Saturday, February 28, 2009

As Political Crisis Deepens, U.S. Special Forces Secretly Train Pakistani Commandos

Wednesday's ruling by Pakistan's Musharraf-installed Supreme Court to bar former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shabaz, the chief minister of Punjab--the country's most populous and powerful province--from elected office, has widened that nation's growing political chasm.

The faux alliance between the two main parties of the capitalist grift, President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), forged in the wake of the reemergence of Pakistan's pro-democracy movement in 2007, has definitively broken down, hurtling the country further along the bumpy road of political crisis.

Sharif, every bit as corrupt and venal as Zardari, for tactical reasons hitched the PML-N's political wagon to the mass movement launched by lawyers' groups, democracy activists and the labor movement to restore Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry to office.

The Sharif family, rich Punjabi industrialists, came to prominence during General Zia ul-Haq's military dictatorship during the 1980s. Sharif, a right-winger with close ties to the Saudi monarchy, spent a comfortable exile in Riyadh after being deposed by Musharraf. Indeed "democracy champion," the late Benazir Bhutto, had initially welcomed Musharraf's 1999 coup.

As socialist critic and historian Tariq Ali points out in The Duel, "neither Bhutto's daughter, Benazir, nor Zia's protégé, Nawaz Sharif, showed any ability to govern the country in interests other than their own. Clientilism, patronage, and corruption on a gigantic scale were the hallmarks of their weak regimes."

Dismissed by Musharraf when the General-President imposed emergency rule on November 3, 2007, Choudhry had challenged the Army, Police and intelligence agencies' practice of disappearing, torturing and murdering dissenting citizens. In the wake of the Court's removal and a clamp-down on independent media (described by analysts as a "coup within a coup"), the democratic secular movement launched by outraged lawyers and broad sections of the citizenry offered a potential opening for progressive political change in Pakistan.

Seeking to deflect popular opposition against Musharraf, the PPP and PML-N forged an unprincipled alliance based on their common desire to abort the popular movement against the dictatorship along "traditional," i.e., clientilist lines that would leave privileges in tact, while divvying up the spoils between the two parties; real power in other words, would remain in the hands of the comprador elites.

Sharif, as the World Socialist Website points out, "was viewed warily by Washington" because of his "intense personal hostility to Musharraf--who, it needs be remembered, had originally wanted to execute shim--and because of his connections to the Islamic fundamentalist right (sections of which are sympathetic to the Taliban.)"

The motivation for Zardari's judicial coup against the PML-N bigwigs, the brothers Sharif, was intended to preserve the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a corrupt deal struck by Bhutto and Musharraf--under the watchful eyes of Bush administration "fixers"--whereby Musharraf would be "reelected" President in return for absolving the gross criminality and corruption of Bhutto and other PPP leaders. Sharif had been cut out of the deal, a point of considerable contention between the aggrieved parties.

Choudhry, under the "fix" worked out between Zardari and Sharif, would be restored to office, but Zardari, ever-fearful of provoking the all-powerful General Headquarters (GHG) of the Army which opposed judicial scrutiny of their actions under Musharraf, including the sordid NRO, reneged. This set the stage for the current confrontation.

But in a country viewed as a strategic ally of the United States, democracy, especially when it escapes "management" by elites favored by America, is always an iffy proposition. While the Obama administration has largely remained silent, it is well-known that the new regime in Washington, at least for the time being, has hitched its wagon to the Zardari government. Indeed, Army Chief of Staff General Asfaq Parvez Kayani, was in Washington this week for "comprehensive multilateral talks." The General told U.S. Congress members that the Army would not intervene in political affairs.

Kayani, a former chief of the shadowy Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), vowed that GHQ "would not intervene even if the political situation deteriorated further," according to Dawn. The Karachi-based newspaper also reported that "on Thursday, General Kayani was inducted into the US military's international Hall of Fame in a small yet refined ceremony at Fort Leavenworth."

As a result of the Court's action Wednesday, massive protests have broken out in cities across the country. The main highway between the federal capital of Islamabad and its twin city, Rawalpindi, the site of Army Headquarters, were cut by thousands of protesters who burned tires--and police vehicles. The News reports,

Angry demonstrators virtually paralysed the federal capital to register their protest against the disqualification of the Sharif brothers. ...

At least 10 vehicles, including the cars of top officers of the district administration and police were burnt down on the Islamabad Highway. The official cars of deputy commissioner, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Islamabad, additional deputy commissioner general (ADCG) and additional deputy commissioner (ADC) West as well as jeeps of DSP (Shahzad Town) and SHO were torched. Banks, petrol pumps, government and private property and vehicles were damaged. (Muhammad Anis and Shakeel Anjum, "Protesters bring life to a halt," The News, February 27, 2009)

Since Zardari's ascension to the presidency in 2008, imperialism, having identified Pakistan as the "central front" in the "war on terror" has expanded military operations across the board. Since September, attacks by CIA Predator and Reaper drones have increased dramatically, indiscriminately raining high-tech death upon jihadi militants and ordinary citizens alike, sparking deep outrage and broad anti-American sentiments among ever-widening sections of the population.

And with the lawyers' and democracy movement planning a "long march" scheduled to kick-off March 12 in Lahore, culminating in what organizers hope will be a gigantic sit-in in the capital, there are signs that the Army and shadowy intelligence agencies with American "guidance," are growing restive and may soon come to believe they have "no choice" but to step in and once more, impose a martial law regime in order to "save" Pakistan--from its citizens.

In American parlance, this is referred to as "restoring order" and preventing the discredited and despised jihadi Frankenstein from "seizing power," an absurdist fantasy considering the jihadists' aversion to "un-Islamic" practices such as democracy and human rights. Indeed, the leader of the outlawed jihadi group Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, TNSM) Maulana Sufi Mohammed, told Daily Times, "I do not believe in democracy. ... That is impossible. Sharia and democracy clash with each other and one cannot bring in Islamic laws through a democratic set-up."

One cannot however, take American expressions of apprehension lightly. As The Atlantic Council, representing the views of the Obama administration and the Pentagon alike, claim in a new report widely trumpeted by the U.S. corporate media,

First, this report sounds the alarm that we are running out of time to help Pakistan change its present course toward increasing economic and political instability, and even ultimate failure. The urgency of action has been brought home by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in late November that set Pakistan and India on a dangerous collision course. Simply put, time is running out for stabilizing Pakistan's economy and security. As Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari told the Atlantic Council during our December 2008 trip to Islamabad, "we--[the United States, Pakistan, NATO and the world at large]--are losing the battle" to keep Pakistan stable, at peace and prosperous.

Unlike Afghanistan--where the international community is losing the struggle because of its failure to reform the civilian sector--Pakistan has the manpower and infrastructure to win its battles. But Pakistan can only do so if it gets the necessary support urgently. And it is self-evident that a secure, stable, and prospering Pakistan is in the best interests of the international community.

We--meaning Pakistan and its friends--can and must win collectively. The starting point must be a full and objective understanding of today's Pakistan and the fact that it is on a rapid trajectory toward becoming a failing or failed state. That trajectory must be reversed now.

Second, this report provides a conceptual framework, strategy, and specific actions that are needed to begin the long process of bringing peace, prosperity, and stability to Pakistan and to the region. The issue is not Pakistan alone or Pakistan and Afghanistan. The issue is broader and is inextricably linked with India, the Gulf, and Pakistan's other close neighbors. As a senior Pakistani military officer told us: "If Pakistan fails, the world fails." (The Atlantic Council, URGENT. Needed: A Comprehensive U.S. Policy Towards Pakistan, Honorary Co-Chairs: Senator Chuck Hagel, Senator John Kerry, February 2009, emphases in original)

What "conceptual framework" and "specific actions" do these "friends" of Pakistan propose? Let's take a look.

U.S. Special Forces and the CIA "Lend a Helping Hand"

In a further sign that U.S. military intervention is increasing, The New York Times revealed that "More than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country's lawless tribal areas, American military officials said."

According to the Times, the Americans "are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics."

The secret task force, jointly run by United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), began operating last summer "with the support of Pakistan's government and military." Allegedly, the task force is part of an administration effort to "root out" the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets also known as al-Qaeda, and Taliban units operating on both sides of the "Afpak" border.

That the New York Times has published information that can only be characterized as a controlled leak by the Pentagon, indicates that Washington is delivering a pointed message to the Zardari government: "Play ball, or else!"

The growing U.S. military presence, including operations by Special Forces and CIA paramilitary units in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and elsewhere, demonstrate the precarious nature--and hold on power--of Pakistan's civilian government vis-à-vis their American "allies" and the Pakistani Army itself. In this context, the dispute between Zardari and Sharif must be viewed as Washington's grave concern that the restoration of Chief Justice Choudhry may threaten the disreputable NRO, U.S. military operations and further discredit the Army were its high crimes against the Pakistani people revealed to the public at large.

