Sunday, November 19, 2017

Police Violence Persists, Though Most Media Have Stopped Paying Attention

October was an especially brutal month when it comes to the tally of people killed by police in this country, particularly for people of color. I emphasize people of color because my lifelong research on this topic tells me that their killings are not random, but rather are a result of dehumanization and the constant patrolling of bodies and communities of color, especially those of Native, Black and Brown peoples. 
Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. This pattern of killings with impunity has been ongoing since 1492. Regardless of whether the killings are random or targeted, the number of law enforcement killings in this country is unparalleled anywhere else in the "developed" world. (KBP) lists 93 people killed in the month of October. For September, the number was "only" 84.
Let that sink in; that is more than three per day, and November is on the same pace.
There are other groups that keep similar tallies, but KBP has done the most consistent job since mid-2013. (The Guardian was doing excellent work on this topic; however, it stopped this past year.) It is shameful that in this day and age, a volunteer effort, year in and year out, does a better job than the federal government at keeping track of such statistics.
In October, five Native people were listed as killed. This includes: Robert James Lightfeather, 33 (tribe unidentified); 27-year-old Lucas John de Ford (Ho-Chunk Nation); George Gip Jr, 35, (while his tribe was not identified, he was reportedly killed on the Standing Rock Reservation); Dexter David Anthony Baxter, 30, (tribe unidentified); and Johnny Bonta, 43 (tribe unidentified).
The death of five Indigenous people in one month may seem extraordinarily high, considering they make up but 1 percent of the population. However, Native people are consistently killed by police at a higher rate than any other racial group in this country.
Additionally, I counted at least 19 victims labeled as Latinos/Latinas, though only six were identified as such. The 19 are identifiable as Latino/Latina primarily by their last names. There may be more, because often, Latinos and Latinas -- most of whom for these purposes are Mexican or Central American -- are often mislabeled as white or Black, and in other cases, they are not identified at all. As currently counted, they can be of any race. Because the Latino /Latina label is inconsistently applied across the country, it, of course, makes the compilation of statistics somewhat more complex. Jorge Cabrera, for instance, is not identified as Latino, though most certainly should be added to the count, bringing to 20 confirmed in this category.
In early October, an unidentified man was killed by police in Los Angeles. While his name was not provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, KBP does identify him as Latino. This brings to 21 confirmed. On November 2, KBP listed one more Latino, killed on October 31, bringing to 22 for the month of October. The number of Latinos killed by police are also extremely high, though almost always invisibilized by the mainstream media.
KBP lists 22 Black people killed this past month; however, the numbers are certain to be higher (due to those that are unidentified thus far) because this nation's streets continue to be killing fields when it comes to police violence against Black people.
What I show then from KBP is:
• Twenty-two are listed as Black.
• About 22 are Latino (six identified, 16 not identified and possibly one to two more, due to last names.)
• Five are listed as Indigenous.
• Twenty-nine are listed as white.
• The rest are currently not yet identified, though due to last names and geographic locations, they are probably either Black or white, though possibly Indigenous or Latino.
Thus, KBP lists 93 deaths at the hands of law enforcement for the month of October. This list tells us several things:
1.) We live in a very violent society.
2.) The numbers, regardless of cause, are unparalleled by countries in Europe or other "developed" nations worldwide.
3.) The numbers of people of color being killed, when considered in proportion to their numbers in society, are at a crisis level.
4.) While the mainstream media report on a few spectacular cases, for the most part, virtually all those killed here will remain nameless, publicly forgotten. Most Americans will have never heard of any of them at all.
5.) Quite a few of those killed each month are either mentally ill or homeless or both. Often, they end up dead because the officers are not properly trained to deal with their conditions or situations.
The number of those killed by law enforcement for the month of October is almost double the number killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas at the beginning of the month (58) and almost four times (26) the number of those killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the beginning of this month.
The fact that police killings continue unabated, and that none of these 93 killings have been covered nationally, screams normalization. At the end of October of this year, the number of killings was at 996. The number at the beginning of November is now already past 1,000. This too is "normal": 2017 is the fourth year in a row, based on KBP statistics, that this nation has seen at least 1,000 deaths at the hands of police.

