Real Independence: In 2014, Scotland used more Renewable Energy than Nuclear, Coal or Gas

By Juan Cole

Edie.net reports that in November, wind energy alone produced more than enough electricity for every home in Scotland. Over all in 2013, Scotland produced 46.6% equivalent of its gross electricity from renewables. Scotland, with a population of 4 million, is well on its way to getting 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, among the more ambitious goals set by anyone in the world. – JC

Next Energy News: “2014 Review: Scotland used more renewable energy than nuclear coal or gas”

Scottish Renewables’ has a chart showing that the two biggest sources of energy for Scotland are hydro and wind. This is a good combination since hydro is not intermittent and can take up slack when wind dies down. Scotland is also exploring wave energy, which also would not be intermittent. No need for fracking there.

sr-charts-061014_01

GOP Squirms at Release of CIA Torture Report, warns of “Violence” (So why did they Torture?)

By Juan Cole | —

Outgoing House Intelligence Committee head Mike Rogers (R-MI) was on Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, speaking against releasing any details concerning

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.49.28 AM

CIA use of torture in the period after the September 11 attacks.

The Senate report is due out this week and is already the object of a Karl Rove style disinformation campaign by former President George W. Bush and others. The report apparently alleges that there were black torture cells inside the Central Intelligence Agency of which Bush and other high officials were kept ignorant. They are attacking this report on this relatively minor issue (whether or not the relevant CIA units told their superiors everything) as a way of taking the focus off the torture assembly line run by the United States of America for a while. They may also be running interference for Dick Cheney, who may well have ordered the torture and in a just system would be in jail for that and numerous other crimes.

Rogers has never shown the slightest interest in upholding the US constitution or in upholding the rights of those falsely arrested or otherwise wronged by the Federal government. He is now turning his television notoriety as a politician into a career in talk radio, competing with Rush Limbaugh.

When Crowley asked him about the report, he replied that “foreign governments” had warned the US that its release would cause violence.

Please note that when Hosni Mubarak, then president of Egypt, warned Rogers in 2002 that invading Iraq would “create a thousand Bin Ladens,” Rogers did not evince the slightest interest in avoiding a massive violent reaction to that policy. So apparently he feels that there are times when it is worth it to risk violent reactions overseas, i.e. when concerns the illegal invasion and occupation of another country (from which perhaps people in Rogers’ circle or campaign contributors benefited?).

Since Rogers’s Iraq War has already stirred up most people in the Middle East against the US, so that the main guerrilla movement that grew up to oppose Rogers’ policies, ISIL, is routinely beheading Americans, that cow is rather out of the barn.

Rogers goes on to compare the Senate report on CIA torture to the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, suggesting it holds similar potential for provoking violence. (Rogers is going to give Limbaugh a run for his money!) I think we may just dismiss this comparison as silly. The torture report will embarrass the US intelligence services, not insult Muslims’ sacred figures.

Rogers then takes another tack. “What good,” he asks, “will come of this report?” He says there was a Department of Justice investigation (is that like the grand juries in New York and Ferguson? Who exactly was indicted?)

He then says that the torture program was ceased while Bush was still president, and that Congress has taken action to stop torture. Then he says President Obama issued an executive order halting it.

But why did Obama have to stop something that wasn’t going on?

Again, this line of argument is what magicians call misdirection. That the torture at some point stopped does not relieve the government of accountability for it before the people. Laws were broken, despite what lying liars like John Yoo were happy to tell the Bush administration.

The 8th Amendment to the US constitution (yes, it is as important as if not way more important than the 2nd) specifies that no cruel or unusual punishment shall be inflicted on prisoners held by the Federal government. Repeatedly waterboarding someone, making them think they are drowning, is both cruel and unusual. Waterboarding is torture according to the Convention against Torture, i.e. in international law. A form of it was practiced by the Roman Inquisition and during WW II by Imperial Japan (which the US rather minded at the time). The mealy-mouth fascists who opine that combatants out of uniform may be tortured in US law are just making stuff up. Those who deny that waterboarding is torture are just engaging in a form of lying. Nor does waterboarding appear to be the only torture technique resorted to. As for defenders of torture, they should be careful. One conclusion of the Nuremberg trials is that you can be tried for advocating war crimes.

