Blog

Trump Team Hired Israeli Spy Firm Used by Harvey Weinstein to Attack Obama Officials on Iran Deal

Ronan Farrow reports in The New Yorker: “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.”

Mark Townsend and Julian Borger broke the story in the Observer this weekend: “Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal,” which states: “Aides to Donald Trump, the U.S. president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

“People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

“The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear [program].”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052, Skype: richards1052
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets. He was among the very first to highlight the role of Israel in connection to scandals around the Trump administration and will continue updating at his blog Tikun Olam.

His past pieces include “Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israel Settlements,” which notes that: “Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts with Jared Kushner to torpedo a United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. These included lobbying the Russian ambassador to help in this campaign by delaying or cancelling a vote on the matter.” See also, “Trump, Kushner and Mueller: the Smoking Gun and the Bullet.”

See related Institute for Public Accuracy news releases including “Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?

From the desk of Noam Chomsky

Celebrate and help continue the work of IPA as we approach our 20th anniversary and launch a legacy fund in honor of Ed Herman. Noam Chomsky explains:

Dear Friend of IPA,

As the Institute for Public Accuracy celebrates its 20th anniversary this April, they are launching the Edward Herman Memorial Fund to honor Ed’s life and work and to continue his legacy revealing critical truths and contesting the entrenched propaganda system.

Like you, I deeply appreciate the key role the Institute for Public Accuracy plays providing the media with informed and expert commentary on the crucial events of the day, offering a broader and richer range of independent sources on which reporters depend.

We are asking IPA’s supporters to collectively match what Ed left IPA in his will. Ed got IPA halfway to $100,000, which is a boost they need to challenge more giving during this important year. This will help IPA to keep pushing old media structures as far as possible while buttressing new ones, and supporting and promoting whistleblowers and other pressurized truths-tellers and various civil liberties.

Will you join me in supporting IPA today with a tax-deductible contribution?

Apart from its constructive contributions to media comprehensiveness and accuracy, for individuals who are seeking a better understanding of evolving world events IPA has been an incomparable source of critically important news that had escaped notice or received inadequate or misleading coverage, as well as acute analysis that is hard to find or completely missing in the mainstream. Speaking personally, I have found it invaluable as a source of insight and information, and for leads to pursue that I would otherwise have missed.

I urge you to support IPA with whatever you can contribute. If each of us sends $50 – just a few dollars for each year they’ve been getting progressives into the media – we could help them raise $100,000 with Ed’s generous match.

Thank you,

Noam Chomsky

15 Years Later: The Whistleblower Who Almost Blocked the Iraq War

Media Advisory:

Press Conference to Mark 15th Anniversary

Of Leak by GCHQ Translator Katharine Gun

Revealing US “Dirty Tricks” at UN for Iraq War

When:  Thursday, 1 March 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

Where:  Head office, National Union of Journalists

Headland House, 72 Acton Street, London, WC1X 9NB

Who:  Katharine GunThomas DrakeMatthew HohJesselyn Radack

This press conference will take place the day before the 15th anniversary of the Observer’s publication of the explosive March 2, 2003 story “US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war” — based on a leak by GCHQ linguist and analyst Katharine Gun — revealing the US National Security Agency’s UN surveillance memo that aimed to grease the way for the Iraq invasion. She will be depicted by Keira Knightley in the film “Official Secrets” which is to start shooting in March.

Thomas Drake was a senior NSA executive at the time.

Matthew Hoh later fought in Iraq as a US Marine and then became a US State Department official before resigning in protest of the war in Afghanistan.

Jesselyn Radack was a whistleblower at the US Department of Justice in connection with the “war on terror” before becoming a national security and human rights attorney representing Drake as well as Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.

The four speakers will assess the significance of the revelations that Katharine Gun provided 15 years ago and discuss the current conditions for whistleblowers and freedom of information in the UK and the US.

For further information:

ExposeFacts, Institute for Public Accuracy

norman at accuracy.org

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake Statement on Surveillance Legislation

At this late hour (with all the fear mongering by national security authorities pushing to reauthorize and expand an unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program), unless the Amash-Lofgren Amendment is passed, Congress may end up passing a bill (S. 139) that actually gives criminal suspects more Fourth Amendment protections than innocent people.