US Senate hearing exposes danger of nuclear war

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Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the use of nuclear weapons highlighted the acute danger of the eruption of a war that could kill hundreds of millions or even billions of people.
The hearing was called amid a series of threats by the Trump administration to go to war with North Korea. In addition to Trump’s threats to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against a country whose economy is one one-thousandth the size of America’s, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, an active duty Army general, has made clear that the US is prepared to wage a “preventive,” that is, unprovoked, war.
To back up this threat, the Trump administration has deployed a vast armada off of the Korean Peninsula, including three aircraft carrier battle groups and an array of nuclear-capable submarines and bombers. At the same time, Washington is moving to expand and modernize the US nuclear arsenal.
Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey declared that plans could be in place “right now in the White House given to the president to launch a preemptive war against North Korea using American nuclear weapons without consulting with, informing Congress.”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Congress was “concerned that the president is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapons strike” on a whim.
These statements are an acknowledgment that even the smallest incident, from a wayward test missile to a clash between Russia, China, North Korea or Iran and any of the tens of thousands of US troops, aircraft and warships operating on their borders, to one of the president’s notorious late-night temper tantrums, could lead to a full-scale nuclear attack by the United States.
Commenting on the hearing, Bruce Blair, a nuclear command and control expert at Princeton University, remarked to Newsweek that “this system gives one person the God-like power to end the world.” The power to destroy human civilization is unilaterally wielded by one man, who happens to be a career con artist and reality TV star known for his impulsive petulance, short temper and even shorter attention span.
Called by Senator Bob Corker to consider “the conditions under which the president could order the use of nuclear weapons,” the hearing was officially held for the purpose of discussing “the potential for legislation that would require congressional approval for the use of those weapons.”
The outcome of the hearing was categorical: The president’s power to order a nuclear holocaust is total and unquestionable, and no one in Congress is calling seriously for changing that state of affairs. Committee Chairman Corker, for all of his rhetorical attacks on Trump, including his comparison of the White House to an “adult day care center,” made no proposal for limiting Trump’s power to wage a preemptive nuclear war, declaring, “I do not see a legislative solution today.”
The only possible deterrent raised at the hearing to Trump’s power to unilaterally launch nuclear weapons was a mutiny by the military brass. “Action can be taken,” said Gen. Robert Kehler, who testified before the committee. It would, however, pose a “very interesting constitutional situation.” The action, in other words, would be a military coup.
This state of affairs, where the prospect of a seizure of power by the military is raised at a congressional hearing as the only means of blocking a nuclear holocaust, is the expression of a deeply diseased society.
The source of the crisis is not the personality of Donald Trump. Rather, Trump embodies the criminality and corruption of the financial oligarchy of which he is a part.
If Trump were removed from office, who would replace him? His vice president, Mike Pence, is a notorious war hawk. If Trump were ousted by the Democrats, the result would be a major US escalation against Russia, the country with the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal. If it was the military, the nuclear arsenal would be in the hands of professional killers who have committed untold war crimes in Serbia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia.
The United States’ incendiary role on the world stage is the outward expression of its internal social relations. This a country dominated by colossal social tensions, in which three people—Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett—control as much wealth as the bottom half of the population. As with so many of its predecessors, this decadent and crisis-ridden ruling class is seeking to direct social tensions outward through war.
Congress, which has for decades rubber-stamped one illegal and criminal war after another, long ago abandoned its constitutionally mandated responsibility to check the war-making powers of the president.
Washington’s threats against the world are the result of the collapse of the US-led post-World War II geopolitical order, at the center of which is the decline of US economic might and the rise of strategic competitors in Asia and Europe. Trump’s 12-day tour of the Pacific was a case in point: blustering with protectionist rhetoric, Trump visited country after country with demands for more favorable trade deals and came up empty-handed.
Mired in geopolitical and domestic crisis, the United States has one final recourse: the threat to obliterate with nuclear weapons anyone who opposes it. Coming from the only country that has used nuclear weapons in war, it would be the height of folly to think this is merely a bluff. If the United States, at the height of its global power, destroyed two defenseless Japanese cities with nuclear weapons to send a message to the Soviet Union, how much greater is the threat now, when US global dominance is visibly eroding?
The looming danger of a new world war, this time fought with nuclear weapons, raises the urgent need for the working class to intervene independently and build a mass international anti-war movement based on the perspective of doing away with the root cause of war: the capitalist system.