Rogers in the end asks what good will come of our knowing the truth. All the actions he says were taken, however, were taken by a narrow circle of high officials. We don’t even know whether all the people’s representatives on the Hill have been allowed into the charmed circle of torture cognoscenti. The people rule in a democracy, and the people have been neither informed nor involved. Moreover, in a democracy, officials are held accountable for crimes committed while in office.

Finally, while it is nice of Obama to issue an executive order, his executive order can be overruled by the next president, and the next chair of the intelligence committee might believe in torture (who knows, maybe this one does). Only by having the graphic details of what was done become public can we hope to have a more permanent legislative and judicial reform.

I am not antipathetic to the intelligence officials who faced the problem of destroying al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks. In fact, I flew off to Washington through much of the zeroes to give talks to US government personnel of a whole range of agencies on how to fight al-Qaeda, and feel solidarity with those who did their best to understand and combat the monsters.

But I categorically deny that any crucial information was derived from torture. And I point out that a crucial bit of disinformation was arrived at that way– Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi under repeated waterboarding told the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical weapons at Salman Pak. That completely false and indeed ridiculous allegation, taken seriously by Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and W., was an impetus or at least a pretext for a disastrous war. This disastrous intelligence failure derived from the very torture that Mike Rogers doesn’t want us mere plebes to know about.

We need to know about it. Who knows, maybe future voters will even vote for people who stand for the Constitution and a rule of law rather than for a national security Nomenklatura (the old Soviet-style closed elite of apparatchiks) invested in using the techniques of our dictatorial enemies instead of those of a democracy.

Over 100 ISIL/Daesh Fighters Killed in US Airstrikes in Iraq; Attack on Syria Base Repelled

By Juan Cole | —

The US war on Daesh (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria takes up less and less space in the MSM. The group and its issues haven’t gone away, however.

A source in Iraqi security told AFP Arabic that US and allied air strikes had killed about 100 fighters near Mosul on Saturday. The fighter jets concentrated on weapons depots and medium and heavy weapons (tanks, armored vehicles), but it is being alleged that they hit a Daesh military HQ, accounting for the large casualty count..

In Ramadi west of Baghdad, Daesh ambushed Iraqi troops sent out to deal with them, and had set roadside bombs as part of the ambush. Still, the Iraqi Air Force bombed Daesh positions inside Mosul on Saturday.

Meanwhile the Kurdistan Peshmerga or paramilitary is planning an attack Talafar, a largely Turkmen town in the north, and kick Daesh (ISIL) our of it. Turkmen are split between Sunni and Shiite, with the Sunnis having been Baathists for the most part. These latter are now often supporting fundamentalist forces. The US had ethnically cleansed Talafar of its Sunni Turkmen, creating a Shiite majority. But when Daesh conquered the city this summer, many Shiite Turkmen were forced to flee.

The US and coalition air strikes on Saturday hit Daesh positions around Talafar in the north, presumably to soften them up in preparation for the Peshmerga advance.

In Syria, Daesh tried to take a military base in Deir al-Zor in the east of the country, and as of this writing appears to have failed. The Syrian army rallied to push the fundamentalists back.

Related video:

“ISIS headquarters was blown up! 100 of the militants were killed”

Solar Power in US doubles in 2014, Wind now 4% of Energy Mix

By Juan Cole | —

Compared to Germany and Spain, the United States is woefully backward in its development of wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy for electricity generation.

But there is some good news on this front, as CleanTech notes. Utility-scale solar power generation in the United States doubled in the past year, from about 6,000 gigawatt hours in 2013 to 12,000 gigawatt hours in 2014. Utility-scale solar is on the verge of passing the symbolic 1% level of US electricity generation. (Statistics don’t count the contribution of roof-top solar, which is the major form of solar energy in the US, so its actual contribution is much greater). Germany, which is not particularly sunny, generates about 7% of its electricity using solar. Spain gets about 5% of its electricity from solar. The US south and southwest and west is so sunny that it is crazy that the country has neglected this source of power. But that neglect is changing, because the price of solar panels has plummeted in the past 5 years.