The latest revelations follow multiple press reports that the CIA is flying Predator and Reaper drones from bases inside Pakistan, used to attack Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While the Zardari administration has denied that the CIA operates from its territory, the latest Times' report should be viewed as a gesture by Washington to embarrass--and further pressurize--Zardari into accepting America's terms for waging the so-called "war on terror." The Times avers:

In addition, a small team of Pakistani air defense controllers working in the United States Embassy in Islamabad ensures that Pakistani F-16 fighter-bombers conducting missions against militants in the tribal areas do not mistakenly hit remotely piloted American aircraft flying in the same area or a small number of C.I.A. operatives on the ground, a second senior Pakistani officer said. (Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez, "U.S. Unit Secretly Lends Ally Support," The New York Times, February 23, 2009)

Throughout its sixty year history as a nation, the Pakistani Army and its intelligence services have been strategic assets of the United States. During the Cold War, Pakistan was a reliable anti-communist bulwark against the Soviet Union and, just as importantly, against the domestic left which a succession of military regimes--in cahoots with far-right Islamist parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI)--hunted down and smashed. In this, the Pentagon and Pakistan's ruling elites are fully in sync.

Citing unnamed "senior American military officials," the Times reports their "frustration" at having been "unable to persuade the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to embrace serious counterinsurgency training for the army itself."

However, in a move that will further undermine Pakistan's already tenuous civilian control over its military and intelligence apparatus, the Times reveals that a "newly-minted" 400-man Pakistani paramilitary commando unit vetted, trained and armed by U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitary "specialists," is now operating in NWFP and FATA.

"As part of the Frontier Corps," which falls under a separate chain of command from that of the Army, after undergoing seven months of "intensive training" from American Special Forces, the new unit is now primed for action. According to the Times, the commandos have "used information from the Central Intelligence Agency and other sources to kill or capture as many as 60 militants in the past seven months, including at least five high-ranking commanders."

As I reported in early February, operations such as those described above fall under the rubric of Pentagon Foreign Internal Defense (FID). Citing a USSOCOM manual, Special Forces Foreign Internal Defense Operations, published by Wikileaks, we discover the following:

FID is the role the U.S. military plays in the overall effort of the USG to help a nation free or protect its society from an existing or potential threat. U.S. FID operations work on the principle that it is the inherent responsibility of the threatened government to use its leadership and organizational and materiel resources to take the political, economic, and social actions necessary to defeat subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, and terrorism. The U.S. military can provide resources such as material, advisors, and trainers to support these FID operations. In instances where it is in the security interest of the United States, and at the request of the HN [Host Nation], more direct forms of U.S. military support may be provided, to include combat forces. The following principles apply to FID:

* All U.S. agencies involved in FID must coordinate with one another (Figure 2-1, page 2-2) to ensure that they are working toward a common objective and deriving optimum benefit from the limited resources applied to the effort.

* The U.S. military seeks to enhance the HN military and paramilitary forces' overall capability to perform their IDAD [Internal Defense and Development] mission. An evaluation of the request and the demonstrated resolve of the HN government will determine the specific form and substance of U.S. assistance, as directed by the President.

* Specially trained, selected, and jointly staffed U.S. military survey teams, including intelligence personnel, may be made available. U.S. military units used in FID roles should be tailored to meet the conditions within the HN.

* U.S. military support to FID should focus on assisting HNs in anticipating, precluding, and countering threats or potential threats. (Headquarters, Department of the Army, Special Forces Foreign Internal Defense Operations, FM 3-05.202, September 2007, p. 2-1, emphasis added)

And when the "demonstrated resolve" of the "Host Nation" hesitates when it comes to "assisting" the U.S. implementation of it's geopolitical agenda in "India, the Gulf, and Pakistan's other close neighbors," as The Atlantic Council avers? Then serious problems inevitably follow. This is further underscored by the Times, who again citing anonymous Pentagon officials, wring their hands over "tensions between the sides."

Those tensions, resulting from a lack of democratic institutions and a severe economic crisis that threatens to bring the entire house of cards crashing down, is the root cause of Pakistan's approaching zero hour.

Economic Crisis and Destabilization: Made in the USA

Across the planet, the global capitalist crisis is fueling social instability as broad masses of the world's population are plunged into poverty and despair. These tensions are compounded in Pakistan by the economic slow down, fueled in large measure by the militarization of society, the underdevelopment of social resources, epidemic levels of corruption and pressure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In November, the Zardari government accepted the IMF's onerous terms in order to secure a $7.5 billion loan. While most bourgeois government's in the West have slashed interest rates, cut taxes on working people, small- and medium sized enterprises, expanded the state sector and funded spending on critical infrastructure in order to cushion the ravages of unemployment, Pakistan has done the opposite.

The effects have been as predictable as they are disastrous for Pakistani workers and farmers bled white by a corrupt and venal comprador elite. Demanding that the Central Bank control its deficits, inflation is nearly 20% per annum, and the country's economic output has slowed to a crawl. According to USA Today, "Pakistan's economy is slowing dramatically--from growth of 6% or more in recent years to just 0.6% in 2008 and a projected 2.4% in 2009, according to HSBC bank."

The economic "shock therapy" imposed by Washington is taking its toll. As I reported February 22, the Cabinet Committee on Privatization approved the sell-off of some 21 state-owned enterprises including "four power companies and other state-owned entities including SME Bank, National Power Construction Company, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Post," according to The Nation.

The Lahore-based newspaper reported February 26, that the IMF has approved "a second tranche of 800 million dollars of its 7.6-billon-dollar programme to save Pakistan from defaulting on external payments, a senior official said on Wednesday."

Note the IMF's "second tranche" is not intended to ameliorate the horrendous economic straits faced by the majority of Pakistan's citizens but as a guarantee that the country won't default on external payments owed to financial grifters in Western banking and financial sectors!

With widespread power blackouts crippling industry and drastically curtailing the income of impoverished workers and farmers, unemployment and soaring prices have driven people over the edge; not that it matters to the IMF. According to The Nation,

The organisation said the country was on track to comply with its economic programme.

In a statement following a 12-day staff mission to review a $7.6 billion stand-by lending programme, the IMF said it was "impressed" by Pakistan's resolve to sustain prudent policies, strengthen the social safety net and pursue reform. ...

The IMF said Pakistan's current monetary policy stance was "appropriate and will continue to promote domestic and external stability". ("Fund okays $800m second tranche," The Nation, February 26, 2009)

With real wages falling precipitously due to inflation and spiraling unemployment, IMF policies and endemic corruption by ruling class elites has ceded the social and political ground to "faith-based" fundamentalists. Operating on the "Saudi model," rightist "charities" do provide social services to the poor. That health care and educational opportunities are largely absent due to state largesse towards "Military, Inc.," a decades-long vacuum has provided entrée to religious obscurantists and sectarians of all stripes who gladly fill the void.

In Pakistan Marx's apt phrase, "religion is the opium of the people," is rich with unintended irony. One Pakistani analyst told USA Today that despite the economic downturn, "militant groups draw donations from sympathizers across the country and the oil-rich Middle East." And when all else fails, criminal enterprises fill the breech. "Their economy doesn't go down--their narcotics, their smuggling, their kidnappings." Indeed!

Here, as elsewhere, speaking of organized crime and organized religion, the jihadi outfits bear a striking resemblance to their "adversaries" in Islamabad--and Washington. As Tariq Ali points out, "Throughout the nineties, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had scolded civilian governments for failing to keep their restructuring promises. Musharraf's regime, by contrast, won admiring praise from 1999 onward for sticking to IMF guidelines 'despite the hardship imposed on the public by austerity measures'."

One might reasonable ask, hardship for whom? Certainly not the clique formerly surrounding Musharraf and now, Zardari or the "opposition" Sharif brothers. And with nearly 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line, IMF structured debt repayment (theft) schemes will only further exacerbate and compound the problem. Ali avers,

A recycling of the country and its modernization is perfectly possible, but it requires large-scale structural reforms. To isolate Pakistan's problems to religious extremism and dual power in Waziristan or the possession of nuclear weapons is to miss the point, to become marooned in a landscape behind enemy lines. These issues ... are not unimportant, but the problems relating to them are a direct result of doing Washington's bidding in previous decades. The imbalance is glaring. In 2001, when U.S. interest in the country resumed, debt and defense amounted to two-thirds of public spending--257 billion rupees ($4.2 billion) and 149.6 billion rupees ($2.5 billion) respectively, compared to total tax revenues of 414.2 billion rupees ($6.9 billion). In a country with one of the worst public education systems in Asia--70 percent of women and 41 percent of men are officially classified as illiterate--and with health care virtually nonexistent for over half the population, a mere 105.1 billion rupees ($1.75 billion) was left for overall development. (The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, New York: Scribner, 2008, pp. 255-256)

In this context, The Atlantic Council's call for "a secure, stable, and prospering Pakistan" is a cruel joke designed to lull the American people into accepting imperialism's new geopolitical "mission" in South Asia. But as in Afghanistan and Iraq, such corporatist fantasies will prove short-lived; the consequences however, will be as disastrous as they are long-lasting.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surging Towards Disaster in the "Afpak Theatre"

On February 18, President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 additional U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan. Obama's announcement will result in a major escalation of America's bloody occupation of that war-ravaged country.

