Just recently, for example, Central Command redeployed 750 personnel from its Tampa, Florida headquarters to its new forward headquarters at Al Udeid to test its “staff’s ability to seamlessly transition command and control of operations… in the event of a crisis in the CENTCOM area of responsibility or a natural disaster in Florida.”

Qatar has not, however, picked up the whole tab for the expanding U.S. military infrastructure in the country. The Pentagon has also been investing large amounts of money in upgrading facilities there for the last decade. From 2001-2009, the U.S. Army, for example, awarded $209 million in contracts for construction in the energy-rich emirate. In August, Rizzani de Eccher, an Italian engineering and construction giant, signed a $44 million deal with the Pentagon to replace an unspecified facility at Al Udeid. In September, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services a $6 million contract for “construction of a pre-engineered warehouse building… warehouse bay and related site work and utilities” at the base.

Later in the month, American International Contractors, a global construction firm that specializes in “US-funded Middle East and African infrastructure projects,” inked a deal for nearly $10 million to build a Special Operations Forces Training Range, complete with “a two-story shooting house, an indoor range, breach and storage facilities[,] a test fire bunker and bunker road” in Qatar. Just days after that, the Pentagon awarded a $52 million contract to Cosmopolitan-EMTA JV to upgrade the capacity of Al Udeid’s airfield by building additional aircraft parking ramps and fuel storage facilities.

Bahrain Base’s and Kuwait’s Subways

In nearby Bahrain — a tiny kingdom of 750,000 people — the U.S. stations up to 3,000 personnel, in addition to regular visits by the crews of Navy ships that spend time there. Between 2001-2009, the Navy awarded $203 million in construction contracts for military projects in the country. One big winner over that span has been the engineering and construction firm Contrack International. It received more than $50 million in U.S. government funds for such projects as building two “multi-story facilities for the U.S. Navy” complete with state-of-the-art communication interfaces and exterior landscaping.

In September 2009, the company was awarded a new $27 million deal “for the design/bid/build construction of the waterfront development program, US Naval Support Activity, Bahrain.” This facility will join the Navy’s undisputed crown jewel in Bahrain — a 188,000 square-foot mega-facility known as “the Freedom Souq” that houses a PX or Navy Exchange (NEX). The NEX, in turn, offers “an ice cream shop, bicycle shop, cell phone shop, tailor shop, barber and beauty shops, self-serve laundry, dry cleaning service, rug Souq, nutrition shop, video rental, and a 24/7 mini-mart,” while selling everything from cosmetics and cameras to beer and wine.

Work is also going on in nearby Oman where, in the 1930s, the British Royal Air Force utilized an airfield on Masirah Island for its ventures in the Middle East. Today, the U.S. Air Force and members of other service branches do much the same, operating out of the island’s Camp Justice. From 2001-2009, the Army and Air Force each spent about $13 million on construction projects in the sultanate. Contractor Cosmopolitan-EMTA JV is now set to begin work there, too, after recently signing a $5 million contract with the Pentagon for an “Expeditionary Tent Beddown” (presumably an area meant to accommodate a potential future influx of forces). Meanwhile, in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Army alone spent $46 million between 2001-2009 on construction projects.

In 1991, the U.S. military helped to push Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait. After that, however, the country’s leader, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, refused to return home “until crystal chandeliers and gold-plated bathroom fixtures could be reinstalled in Kuwait City’s Bayan Palace.” Today, about 30 miles south of the plush palace sits another pricey complex. Camp Arifjan grew exponentially as the Iraq War ramped up, gaining notoriety along the way as the epicenter of a massive graft and corruption scandal. Today, the base houses about 15,000 U.S. troops and features such fast-food favorites as Pizza Hut, Hardees, Subway, and Burger King.

Another facility in Kuwait that has become a major stopover point on the road to and from Baghdad is Camp Buehring. Located north of Kuwait City, near the town of Udairi, the installation is chock-a-block full of amenities, including three PXs, telephone centers, two internet cafes, Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers, a movie theater, chapel, gym, volley-ball court, basketball court, concert stage, gift shop, barber shop, jewelry store, and a number of popular eateries including Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robbins, and Starbucks.

Writing about the base recently, Captain Charles Barrett of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team remarked, “There’s a USO with computers and a Café. You know the café is good because it has that little mark over the letter ‘e.’ Soldiers are gaming on XBOX, Play Station and Wii. There are phone banks and board games and a place where parents can read to their kids and have the DVD mailed home.”

The price tag for living the big-box-base lifestyle in Kuwait has, however, been steep. From 2003 to 2009, the U.S. Army spent in excess of $502 million on contracts for construction projects in the small, oil-rich nation, while the Air Force added almost $55 million and the Navy another $7 million. Total military spending there has been more massive still. Over the same span, according to U.S. government data, the Pentagon has spent nearly $20 billion in Kuwait, buying huge quantities of Kuwaiti oil and purchasing logistical support from various contractors for its facilities there (and elsewhere), among other expenditures.