US rescue of ISIS in Raqqa exposed

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An investigative report by the BBC titled “Raqqa's dirty secret” has confirmed earlier charges by Iran, Russia and the Syrian government that the Pentagon has colluded with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the evacuation of ISIS fighters from cities and towns under US military siege.
The BBC story, based on interviews with some of those who organized the evacuation along with truck drivers who were brought in to transport the fighters and others who observed it, describes a four-mile-long convoy that included “50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles.”
In total, the convoy, which set out on October 12, transported some 4,000 people—ISIS fighters and their families—along with tons of arms, ammunition and explosives. The US military and its proxy ground force, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, assured that reporters and cameramen were kept out of Raqqa to prevent images of the long column of trucks, with armed ISIS fighters on top of them from being broadcast around the world.
The story has been largely ignored by the US media. It flies in the face of repeated statements by leading US officials vowing to “annihilate” ISIS to the last man in Iraq and Syria and debunks the greatest “fake news” story of the 21st century—the so-called US war on terror.
In the face of the evidence uncovered by the BBC, the Pentagon has been forced to acknowledge that the evacuation took place, while insisting that it was merely an innocent bystander.
“We didn’t want anyone to leave,” Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told the news agency.
“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,” he said.
This is patent nonsense.
The siege of Raqqa was organized by the US military and carried out by means of a merciless campaign of airstrikes and artillery bombardments conducted by US forces that left thousands of civilians dead and wounded and most of the city in rubble. The so-called SDF militia operates under US direction with American special operations troops embedded in its ranks.
The decision to transport armed ISIS fighters to safety elsewhere in Syria was made at the top levels of the US military and intelligence apparatus and for definite strategic reasons.
In terms of immediate objectives, Washington was eager to wind up the siege of Raqqa in order to mount a speedy offensive aimed at beating the Syrian army for control of strategically vital oil and gas fields in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province. The SDF has since captured two of the largest oil fields, Al-Tanak and al-Umar.
More broadly, however, Washington has an important stake in seeing ISIS live to fight another day. The continued existence of the Islamist militia provides a pretext for the permanent occupation of Syria and Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism.
The US defense secretary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, gave direct expression to these objectives in a Pentagon briefing Monday, declaring that the US military would remain in Syria combatting ISIS “as long as they want to fight.”
He went on to indicate that the US intended to continue its illegal military occupation of the country until there is a political settlement ending the war that the CIA itself orchestrated to effect regime change in Syria over five years ago.
“We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction,” he said, referring to the long-stalled talks between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the so-called rebels backed by the CIA, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf oil sheikdoms.
ISIS itself emerged as a major force in the region thanks to the US war for regime change, fattening off of the billions of dollars’ worth of arms and aid funneled into Syria by the CIA and Washington’s regional allies. It continued to enjoy this support until it turned eastward into Iraq, routing the US-trained Iraqi security forces in Mosul and across much of Iraq in 2014.
In the wake of the supposed defeat of ISIS and retaking of its “capital” of Raqqa, these same forces can again be rebranded as anti-Assad “rebels” and utilized in the furtherance of US imperialism’s continuing objectives of securing regime change in Syria, preparing for military confrontation with Iran and Russia and asserting US hegemony in the Middle East by means of armed force.