Currently, some 36,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, including some 6,000 sent in early January under orders by the outgoing Bush regime. In addition to U.S. forces, 32,000 troops from other NATO countries and a mix of "private military contractors" (armed mercenaries) occupy the Central Asian nation.

When coupled with increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the Pentagon and military strikes inside Pakistan, the prospects for regional war--with incalculable risks for the people of Central- and South Asia--have put paid Obama's electoral hyperbole that his would be a "change" administration.

In a brief written statement issued Tuesday by the White House, Obama declared that "the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border."

Responding to "a months old" request by "General McKiernan and supported by Secretary Gates, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander of Central Command," Obama will soon dispatch a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (8,000 troops), an Army Stryker Brigade (4,000 soldiers) and 5,000 support troops.

Claiming that increased troop levels "will contribute to the security of the Afghan people," the White House studiously ignores reports from the United Nations, international human rights organizations--and from NATO itself--that the number of civilians killed by all armed actors increased dramatically over the previous year.

A confidential report titled "Metrics Brief, 2007-2008," was published by Wikileaks. Prepared by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan, the 12 page dossier "reveals that civilian deaths from the war in Afghanistan have increased by 46% over the past year." According to the global whistleblowers,

The report shows a dramatic escalation of the war and civil disorder. Coalition deaths increased by 35%, assassinations and kidnappings by 50% and attacks on the Kabul based Government of Hamid Karzai also more than doubled, rising a massive 119%.

The report highlights huge increases on attacks aimed at Coalition forces, including a 27% increase in IED attacks, a 40% rise in rifle and rocket fire and an increase in surface to air fire of 67%.

According to the report, outside of the capital Kabul only one in two families had access to even the most basic health care, and only one in two children had access to a school. ("Wikileaks releases NATO report on civilian deaths," Wikileaks, Press Release, February 16, 2009)

While the majority of civilian deaths were attributed by the United Nations to the criminal actions of the Taliban and the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda, some 828 of 2,118 civilians killed in 2008 were the result of indiscriminate attacks by the Afghan military, U.S. Air Force bombing and berserker American Special Forces units engaged in "counterterrorism" and "counternarcotics" operations. According to The New York Times,

The report singled out special forces and other military units operating outside the normal chains of command. That means their presence and movements are not always known by regular field commanders.

Special forces groups like Navy Seals and paramilitary units operated by the CIA often conduct raids in Afghanistan, and often at night.

The report also said that airstrikes that went awry were often those that were called in by troops under attack.

The United Nations report helps shed light on one of the most divisive issues between the American-led coalition and the Afghan government of Mr. Karzai. (Dexter Filkins, "Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40 Percent in 2008," The New York Times, February 18, 2009)

The growing carnage on the ground reflects the political crisis facing the new administration as capitalism's economic meltdown compel our corporatist masters to grab as much of the world's resources as possible to stanch the economic bleed out.

But as in Iraq and the Middle East generally however, the Obama administration's "surge" across Central Asian will prove quixotic--and deadly.

Kyrgyzstan Gives America the Boot

As the politico-military situation rapidly deteriorates, how the Pentagon will keep "surged" troops resupplied is fast becoming a looming nightmare.

With critical supply routes from Pakistan cut by Afghan Talibs and Pakistani Taliban fighters, who have launched coordinated attacks with Central Asian and Arab al-Qaeda guerrillas, the virtual closure of the Khyber Pass in the North-West Frontier Province has fueled a growing logistical crisis. Prior to last December's offensive by insurgents, some 75% of supplies for NATO forces flowed into Afghanistan along this route.

Adding to NATO's headaches, on February 18 Kyrgyzstan's rubber-stamp parliament voted to close the Manas Airbase near the capital Bishkek. According to The Guardian, Wednesday's vote followed "a backroom deal two weeks ago between the country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev."

The Americans have six months to pack up and vacate the premises.

The kleptocratic Bakiyev regime has been promised a $2.15 billion loan and a debt write-off by Moscow in a move intended to wrest concessions from the United States to keep the military hardware flowing. Asia Times reported February 20,

In the end, transit salvation for the US and NATO is indeed coming from no one else but Russia--but on Moscow's terms: this means Russia possibly using its own military planes to airlift the supplies. A deceptively charming Medvedev has been on the record identifying "very positive signs" in the new US-Russia chess match. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been on the record saying transit of US and NATO non-military supplies through Russia begins in effect only a few days after the 20th anniversary of the Soviets leaving Kabul. (Pepe Escobar, "Obama, Osama and Medvedev," Asia Times Online, February 20, 2009)

As investigative journalist Pepe Escobar points out, "the price" that the United States and NATO will pay to have their supplies arrive from Russia is being made painfully clear to Washington: "no more encirclement, no more NATO extension, no more anti-missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland for protection against non-existent Iranian missiles. All this has to be negotiated in detail."

But in a potential move seen as a maneuver to bypass Moscow, The Independent reported that "the new US administration had indicated that it was prepared to talk to Iran about the Afghan situation."

No friend of the Sunni-based insurgency next door, nor of U.S.-backed jihadi groups such as Jundullah attacking from Pakistan, Tehran may be willing to cut a deal with Washington. Independent journalist Kim Sengupta writes that "Italy, which assumes the presidency of the G8 this year, said that Tehran would be invited to participate in a summit on Afghanistan. The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: 'We want to consider how to involve Iran, not whether to involve Iran'."

But how this will play out may be determined by America's stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East, Israel, and that country's "naval task force" in Washington, the powerful Israel lobby. And with Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right Likud party given the nod by Israeli President Shimon Peres "to take the lead" in forming the next government, it's an even bet that Bibi may cut a deal with Avigdor Lieberman's neofascist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Netanyahu and Lieberman have both threatened to bomb Iran's civilian nuclear facilities, and have called that nation Israel's number one "national security threat."

While Washington's chattering classes prattle on about the need to "fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them here," the sad reality for the Afghan people is that the Obama administration and their corporatist masters don't give a hoot about their suffering, the unprecedented "surge" in heroin production, the rise and rise of organized crime-linked "Islamic fundamentalists," or for that matter, bringing al-Qaeda to ground. It's all hot air designed to get the American people on-board as imperialism escalates the "right war" in Central- and South Asia.

With the 9/11 attacks as a backdrop--and pretext--for carrying out a long-planned military intervention to conqueror Afghanistan, either through proxies (remember the enthusiasm in petroleum board rooms when the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996!) or now, by installing a narco regime amenable to American demands, the unspoken project remains what it has always been: the "sole superpower's" hegemonic control over the vast oil and gas reserves of Central Asia.

Pakistan, Jihadis and America's Killer Drones

Meanwhile, on the "Pak" side of the "Afpak theatre" America's former "best friends forever," the Pakistani Taliban grouped under the banner of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, TNSM) have been doing some "surging" of their own.

Having successfully concluded a "truce" with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari in the North-West Frontier Province's Malakand District, the nominally secular Pakistan Peoples Party has ceded the political ground to Army and Inter Services Intelligence agency-linked militants with long-standing ties to international terrorist outfits and drug trafficking cartels. In other words, American allies.

But before the ink on the agreement had even dried, a television journalist with Pakistan's Geo network, Musa Khan Khel, covering TNSM head honcho Maulana Sufi Mohammed's triumphant entry into Mingora February 17, was brutally murdered. Riddled with bullets, his nearly decapitated body was found on the side of a road shortly after the TNSM leader announced that "peace" had come to the Swat Valley. Khel, according to reports, had been seeking an interview with TTP "emir" Maulana Fazlullah.

The News reported February 20 that TNSM leaders are meeting with their TTP counterparts to seal the deal to lay down their arms in lieu of the imposition of Sharia law in Malakand.

In 2001, the "peacemaker" and self-proclaimed "Sharia-lover" had led some 10,000 untrained volunteers across the border into Afghanistan to fight the American-led narcotrafficking Northern Alliance during the initial stages of the U.S. invasion. Drawn from madrassas across Pakistan as disposable cannon-fodder for the ISI, thousands were killed.

In the aftermath of the TTP and the Army's bloody operations Swat lay in ruins, its people terrorized and its infrastructure all but destroyed. Describing the region as a "hell-hole of bodies and ruin," The Sunday Times reports that

In the former mountain resort of Malam Jabba, where skiing thrived when the surrounding Swat Valley was an international attraction, one can still see the remnants of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation's flagship hotel. The building was blown up by the Taliban because it was being used for "un-Islamic activities".