Wind energy is also growing rapidly in the US. Iowa now gets 27% of its electricity from wind turbines, and South Dakota is also in that range. Some 9 states get at least 12% of their electricity from wind. These states are Colorado, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Oregon. The rapid progress of wind power (a 24-fold increase since 2001) can be seen in this graph:

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Non-hydro renewables are now 6% or so of the US energy mix, while with hydroelectric power renewables come to 13%. The US is producing about 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, some 16 tons per person– the highest per capita in the major OECD countries. Just 50 US power plants account for almost as much CO2 as the whole country of Germany. Even if you count the CO2 produced in manufacturing and installing them, over their lifetimes wind turbines generate almost no carbon dioxide, and their fuel is free. If the US could get to 30 percent wind power by 2030, it could reduce its carbon production to 40% under 2005 levels.

Wind provides 21% of Spain’s electricity. This EU report notes:

There are now 117.3 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU: 110.7 GW onshore and 6.6 GW offshore.

11,159 MW of wind power capacity (worth between €13 bn and €18 bn) was installed in the EU-28 during 2013 . . . The EU power sector continues its move away from fuel oil and coal with each technology continuing to decommission more than it installs.

The wind power capacity installed by the end of 2013 would, in a normal wind year, produce 257 TWh of electricity, enough to cover 8% of the EU’s electricity consumption – up from 7% the year before.

Congress has kept the tax credit for wind farms this year, but it doesn’t do that much good, since wind entrepreneurs don’t know if the tax break will still be there in 2016 and so still cannot plan out wind farm construction and be sure what their margin of profit will be. But wind and solar are coming down in cost so fast that people with a need for inexpensive energy will keep installing them, even if via cooperatives.

Top 5 ways US treatment of African-Americans resembles Apartheid South Africa

By Juan Cole | —

From 1949 though the early 1990s, South Africa was ruled by an Afrikaner Apartheid regime that made race the basis for law and politics, and which systematically excluded black Africans from their civil and national rights, empowering white Afrikaners alone. The social statistics produced by that regime, however, are not so different from those produced by ordinary every day legal and social practices in today’s United States. Impunity for white policemen who kill Blacks is one commonality between the two societies. I don’t have the clip to embed yet, but Jon Stewart made this point on his Daily Show on Comedy Central Thursday night. Here are some numbers to flesh it out.

1. Rates of imprisonment:

PrisonPolicy.org notes :


Incarceration rate per 100,000 population in South Africa under apartheid (1993): 368
Incarceration rate per 100,000 Black males in South Africa under apartheid (1993): 851
Incarceration rate per 100,000 African-American males in the United States under George W. Bush (2001): 4,848 ”

2. Residential segregation, from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

“… Douglas Massey, professor of sociology and public affairs, Princeton University. . . . said composite measurements of geographic segregation on a zero-to-100 scale show that South Africa in 1991 measured in the low 90s, while many American cities today rank in the high 70s to low 80s.”

3. Homicides concentrated in African-American neighborhoods; Whet Moser writes:

“Johannesburg has a murder rate of 30.5 per 100k and Cape Town has one of 46 per 100k, comparable to Chicago’s 1992 rate of 34 per 100k.

As in Chicago, its homicides are geographically concentrated. As in Chicago, South Africa’s cities are immersed in a country with a prevalent gun culture. And both places share a long history of segregation.”

4. Black-White intermarriage rate:

In 2010 in the US, about 13% of the 2 million marriages were inter-racial, but only 11% of those (33,000) were white-black marriages– i.e. 1.6% of total marriages.

Interracial marriages were forbidden under Apartheid but in post-Apartheid South Africa they still only account for about 1% of such relationships– a heritage of Apartheid (“the proportion of whites married to other whites fell from 99.6 percent in 1996 to 99.2 percent in 2001, according to census data” according to NBC news.

5. Police violence

In Apartheid South Africa, white police engaged in almost arbitrary violence against and killings of blacks

Draw your own conclusion about the comparison to today’s US.

——-

Related video:

“Jim Crow and Apartheid segregation systems in Racist America and the Afrikaner South Africa”

Why SecDef Hagel is Really Out: As usual, the War Party Won

By Tom Engelhardt (Tomdispatch.com)

It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama’s third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the phrase of the moment, he had “resigned under pressure.” Sayonara, Chuck!