Manipulation: The US State Department's New Program to Take On Media

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Hypocrisy may be the only consistent guiding principle of US foreign policy. Here's a prime example of the "do as we say, not as we do" that is the core of how Washington does business overseas: In the same week that the the US Justice Department demanded that the Russian-backed RT America network register as a foreign propaganda entity or face arrest, the US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DNL) has announced that it is launching a program to massively interfere in NATO-partner Hungary's internal media. 

So the US Justice Department is cracking down on RT America for what it says is manipulation of US domestic affairs while the US State Department announces a new program to manipulate Hungary's domestic affairs.

The State Department's new program would send three-quarters of a million dollars to Washington-selected Hungarian media outlets to "increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary." On what authority does the United States pick winners and losers in Hungary's diverse media environment? Since when does one government have the right to determine what news is "objective" in another country? Hungary is not a country to be "regime-changed" -- it is a full democracy where the will of the people is regularly expressed at the ballot box and where the media competes freely in the marketplace of ideas. 

Washington's Hungarian media project is clearly meant to interfere in that country's domestic political environment. Here are the stated objectives of the US government's Hungary program:

The program should improve the quality of local traditional and online media and increase the public’s access to reliable and unbiased information.
Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. (emphasis added)
The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor identifies its mission in this call for grantees as "promoting democracy and protecting human rights globally." So what is it doing in Hungary? Hungary has had nearly three decades of democracy since 1989 and hardly needs the United States to tell it what kind of media is allowed (subsidized) and which kind should be suppressed.

In reality this is a US government program to ensure that the Hungarian media follows Washington's policy line. Hungarians are all too familiar with this kind of toxic interference from an outside superpower: it was called the Soviet Union. Does Washington really seek to take on that role?

Stab in the back

This US government intervention in Hungary's internal affairs must feel like a stab in the back to Orban and his government. Orban was an early -- and rare -- supporter of candidate Donald Trump among his European colleagues. Indeed, where Brusssels saw Trump as a gauche loudmouth, Orban openly admired the soon-to-be-president's position on immigration and particularly on the mass immigration of mostly Muslim "refugees" that has proven to be disastrous for so many European countries. Likewise, Viktor Orban's Fidesz party has managed to retain a high level of popularity through two election cycles by embracing and promoting the kind of nationalism that characterized Trump's successful campaign.

Orban's early support for Trump appeared to have paid off. Where Fidesz had struggled to make any headway at all under GW Bush or Obama's State Departments, both of which were openly hostile, one of President-elect Trump's first moves was to invite Orban to the White House. Orban, for his part, hailedTrump on inauguration day, welcoming in an era where national interest takes precedent over multilateralism.

As recently as last month, President Trump praised Viktor Orban, saying that the "strong and brave" Hungarian Prime Minister is "on my guest list.” 

Then Trump's State Department launched a program to undermine Hungary's national sovereignty by interfering in the Hungarian media market. It seems national sovereignty is a one-way street for Washington no matter who occupies the Oval Office.

Hypocrisy...or policy consistency?

But perhaps it's inaccurate to accuse the US government of hypocrisy in this case. After all, pressuring RT America with the intent of silencing the news network and spending our tax dollars propping up US-friendly media outlets in the Hungarian countryside are actually two sides of the same coin: the US government will tell you what kind of media you are allowed to consume. If you are a media network in the United States that allows voices who oppose Washington's neocon-dominated foreign policy they will shut you down. If you are a news outlet in the Hungarian countryside that spews the US party line, they will prop you up. Both cases are the same: your media will toe the US government official line or else.

Note to Washington: This is not 1950. Hungary has been a fully free and democratic country with plenty of free elections under its belt. It does not need you to come in and attempt to manipulate its newspapers and broadcast media. What would you do if China sent in a few million dollars to prop up US publications who agreed to push the Beijing line? What about if Tehran sent some money to publications pushing the Ayatollah party line? You cannot even tolerate RT America -- which is largely staffed by Americans but dares to feature prominent Americans who challenge the neocon foreign policy line. Hands off Hungary!