Hundreds of other hotels in the valley have been destroyed or forced to close after threats from the militants. (Daud Khattakis, "Into a Taliban wasteland of blood and fear," The Sunday Times, February 22, 2009)

But the destruction of critical infrastructure that fueled the region's economy is but the visible manifestation of a virtual reign of terror that grips Swat Valley. Khattakis writes:

What I found in Swat was a hell-hole. Suicide bombings, car bombs and artillery have scarred the valley's roads and buildings. The charred remains of hospitals and even a madrasah (seminary) litter the landscape.

Nearly 200 schools have been destroyed, all girls over the age of eight are banned from lessons and, in a symbol of the Taliban's hatred of learning, the public library in Mingora has been wrecked.

The Taliban have banned music and dancing, television and internet cafes. Women cannot leave home without wearing a burqa, the all-encompassing robe. Justice has been enforced with floggings and public executions. (The Sunday Times, ibid.)

In the heart of Mingora's bazaar, Green Square is now known as Khooni Chowk, or bloody square "because of the public executions carried out there by Taliban who leave the bullet-riddled bodies of police and soldiers for all to see."

One wonders what justification "Sharia-lover" Sufi Mohammed and his sociopathic son-in-law Fazlullah have for butchering whole families, including children, who simply wish to be left in peace?

According to multiple reports in the Pakistani media, since the TTP's violent take over of the region, organized crime gangs have flourished and car-jackings, armed robberies, kidnappings, rapes and murders as well as an explosive increase in the drug trade have turned Swat into an post-apocalyptic landscape. Like their American counterparts in crime, the message of TTP "emirs" seems to be: "Kill 'em all, and let God sort them out."

But here as elsewhere, the rise of reactionary fundamentalism has far more to do with failing state structures than with religious enthusiasm. Incapable of providing food, employment, housing and health care to its citizens, Pakistani elites, like corporate grifters everywhere, undermine their position by selling-off economic assets to well-connected cronies and ceding educational and social welfare services to "faith-based" groups, as in the U.S.

In this context, The Nation reported February 18 that the Cabinet Committee on Privatization approved the (fire) sale sell-off of some 21 state-owned enterprises, including "four power companies and other state-owned entities including SME Bank, National Power Construction Company, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Post."

Utterly bankrupt and bereft of imagination when its comes to ameliorating the horrendous economic and social hardships faced by Pakistani workers and farmers, the bourgeois PPP government following "advice" from their mentors in Washington, will instead line the pockets of their "constituents," the multinational corporations and the comprador elites who do their bidding.

The Swat truce follows revelations by The Times that the "CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan."

While the Pakistani government has demanded that the U.S. halt drone attacks in the area, The Times discovered "that the CIA has been using the Shamsi airfield--originally built by Arab sheikhs for falconry expeditions in the southwestern province of Baluchistan--for at least a year."

The New York-based whistleblowing intelligence and security website Cryptome published a series of satellite images as part of their "Eyeball" series on February 18. One image, captured in 2006 before construction of a huge hangar meant to conceal America's robot killing machines was completed, show Predator drones on the Shamsi air strip.

According to Cryptome's anonymous correspondent, "This is a very capable base facility with a large hangar in addition to the two Predator support hangars. Nearby is a large secured compound (appears empty) which could support up to a battalion of special ops and associated command and control. The large parking area inside the compound is perfect to land choppers and leave with relative security. All security measures seem fresh."

As I reported February 16, "U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dropped a bombshell when she revealed that CIA Predator drones are flown from an airbase in Pakistan." Feinstein's disclosure came during hearings February 12 before the Senate Intelligence Committee. While the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have refused to comment, unnamed "U.S. intelligence officials" described the senator's statement as "accurate."

Despite these revelations, Pakistan's Defense Minister Chaudry Ahmad Mukhtar continues to deny "that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is controlling drone attacks from the Shamsi base in Balochistan, and said Pakistan had no secret understanding with the US to use bases in Pakistan to carry out attacks in the Tribal Areas, according to a February 20 report in Daily Times.

Mukhtar said: "Certain news reports claiming that the CIA runs predator flights from the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan are baseless ... Pakistan has no such understanding with the US to allow it to use its bases for predator attacks."

How the Defense Minister squares his denial with inescapable facts on the ground is another matter entirely. But revelations over the CIA's use of Shamsi Airbase may be the least of the Defense Ministry's problems.

"In a dramatic development," according to The News, "three prominent Pakistani militant commanders--Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazeer--on Friday set aside their differences and promised to jointly fight their enemy in future."

Two of the three Pakistani Taliban leaders were considered "pro-government" and had been recruited to fight Mehsud's TTP and their al-Qaeda allies but have since been alienated from the state due to persistent Predator attacks by the CIA from bases provided by Pakistan. The News reports,

If the three men, who now rule South and North Waziristan tribal region in true sense, got united, they could give a tough time to the government in future.

The militants from Wana said now they had understood Pakistan's divide and rule policy, and decided to get united and fight together against it in future. "Pakistan caused more losses to the Mujahideen than the US. It handed over 700 Arab Mujahideen to the US and jailed our people," the commander alleged. (Mushtaq Yusufzai, "Top militant commanders resolve rift," The News, February 21, 2009)

Islamabad's double-game with the imperialist Dracula on the one hand and the jihadi Frankenstein on the other demonstrates, if nothing else, the impervious nature of the existing political system to "change" on all sides of the "Afpak problem."

Barring a dramatic transformation of the political state of affairs, the bill for American and Pakistani duplicity is coming due, and it will be the people of South Asia who will pay a heavy price.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Destabilizing Pakistan, America Plays with Fire

With the Obama administration preparing a major military escalation across South Asia, the corrupt ruling elites perched in their palaces in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi have demonstrated their contempt for the Pakistani people. Unable, and unwilling, to solve the deep-seated structural problems facing their nation--unemployment, lack of security, rampant crime and corruption, the lack of public education, the absence of health care, free expression and the right to be left alone to live in peace--like the Musharraf clique, the Zardari administration has cut a deal with the imperialist overlords who now threaten destruction on a planetary scale. Caught between the jihadi Frankenstein and the American Draculas waiting in the wings, it is the people of South Asia who will pay a steep price as the Pentagon and their corporatist masters seek a "solution" to what Washington insiders have dubbed the "Af-Pak" problem.

CIA Predators Strike from Pakistan

As the United States ramps-up regional military operations, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dropped a bombshell when she revealed that CIA Predator drones are flown from an airbase in Pakistan, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Expressing surprise at Pakistan's opposition to missile strikes launched in that country's borderlands with Afghanistan, Feinstein said "As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base."

If true, this latest revelation will only serve to destabilize the civilian government of Pakistan Peoples Party President Asif Ali Zardari.

As if the underscore Feinstein's disclosure, The Guardian reported February 16 that "A US missile strike against suspected militants in a tribal area of Pakistan killed 30 people today, as Islamabad announced a peace deal with extremists in another region that includes the imposition of Islamic law."

The latest strike allegedly targeted a home used by a "Taliban commander close to the Afghan border." This was the fourth Predator missile attack on Pakistan since Obama became President.

Monday's attack followed a strike on February 14. The New York Times reported that two Hellfire missiles fired from CIA Predators struck a compound in South Waziristan killing upwards of 32 people.

According to reports, the target was alleged to be a safe house where Baitullah Mehsud, a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) "emir" and his henchmen often gathered. The New York Times, citing a Pakistani "intelligence official" claimed that "Arab and Uzbek" foreign fighters allied with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets were among those killed.

Caught between the pincers of U.S. imperialism and a home-grown Islamist insurgency with ties to the Afghan Taliban, Washington's "former" allies, al-Qaeda, and elements of its own Army and intelligence services, the Zardari government is in full crisis mode.

The disclosure by Feinstein came during testimony February 12 before the Committee by U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair.

While the CIA refused to comment and DNI Blair did not respond to her statement, unnamed "U.S. intelligence officials" described the senator's remarks as "accurate." Feinstein's spokesperson, Philip J. LaVelle, claimed the senator's comment "was based solely on previous news reports that Predators were operated from bases near Islamabad," the L. A. Times reported.

Pakistani officials were quick to discredit Feinstein's remarks. Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar told Daily Times, "We do have the facilities from where they can fly, but they are not being flown from Pakistani territory. They are being flown from Afghanistan."

The revelations will not sit well with elements within the military and intelligence establishment that continue to favorably view terrorist proxies such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) or for that matter the TTP.

As I previously reported, on January 23 twenty-two people, including 8 or 10 alleged members of al-Qaeda, the rest civilians, were killed when CIA Predator drones slammed into houses in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Despite an escalating campaign that saw some 30 CIA Predator strikes in the latter half of 2008, American officials conceded that the CIA had failed to kill "senior al-Qaeda commanders."