I urge all Americans who care about their privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment to call their Representative in Congress and tell them to vote for the Amash-Lofgren amendment instead and the proposed USA RIGHTS Act.

The USA RIGHTS Act reforms Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by ending the pernicious and pervasive mass surveillance practice that licenses the secret backdoor warrantless searches and data mining of US person calls, emails, texts and other Internet and digital communications under the cover and color of spying on foreign targets.

I blew the whistle right after 9/11 on the original mass domestic warrantless electronic surveillance program known as STELLARWIND, and its secret subversion of privacy rights protected by the Constitution and paid a very high price for doing so.

This reauthorization bill just further codifies and expands the mass surveillance regime under the guise of protecting people by stripping their privacy protections.

National security does not trump our inalienable rights as a people, especially when the government want to “collect it all to know it all” and bypass the rule of law for secret executive rules to keep us safe from ourselves using legislative acts to make it all legal.

News Conference at Department of Justice on Threats to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange by Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Media Advisory

When: Friday, April 28 at 10 a.m.

Where: U.S. Department of Justice Building between 9th and 10th Streets NW (Constitution Avenue entrance)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently stated that Julian Assange’s arrest is a “priority” of the Trump administration. This has caused numerous individuals — with differing perspectives on WikiLeaks — to warn of a growing threat to press freedom.

The following will address U.S. government policy toward WikiLeaks and whistleblowers:

* Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, and a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. As a U.S. diplomat, Wright served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Krygyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia and helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. In March of 2003, she resigned in protest over the invasion of Iraq. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

* Jesselyn Radack is National Security and Human Rights Director of WHISPeR — Whistleblower and Source Protection Program — at ExposeFacts. Her clients have included NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She’s also a whistleblower herself. While at the Justice Department, she disclosed that the FBI committed an ethics violation in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh.

* Ray McGovern, a former Army officer and CIA analyst who prepared the President’s Daily Brief (under the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations), is co-founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity (see: samadamsaward.ch), which gave Julian Assange its annual award in 2010. Sam Adams Associates strongly opposes any attempt to deny Julian Assange the protections that are his as a journalist.

Contact at ExposeFacts (a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy):
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, sam [at] accuracy dot org.

Trump Education Policy

by Diane Ravitch

Education was not a subject of great importance during the recent Presidential campaign. It did not come up during the debates and was not often mentioned during the general election. Hillary Clinton ran with the strong support of the two national teachers’ unions and promised to support schools and teachers. Donald Trump announced his education policy while visiting a for-profit charter school in Ohio. He pledged to divert $20 billion in federal funds for school choice, whether charters or vouchers for religious schools. He also promised on several occasions to “get rid of” Common Core, the controversial standards that were widely adopted by the states during Obama’s second term.

There has been widespread speculation about who might be picked as Secretary of Education. And there has been widespread speculation about whether the Trump administration would either trim the Department of Education or eliminate it altogether.

Some of the names that have been prominently mentioned are Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the public schools of the District of Columbia; Eva Moskowitz, chief executive officer of the Success Academy charter schools in New York City; and Williamson (Bill) Evers of the Hoover Institution.

Rhee and Moskowitz would certainly be zealous proponents of school choice. Selecting either of them would be a thumb in the eyes of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, who campaigned mightily for Clinton. Both have tangled with the unions and made clear their distaste for public schools and for teachers’ unions.

Rhee is a fierce warrior, who is known for firing teachers and principals who don’t raise test scores. Her negatives: a cheating scandal in D.C. during her tenure that was never fully investigated, and her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has admitted to indiscretions with young girls in the past.

Moskowitz’s charter schools boast very high test scores, but critics say she gets them by pushing out kids with low scores and excluding children with disabilities and English language learners. Taking the job with Trump would be a big salary cut for Moskowitz, who now makes double the salary of a Cabinet Secretary. And it is not clear whether there is any number two in her organization to keep it running without her.