Note to Viktor Orban: You risked arrest -- and worse -- in June, 1989 when you directly confronted the communists who were occupying your country. Now that Hungary's freedom has been won -- in no small way due to your efforts -- do not allow Washington's neocons to take it away from you! If you do not confront this violation of Hungarian sovereignty, the neocons will continue to increase the pressure. The neocons want you out! Just this week, neocon commentator Anne Applebaum wrote that you are a "neo-Bolshevik" who has "little to do with the right that has been part of Western politics since World War II, connection to existing conservative parties." Do a little research and you will notice that Applebaum is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for European Policy Analysis-- the organization your own government funded for a big conference this summer! Neocon knives are out for you. You'd be smart to make a better assessment of who are your friends and enemies in the United States...before it's too late.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Warrantless spying on US citizens sanctioned by Pentagon, training documents indicate

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Policy and training documents from US intelligence agencies obtained by Human Rights Watch earlier this year authorize warrantless spying on US citizens with no connections to terrorists.
The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Human Rights Watch in January, outline policies and procedures concerning surveillance, retention of collected data and the sharing of information among intelligence agencies.
According to one training module, US citizens and legal residents, even when they have “no specific connection to foreign terrorist(s),” may be categorized as “homegrown violent extremists” (HVEs) and be subjected to targeted warrantless surveillance. Federal law generally prohibits deliberate surveillance of the communications of US persons without a warrant, obtainable only if authorities can show probable cause that the target has committed or is about to commit a crime, or that the target is an agent of a foreign power.
The documents cite persons who commit mass shootings, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino workplace shooting, as examples of HVEs, but do not specifically explain how a person is identified as an HVE. A senior Department of Defense (DoD) official who provided comments to Human Rights Watch on the condition of anonymity gave an example of an HVE as someone who was “self-radicalized via the Internet, social media, etc.” and then executed—or only planned—”terrorist acts in furtherance of the ideology or goals of a foreign terrorist group.” The official refused to disclose the government’s criteria for designating a person as an HVE.
Such a provision allows the US government to spy on citizens based “on their beliefs, or what the government thinks they believe, [instead of] specific evidence that gives sufficient reason to think a criminal offense is occurring or that the person is an agent of a foreign power,” pointed out Sarah St. Vincent, US surveillance and national security researcher at Human Rights Watch. “A secret determination that someone’s rights should be curtailed based on undisclosed criteria is incompatible with the rule of law. The government should explain what it’s doing as well as its legal basis for doing it.”
That training module, created for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, outlines other “key changes” regarding DoD procedures made in August 2016. These include the addition of “shared repositories,” new retention timeframes and extensions for “incidentally” collected data, as well as provisions for “special circumstances collection.” The latter, informally referred to as “bulk data” or “big data” collection in the training module and other documents, points to the routine and institutionalized use of mass surveillance since 2016, when the Obama administration added the category to DoD procedures.