Feinstein's remarks are certain to enflame tensions against Pakistan's civilian government. But with a history of destabilizing civilian regimes viewed as "problematic" to wider geopolitical goals--the U.S. after all, was complicit in the Army and ISI's "soft coups" against Bhutto twice during the 1990s--this may be Washington's intent.

The symbolism of the Predator attacks couldn't be clearer: most of the CIA missile strikes were launched since September when the Zardari administration took power. If this is the case, the United States is playing with fire and most assuredly will get burned, along with millions of South Asia's people caught in the cross-fire.

"Winning" Through Capitulation: the TTP's Long March to Power

Predator missile strikes and American threats aren't the only problems plaguing Pakistan. A home-grown Islamist insurgency has been steadily gaining ground since 2007 and the latest moves by that government's nominal secular leadership is cause for concern.

President Zardari told CBS News' "60 Minutes" Sunday, "We are aware of the fact (the Taliban are) trying to take over the state of Pakistan. So, we're fighting for the survival of Pakistan." However, the government has responded by capitulating to the TTP's demands in NWFP's Malakand district that includes the Swat Valley.

A target of the CIA's February 14 missile strike, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah, Pakistani veterans of America's anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, command a formidable army.

With links to elements within Pakistan's organized crime-tainted Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and Army officers (serving and retired) who came to prominence during the reign of dictator General Zia ul-Haq, the TTP have been marching eastward from their redoubts in North and South Waziristan, the North-West Frontier Province and now threaten chaos within Pakistan's major population centers.

In the past year alone, TTP militants have launched more than 600 terrorist attacks, killing 2,000 people. Last September, a truck packed with explosives demolished the Marriott hotel in downtown Islamabad, killing 60 and injuring some 260 others. The political fallout was devastating to the Zardari administration when it emerged that the perpetrators were Pakistanis. With a reputation as a grifter--after all, Asif and Benazir had amassed some $1.5 billion in assets after Bhutto's two terms in office--the Yankee overlords made it clear they had no confidence in his administration and would prefer another compliant military "Big Man" to rule the roost.

Since September, the situation has grown markedly worse. TTP and al-Qaeda fighters along with their Afghan Talib cousins, have virtually cut NATO's supply lines into Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and now threaten Peshawar, the NWFP's capital, a sprawling city of three million people.

According to the latest reports in the Pakistani press, the TTP now control some eighty percent of the territory of the Swat Valley where Mehsud's local commander, Maulana Fazlullah has instituted a reign of terror under the banner of "Sharia Law." The Pakistan military, according to local politicians, lawyers, teachers and residents under threat of death by the militants, has waged an ineffective and counterproductive campaign that has relied on punishing artillery barrages that kill and maim civilians.

While top political and military leaders have "vowed to crush militancy in the North Western parts of the country" according to The Nation, it appears that the government's strategy for "winning" entails a complete capitulation to the TTP's demands, including the imposition of draconian religious strictures on the people of Swat that will be "administered" by the Taliban themselves!

Since the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) affair in 2007, the TTP has challenged the state's writ and has spread sectarian medievalism across Pakistan, launching terrorist strikes in major cities, bombing girls' schools, burning down video shops, executing "immoral" women and beheading secular and leftist opponents. Along with the carnage, organized crime and the drug traffic has markedly increased. Dawn reported,

A high-level security meeting presided over jointly by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday reviewed the situation in tribal areas and the NWFP and decided to continue the military operation in Swat till the establishment of government’s writ. (Syed Irfan Raza, "Operation to go on till writ is restored: Jammers to block Maulana's radio," Dawn, February 14, 2009)

Critics charge however, the government's rhetoric is no more than a band-aid over a gangrenous wound. In a move designed to placate the jihadist Frankenstein and bolster charges of complicity levelled by secular critics, NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain "has said that headway has been made towards implementation of Shariah regulation in Swat valley," according to a report in The News.

Following these talks, The News reported February 15, the government had "finalized" a "five-point agreement," one that negotiated the surrender of women's and worker's rights with Maulana Sufi Mohammed, the chief of the banned Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, TNSM) and father-in-law of TTP "emir" Fazlullah.

On February 16, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the NWFP's Chief Minister announced that the Army will pull out of of active operations in the Malakand district, which includes Swat Valley, after reaching an agreement that will see the imposition of Sharia law on the people--against their wishes.

While Hoti claims that the fundamentalists will "lay down their arms" as a result of the agreement, Pakistani critics believe that the organization will use the state's climb-down to regroup and rearm, gathering strength to launch new operations aimed at the centers of power. Feebly, Hoti told The News, "It is my hope that the armed people will disarm themselves, give up the path of violence and work for restoration of peace in Swat."

NWFP's Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain announced that "after successful negotiations, all un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Koran and the Sunnah, would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void," according to The New York Times.

Needless to say, like those conducted by their imperialist overlords, the agreement was negotiated behind the backs of the people affected by Taliban depredations. Following the announcement of the deal the McClatchy Washington Bureau reported,

Many Pakistani Army and intelligence officers ... oppose using force against fellow Muslims, and some have ties to militant groups.

"This (new agreement) is definitely a surrender," said Khadim Hussain of the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, a policy institute in Islamabad, the capital. "If you keep treating a community as something different from the rest of the country, it will isolate them."

Javed Iqbal, a retired judge, speaking on Pakistani television, said: "It means that there is not one law in the country. It will disintegrate this way. If you concede to this, you will go on conceding." (Saeed Shah, "Pakistani government makes deal with Islamic militants," McClatchy Washington Bureau, February 15, 2009)

Human- and women's rights activist and political commentator, Saba Gul Khattak, the author of Inconvenient Facts: Military regimes and women's political representation in Pakistan writes,

A host of other explanations tell us how the Taliban have managed to spread. For example, some middle ranking army officers and bureaucrats bitterly accuse their superiors of betrayal. They feel frustrated and demoralized by the perception that the Americans, in cahoots with some in leadership positions, play double games, e.g. equipping select Taliban groups with sophisticated technologies that are effectively used against their attempts to restrain the activities of the Taliban. Many analysts blame the Musharraf government for deliberately looking away while the MMA encouraged right wing organizations to spread their operations. ...

These forebodings are augmented by stories of the Taliban's viciousness, their monopoly over the weapons of fear as they demonstrate their brutality by skinning people, slitting their throats and mutilating bodies, collapsing the difference between human beings and animals.

Meanwhile, the affected people continue to protest in a mute manner, bitter against the armed forces and political government for failing them; and, loathing the Taliban for dislodging them from their homes. Some even contend that the military and the Taliban are one and the same--the soldier who guards his security camp in the day wears a turban and becomes a Talib in the evening. ("Are Taliban Inevitable?," The News, February 16, 2009)

The fact is, most Pakistanis believe religion is a private matter and should be separate from the public sphere. But that doesn't inhibit the TTP and other jihadist outfits from imposing their sectarian will by force and now, with the complicity of the state.

While the Western media portray the country as a hot-bed of fundamentalist extremism, the Taliban-linked parties were shown the door in the 2008 national elections, installing "secular" parties busily negotiating their rights away. Closely associated with the venal Musharraf regime, the five-party alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which had garnered some 15% of the vote in 2002 and controlled the NWFP government suffered a devastating loss. As socialist critic and historian Tariq Ali wrote on the deadly embrace of Pakistani elites and their American neocolonial partners,

Back in the heart of Pakistan the most difficult and explosive issue remains social and economic inequality. This is not unrelated to the increase in the number of madrassas. If there were a half-decent state education system, poor families might not feel the need to hand over a son or daughter to the clerics in the hope that at least one child will be clothed, fed, and educated. Were there even the semblance of a health care system, many would be saved from illnesses contracted as a result of fatigue and poverty. No government since 1947 has done much to reduce inequality. ...

I spent my last day in Karachi with fishermen in a village near Korangi Creek. The government has signed away the mangroves where shellfish and lobsters flourish, and land is being reclaimed to build Diamond City, Sugar City, and other monstrosities on the Gulf model. The fishermen had been campaigning against these encroachments, but with little success. "We need a tsunami," one of them half joked. We talked about their living conditions. "All we dream of is schools for our children, medicines and clinics in our villages, clean water and electricity in our homes," one woman said. "Is that too much to ask for?" Nobody even mentioned religion. (The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, New York: Scribner, 2008, p. 27)

Not that any this matters to the ruling class in Islamabad who "win" no matter what the cost to the victims of the Army and the jihadi Frankensteins for whom cutting a deal--or a throat--is just another day at the office.