Evers has been a crusader for traditional math instruction for many years. He has fought against the Common Core. As part of the conservative Koret Task Force on Education at the Hoover Institution, he has written widely about curriculum and instruction and he served on a local school board in California. He served as an education advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and subsequently as an Assistant Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush.

The Common Core divides these three candidates. Rhee and Moskowitz are strong supporters of the Common Core, which they implemented in the schools they have commanded. Breitbart News has already reported that parents who supported Trump are worried that he might back down on his opposition to Common Core by appointing either of them.

If President-elect Trump wants to take a swat at the teachers’ unions and supporters of public schools, he can’t go wrong with Rhee or Moskowitz. If he wants to show his determination to remove federal support for Common Core, Evers is a good bet.

Whoever he chooses may be tasked with the job of downsizing or closing down the Department of Education. That doesn’t mean the programs it runs will disappear, just that they will be shifted to another department. For many years, education was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and education programs might be returned there or dispersed elsewhere.

Whoever Trump chooses for Secretary — and it might be someone totally different from the three mentioned here — these will be challenging times for public education …

Trump has declared his determination to privatize public schools, to the extent that federal funds can encourage that outcome. No high-performing nation in the world has privatized its public schools; all have strong and equitably resourced public schools, staffed by certified teachers, not well-meaning amateurs. The two nations that did buy into the free-market privatization ideology — Sweden and Chile — have regretted it. Instead of better education, they got greater segregation of students by race, income, religion, and social status.

The threat to public schools is real under a Trump administration. In the recent election, voters in Massachusetts and Georgia overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures to increase the number of charter schools. Trump won Georgia, but the voters of Georgia turned down the same education proposal that Trump wants to fund.

Under the terms of current law, states have the power to decide how to use federal funds that are not tied to a mandatory program. If Trump releases $20 billion to the states, it will be left to governors and legislatures to decide whether to protect their public schools. Some deeply conservative states might decide to side with privatization, but it is not at all clear that the parents and local school districts will go along, even in Republican-controlled states.

Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

 

Costas Panayotakis on the Brexit

14-slate22Costas Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He has been published in numerous journals including Monthly Review and Capitalism Nature Socialism. Below are his thoughts on the EU referendum that are an addition to today’s release

“The Brexit vote may have partly been an expression of right-wing xenophobia but it is also an expression of disgust across the continent with the neoliberal monstrosity that the EU has become. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the result will be honored. In the past, European political and economic elites have often ignored referendum results they didn’t like by cranking up Pro-European propaganda and repeating the referendum so that the sovereign people could ‘correct’ their mistake.

Breaking Down the Brexit Decision

james-a-paul

James A. Paul, a writer and non-profit executive working in the field of international relations and global policy, was asked by Sputnik News to comment on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum. Below is his commentary.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, we must consider why it happened and what the future may hold in store.  The first results are already known – markets have plunged, British Prime Minister David Cameron is on the way out of office, and the right has shown its rising strength in  the UK. The European Union is under threat of possible dissolution if other countries follow the same course.  And the UK itself seems sure to suffer a large economic and political setback, especially if the Scots press again for an exit of their own.

To answer why this has happened we have to look primarily at two issues  – the effects of “national” identity with all the powerful symbols of tribalism and xenophobia created over time, and the social erosion resulting from a globalized, neoliberal economic system that harms so many (right-wing politicians easily blame declining material well-being on shadowy foreign forces and threatening migrants).  Both factors have led to the rise of right-wing political movements in England, but also broadly elsewhere as well – in the United States (Trump and the Tea Party), France (Front National), Germany (Pegida, Alternative für Deutschland), and virtually throughout the political landscape of the wealthy democracies, most notably in the Netherlands, Poland, Austria and Switzerland.  Turkey is a well-known case of a less-affluent country, while rightward swings and unstable politics are visible also in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and many others.

