March 27, 2015
Crisis: State Secrets, Labour MPs, Money & War, TPP vs Democracy, 1.3 Million Killed
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect
     Shadowy Neocons: a New Low

2. Labour MPs spied on by police demand to see secret files
     held on them

3. Your Money at War Everywhere
TPP vs. Democracy: Leaked Draft of Secretive Trade Deal
     Spells Out Plan for Corporate Power Grab

5. Body Count Report Reveals At Least 1.3 Million Lives Lost
     to US-Led War on Terror


This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 27, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the U.S.'s DOJ making the accepted claim that some neocon bullshit operation should not be prosecuted because this would harm "national security; item 2
is about British Labour MPs who want to see the dossiers that were prepared
on them in secret by the police; item 3 is a good article on the extent and the billions spent by the U.S. military; item 4 is about how the TPP and TPIP will
destroy democracy and democratic laws (because these interfere with the expectations of profits of multinational corporations); and item 5 is about
a body count: at least 1.3 million people were killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Pakistan alone, since 9/11.

Also the present file got uploaded a bit earlier than is normal, and I will have a short bit on my M.E. in the weekend.

1. Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect Shadowy Neocons: a New Low

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.

At the center of it is an anti-Iranian group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), which is very likely a front for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. When launched, NBC described its mission as waging “economic and psychological warfare” against Iran. The group was founded and is run and guided by a roster of U.S., Israeli and British neocon extremists such as Joe Lieberman, former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and current CNN “analyst”) Fran Townsend, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and former Mossad Director Meir Dagan. One of its key advisers is Olli Heinonen, who just co-authored Washington Post Op-Ed with former Bush CIA/NSA Director Michael Hayden arguing that Washington is being too soft on Tehran.

This group of neocon extremists was literally just immunized by a federal court from the rule of law. That was based on the claim — advocated by the Obama DOJ and accepted by Judge Ramos — that subjecting them to litigation for their actions would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets.” The court’s ruling was based on assertions made through completely secret proceedings between the court and the U.S. government, with everyone else — including the lawyers for the parties — kept in the dark.

I say. I suppose this means in fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has found yet another field where people can do or not do as they please, for they will never be prosecuted.

There now are the government's own secret services (beyond the pale of effective control, even by Congress: the Cia controls Congress much rather than the other way around); the government's own managers of the 6 major American banks (all "too big to fail")
[1]; and now also obscure neocon extremists that - according to  Greenwald, but probably correct - are in fact "a front for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services".

And I note that Glenn Greenwald is quite correct that this denial of any justice being done is more "stunning" than the protection the government gives to its own secret services and its own major banks (or perhaps rather: the major bankers that control the government)
[1], simply because these UANI persons, who now can do as they please, do not have any formal association with the government. But they are treated as if they are, in fact, governmental:

Here, virtually everything has been hidden, even from the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Not only did the U.S. government provide no clue as to what the supposedly endangered “state secrets” are, but they concealed even the identity of the agency making the claim: was it the CIA, the Treasury Department, the State Department, some combination? Nothing is known about any of this, not even who is making the secrecy claim.

Instead, the DOJ’s arguments about why “secrecy” compels dismissal of the entire lawsuit were made in a brief that only Judge Ramos (and not even the parties) gets to read, but even more amazingly, were elaborated on in secret meetings by DOJ lawyers in the judge’s chambers with nobody else present. Were recordings or transcripts of these meetings made? Is there any record of what the U.S. government whispered in the ear of the judge to scare him into believing that National Security Would Be Harmed™ if he allowed the case to proceed? Nobody knows. The whole process is veiled in total secrecy, labeled a “judicial proceeding” but containing none of the transparency, safeguards or adversarial process that characterizes minimally fair courts.

What is the reason for this "total secrecy, labeled a “judicial proceeding”"? Clearly, the DOJ made it impossible to get any evidence, but my own guess is that Glenn Greenwald is right in his saying that the UANI is "very likely a front
for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services
", and the U.S. government protects its own.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link.

2. Labour MPs spied on by police demand to see secret files held on them

The next item is an article by Frances Perraudin on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Labour MPs have demanded to see secret files that were gathered on them by undercover police in the 1990s even after they had been elected to parliament.

The calls were made in a Commons debate prompted by claims in the Guardian by Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, that he read secret files on 10 MPs during his 11 years working for the Metropolitan police’s special branch.

Francis said that Scotland Yard held files on MPs Harriet Harman, Peter Hain, Jack Straw, Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, and the late Bernie Grant, as well as Ken Livingstone, the late Tony Benn, Joan Ruddock and Dennis Skinner.

The deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, asked the minister of state for justice, Mike Penning, to assure her that the government would allow her to see a full copy of the information gathered on her.

“The security services do an important job and the government of course should support them, but if they overstep the mark the government must hold them to account,” she said.

I have reported yesterday on the same subject, and it seems I am right: What is awful and reprehensible is not that the English people are pirated and plundered for any information they put on line or have on their computers and cell phones; it is that the English elected parliamentarians are given a similar treatment by the English secret services as the English people get.

As you see in the above quotation, it is not as if Ms Harman does not support the English secret services: she merely wants to see her own files (which she probably will not:  Mike Penning has already said the MPs can see only "redacted" parts of their files).

Anyway - there is more in the article, but since I am an opponent of breaking the privacy of the English people much rather than of breaking the privacy of English MPs "even after they had been elected to parliament" I am loosing interest (indeed also because I don't believe in most English parliamentarians).