With a unanimity that crossed political lines, the accounts read as if written by a single reporter. The story went something like this: two years earlier, President Obama had brought in Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Republican senator with a reputation for being leery about the overuse of American military power, to wind down the war in Afghanistan, rein in military critics, and put the Pentagon budget on something closer to a peacetime footing. After a bruising Senate confirmation hearing from which he never recovered, he proved poor at “messaging” the president’s policies, had a “crappy relationship” with National Security Adviser (and Obama buddy) Susan Rice, proved a weak manager at the Department of Defense as well as a “weak link” in the Obama national security team, and could never break into the president’s tight-knit circle of insiders who — everyone agreed — had a nasty habit of “micromanaging” America’s wars (rather than, it seemed, letting the military do what needed to be done). In the end, the president “lost confidence” in him. It was a “mutual” firing or at least Hagel had advanced somewhat voluntarily toward the edge of the cliff before being pushed off.

A subcategory of Hagel reports also bloomed, again adding up to something like a single story.  In them, various journalists and commentators offered instant speculation on whom the president would invite to fill Hagel’s post. Topping everyone’s “short list”: Senator and former Army Ranger Jack Reed of Rhode Island, war fightin’ liberal and former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy (much beloved by neocons and Republicans), and hawkish former Pentagon “weapons buyer” Ashton Carter (the ultimate nominee). Unfortunately for the press, Reed and Flournoy promptly made mincemeat out of the collective wisdom of the moment, emphatically removing their names from consideration. Politico reported the Flournoy rejection this way: “Flournoy’s withdrawal comes amid speculation President Barack Obama is looking for a candidate who would be deferential to a White House that’s increasingly exerting control over Pentagon decisions.”  Nothing, however, could stop the march of the news, whose focus simply switched to other potential job applicants. Striking was the eagerness of assorted journalists and pundits to act like employment agency headhunters vetting exactly the same list of candidates for the president.

Such journalism, of course, qualifies as the very definition of insiderdom and it led, implicitly or explicitly, to the crowning of Barack Obama as a “war president” for the final two years of his term. In the end, however, the media was less reporting on developments than reproducing them. The result: a record as collectively claustrophobic as post-9/11 Washington itself.

These days, it’s often pointed out by those who pass for Washington critics of the Obama administration that the crises are backing up like a Thanksgiving traffic jam across a remarkable swath of the planet — and that the president’s national security team has proven “dysfunctional” when it comes to dealing with them. It’s seldom acknowledged, however, that the most essential crisis isn’t in Ukraine or Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or Iran, but in Washington. There, a bankrupt 13-year-old policy of war to the horizon remains, unbelievably enough, in the ascendancy and “war fever” seems to be breaking out yet again.

In this context, it’s curious that four crucial aspects of war, American-style, were missing from the blitz of Hagel reportage. Here’s a rundown.

1. The War Party Ascendant: It’s always best to start with the obvious, even if everyone prefers to ignore it.  So let’s begin with the simple fact that the recent midterm elections swept the Republicans into the Senate in dominating numbers and strengthened their already dominating control of the House of Representatives.  In war terms, this has only one meaning: a flock of new (and old) hawks heading into Washington.  In truth, though, on such issues there is really only one party in the nation’s capital and that’s the War Party.  In addition, if Washington commentary is to be believed, the next secretary of defense will be an unmitigated war-fighter.  The math for dummies explanation on that: no other candidate nominated by a Democratic president would have a hope in hell of making it through a confirmation process overseen by the assumed new head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain.  Add in an occupant of the Oval Office resigned to war presidency status and you can already see the big picture coming into focus.

Recent moves have only emphasized the latest war trajectory.  Just post-election, the president doubled the number of advisers in Iraq (with hints of more “boots on the ground” to come and the possibility of actual combat troops lurking somewhere in the prospective future).  Next came news that those advisers were being hustled into the country at a double-time pace.  Soon after that came word that more air power — A-10 Warthog jets and Reaper drones — was being transferred to the Iraq/Syria theater.

Meanwhile, in a reversal of a long-stated position — that the American combat role in Afghanistan was to end this year — the president recently issued a secret directive green-lighting just such a role, both on the ground and in the air, for 2015.  Soon after, the new Afghan president, clearly under American pressure, lifted a ban on controversial U.S.-supported “night raids” in his country, and reports began filtering out that the trajectory of withdrawal was about to end and extra U.S. troops would be added to the Afghan mix in 2015.