The political center has lost its commanding appeal and the public is drawn to vague slogans like “freedom” and “independence.” Right-wing projects are implausible as solutions to the problems faced by ordinary citizens  but the electorate acts in desperation. The process has been under way for many years.  Reagan and Thatcher were early signs. The parties of the center-left fell ever-more-completely under the sway of financial interests and rich donors, providing very little choice. Programs shaped by the 1930s make little sense today, so political innovation is urgently needed but little-practiced. Citizens have consequently grasped for straws, as movements for regional independence and the breakup of states have arisen (consider the Flemish movement in Belgium, the Catalans and Basques in Spain, the Scots and Welsh in the UK, the Corsicans and Bretons in France, not to mention the actual division of Czechoslovakia, the division of Yugoslavia, etc.).

A great threat hangs over the world’s people – the threat of climate change – and the established political forces are doing very little to address it. In fact, their market-based solutions are worsening the crisis daily. The changing climate is already touching off waves of migration, as the climate analysts have long predicted, a force that virtually cannot be stopped, as drought, flood, rising temperatures and rising sea levels deepen the crisis and set desperate people in motion.  Political systems in the wealthy countries are not able to respond.  Captive of the wealthy and unable to think beyond the next election cycle, they stumble forward with little inspiration or leadership to offer.  Falling back on worn-out slogans and fading loyalties, they hope to boost the tribal spirit by appeals to past grandeur and current continuous military operations against foreign enemies and dictators du jour.

The UK is the first major power to succumb to this political crisis in a significant way.  The English still have a strong mentality of Empire, with all the contempt for foreigners that downward international mobility can engender.  Few English know a foreign language, and many think they are vastly superior, not just to the brown people knocking at the door but really to all the “others” across the Channel.   As if the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain prove forever that everything beyond Calais is corrupt and contemptible.

We should not forget, however, that the rise of the right has been counterbalanced to some extent by the rise of the left.  In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is the new left-leaning leader the Labor Party, in Germany there is Die Linke, in Spain Podemos, and so on. Even in the US, Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign provided a significant respite from politics as usual.  Thus, a major re-configuration of global politics appears under way, of which Brexit is only one manifestation.  Above all, however, there is the ticking clock of climate.  Brexit points to a dangerous future of weakened and teetering political systems, run by right-wingers looking backward to days of national glory.  There is reason to fear the post-Brexit British leaders (and their counterparts in other countries) will be unable to address an existential climate threat that requires real initiative, as well as daring and unprecedented global cooperation.  As the seas lick dangerously at our coastal cities, let us hope that in London and so many other places, the people will wake up.

From “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”

roxanne_dunbar_ortiz_photoby_barrie_karpRoxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, excerpt from the Conclusion of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States cited inAfghanistan as ‘Longest War’ Highlights Invisibility of Indigenous and Iraq Wars.” (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014)

Chickasaw scholar Jodi Byrd writes: That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within—and yet continually obscured by—what is essentially a settler colony’s national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracial democracy. . . . [T]he status of American Indians as sovereign nations colonized by the United States continues to haunt.[1]

The conventional narrative of US history routinely segregates the “Indian Wars” as a sub-specialization within the dubious category “the West.” But, the architecture of US world dominance was designed and tested by the period of continental US militarism, 1790-1890, the Indian Wars. The opening of the twenty-first century saw a new, even more brazen form of US militarism and imperialism explode on the world followed by two major military invasions and hundreds of small wars employing US Special Forces around the globe, establishing a template that continued after their political power waned.

One highly regarded military analyst stepped forward to make the connections between the “Indian Wars” and what he considered the country’s bright imperialist past and future. Robert D. Kaplan, in his 2005 book Imperial Grunts, presented several case studies that he considered highly successful operations: Yemen, Colombia, Mongolia, and the Philippines, in addition to ongoing complex projects in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq.[2] While US citizens and many of their elected representatives called for ending the US military interventions they knew about—including Iraq and Afghanistan—Kaplan hailed protracted counterinsurgencies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific. He presented a guide for the US controlling those areas of the world based on its having achieved continental dominance in North America by means of counterinsurgency and employing total and unlimited war.