A. Q. Khan's Rehabilitation: Placating the Army

The release of nuclear proliferator Dr. A. Q. Khan from house arrest earlier this month, lifting restrictions imposed in 2004 when the scandal surrounding Pakistan's illicit black market in nuclear technology first broke, is another sign that Zardari is in deep trouble at home. Khan's release was a political decision intended to shore-up support on the president's right flank.

Khan was released February 7 according to Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar "under an agreement" that was not disclosed. Intending to cut-off American criticism of the deal with Khan, IPS reported that

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has categorically stated that Khan stands relieved of his duties and had nothing to do with the country's nuclear-related policies.

"We have successfully broken the network that he had set up and today he has no say and has no access to any sensitive areas of Pakistan," Qureshi said. "A.Q. Khan is history." (Beena Sarwar, "Opening the A. Q. Khan Can of Worms," Inter Press Service, February 11, 2009)

Other Pakistanis however, are far more sceptical of the timing of Khan's rehabilitation.

"The disinformation is so extreme, it is shocking how the private television channels celebrated his release," one Karachi-based observer told IPS, asking not to be named. "How come people are not curious about how he made so much money and brought international disgrace upon the country? He should be in jail and tried for treason."

That is unlikely to happen, say observers, because at least some elements of the Pakistan army must have been involved in Khan's deals, without which they would not have been possible. (IPS, ibid.)

In a July 2008 interview, Khan described how a shipment of centrifuges from Pakistan to North Korea in 2000 was "supervised by the army during the rule of President Pervez Musharraf... the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment," according to IPS.

While London and Washington accepted Musharraf's fairy-tale that Khan was a "rogue scientist" whose ring operated solely for its own profit, for three decades America turned a blind-eye to Pakistan's proliferation schemes and covered-up the deadly trade.

Indeed, for "reasons of state" successive U.S. administrations, stretching from Gerald R. Ford through George W. Bush, utilized the same shadowy intelligence and organized crime networks as did Khan, from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International's "Black Network" to Dawood Ibrahim's D-Company (an ISI asset used in last November's Mumbai terror attacks) as a sources of illicit funds for covert operations and as proxies to attack strategic targets of the United States.

Despite feeble expressions of "concern" from the U.S. State Department, like Islamabad, Washington capos echo the sentiments of Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who said just after the High Court ruling, "as far we are concerned, we have said time and again, this chapter is closed."

While the Khan "chapter" may be "closed," the crisis may be far worse than imagined. Daily Times reported February 4 that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei "has said Pakistan's nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists due to the prevailing instability in the South Asian country." Instability, I might add, that the United States and their NATO partners seem hell-bent on spreading far and wide.

Why then, would the United States embark on such a deadly adventure? If Pakistan were pushed by internal and external forces to fly-apart, it would set the stage for the military occupation of the country by the U.S. and their partners under the guise of "peacekeeping" and "stability operations."

Bordering Iran, Afghanistan, India and China, and occupying a strategic position south of the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, a balkanized Pakistan under the control of the United States would be a spear-tip aimed directly at resource-rich China, India and Russia. However mad such a scenario appears initially, particularly when the threat of catastrophic nuclear war could be one outcome, American brinksmanship cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The global capitalist economic crisis is accelerating and deepening; that much is certain. Attempts by financial mandarins in New York and Washington have failed to ameliorate the underlying contradictions plaguing the system as a whole; a crisis in classic Marxist terms partaking of both a crisis of overproduction and a falling rate of profit.

With financial systems on hair-trigger alert, and governments around the world seeking to balance the books on the backs of the people through massive cut-backs and the destruction of workers' rights, America's corporatist masters may not be looking towards Roosevelt's New Deal as a model but rather to an updated, thoroughly technophilic 21st century fascist model first devised by Hitler and Mussolini--with great fanfare I might add, by political elites in the United States.

In this context, imperialist military adventurism in South Asia and the Middle East may very well be the opening act for new wars of conquest, with incalculable risks for the planet. The people of South Asia would be well-advised to heed Tariq Ali's sage advice: Empires old and new have no friends. They only have interests.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

State Secrets and Deceit: Obama Embraces CIA Torture

As predictably as night follows day, the Obama regime defended the CIA's practice of "extraordinary rendition" (kidnapping) of suspected "terrorists" to third countries where they are subject to "enhanced interrogation" (torture) by allied security services.

Binyam Mohamed and four other victims have charged that they were brutalized after being "disappeared" by CIA operatives and secretly flown to Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan and eastern European CIA "black sites."

On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas N. Letter argued before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that the "change" administration would press ahead with the Bush regime's odious invocation of the state secrets privilege to suppress a lawsuit brought by torture victims against Boeing subsidiary, San Jose, California-based Jeppesen DataPlan.

In a thinly-veiled threat to the Ninth Circuit, Letter told the Court according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Judges shouldn't play with fire."

Claiming that allowing the suit to go forward would irreparably harm "national security," Letter argued that once they examine the government's classified evidence "you will see that this case cannot be litigated."

In a truly Orwellian twist that further compromises American credibility and the Obama administration, The Guardian reported February 11 that "US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay has been tortured."

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, which represents Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, sent Obama evidence of what he called "truly mediaeval" abuse but substantial parts were blanked out so the president could not read it.

In the letter to the president, Stafford Smith urges him to order the disclosure of the evidence.

Stafford Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command." (Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Cobain, "Binyam Mohamed torture evidence 'hidden from Obama'," The Guardian, February 11, 2009)

The censoring of Stafford Smith's evidential letter by U.S. defense officials might have been done, according to The Guardian "to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment." In any event it now appears Obama, by casting his lot with war criminals, kidnappers and torturers has every reason to be concerned with his own criminal liability.

These latest revelations follow on the heels of repeated threats by "U.S. intelligence officials" that they would "stop sharing intelligence" with the UK if evidence relating to Mohamed's torture were disclosed. Indeed, Mohamed's U.S.-appointed military lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, told a news conference on February 10 that Mohamed's treatment "would make waterboarding seem like child's play."

At Monday's hearing in San Francisco The New York Times reports, undercutting arguments that the president is "distracted" by the economic meltdown, that when asked by Judge Mary M. Schroeder, "Is there anything material that has happened" in a sly reference to Obama's November election, Letter replied, "No, your honor."

Judge Schroeder asked, "The change in administration has no bearing?"

Once more, he said, "No, Your Honor." The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been "thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration," and "these are the authorized positions," he said. (John Schwartz, "Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets," The New York Times, February 10, 2009)

And indeed they are, demonstrating once again the continuity--and consensus--amongst ruling class elites when its comes to the defense of repressive national security policies. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director said:

Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again. ("Justice Department Stands Behind Bush Secrecy in Extraordinary Rendition Case," American Civil Liberties Union, Press Release, February 9, 2009)

As ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, told Glenn Greenwald about Jeppesen DataPlan's role in the CIA's "rendition" program:

They were essentially the CIA's torture travel agents. They were the one who arranged all the overflight rights for the CIA civilian planes to be able to fly from country to country. They handled the security and the logistics. They filed dummy flight plans to try to trick air traffic controllers into not being able to track where the actual flights were going. And we know they knew what they were doing because we have a witness in our case, someone who's given us a sworn declaration, who was an employee of Jeppesen DataPlan, and who was present when senior officials of the company were openly boasting about their role in the torture flights, and about how much money they made from them because the CIA spared no expense.

We were able, with the help of an investigative journalist and other documentary evidence, to link Jeppesen to an number of very specific CIA rendition flights, involving these five torture victims who were flown to countries like Egypt, Morocco, to CIA sites in Afghanistan and eastern Europe. ("ACLU's Ben Wizner on immediate Obama tests," Salon, January 30, 2009)

That Jeppesen employee, Sean Belcher, a technical writer hired by the firm in 2006, told the San Francisco Chronicle,

...he attended a breakfast for new employees on Aug. 11, 2006, and heard a welcoming speech from Bob Overby, a company director. While describing Jeppesen's work, Belcher said, Overby told the employees, "We do all the extraordinary rendition flights." Later, he said, Overby added that these were "the torture flights," and explained, "Let's face it, some of these flights end up this way."

Belcher also quoted Overby as saying that the flights paid well and that the government spared no expense. Belcher said he quit his job five days later. (Bob Egelko, "Ex-San Jose aviation firm worker says exec talked of torture flights," San Francisco Chronicle, December 15, 2007)

As the CIA's booking agent, Jeppesen worked with tiny charter airlines that were no more than CIA corporate cut-outs. As investigative journalists Trevor Paglen and A. C. Thompson documented,

A curious quirk of the CIA's fleet of aircraft is that they are civilian, rather than military, planes. Owing to U.S. law and the CIA's status as a civilian agency, the planes are owned by front-companies and operated by a handful of aviation charter companies. One of the consequence of this is that each of these civilian companies leave a long and voluminous paper trail...

