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Greg Grandin: How the Iraq War Began in Panama

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday December 22, 2014 7:51 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

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So many years and wars later, it’s easy to forget what a total television hit the first Gulf War of 1991 was.  Just in case you no longer remember — and why should you? — that was the war that was to bury America’s defeat in Vietnam forever and signal the arrival of the greatest Great Power the planet had ever known, the soon-to-be-Soviet-Union-less United States.  That first partial invasion of Iraq, with its million or more uniformed extras, its vast sets, and its six-month preproduction schedule filled with logistical miracles, was something to behold.  All through the winter of 1990, the production had its built-in “coming attractions,” the many variations on “showdown in the Gulf” with Saddam Hussein, the glowering guy with the black mustache who had, until more or less the previous night, been Washington’s man in Baghdad.

Those previews of the war-to-come teased American viewers with a possible January opening in domestic multiplexes nationwide.  And when it arrived, the production didn’t disappoint.  It had its dazzling Star Wars-style graphics, its own theme music and logos, and its stunningly prime-timed first moments (Disneyesque fireworks over Baghdad).  As a show, it was calibrated for controlled thrills, anxiety, and relief from its opening laser-guided, son et lumière spectacular to its final triumphant helicopter descent on the U.S. embassy in Kuwait (which was meant to replay in reverse indelible final images of helicopters fleeing Saigon).

And what a show that war was, a kind of program-length commercial similar to those pioneered by toy companies in the previous decade that had turned TV cartoons into animated toy catalogs.  It was as if the whole post-Vietnam era had been building toward nothing but that 43-day-long ad, intent on selling domestic and foreign markets on the renewal of American power as well as on the specific weapons systems that were renewing that power.  In this way, the Gulf War of 1991 hawked the leading-edge aspects of the country’s two foremost exports: arms and entertainment.

Almost a quarter of a century later, amid the rubble of a chaotic Greater Middle East, America’s third Iraq war drags on, as Washington officials insist that it has years still to go.  Meanwhile, Iraq itself, having experienced two American invasions, a prolonged occupation, and an era of “reconstruction” (which proved to be largely an era of deconstruction), as well as the birth of a jihadist oil-mini-state in its midst, now threatens to split into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish cantonments.  Given what’s happened in the 24 years since, who now remembers any of the triumphalist glories of that first conflict in the Gulf?  And here’s a guarantee: no matter how few still remember the highlight reels from that moment, even fewer remember the American war that, in a sense, began it all, the one that TomDispatch regular Greg Grandin, author of The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, recalls today: the invasion of Panama. Tom

The War to Start All Wars 
The 25th Anniversary of the Forgotten Invasion of Panama 
By Greg Grandin

As we end another year of endless war in Washington, it might be the perfect time to reflect on the War That Started All Wars — or at least the war that started all of Washington’s post-Cold War wars: the invasion of Panama.

Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports. Noriega went into hiding before surrendering on January 3rd and was then officially extradited to the United States to stand trial. Soon after, most of the U.S. invaders withdrew from the country.

In and out. Fast and simple. An entrance plan and an exit strategy all wrapped in one. And it worked, making Operation Just Cause one of the most successful military actions in U.S. history. At least in tactical terms.

There were casualties. More than 20 U.S. soldiers were killed and 300-500 Panamanian combatants died as well.  Disagreement exists over how many civilians perished. Washington claimed that few died.  In the “low hundreds,” the Pentagon’s Southern Command said.  But others charged that U.S. officials didn’t bother to count the dead in El Chorrillo, a poor Panama City barrio that U.S. planes indiscriminately bombed because it was thought to be a bastion of support for Noriega. Grassroots human-rights organizations claimed thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced.

As Human Rights Watch wrote, even conservative estimates of civilian fatalities suggested “that the rule of proportionality and the duty to minimize harm to civilians… were not faithfully observed by the invading U.S. forces.” That may have been putting it mildly when it came to the indiscriminant bombing of a civilian population, but the point at least was made. Civilians were given no notice. The Cobra and Apache helicopters that came over the ridge didn’t bother to announce their pending arrival by blasting Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” (as in Apocalypse Now). The University of Panama’s seismograph marked 442 major explosions in the first 12 hours of the invasion, about one major bomb blast every two minutes. Fires engulfed the mostly wooden homes, destroying about 4,000 residences. Some residents began to call El Chorrillo “Guernica” or “little Hiroshima.” Shortly after hostilities ended, bulldozers excavated mass graves and shoveled in the bodies. “Buried like dogs,” said the mother of one of the civilian dead.