Kaplan, a meticulous researcher and influential writer born in 1952 in New York City, wrote for major newspapers and magazines before serving as “chief geopolitical strategist” for the private security think tank Stratfor. Among other prestigious posts, he has been a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC, and a member of the Defense Policy Board, a federal advisory committee to the US Department of Defense. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named Kaplan as one of the world’s “top 100 global thinkers.” Author of numerous best-selling books, including Balkan Ghosts and Surrender or Starve, Kaplan became one of the principal intellectual boosters for US power through the tried-and-true “first way of war.” This is the way of war dating to the British-colonial period that military historian John Grenier describes as a combination of “unlimited war and irregular war,” a military tradition “that accepted, legitimized, and encouraged attacks upon and the destruction of noncombatants, villages and agricultural resources . . . in shockingly violent campaigns to achieve their goals of conquest.”[3]

Kaplan sums up his thesis in the prologue to Imperial Grunts, which he subtitles “Injun Country”:

Kaplan writes:

By the turn of the twenty-first century the United States military had already appropriated the entire earth, and was ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with troops at a moment’s notice.

The Pentagon divided the planet into five area commands—similar to the way that the Indian Country of the American West had been divided in the mid-nineteenth century by the U.S. Army. . . . [A]ccording to the soldiers and marines I met on the ground in far-flung corners of the earth, the comparison with the nineteenth century was . . . apt. ‘Welcome to Injun Country’ was the refrain I heard from troops from Colombia to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Iraq… The War on Terrorism was really about taming the frontier.[4]

Kaplan goes on to ridicule “elites in New York and Washington” who debate imperialism in “grand, historical terms,” while individuals from all the armed services interpret policy according to the particular circumstances they face and are indifferent to or unaware of the fact that they are part of an imperialist project. To them, and for many US Americans, United States military power is the heart of their patriotism, and the military is revered as no other governmental institution is.

Pointing to the intentionality of US colonialism in North America, Kaplan challenges the concept of “manifest destiny,” arguing “it was not inevitable that the United States should have an empire in the western part of the continent.” Rather, he argues, it was the work of “small groups of frontiersmen, separated from each other by great distances.”

Here Kaplan refers to what Grenier calls “rangers,” self-organized settlers who destroyed Indigenous towns and fields and food supplies, murdering the inhabitants. Kaplan equates these settler vigilantes to the modern Special Forces; he acknowledges that the regular army provided lethal backup for settler counterinsurgency in slaughtering the buffalo, the food supply of Plains peoples, as well as making continuous raids on settlements to kill or confine the families of the Indigenous resistance fighters.[5] Kaplan summarizes the genealogy of US militarism today:

Whereas the average American at the dawn of the new millennium found patriotic inspiration in the legacies of the Civil War and World War II, when the evils of slavery and fascism were confronted and vanquished, for many commissioned and noncommissioned officers the U.S. Army’s defining moment was fighting the ’Indians.’

The legacy of the Indian wars is palpable in the numerous military bases spread across the South, the Middle West, and particularly the Great Plains: that vast desert and steppe comprising the Army’s historical “heartland,” punctuated by such storied outposts as Forts Hays, Kearney, Leavenworth, Riley, and Sill. Leavenworth, where the Oregon and Santa Fe trails separated, was now the home of the Army’s Command and General Staff College; Riley, the base of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry, now that of the 1st Infantry Division; and Sill, where Geronimo lived out the lasts years of his life, the headquarters of the U.S. Artillery. . . .While microscopic in size, it was the fast and irregular military actions against the Indians, memorialized in bronze and oil by Remington, that shaped the nature of American nationalism.[6]

Although Kaplan relies principally on the post-Civil War source of US counterinsurgency, it actually dates from the colonies even before US independence. Kaplan acknowledges this in a footnote in which he reports what he learned at the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina: quote, “It is a small but interesting fact that members of the 101st Airborne Division, in preparation for their parachute drop on D-Day, shaved themselves in Mohawk style and applied war paint on their faces.”[7] This takes us back to pre-independence colonial war and then through US independence and the myth popularized by The Last of the Mohicans. Except for that instance, Kaplan seems unaware of the deeper historical roots of the continuing US military’s fetish for Indian warfare.