As we look more closely at the corporate documents and aviation filings we've gotten hold of, a landscape begins to emerge. This particular landscape isn't "over there," on the many battlefields of the "war on terror." Rather, the landscape we see depicted in these documents is stealthily and subtly woven into the fabric of everyday life in the United States. (Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights, Hoboken, NJ: Melville House Publishing, 2006, pp. 45-46)

Indeed, once the charter companies were selected by the CIA, Jeppesen handled the logistical and navigational details, designed flight plans, obtained flight clearance to fly over other countries, ground-crew arrangements, even hotel reservations for the pilots and the other facilitators of human rights abuse. As Boeing says on its website, "From Aachen to Zhengzhou, King Airs to 747s, Jeppesen has done it all." And Jeppesen DataPlan, in an Orwellian burst of chutzpah, declared:

Trust. The key ingredient in any International Trip Planning relationship. Just like the trust pilots place in Jeppesen's Worldwide Instrument Charting, you can count on caring, professional people who work with you personally to ensure your needs are met.

How precisely were Binyam Mohamed's "needs" met? According to the complaint filed in 2007 by the ACLU, after being abducted in Pakistan the Ethiopian national was secretly flown to Morocco. Once there,

Mr. Mohamed was subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. He was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness due to the beatings. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution, and death.

Mr. Mohamed was handcuffed, fitted with earphones, and forced to listen to extremely loud music day and night, sometimes interrupting his sleep for forty-eight hours at a time. He was placed in a damp, moldy room with open sewage for a month at a time. He believed his food to be drugged, but when he refused to eat he was forcibly hooked up to two different IVs. These IVs alternated pumping different substances into his body, the combination of which forced him to undergo painful withdrawal symptoms. (IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, Division of San Jose; BINYAM MOHAMED, ABOU ELKASSIM BRITEL, AHMED AGIZA, Plaintiffs, v. JEPPESEN DATAPLAN, INC., Civil Action No. 2798, COMPLAINT, DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL, p. 18)

And what of Jeppesen's collusive behavior with the CIA? The complaint avers,

In return for undisclosed fees, Jeppesen has played a critical role in the successful implementation of the extraordinary rendition program. It has furnished essential flight and logistical support to aircraft used by the CIA to transfer terror suspects to secret detention and interrogation facilities in countries such as Morocco and Egypt where, according to the U.S. Department of State, the use of torture is "routine," as well as to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas, where the United States government maintains that the safeguards of U.S. law do not apply. ...

In providing its services to the CIA, Jeppesen knew or reasonably should have known that Plaintiffs would be subjected to forced disappearance, detention, and torture in countries where such practices are routine. Indeed, according to published reports, Jeppesen had actual knowledge of the consequences of its activities. (Complaint, op. cit., pp. 3-4)

As long time readers of Antifascist Calling are well aware, once Jeppesen DataPlan had "done it all" to deliver Mohamed into the hands of his torturers in Morocco, he was subsequently "rendered" to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and then on to Guantánamo where he was subjected to the full panoply of behavior modification techniques that evolved from the CIA's MKULTRA "mind control" program of the 1950s-1970s.

Reporting last September, I documented how CIA and U.S. military psychologists, under the ever-vigilant tutelage of contractors Drs. Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, did the heavy-lifting to tailor a regime of psychological assault on prisoners under the control of the CIA and the Pentagon.

Drawing their "inspiration" from torture manuals written decades apart, the CIA's "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation," Military Intelligence's "Human Resource Exploitation Manual-1983," and "reversed-engineered" techniques culled from the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program known as SERE, interrogators implemented a repulsive torture regime under orders from the highest levels of the Bush administration, as ABC News revealed last April.

The "refined" methods described in KUBARK and HRE included: forced drugging, hooding, sexual humiliation, extended sensory deprivation, prolonged interrogation, environmental and dietary manipulation, beatings, stress positions and other methods of "self-inflicted pain." CIA officers and their Military Intelligence doppelgängers, at the urging of White House masters, systematically committed war crimes on defenseless prisoners in their custody. These are the closely-guarded state secrets the Obama regime seeks to conceal.

Currently incarcerated at the Guantánamo Bay torture facility and gravely ill due to a prolonged hunger strike the U.S. government is preparing to release Mohamed, having failed to produce a shred of evidence linking him to any "terrorist" activity whatsoever.

The kid-gloves approach to a Boeing subsidiary shouldn't surprise anyone. According to Washington Technology, Boeing clocked-in at number two on their "Top 100" list of "prime government contractors," pulling down some $9,706,621,413 in state largess.

A major corporate grifter, for decades Boeing has feathered its nest (and that of its well-paid executives) by feeding at the trough of taxpayer-financed handouts. According to The Seattle Times, CEO James McNerney "earned" some $19 million in total compensation in 2007.

However, Boeing's shady dealings have also resulted in huge fines for corporate malfeasance. As the Project on Government Oversight's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database documents, since 1995 Boeing has paid some $1.6 billion in fines to the federal government, private citizens, states and counties in judgments levied against the defense giant.

According to POGO, these range from Arms Export Control violations, defective pricing, discriminatory practices against employees, the manufacturing of defective parts, Anti-Trust Law violations and the illegal discharge of radioactive and toxic chemical waste into the environment. Sounds like business as usual to me!

"Less than three weeks after the inauguration," as the World Socialist Web Site points out, "it is becoming ever more apparent that the new administration has been brought into office to defend the same social and class interests as the previous one, is utilizing similar methods and relying on the same personnel within the national security apparatus responsible for the criminal activities of the past eight years."

And with a "reconfigured" National Security Council on the horizon according to The Washington Post, one endowed with ever-more sweeping powers to set "strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues," who pray tell will be heading up those efforts? Why none other than John O. Brennan, of course!

Obama's first choice to head the CIA, Brennan has a dual role within the administration: as NSC Director James L. Jones' top adviser and as the president's resident counterterrorism and homeland security "expert."

As I reported shortly after the election in November, Brennan was a former president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation (TAC). During the 1990s, TAC developed the government's first terrorist database and in 2003 it morphed into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE)--the "watch list people"--managed by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) which Brennan directed for three years. How convenient!

However, Obama was forced to remove Brennan from consideration as CIA Director when it was revealed he was a leading advocate of the extraordinary rendition program and a staunch defender of the Company's "enhanced coercive interrogation techniques," the focus of the ACLU's lawsuit on behalf of Binyam Mohamed and other "war on terror" casualties.

In seeking to deny the victims their day in court, the Obama administration takes full possession of Bushist savagery. Now how's that for a dirty little (state) secret!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Targeting the RNC Welcoming Committee: A Case Study in Political Paranoia

Political repression comes in all shapes and sizes: from the beat cop smashing the head of a demonstrator to the bureaucrat adding a name to a watch list. While the former has an immediate and shocking effect, the latter, more insidious and far-reaching in its probable consequences to the individual, is less amenable to redress. Once indexed, always indexed.

Certainly one of the more sinister trends in America today are the multiplicity of partnerships among state security agencies and their analogues in the corporate world. Indeed, many CIA or FBI officers upon retirement join the highly-lucrative and unaccountable world of corporate spying. Nowhere are these revolving-door relationships more toxic to a democracy than in the area of political intelligence.

A March 27, 2008 document prepared by the now-defunct Highway Watch (HW), a "public-private partnership" administered by the virulently anti-union American Trucking Associations (ATA)--a key member of the oxymoronic Coalition for a Democratic Workplace--and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Operations Center (DHS) has been published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

Authored by Cory Kutcher, a former intelligence analyst with HW's Information Sharing & Analysis Center (ISAC) and now a government analyst "in the Defense and Space Industry" according to LinkedIn, the dossier is a veritable case study in political paranoia and pseudo-academic posturing. Breathless allegations and dire pronouncements abound which helped set the stage for wholesale repression.

The focus of Kutcher's report was the anarchist/anti-authoritarian RNC Welcoming Committee (RNC-WC). Right from the outset, misrepresentations served the purpose of eliciting a harsh response from police. Kutcher warns "it is likely that they [RNC-WC] will target transportation infrastructure."

In HW's paranoid scenario, blocking traffic and civil disobedience was transformed into a scenario where hordes of masked anarchists utilizing a "diversity of tactics" threatend chaos in the furtherance of "terrorism."


The Republican National Committee (RNC) held its quadrennial convention in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1-4, 2008. As I reported in November ("Preemptive Policing & the National Security State: Repressing Dissent at the Republican National Convention," Antifascist Calling, November 18, 2008), the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency (HSEM), in tandem with the United States Secret Service (USSS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) conspired to squelch dissent during the far-right conclave.

Having declared the RNC a National Security Special Event (NSSE), one that derived its "authorization" to target activists and journalists from the top secret 2006 National Security Presidential Directive-46/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-15 (NSPD-46/HSPD-15), local, state and federal law enforcement entities, the U.S. military, intelligence agencies such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and corporate partners in the telecommunications industry and elsewhere, preemptively disrupted legal political dissent by a score of protest groups.