In other words, in the country’s two most active war zones, escalation and mission creep are already the order of the day.  Meanwhile, the pressure of Congressional war hawks has only been increasing when it comes to the Obama administration’s single major, unwarlike diplomatic initiative that might stand some chance of success: the Iranian nuclear talks.  At the same time, pressure to act more fiercely on Ukraine, including allowing the Pentagon to sell arms to its military, was on the rise.

Admittedly, the War Party has its factions and its disagreements.  Its members are quite capable of savaging each other.  (Just check out what Senator McCain did to Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearings for secretary of defense and then what he did to President Obama in defense of Hagel after his removal from office.)  One thing is evident, though: in the twilight of the Obama era, the power of the War Party is on the rise, along with that of the national security state.

And so far we’re only talking about surface manifestations of bedrock reality in Washington.  After all, ever since 9/11, that city’s political denizens have considered themselves in an eternal “wartime.”  Of course, part of everyday life in that “war capital” involves Republicans and Democrats scrambling for political advantage by squabbling endlessly over who’s rash and who’s a wimp when it comes to war policy.

The Republicans brand the president incompetent or far worse, while the president (the man who shot Osama bin Laden) endlessly thanks the troops for their valor and service while donning military paraphernalia to emphasize his strength and resolve.  But underneath all the maneuvering, the War Party thrives.  You simply can’t operate in Washington without in some fashion declaring your fealty to wartime thinking and the sanctified post-9/11 dead air that goes with it.  No alternative possibilities, no other options are on that “table” on which “all options” are always said to sit in the nation’s capital.  Should you not toe the line, the national security equivalent of excommunication is in order.  “Washington rules,” in Andrew Bacevich’s phrase, do rule the day, while new thinking is unwelcome.

Recent exhibit number one: as November wound down, Rand Paul, the son of the country’s leading libertarian non-interventionist and a man who clearly has his eye on the White House, felt obliged to more or less literally “declare war” on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in order to pledge his fealty to the War Party.

On this issue, as the Hagel coverage indicates, Washington is a suffocating place when it comes to any thought that hasn’t been thought before.  (When, by the way, was the last time you heard someone in that town mention the word “peace”?)  In the end, Hagel, who came to regret his reluctant vote to invade Iraq, evidently proved an uncomfortable fit.

2. Election 2016 as an Intra-War Party Affair: In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Bush v. Kerry in 2004 was, of course, a war election; 2008, however, proved a curious rarity, an election about war in which Americans generally thought they had voted for an anti-war candidate (as, of course, did the Nobel Prize Committee, which — to use an ill-chosen phrase — jumped the gun in 2009 by awarding its peace prize to Barack Obama just as he was about to officially “surge” in Afghanistan).  The 2012 election was a status quo one in which, thanks to the bin Laden raid, the president had inoculated himself from Republican charges of wimpism even as he had seemingly fulfilled his previous campaign promise to end the war in Iraq.

2016 is already shaping up as a War Party election all the way.  It goes without saying that whichever Republican candidate emerges from the pack will be a war-firster, while the leading Democratic candidate of the moment, Hillary Clinton, is another war-fightin’ liberal of the first order.  No wonder Flournoy, who refused to be considered for secretary of defense now, would reportedly like to work for Clinton’s future administration in the same capacity.  Sign of the times: Clinton already seems to be gathering support from a crew of neocons who had their moment in the Bush years and evidently hope to have it again.  Right now, no matter who wins in 2016, it’s shaping up to be war to the horizon in Washington.

3. The Military Rides Ever Higher: Among the strangest aspects of the Hagel coverage was the picture painted of the relationship between the military and the White House in this period.  Despite a mind-boggling infusion of funds since 9/11 and the exponential growth of the national security state, reading the Hagel stories you might be forgiven for thinking that the military was an essentially powerless, oppressed, and frustrated crew under the thumb of hopeless goof-balls at the White House. (Nor was it ever suggested that, constitutionally speaking, this is exactly what the relationship should be, no matter who occupies the Oval Office as commander in chief.)

In fact, there are signs that the military, while indeed frustrated — who wouldn’t be given the last 13 years of American war and the prospects for the latest conflict in the Middle East? — is actually riding ever higher in the nation’s capital.