On March 19, 2003, near the Iraqi desert in Kuwait, Associated Press reporter Ellen Knickmeyer illustrates the symbolic power of Indian wars as a source of US military memory and practice. Once again we find troops retracing historical bloody footprints back to the 19th century Seminole wars:

She wrote:

Tank crews from the Alpha Company 4th Battalion 64th Armor Regiment perform a “Seminole Indian war dance” before convoying to a position near the Iraqi border Wednesday, March 19, 2003. Capt. Phillip Wolford’s men leaped into the air and waved empty rifles in an impromptu desert war dance. . . .

With thousands of M1A1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Humvees and trucks, the mechanized infantry unit known as the “Iron Fist” would be the only U.S. armored division in the fight, and would likely meet any Iraqi defenses head on.

“We will be entering Iraq as an army of liberation, not domination,” said Wolford, of Marysville, Ohio, directing the men of his 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment to take down the U.S. flags fluttering from their sand-colored tanks.

After a brief prayer, Wolford leaped into an impromptu desert war dance. Camouflaged soldiers joined him, jumping up and down in the sand, chanting and brandishing rifles carefully emptied of their rounds.

This “Seminole War Dance” is serious business. The 3 declared wars against the Seminole Nation in the Florida Everglades spanned a 42 year period, from 1816 to 1858. The wars took place under five presidents: 1816-23, under James Monroe, with General Andrew Jackson the army commander; 1835-42, under Jackson as president and Martin van Buren; 1855-58, under Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. The Seminole wars remain deeply embedded in the US military tradition and practice. These three wars, along with the dozens of others against the Indigenous agriculturalists east of the Mississippi, followed by the 1860-90 thirty-years of unrelenting war on the Plains and the former Mexican territory (US Southwest) formed the US Army. There was not a day without US aggressive warfare somewhere from the founding of the US to the present. But, the Seminole wars forged the initial imprint of prolonged counterinsurgent warfare and are remembered in the military.

In early 2011, during President Obama’s first term, a Yemeni citizen, Ali Hamza al Bahlul, was serving a life sentence at Guantánamo as an “enemy combatant,” a military tribunal having convicted him of crimes associated with his service to al-Qaeda as Osama bin Laden’s media secretary. In arguing on appeal that Bahlul’s conviction be upheld, a Pentagon lawyer, navy captain Edward S. White, relied on a precedent from an 1818 tribunal. In his thirty-seven-page military commissions brief, Captain White wrote: “Not only was the Seminole belligerency unlawful, but, much like modern-day al Qaeda, the very way in which the Seminoles waged war against U.S. targets itself violate the customs and usages of war.” The Center for Constitutional Rights objected to this passage in the government’s brief. “The court should . . . reject the government’s notable reliance on the ‘Seminole Wars’ of the 1800s, a genocide that led to the Trail of Tears…The government’s characterization of Native American resistance to the United States as ‘much like modern-day al Qaeda’ is not only factually wrong but overtly racist, and cannot present any legitimate legal basis to uphold Mr. Bahlul’s conviction.”[8] In response, the Pentagon’s general counsel issued a letter stating that the US government stood by its precedent.

But, the Seminole Wars were not the only such precedent embedded in the US military. Afghans resisting US forces and others who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were taken into custody, and most of them were sent to a hastily constructed prison facility on the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on land the United States appropriated in its 1898 war against Cuba.

Rather than bestowing the status of prisoner of war on the detainees, which would have given them certain rights under the Geneva Conventions, they were designated as “unlawful combatants,” a status thought to have been previously unknown in the annals of Western warfare. As such, the detainees were subjected to torture by US interrogators and shamelessly monitored by civilian psychologists and medical personnel. Much of the rhetoric following the declaration of the “War on Terror” after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 references US American militaristic memory of the wars against Native nations.

In response to questions and condemnations from around the globe, a University of California international law professor, John C. Yoo, on leave to serve as assistant US attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, penned in March 2003, what became the infamous “Torture Memo.” Despite strong objections to the “unlawful combatant” moniker, not much was made at the time of one of the precedents Yoo used to defend the designation “unlawful combatant,” the US Supreme Court’s 1873 opinion in Modoc Indian Prisoners.