3. Your Money at War Everywhere 

The next item is an article by William D. Hartung (<- Wikipedia) that I found on Truthdig but that originated on tomdispatch:

This starts as follows:

President Obama and Senator John McCain, who have clashed on almost every conceivable issue, do agree on one thing: the Pentagon needs more money. Obama wants to raise the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2016 by $35 billion more than the caps that exist under current law allow.  McCain wants to see Obama his $35 billion and raise him $17 billion more. Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees attempted to meet Obama’s demands by pressing to pour tens of billions of additional dollars into the uncapped supplemental war budget.

What will this new avalanche of cash be used for? A major ground war in Iraq? Bombing the Assad regime in Syria? A permanent troop presence in Afghanistan?  More likely, the bulk of the funds will be wielded simply to take pressure off the Pentagon’s base budget so it can continue to pay for staggeringly expensive projects like the F-35 combat aircraft and a new generation of ballistic missile submarines.

This seems a balanced article. It consists of three pages, and is well informed. Here are four bits I did not know, quoted for that reason. First, there is this:

U.S. Special Forces operatives were, for instance, deployed to 134 nations, or almost 70% of the countries in the world, in fiscal year 2014. So even as the size and shape of the American military footprint undergoes some alteration, the Pentagon’s goal of global reach, of being at least theoretically more or less everywhere at once, is being maintained.

This is in the context of the general thesis that there is "the Pentagon’s goal of global reach", which indeed is well supported by this quote and the next three:

The Pentagon budget is 12 times larger than the budgets for the State Department and the Agency for International Development combined.  As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has noted, it takes roughly the same number of personnel to operate just one of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carrier task forces as there are trained diplomats in the State Department.

This fact also means - as is pointed out in the article - that a military response, or at least a response designed by military men, is presently much more likely than a diplomatic response. As to "arms and training": the U.S. military is almost everywhere:

According to data provided by the Security Assistance Monitor, a project designed to systematically track U.S. military and police aid, the Pentagon now delivers arms and training through 18 separate programs that provide assistance to the vast majority of the world’s armed forces.

Note "the vast majority of the world’s armed forces". More specifically:

More than 160 nations, or 82% of all countries, now receive some form of arms and training from the United States.
I say. This is a good article that deserves complete reading.

4.  TPP vs. Democracy: Leaked Draft of Secretive Trade Deal Spells Out Plan for Corporate Power Grab 

The next item is an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Newly leaked classified documents show that the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, if it goes through as written, will dramatically expand the power of corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge—and supersede—domestic laws, including environmental, labor, and public health, and other protections.

The tribunals, made infamous under NAFTA, were exposed in the "Investment Chapter" from the TPP negotiations, which was released to the public by WikiLeaks on Wednesday.

"The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states," said Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor. "This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies."

Responding to the leak, Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, declared: "With the veil of secrecy ripped back, finally everyone can see for themselves that the TPP would give multinational corporations extraordinary new powers that undermine our sovereignty, expose U.S. taxpayers to billions in new liability, and privilege foreign firms operating here with special rights not available to U.S. firms under U.S. law."

Yes indeed - and it would not only "expose U.S. taxpayers to billions in new liability, and privilege foreign firms operating here with special rights not available to U.S. firms under U.S. law": it would expose the taxpayers of each of the nations that sign the TPP to the interference by multinational corporations, that may prosecute governments (in special "courts", without appeals) for upsetting their expectations of multinational profits, namely by national laws that would have protected their inhabitants, and were intended to do so.

Here are some details:

The language included in this draft is even worse than previously thought, because it excludes a minor safeguard included in a version leaked in 2012.

Public Citizen noted in a press statement that the latest draft "abandons a safeguard proposed in the 2012 leaked TPP investment text, which excluded public interest regulations from indirect expropriation claims, stating, 'non-discriminatory regulatory actions... that are designed and applied to achieve legitimate public welfare objectives, such as the protection of public health, safety and the environment do not constitute indirect expropriation.'"

Such ISDS tribunals have become a cornerstone of so-called "free trade" deals and are included in 3,000 accords world-wide, according to The New York Times. They have been used to attack toxic bans, environmental regulations, access to medicines, and safety laws.

In brief, and as the article's title indicates: The TPP and the TTIP, that is threatening Europe, are farewells to democracy, to rights, to decency, and to morality, all because these are hard or impossible to combine with the expected profits of multinational corporations, which trump everything else.

There is considerably more in the article, that is good.

5. Body Count Report Reveals At Least 1.3 Million Lives Lost to US-Led War on Terror

The last item for today is another article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows - and addresses a fundamental question:

How do you calculate the human costs of the U.S.-led War on Terror?

On the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, groups of physicians attempted to arrive at a partial answer to this question by counting the dead.

In their joint report— Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the 'War on Terror—Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded that this number is staggering, with at least 1.3 million lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone since the onset of the war following September 11, 2001.

However, the report notes, this is a conservative estimate, and the total number killed in the three countries "could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely."

I say - and note this report is limited to "Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone". Also

(...) the report states the figure "is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs.

In Iraq, at least 1 million lives have been lost during and since 2003, a figure that accounts for five percent of the nation's total population. This does not include deaths among the estimated 3 million Iraqi refugees, many of whom were subject to dangerous conditions during this past winter.

And the fact that "the figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of" is mostly due to the combined propagandistic forces of the government and the mass media (as is also stated in the report).

Again, there is considerably more in the article, that is good.


[1] I am convinced by now that the six major banks, and especially Goldman Sachs, are "too big to fail" because it are the bank's managers, who for the moment are serving in government (where they have more power), that determine at least the economic policies of the government, and probably much more (including wars, since these are so profitable to the six major banks). Also the former bank's managers generally return to their far more paying managers' positions through the revolving doors.

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