In this context, the person to keep an eye on is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.  If Hagel lost the president’s confidence, according to numerous reports Dempsey is the one who gained it.  If Hagel wasn’t much for messaging, the same can’t be said of Dempsey.  He’s been testifying up a storm before Congress and commenting in significant ways on war policy in the Middle East.  Though he’s only the head of the “staff,” he has increasingly sounded like a bona fide civilian secretary of defense, speaking out on foreign policy issues, including U.S. relations with Israel and the importance of making American troops available for actual combat duty in Iraq. (This is, of course, something the president had emphatically ruled out).  He’s also spoken in ways that have not been common for military commanders in our civilian system of government.  He has politely contradicted the president on a number of occasions.  He is also credited with getting Obama to launch the first airstrikes of the new American war in the Middle East.

It seems clear that the military high command has struggled with this president over war policy since 2009, when a fierce set of arguments over how fully to “surge” in Afghanistan — the conflict the president had called the “right war” in his election campaign — burst into view.  Generally, though, little has been seen of this struggle since then.  Still, to believe that a military clearly frustrated by its wars and a high command that now fears another campaign on the road to nowhere in Iraq and Syria is under the thumb of the president and his insular national security team is to mistake a fantasy construct for reality.

4. A Failed Experiment in War: Above all, it’s a wonder that all those journalists and commentators writing about Hagel expressed neither amazement nor befuddlement when it came to accepted thinking in Washington about war, American-style.  The nation’s capital has been conducting an experiment in war-making for more than 13 years now: there have been full-scale invasions and occupations, counterinsurgency struggles that lasted years, special ops raids of every sort, the application of overwhelming air power in a variety of ways, including an air intervention in Libya, drone assassination campaigns across the backlands of the Greater Middle East, the loosing of cruise missiles, even the first cyberwar in history.  Trillions of dollars have been spent; American troops have been deployed to war zones over and over again; almost 7,000 American lives have been lost (while thousands of active duty soldiers and reservists have, in the same period, committed suicide); tens of thousands of Americans have been wounded in action, hundreds of thousands of civilians and enemy fighters in those war zones have died, and millions of people have been uprooted and sent into internal exile or forced out of their countries.  In the process, significant parts of the Greater Middle East and more recently Africa have been destabilized in devastating ways.

Think of it as a radical experiment involving what our latest two presidents have called “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.” Despite ongoing wars and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, among other places, the results of that experiment are in.  No single war, intervention, or minor conflict in which the U.S. military has taken part in these years has even come close to achieving the objectives set out by Washington and most have proven outright disasters.  In just about every case, armed intervention, whatever form it took, demonstrably made matters worse, increased the destabilization of whatever country or region was involved, and led to the creation of more extremists and terrorists.

Imagine for a moment a lab that ran a series of experiments for 13 straight years in almost every imaginable combination through one disastrous failure after another and then promoted the experimenters and agreed to let them repeat the process all over again. This would defy logic or simply good sense anywhere but in Washington.

To summarize: 13 years later, the War Party is ascendant.  It controls Congress.  The president is visibly, if with his usual reluctance, placing his bets on war.  The military is riding high.  The end of all calls for serious Pentagon budget cuts is clearly in sight.  And more of the same is undoubtedly in the works, no matter who wins the 2016 election.

That’s the “new” Washington.  Peacetime?  A fantasy creation of lefties, libertarians, and noodle heads.  Peace?  A dirty word that no self-respecting politician would be caught using.

Meanwhile, the war hawks are crying out for more.  At the moment, all the pressure in Washington is focused on the ramping up of its various wars and crises.  Iraq War 3.0 and Syria War 1.0 are to expand.  Afghanistan seems again to be a war on the rise.  The pressure is increasing to make Cold War 2.0 ever hotter and to ensure that negotiations with Iran over a nuclear deal will prove less than fruitful.  Drone wars are ongoing.  Special forces ops are raiding away.  Thirteen years later, we are yet again floating on what seems to be a rising, not ebbing, tide of war and the one qualification for a new secretary of defense is that he or she be a hot, not a cold, warrior.

This is the working definition of a bankrupt policy and yet you could read about the latest changes in Washington’s war establishment until you were goggle-eyed and never quite know it.