The revised DoD procedures empower intelligence agencies to share “large amounts of unevaluated”—that is, raw and unredacted—data about US persons with other intelligence agencies, security contractors and law enforcement bodies, including local police departments as well as the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The documents primarily concern the DoD’s interpretation of Executive Order 12333, signed into law by the Reagan administration and expanded officially via the enactment of other executive orders and unofficially via practice by subsequent presidencies. Executive Order 12333 authorizes US government intelligence agencies to collect any and all data from foreign sources they deem relevant to national security purposes, and includes provisions allowing the agencies to “incidentally” spy on US entities without a court order.
The National Security Agency (NSA) in particular has used the order to justify the trawling and storage of global communications and financial records from all over the world, including the American population, as revealed by the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden and investigative reports in the Intercept .
The training documents also authorize the warrantless surveillance of individuals, organizations and groups that are simply “in contact” with someone who US intelligence agencies “reasonably believe” is acting to support the goals of international terrorists to the detriment of national security. Another training module, in a broad interpretation of federal criminal law, defines “material support to terrorists” to include “humanitarian aid,” “services in almost any form” and “political advocacy.” (Federal criminal codes specifically exempt medicine and religious materials from constituting illicit material support.)
Another set of slides begins by explaining that procedure policies prohibit the satellite and aerial surveillance of specific US persons—and then sanctions said targeted surveillance so long as the collected data can be written off as falling into one of a dozen other categories of information, including foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, threats to safety, persons in contact with potential sources, and administrative purposes.
Physical stalking of non-US persons on US soil, such as undocumented immigrants and temporary visa holders, does not require a warrant if it occurs “under circumstances in which the person has no reasonable expectation of privacy”—circumstances the US government has not yet bothered to publicly define—and may be conducted so long as it is for “an authorized foreign intelligence or [counterintelligence] purpose.” Members of the military and present and former employees of defense industry contractors may also be subjected to such warrantless stalking.
Another slide reveals the scope of data obtained by US intelligence agencies through the issuing of national security letters, which are used to obtain financial and travel records without need for a warrant. Bank account and credit card transaction histories, and documents held by a variety of establishments from pawnbrokers to US Post Offices, can be obtained by any US intelligence agency; telecommunications records from telephone companies and Internet service providers may be obtained only by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“These documents point to just how thoroughly the public has been kept in the dark about warrantless surveillance under Executive Order 12333,” noted St. Vincent.
It has been well over one year since the US government revised the DoD’s intelligence-gathering procedures, and the US government has provided no explanations, legal justifications and precedents, or explanations of the scale of its blatantly anti-democratic, warrantless mass spying operations, both within US territory and without. The reins to this apparatus of state spying, expanded by the Democratic and Republican parties alike, are now gripped tightly by the hands of the most right-wing administration in American history.