Prior to and during the Convention, local and state police and the FBI, raided the homes and organizing spaces of activists and media workers, seizing video equipment, cameras, cell phones and computers that were to be used to document the event. Under the pretext of preventing "terrorism," agencies selectively targeted organizers on the basis of information provided authorities by informants and provocateurs.

The extent of state operations against dissenting citizens was revealed when Wikileaks published a leaked planning document, "Special Event Planning: 2008 Republican National Convention," a 31-page schematic compiled by HSEM.

As I reported in January ("Betrayed! FBI Provocateur Sets-Up Anti-RNC Activists on Trumped-Up 'Terrorism' Charges," Antifascist Calling, January 7, 2009), one FBI asset, Brandon Michael Darby, "carried out a thorough surveillance operation that dated back to at least 18 months before the Republican gathering," according The New York Times and a sworn affidavit by his handler, Special Agent Christopher Langert.

One of the defendants in the so-called "Texas Two" trial who were Darby's targets, David McKay, was freed on $25,000 bail February 3, after a mistrial was declared in his case according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. A re-trial is set for March 16. McKay's codefendant, Bradley Crowder, pled guilty January 8 to charges of manufacturing explosive devices. Both face 10 years in prison.

The Wikileaks disclosure of Highway Watch's "Plans to Target Transportation Infrastructure Surrounding Republican National Convention," provides further documentation of extensive federal, state and corporate targeting of political dissent in America under the guise of "national security."

Long-time readers of Antifascist Calling are certainly aware of the protection afforded actual terrorists by the Bureau when it served the geopolitical interests of the national security state. The case of al-Qaeda triple agent Ali Mohamed is certainly one of many illustrative examples.

"Social Networking" as Political Paranoia

As a subset of applied mathematics, social network theory purports to uncover hidden links and relationships amongst social groups and networks and has over time, become an invasive tool deployed by private- and state intelligence agencies against political activists.

According to the theory, by monitoring the communication patterns between various targeted nodes, a networked structure is discernible, one amenable to infiltration and disruption by a security agency. Indeed, in the context of HW's discourse social network- and link analysis was applied for mass surveillance of dissident groups such as the RNC-WC prior to the Republican Party National Convention.

Having identified the RNC-WC as an enemy to be contained at all costs, HW cites the group's open, legal political organizing, including obtaining "financial support" and "increased membership via the internet" as well as "public appearances at various locations across the US," as a significant factor that rendered the group a legitimate target for surveillance and disruption.

One can argue, as did the late civil liberties scholar Frank Donner, that the RNC-WC's legal organizing made them doubly suspect in the eyes of securocrats. In so far as the group's stated goal was to expose the "enormous amount of ... horror and devastation currently experienced by the world and its peoples" by the Republican Party, their dissident stance transformed them into dangerous "others," ripe pickings for "aggressive intelligence." Donner wrote,

The FBI's assertedly modest intelligence function as an early warning alert to prosecutors and a decision-making resource masks its true role as a weapon against threats to the existing order. Planned injury, implemented by an illegal autonomous system of power, explains domestic intelligence far more convincingly than either the "pure" or "preventative" intelligence thesis. Investigation and accumulation of information are at root merely the means to the ends of punishment, intimidation, frustration, and defeat of movements for change of any kind. (The Age of Surveillance, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980, p. 177)

In the context of a private entity such as Highway Watch ("an autonomous system of power"), funded by a public (though largely unaccountable) agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a new hybrid methodology of repression emerges in the 21st century. Exempt from oversight by the citizens who fund it, Highway Watch and associated groups, combine the plausible deniability of intelligence agencies with a twist: as a private organization, public rules of disclosure and accountability do not apply. Right up front, HW asserts:

The following document is "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY" and "LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE." It contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act, (5 U.S.C. 552). This document is to be controlled, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with DHS policy relating to FOUO information and is not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid "need-to-know" without prior approval of an authorized DHS official. No portion of this report should be furnished to the media, either in written or verbal form. Any requests for further dissemination outside of the intelligence and law enforcement community should be referred to the HWW-ISAC. (HW, p. 1)

As a direct action organization, RNC-WC endorsed disruptive but nonviolent tactics to bring the Convention to a halt. Civil disobedience and blockade tactics have long enjoyed a prominent place amongst left-wings groups and organizations, ranging from the Labor Movement of the 1930s to the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s, through the Antinuclear, Antiapartheid and Central American Solidarity Movements of the 1980s and continue to do so today.

A central tenet guiding the organization of protest activities is the proviso that participants only engage in activities for which they are prepared--morally and legally. While some activists willingly engage in "self-defense" of blockade zones, others may not wish to risk arrest and therefore, exercise a purely support function. A wide diversity of tactics ensure the broadest participation. However for HW "intelligence analysts," this "layered approach" is indicative of nefarious intent.

The amount of information researched about the transportation infrastructure in the area is high (see Appendix 1 & 2). Overall, photographs placed on the RNC-WC website show a pattern of bridge and roadway pre-surveillance (Figure 1). RNC-WC's members have proposed numerous methods of disrupting or closing the RNC, using the transportation infrastructure. These methods include setting vehicle tires on fire underneath expressway bridges, to decrease motorist visibility, or planting stalled vehicles, to limit thoroughfare access. Also, members have suggested spreading large metal chains across highway lanes or placing star-nails (caltrops) on access roads to restrict access to the RNC. The group also disclosed plans to use dump trucks to spill dirt or other large materials onto the road. Law enforcement should consider monitoring all potential methods to restrict or block traffic. (HW, pp. 2-3)

The sources cited by HW for the RNC-WC's alleged plans to "target infrastructure" through sabotage? Two FBI Intelligence Information Reports, FBI IIR 4 201 1401 08 and FBI IIR 4 201 0748 08. The origin of these unsubstantiated claims most probably were provocateurs who themselves advocated these tactics as a means to set-up the RNC-WC for preemptive action by the Bureau.

To complete the picture of an out-of-control conspiracy, HW cites the RNC-WC's collaboration with "other anarchist/anti-authoritarian groups, such as Unconventional Action (UA)," as evidence of the group's illicit activity. As evidence of conspiratorial intent, HW avers,

The UA website posts copies of its own strategies, general anarchist guides/principles and a list of anarchist contacts across the country. On Feb. 9, 2008, the two groups co-sponsored an event called the "Northwest DNC/RNC Resistance Conference" at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. The "workshop" discussed topics "ranging from street tactics to supporting protests" and even had childcare available for its participants. Unconventional Action states that, after the completion of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), members will travel to Minneapolis to assist with the RNC effort. This will provide a quality venue for sharing information concerning general security procedures and effective counter-measures. Furthermore, at least one protest/anarchist group (i.e. PNC2RNC) is using an "open" wiki (accessible to the public, but only members can edit) as its website. Therefore, "private" wikis (only members can access and edit) may be in use to share tactics and/or strategy among these individuals or groups which are located across the United States. (HW, p. 4)

And in order to buttress its charge that RNC-WC and related anarchist groups are intent on violent confrontations rather than hard-edged civil disobedience, HW ominously declares:

The community at large appears to be a decentralized network since it does not possess one central hub; however, it does possess several important hubs. Consequently, these networks are more difficult to disrupt due to their loose connections and easy ability to replace damaged or compromised nodes. As such, the national convention anarchists are following the pattern of most terror networks in this aspect. (HW, p. 5, emphasis added)

Utilizing social network and link analysis to underscore their claims, HW purport that hyperlinks on various websites are indicative of the "power centrality" of the RNC-WC and UA to anti-Democratic and Republican Convention organizers. That like-minded groups pursuing a goal--the disruption of the political conventions of the major capitalist parties--would actually communicate with one another comes as a shock to these jokers!

The RNC-WC also possesses the highest amount of betweenness in this community. The Protest RNC 2008 and UA groups directly follow it. Overall, betweenness refers to the number of groups that a node, or individual group, has indirect ties to through the direct links that it possesses. In other words, it represents the number of times that a node lies along the shortest path between two others. Nodes with a high degree of betweenness act as liaisons or bridges to other nodes in the structure. Consequently, the concept shows the potential importance and information sharing capabilities that the RNC-WC, UA, Protest RNC 2008, and DNC Disruption 08 represent to the rest of the community. (HW, p. 5)

In the minds of HW analysts however, "the RNC-WC's early formation, comprehensive membership drives, strategic partnerships, and flexibility will likely result in a more robust and balanced effort than in recent conventions. Consequently, security will likely be more to difficult to maintain than in previous years."

But as we have seen, the national security state's response was to initiate a preemptive strategy that targeted activists, journalists and the public in order to keep the lid on, marginalizing dissenting citizens and portraying them as violent extremists to be repressed.