Congratulations, then, are in order for the War Party.  In the face of a seemingly obdurate reality, it has somehow perfected a system of war boosterism that operates like a dream (though some might call it a nightmare).  When it comes to war, in other words, Washington is now effectively insulated from failure.  There may be 17 major interlocked intelligence outfits in town, but rest assured, there’s no intelligence in sight. So party on!

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His new book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

USA Today: “Ashton Carter: Obama’s pick for next Defense secretary”

UN General Assembly Demands Israel Mothball its Nuclear Arsenal

By Juan Cole | —

The United Nations General Assembly (where all 193 countries in the world get a vote) has almost unanimously demanded that Israel give up its nuclear weapons and cooperate with making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. The only dissenters were Israel and the United States, along with three small South Pacific islands that always vote with the US, presumably in order to receive foreign aid. Some 161 countries voted for the measure.

The US complained that the resolution singled out one country for opprobrium but this allegation is frankly dishonest.

First of all, you can’t complain about singling out a country that is alone in flouting UNGA directives on nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a stockpile of nuclear warheads (several hundred). No other country in the region has so much as a proven military nuclear program. (Iran, often accused of wanting a nuclear bomb, has never been found by inspectors to have miiitarized its civilian enrichment program, and former Israel defense minister Ehud Barak admitted it publicly). Egypt brought the resolution because it is made insecure by Israel’s bombs. Current Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman once suggested blowing up the Aswan Dam and washing all Egyptians into the Mediterranean. With crazy people like that in the Israeli government, Egypt is right to be concerned about them having their finger on the nuclear trigger.

Saying Israel has been ‘singled out’ here is like saying Federal prosecutors ‘singled out’ fraudster Bernie Madoff for prosecution over his investment pyramid scam. Rather, they just prosecuted the one major financier known to have committed billions of dollars in fraud. It wasn’t like there were a lot of Bernie Madoffs, though there certainly were a lot of other kinds of shenanigans on Wall Street.

Moreover, it was a busy UNGA session, and if anyone bothered actually to look at their votes that day, you would find the UNGA also reprimanded Syria for having chemical weapons (though most of these have been destroyed via Russian mediation) and also asked Pakistan and India to give up their nukes.

So actually Israel wasn’t singled out at all, but is just in the same category in this regard (having weapons of mass destruction) as Syria, Pakistan and India.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal was acquired with British, French and American connivance, and some of the components for it were illegally smuggled out of the US by Zionist secret agents.

Tel Aviv’s stockpile of nuclear bombs has been a deeply destabilizing factor in the Middle East. Its existence certainly impelled Iraq to try to develop its own nuclear bomb (though it never got very far). Since Iraq’s attempt in this regard was made the basis for the Bush administration to launch its 2003 war on Iraq and to occupy the country, it is not too much to conclude that Israel’s nuclear weapons are indirectly what mired the US in a fruitless 8-year war in the Middle East.

Iran is suffering from very severe international and American economic sanctions, which amount to a financial blockade (a kind of declaration of war) on the country, devastating its middle class. The reason for this attempt to de-industrialize Iran and make its people povery-stricken is the unproven allegation that Iran is violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol.

But Iran’s supreme theocrat has given numerous oral fatwas against making, stockpiling or deploying nuclear weapons, and UN inspectors have been allowed into Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities and never found any evidence of attempted weaponization.

So Israelis are allowed to get rich and given sweetheart trade deals with the US (they even still get direct civilian aid, which is to say they are Welfare Queens on a massive scale), even though they have actually done what Iran is only vaguely suspected of maybe one day wanting to do. They don’t suffer sanctions the way the Iranians do, over the imaginary Iranian nukes, while they have real ones!

The unfair policies of the US in this regard has driven the arms race in the Middle East. Israel is a serial violator of its neighbors’ sovereignty and keeps launching wars on them, confident in the advantage its nuclear stockpile gives it. I am against nuclear proliferation, but anyone could understand why Iraq felt like it needed a nuclear counter weight to Israel. Those Iranian hawks who want a nuclear bomb want it in some important part because they know of Israel’s stockpile.

There will never be any real stability in the Middle East until Israel complies with the UNGA resolution. Apologists who point out that the Middle East has lots of problems not caused by Israel are being dishonest. The point is that Israeli policies themselves do cause a lot of problems.