Murder of US Green Beret by Navy Seals in Mali exposes criminal military operations in West Africa

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Two Navy Seals are under investigation for the June murder of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Green Beret, after he was found dead in a housing complex provided by the US embassy in Bamako, Mali. No charges have yet been filed against the two commandos, but the case is being investigated as a homicide.
The two Seals, Petty Officer First Class Tony E. DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews, were flown out of the country to the United States and were placed on administrative leave.
While the circumstances are not yet completely known, several special operations sources told the Daily Beast that there was an altercation between Melgar and the two Seals at around 5 a.m. on June 4, where the three grappled, resulting in one Seal, believed to be DeDolph, choking Melgar to unconsciousness.
According to AFRICOM officials, the two Seals drove Melgar to a nearby clinic, where medical personnel declared him dead. The two Seals claimed that Melgar had been intoxicated at the time of the altercation, but Melgar’s autopsy examination report noted that no drugs or alcohol were found in his system.
Melgar, along with an unknown number of other elite commandos, were deployed to the West African nation to conduct intelligence and training operations against Al Qaeda-affiliated militants waging war against the US/French-backed government.
Reports from unnamed US officials indicate that the two Navy Seals were stealing cash from a “slush fund” set aside by the US embassy for the purpose of paying informants in the course of tracking down Islamist militants, and that Melgar had discovered the skimming operation and threatened to alert authorities. According to the source, the two Navy Seals offered Melgar a cut of the illicit funds, but Melgar declined.
In a telephone call to his wife in the States, Melgar expressed his suspicions of the two Navy Seals, saying that he had a “bad feeling” about the two, but declined to specify his misgivings, informing her that he would reveal the full story when he returned home.
AFRICOM told the media that officials immediately suspected foul play in Melgar’s death and had dispatched an investigator to Mali within 24 hours of the Green Beret’s death. A military medical examiner declared the death a “homicide by asphyxiation.”
According to the New York Times, military officials said that cash from such slush funds “have a way of going missing.” The officials also said that in Mali’s case, the amount stolen can be as much as $20,000 at any given moment, and that it is relatively easy to skim from the fund as many instances of stealing involve the faking of receipts.
The housing complex in Bamako where Melgar was staying was shared by three other elite soldiers, including the two Seals. While the number of elite commandos in Mali are not disclosed by AFRICOM, the contingent deployed to the country is estimated to be smaller than the 800 elite soldiers in neighboring Niger, and are part of a wider contingent of around 2,000 special forces overall deployed to several countries in West Africa.
For his part, Melgar was officially assigned to provide security for US Ambassador to Mali Paul Folmsbee. His “security” duties included providing intelligence on militant groups directly to Folmsbee, as well as protecting the embassy and other US personnel, and coordinating training exercises with Malian forces.
The murder of a Green Beret by two of his confederates highlights and exposes the broader criminal character of the American military offensive being waged in West Africa.
Far reaching US special operations conducted across the continent are shrouded in secrecy, and were only brought to public attention last month when an ambush by Islamist militants resulted in the deaths of four Green Berets in neighboring Niger.
The special forces troops deployed to West Africa are drawn from elite military units, including Green Berets, Navy Seals and Delta Force, and have conducted some of American imperialism’s worst crimes against humanity. The list of often illegal duties these forces carry out include assassinations, counterterrorism operations, unconventional warfare, psychological operations, and training of foreign forces that Washington desires to utilize as a proxy force for regime change operations.
In Vietnam, elite American troops engaged in torture and mass execution of civilians, including children, and the razing of entire villages. In the recent period, these forces have engaged in torture, rape and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The two Navy commandos currently under investigation for Melgar’s death are drawn from Seal Team Six, the elite unit which was involved in the 2011 raid and assassination of Osama Bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The backdrop to the American military offensive in West Africa is the 2011 US/NATO war conducted in Libya to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. Enlisting and utilizing Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters to conduct a regime change operation that resulted in Gaddafi’s removal and assassination, the Obama administration oversaw the complete destruction of Libyan society. The Islamist fighters spilled out from the ruins of Libya and scattered across northern African and down into the Sahel.
Washington has its military forces arrayed across West Africa not to “fight terrorism” but to secure by military force the region’s vast economic resources and working class for the profit of American corporations. West Africa possesses enormous quantities of minerals, including gold, diamonds, ore, uranium, and gas and oil deposits.
Washington is also seeking to neutralize the increasing economic influence of China on the continent, with Beijing securing investment deals in nearly every economic sector, including mining, oil and gas, agriculture and infrastructure.
With the Trump administration loosening the restrictions on the rules of engagement for US special forces in Africa, which constitutes an official absolution of any crimes committed by its soldiers, the offensive conducted in West Africa by the American military threatens to consume the region with ever great levels of violence.