In 2006, for example, the international construction firm Archirodon was awarded $10 million to upgrade airfield lighting at Al-Salem and Al-Jaber, two Kuwaiti air bases used by American forces. Recently, there has also been a major scaling up of work at Camp Arifjan. In September, for example, the Pentagon awarded CH2M Hill Contractors a nearly $26 million deal to build a new communications facility on the base. Just days later, defense contractor ITT received an almost $87 million contract for maintenance and support services there.

Saudi Base Building and Jordan’s U.S. Army Training Complex

According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, “From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia purchased and received from the United States weapons, military equipment, and related services through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth over $62.7 billion and foreign military construction services (FMCS) worth over $17.1 billion.” Between 1946 and 2007, the Saudis also benefited from almost $295 million in foreign assistance funding from the U.S. military.

From the lead up to the First Gulf War in 1990 through the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military stationed thousands of troops in Saudi Arabia. The American presence in the kingdom — the location of some of the holiest sites in Islam — was a major factor in touching off al-Qaeda’s current war with the United States. In 2003, in response to fundamentalist pressure on the Saudi government, the U.S. military announced it was pulling all but a small number of trainers out of the country. Yet while many U.S. troops have left, Pentagon contracts haven’t — a significant portion of them for construction projects for the Saudi Arabian military, which the U.S. trains and advises from sites like Eskan Village, a compound 20 kilometers south of Riyadh, where 800 U.S. personnel (500 of them advisors) are based.

Between 2003-2009, the U.S. Army awarded $559 million in contracts for Saudi construction projects. In 2009, for example, it gave a $160 million deal to construction firm Saudi Oger Limited for the construction of facilities for a Saudi mechanized brigade based at Al Hasa, a $127 million contract to Saudi Lebanese Modern Construction Co. to erect structures for the Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Battalion, and an $82 million agreement to top Saudi construction firm Al-Latifia Trading and Contracting Company to build ammunition storage bunkers, possibly at the Saudi Arabian National Guard’s Khashm Al An Training Area.

Additionally, military weaponry has continued to flow into Saudi Arabia by way of the Pentagon and so, too, have contracts to provide support services for that materiel. For example, earlier this year, under a U.S. Air Force contract extension, Cubic Corporation was awarded a $9.5 million deal “to continue to operate and maintain the air combat training system used to support F-15 fighter pilot training for the Royal Saudi Air Force.”

Like the Saudis, Jordan’s leader, King Abdullah II, has long had a complex relationship with the U.S. shaped by domestic concerns over U.S. military action in the region and support for Israel. As with Saudi Arabia, none of that has stopped the U.S. military from forging ever closer ties with the kingdom.

Recently, after testing and evaluating various training systems at multiple U.S. Army bases, the Jordanian Armed Forces selected Cubic’s combat training center system and under the auspices of the U.S. Army, the company was “awarded an $18 million contract to supply mobile combat training center instrumentation and training services to the Kingdom of Jordan.”

The Pentagon has also invested in Jordanian military infrastructure. Between 2001-2009, the Army awarded $86 million in contracts for Jordanian construction projects. One major beneficiary was again Archirodon which, between 2006-2008, worked on the construction of the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) — a state-of-the-art military and counter-terrorism training facility owned and operated by the Jordanian government but built, in part, under a $70 million U.S. Army contract. In 2009, Archirodon was awarded two additional contracts for $729,000 and $400,000, by the Air Force, for unspecified work in Jordan.

When that 1,235-acre $200 million Jordanian training center was unveiled earlier this year, King Abdullah II himself gave the inaugural address, speaking “of his vision for KASOTC as a world-class special forces training center.” Not surprisingly, General Petraeus was also on hand to give a speech in which he lauded Jordan as “a key partner… [which] has placed itself at the forefront of police and military training for regional security forces.”

Garrisoning the Gulf

Even as it lurches toward a quasi-withdrawal from Iraq, the U.S. military has been hunkering down and hardening its presence elsewhere in the Middle East with little fanfare or press coverage. There has been almost no discussion in this country of a host of possible repercussions that might come from this, ranging from local opposition to the U.S. military’s presence to the arming of undemocratic and repressive regimes in the region. With the sole exception of Iran, the U.S. military has fully garrisoned the nations of the Persian Gulf with air bases, naval bases, desert posts, training centers, and a whole host of other facilities, while also building up the military capacity of nearby Jordan.

The CIA efforts to topple Iran’s government in the 1950s, Washington’s support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s, the Pentagon’s troop presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s — all were considered canny geopolitical moves in their time; all had unforeseen and devastating consequences. The money the Pentagon has recently been pouring into the nations of the Persian Gulf to bulk up base infrastructure has only tied the U.S. ever more tightly to the region’s autocratic, often unpopular regimes, while further arming and militarizing an area traditionally considered unstable. The Pentagon’s Persian Gulf base build-up has already cost Americans billions in tax dollars. What the costs in “blowback” will be remains the unknown part of the equation.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. A paperback edition of his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books) was published earlier this year. His website is

[This article first appeared on, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project, author of The End of Victory Culture, and editor of The World According to Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire.]

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