In 1872, the Modoc leader, Kint-pu-ash, also known as Captain Jack, led some 150 of his people to return to their own country in Northern California after the US Army had rounded them up and forced them to share a reservation in Oregon. Fifty-three insurgent fighters from the group were surrounded by US troops and Oregon militia and forced to take refuge in the barren and rugged lava beds around Mount Lassen, a dormant volcano, a part of their ancestral homeland that they knew every inch of.

More than a thousand troops commanded by General Edward R. S. Canby, a former Civil War general, attempted to capture the resisters, but had no success as the Modocs engaged in effective guerrilla warfare. Before the Civil War, Canby had built his military career fighting in the Second Seminole War and later in the invasion of Mexico. Posted to Utah on the eve of the Civil War, he had led attacks against the Navajos, and then began his Civil War service in New Mexico. Therefore, Canby was a seasoned Indian killer.

In negotiations between the general and Kint-pu-ash, the Modoc leader killed the general and the other commissioners when they would allow no resolution other than Modoc surrender. In response, the Army command dispatched another former Civil War general with more than a thousand additional soldiers as reinforcements, and in April 1873, these troops attacked the Modoc stronghold, this time forcing the Modoc resisters to flee.

After four months of fighting that cost the United States almost $500,000—equal to nearly $10 million currently—and the lives of more than four hundred of its soldiers and a general, the nationwide backlash against the Modocs was vengeful.[9]

Kint-pu-ash and several other captured Modocs were designated prisoners of war, imprisoned, tried, hanged at a military base, and the Modoc families were scattered and incarcerated on reservations as far away as Oklahoma. Kint-pu-ash’s corpse was embalmed and exhibited at circuses around the country.[10]

Drawing a legal analogy between the Modoc prisoners and the Guantánamo detainees, Assistant US Attorney General Yoo employed the legal category of homo sacer—in Roman law, a person banned from society, excluded from its legal protections but still subject to the sovereign’s power.[11] Anyone may kill a homo sacer without it being considered murder.[12] To buttress his claim that the detainees could be denied prisoner of war status, Yoo quoted from the 1873 Modoc Indian Prisoners opinion:

All the laws and customs of civilized warfare may not be applicable to an armed conflict with the Indian tribes upon our western frontier; but the circumstances attending the assassination of Canby [Army general] and Thomas [U.S. peace commissioner] are such as to make their murder as much a violation of the laws of savage as of civilized warfare, and the Indians concerned in it fully understood the baseness and treachery of their act.[13]

Thereby, anyone who could be defined as “Indian” could thus be killed legally, and they also could be held criminally responsible for engaging any US soldier.[14]

The United States is a militarized culture. We see it all around us and in the media. But, as military historian John Grenier notes, the cultural aspects of militarization are not new; they have deep historical roots, reaching into the nation’s Anglo-settler past and continuing through unrelenting wars of conquest and ethnic cleansing over three centuries. Grenier writes, “Beyond its sheer military utility, Americans also found a use for the first way of war in the construction of an ‘American identity.’ . . . [T]he enduring appeal of the romanticized myth of the ‘settlement’ (not calling it conquest) of the frontier, either by ‘actual’ men such as Robert Rogers or Daniel Boone or fictitious ones like Nathaniel Bumppo of James Fenimore Cooper’s creation, points to what D. H. Lawrence called the ‘myth of the essential white American,’”[15] as “hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.”[16]

The astronomical number of firearms owned by US civilians, with the Second Amendment as a sacred mandate, is also intricately related to militaristic culture. The militias referred to in the Second Amendment are those civilians who were mobilized to attack Indigenous towns, burning their fields, to take their land. Everyday life and the culture in general are damaged by ramped-up militarization, and this includes academia, particularly the social sciences, with psychologists and anthropologists being recruited as advisors to the military. Anthropologist David H. Price, in his indispensable book Weaponizing Anthropology, remarks that “anthropology has always fed between the lines of war.” Anthropology was born of European and US colonial wars. Price sees an accelerated pace of militarization in the early twenty-first century: “Today’s weaponization of anthropology and other social sciences has been a long time coming, and post-9/11 America’s climate of fear coupled with reductions in traditional academic funding provided the conditions of a sort of perfect storm for the militarization of the discipline and the academy as a whole.”[17]

Chickasaw scholar Jodi Byrd writes: “The story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime.” It is necessary to start with the origin of the United States as a settler state and its explicit intention to occupy the continent. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. Any true history of the United States must focus on what has happened to (and with) Indigenous peoples—and what still happens.[18] It’s not just past colonialist actions but also “the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands” that allows the United States “to cast its imperialist gaze globally.” The United States is a crime scene.