Trump’s Asia tour leaves region on brink of trade war and military conflict

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The 12-day tour through Asia by President Donald Trump has underscored the reality that American imperialism—a declining power wracked by external challenges and internal crises—is the most volatile and destabilising factor in world politics. Trump generated even greater trepidation about his administration’s policies than existed before the tour began.
The immediate issue is if, or when, Trump will act on his threats to “totally destroy” North Korea if the Pyongyang regime does not capitulate to the US demand for “complete and verifiable denuclearization.” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has, thus far, rejected that demand.
Despite numerous hints of behind-the-scenes negotiations to try to reach some form of compromise, Trump’s bellicose and categorical rhetoric on the floor of the South Korean parliament last week has left his administration with little room to manoeuvre. He vowed that he would “not allow” the North Korean regime to possess intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the United States. His stance was unconditionally endorsed by Japan, Australia and South Korea.
For the White House to back down and accept North Korea possessing nuclear-armed ICBMs would be a debacle for Trump, under conditions in which his presidency is already under siege from his domestic political rivals. There would be savage recriminations within his administration, the military-intelligence establishment and the American ruling class as a whole.
The question posed by the WSWS in its September 6 perspective still looms over the world: “Will Washington go to war to make good on its war rhetoric? Have the threats themselves—and the determination to prove they are not mere bluffs—become a driving force in the march to a potential nuclear war?”
A similar question can be posed concerning the administration’s trade policies. In speech after speech, Trump denounced the World Trade Organisation and the multilateral trade and investment arrangements that the US itself established following World War II to regulate conflicts among economic competitors. He categorically vowed to pursue an uncompromising “America First” agenda that would require every country to substantially reduce its trade surpluses with the US.
Trump levelled this demand not only on “strategic competitors” such as China. He also threatened Japan and South Korea, among the closest US allies in the region, as well as the countries that the US is seeking to bring under its strategic umbrella, such as Vietnam and India.
The Chinese regime’s response has been to push ahead with its efforts to develop new regional and international trade and investment arrangements that exclude the US and lessen its reliance on the American market.
At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, countries were wooed by Beijing with the prospect of lucrative involvement in its ambitious “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy. The Chinese regime’s aim is to develop transport and energy networks across the Eurasian landmass, and forge close links between the major world production centres and markets of East Asia and Western Europe.
Pakistan, the under-developed Central Asian states, Russia, and the East European states stand to potentially benefit from multi-billion dollar land-based projects. The maritime links involve plans for large-scale Chinese investment in ports and infrastructure in South Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
At the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 member-states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) held a further round of talks toward the formation of Beijing’s proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
While two US allies, Japan and Australia, succeeded in delaying any final agreement until next year, the momentum toward its establishment was obvious. The bloc, which excludes the US, would forge closer links within a group of countries that is already significantly integrated by global production networks. Combined, they generate some 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and include half its population.
The logical extension of the RCEP—through the OBOR scheme—would be the incorporation of Russia, Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The Obama administration’s alternative was the US-dominated “Trans Pacific Partnership” that would exclude China until it deregulated protected sectors of its domestic economy. Trump repudiated the TPP, however, on his first day as president, on the protectionist grounds that it gave member-countries greater access to American markets.
The Japanese ruling class, which is just as opposed to a Chinese-centred bloc as Washington, is still pushing for the TPP to be established without US participation. Even if the bloc is ultimately formed, it would be dwarfed in size, scope and ambition by the RCEP.
Throughout his Asian tour, Trump caused eyes to roll with his bluster that the rise and rise of the US stock market demonstrated the “strength” of the American economy. Both in the US and internationally, every serious economic analyst is warning that Wall Street is a speculative house of cards, propped up by the continuous injections of funds from the Federal Reserve Bank and rising levels of high-risk debt.
After decades of relative decline in comparison to its imperialist rivals in Europe and Japan, as well as newly-emerged economic centres such as China, American imperialism is in a decrepit state. While a tiny layer of billionaire oligarchs control almost incomprehensible amounts of wealth, the vast mass of American workers face declining living standards, decaying infrastructure and ever more naked police-state repression.
Trump personifies the degeneration and desperation of the American ruling class. Across Asia, he could do little more than demand that countries purchase more American goods, or face sanctions. At times, the US president came across as a standover man for the American military-industrial complex, insisting that governments buy “billions” more of US-manufactured aircraft, warships and missiles.
To the extent that Trump did seriously propose that Asian-based corporations shift production to the US, it was on the unstated premise that American wages and conditions are being driven so low that they are “competitive” with those in what were once labelled the “cheap labour” countries.
The only success of Trump’s tour, if it can be called that, was that Japan, Australia and India—countries whose ruling elites are as crisis-stricken as their American counterparts—indicated their support for a “Quadrilateral” alliance to militarily confront China and seek to shatter its growing regional and international influence.
Trump’s tour of Asia marks a new nadir in the strategic position of the United States. The tremendous danger that faces the international working class, however, is that the American ruling class still possesses a vast war machine and has demonstrated, time and again, its preparedness to use that weaponry to retain its global dominance.