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Related video added by Juan Cole

The BBC Film That Exposed Israel’s Secret Illegal Nuclear Weapons (FULL Documentary)

Cole at the Nation: Egyptian Left Plans Mock Trial of Mubarak

By Juan Cole | —

My blog entry at The Nation is out:

“After Acquittal, Egypt’s New Left Vows Mock Trial of Mubarak”

Excerpt:

“A youth “New Left” is still a significant current in Egypt, and many young people want more accountability in government. They were the ones who gathered just outside the now-closed Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Saturday. The government attempt to disperse them left two dead and more injured by flying tear gas canisters or by the military-grade tear gas itself. Youth revolutionaries, including the Trotskyite Revolutionary Socialists, gathered in Alexandria to protest the verdict and to make plans for a civil-society mock trial of Mubarak. They also demanded the release of youth activists from prison, who have been jailed for defying the draconian anti-protest law put in by the interim military government last year (and which is surely unconstitutional by the 2014 Constitution). Among the more prominent young people in this Alexandria event was the attorney Mahienoor El Masry, who was herself jailed for many months for a protest, but who was released in September after a vigorous youth Internet campaign.”

Read the whole thing

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Iran-Iraq War 2.0? Iran Flies bombing Raids on Extremists in Iraq

By Juan Cole | —

The US Pentagon is confirming that Iranian F-4 fighter jets have flown bombing missions against Daesh or the so-called ‘Islamic State Group’ in Iraq. They helped Iraqi Shiites take the town of Saadiya back from Daesh late last week. That town is in the ethnically and religiously mixed province of Diyala in the east of Iraq, which borders Iran. Iran wants no fanatical Sunnis bent on killing Shiites anywhere near its borders.

The news reminded me of the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Iran, and Iran fought back. Both countries deployed some air power against the other. Since both were oil states, they knew it was perilous to their economies to continue with these aerial bombardments, and both acted cautiously.

Now Iran has committed its old Vietnam War-era warplanes to the fight against Daesh (what most Arabs call the so-called Islamic State Group).

This action puts Iran firmly on the side of the West in the struggle against Daesh / Isil. The US, the UK, France and some other European countries along with Australia have been conducting missions against Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

In late August there was an instance of US-Iran de facto cooperation against Daesh, when US fighter jets gave close air support to a mixed group of fighters that included the Iraqi army, Shiite militiamen, Kurdish peshmerga or militiamen, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. IRGC special forces commander, Qasim Sulaymani (jokingly called in Iran “Supermani”) was caught on video at Amerli. The US denied coordination, but it beggars belief that there was not some. This de facto alliance could bloom.

President Barack Obama wrote to Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proposing cooperation against Daesh as a side bar to the negotiations over Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. Although Khamenei initially rebuffed this American approach, and blames the US for the rise of Daesh, it is indisputable that on the issue of northern and western Iraq, the US and Iran have an alliance of convenience.

It also seems to me likely that there was behind the scenes coordination between Iran and the US in these air raids. The US would have to be reassured that the planes were friendlies, since the US controls the skies over Iraq and would be on the lookout against any enemy aircraft.

The US and Iran have the same enemy in Iraq– various forms of nationalism of an extremist sort. They are likely to end up recognizing that they are on the same side.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wotchit: “Iran is Bombing ISIS in Iraq Without Talking to the U.S.”

In Rebuke to Israel, French Parliament votes Resolution to Recognize Palestine

Euronews / France24 | —

VIDEO 1 (Euronews):

“French MPs vote to recognise Palestinian state

The French parliament has voted in favour of recognising the state of Palestine by a large majority.

MPs voted 339 in favour and 151 against.

Israel had earlier urged the French parliament to vote against the resolution.

It is a symbolic move and follows similar votes in Britain, Spain and Ireland.

France’s government is pushing to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.”

Euronews: “French MPs vote in favour of an independent Palestinian state”

VIDEO 2: France 24:

“On the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank, most Palestinians are not aware of the French parliamentary vote on the recognition of Palestine set for Tuesday. But when told about the vote, the move gets a warm welcome.

“It’s not going to change anything for us, but it’s a strong symbolic move nonetheless,” said a young Ramallah resident.”

France 24: “Ramallah welcomes French vote on Palestinian statehood – PALESTINE”