[1] Jodi A. Byrd, The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 122–23.

[2] Robert D. Kaplan, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground (New York: Random House, 2005).

[3] John Grenier, The First Way of War,1607-1814. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 10.

[4] Kaplan, Imperial Grunts, 3–5.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Kaplan, Imperial Grunts, 8, 10.

[7] Ibid., 10.

[8] Vincent Warren, “Government Calls Native American Resistance of 1800s ‘Much Like Modern-Day Al-Qaeda,’” Truthout, April 11, 2011, http://truth-out.org/news/item/330-government-calls-native-american-resistance-of-1800s-much-like-modernday-alqaeda (accessed October 3, 2013).

[9] Frederick E. Hoxie, Encyclopedia of North American Indians (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 319.

[10]Byrd, The Transit of Empire, 226–28.

[11] Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

[12] Byrd, The Transit of Empire, 226–27.

[13] The Modoc Indian Prisoners, 14 Op. Att’y Gen. 252 (1873), quoted in John C. Yoo, Memorandum for William J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, March 14, 2003, p. 7. Quoted in Byrd, Transit of Empire, 227.

[14] Byrd, Transit of Empire, 227.

[15] Grenier, The First Way of War, 222.

[16] D. H. Lawrence, quoted in Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 466

[17] David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland: AK Press, 2011), 1, 11.

[18] Byrd, The Transit of Empire, xii–xiv.

Bradley on His Visit to the Philippines

imgresIn his book The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, the author James Bradley recounts his visit to Pershing Plaza in the Philippines:

On July 4, 1902 Roosevelt had proclaimed the U.S. war in the Philippines over, except for disturbances in the Muslim area. In 1905, the imperial cruise steamed into the port city of Zamboanga, a Muslim enclave 516 miles south of Manila. Princess Alice sipped punch under a hot tropical sun as “Big Bill” Taft deliver a florid speech extolling the benefits of the American way.

A century later I ventured to Zamboanga and learned that the local Muslims hadn’t taken Taft’s message to heart: Zamboanga officials feared for my safety because I was an American and would not allow me to venture out of my hotel without an armed police escort.

The city looked peaceable enough to me and I thought the Zamboanga police’s concern was overdone. One morning I was sitting in the backseat of a chauffeured car with my plainclothes police escort as we drove by city hall. The handsome old wooden building had once been headquarters of the American military. The U.S. general “Black Jack” Pershing had ruled local Muslims from a desk there, and the grassy shaded park across the street was named after him.

“Can we stop?”, I asked the driver, who pulled to the curb. I got out of the car alone to take pictures, thinking I was safe in front of city hall. After all, here I was in the busy downtown area, in broad daylight, with mothers and their strollers nearby in a park named after an American.

My bodyguard thought otherwise. He jumped out of the car, his darting eyes scanning pedestrians, cars, windows, and rooftops, and his right hand hovered over the pistol at his side.

It was the same later, indoors at Zamboanga’s largest mall. I was shopping for men’s trousers, looking through the racks. I glanced up to see my bodyguard with his back to me eyeing the milling crowd. The Zamboanga police probably breathed a sigh of relief when I eventually left town.

Muslim terrorist attacks struck Zamboanga the day after I departed. Two powerful bombs maimed twenty-six people, brought down buildings, blew up cars, severed electrical lines, and plunged the city into darkness and fear. The first bomb had cratered a sidewalk on whose cement I had recently trod, while the second one collapsed a hotel next door to Zamboanga’s police station — just down the street from the mall I had judged safe. Police sources told reporters the blasts were intended to divert Filipino and American army troops from their manhunt of an important Muslim insurgent.

Next Page »