Sandwiched between the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the commencement of the first Gulf War on January 17, 1991, Operation Just Cause might seem a curio from a nearly forgotten era, its anniversary hardly worth a mention. So many earth-shattering events have happened since. But the invasion of Panama should be remembered in a big way.  After all, it helps explain many of those events. In fact, you can’t begin to fully grasp the slippery slope of American militarism in the post-9/11 era — how unilateral, preemptory “regime change” became an acceptable foreign policy option, how “democracy promotion” became a staple of defense strategy, and how war became a branded public spectacle — without understanding Panama.

Our Man in Panama

Operation Just Cause was carried out unilaterally, sanctioned neither by the United Nations nor the Organization of American States (OAS).  In addition, the invasion was the first post-Cold War military operation justified in the name of democracy — “militant democracy,” as George Will approvingly called what the Pentagon would unilaterally install in Panama.

The campaign to capture Noriega, however, didn’t start with such grand ambitions. For years, as Saddam Hussein had been Washington’s man in Iraq, so Noriega was a CIA asset and Washington ally in Panama.  He was a key player in the shadowy network of anti-communists, tyrants, and drug runners that made up what would become Iran-Contra. That, in case you’ve forgotten, was a conspiracy involving President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council to sell high-tech missiles to the Ayatollahs in Iran and then divert their payments to support anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua in order to destabilize the Sandinista government there. Noriega’s usefulness to Washington came to an end in 1986, after journalist Seymour Hersh published an investigation in the New York Times linking him to drug trafficking. It turned out that the Panamanian autocrat had been working both sides. He was “our man,” but apparently was also passing on intelligence about us to Cuba.

Still, when George H.W. Bush was inaugurated president in January 1989, Panama was not high on his foreign policy agenda. Referring to the process by which Noriega, in less than a year, would become America’s most wanted autocrat, Bush’s National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said: “I can’t really describe the course of events that led us this way… Noriega, was he running drugs and stuff? Sure, but so were a lot of other people. Was he thumbing his nose at the United States? Yeah, yeah.”

The Keystone Kops…

Domestic politics provided the tipping point to military action. For most of 1989, Bush administration officials had been half-heartedly calling for a coup against Noriega. Still, they were caught completely caught off guard when, in October, just such a coup started unfolding. The White House was, at that moment, remarkably in the dark. It had no clear intel about what was actually happening. ”All of us agreed at that point that we simply had very little to go on,” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney later reported. “There was a lot of confusion at the time because there was a lot of confusion in Panama.”

“We were sort of the Keystone Kops,” was the way Scowcroft remembered it, not knowing what to do or whom to support. When Noriega regained the upper hand, Bush came under intense criticism in Congress and the media. This, in turn, spurred him to act. Scowcroft recalls the momentum that led to the invasion: “Maybe we were looking for an opportunity to show that we were not as messed up as the Congress kept saying we were, or as timid as a number of people said.” The administration had to find a way to respond, as Scowcroft put it, to the “whole wimp factor.”

Momentum built for action, and so did the pressure to find a suitable justification for action after the fact. Shortly after the failed coup, Cheney claimed on PBS’s Newshour that the only objectives the U.S. had in Panama were to “safeguard American lives” and “protect American interests” by defending that crucial passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal. “We are not there,” he emphasized, “to remake the Panamanian government.” He also noted that the White House had no plans to act unilaterally against the wishes of the Organization of American States to extract Noriega from the country. The “hue and cry and the outrage that we would hear from one end of the hemisphere to the other,” he said, “…raises serious doubts about the course of that action.”

That was mid-October. What a difference two months would make. By December 20th, the campaign against Noriega had gone from accidental — Keystone Kops bumbling in the dark — to transformative: the Bush administration would end up remaking the Panamanian government and, in the process, international law.

…Start a Wild Fire

Cheney wasn’t wrong about the “hue and cry.” Every single country other than the United States in the Organization of American States voted against the invasion of Panama, but by then it couldn’t have mattered less. Bush acted anyway.

What changed everything was the fall of the Berlin Wall just over a month before the invasion. Paradoxically, as the Soviet Union’s influence in its backyard (eastern Europe) unraveled, it left Washington with more room to maneuver in its backyard (Latin America). The collapse of Soviet-style Communism also gave the White House an opportunity to go on the ideological and moral offense. And at that moment, the invasion of Panama happened to stand at the head of the line.

As with most military actions, the invaders had a number of justifications to offer, but at that moment the goal of installing a “democratic” regime in power suddenly flipped to the top of the list. In adopting that rationale for making war, Washington was in effect radically revising the terms of international diplomacy. At the heart of its argument was the idea that democracy (as defined by the Bush administration) trumped the principle of national sovereignty.

Latin American nations immediately recognized the threat. After all, according to historian John Coatsworth, the U.S. overthrew 41 governments in Latin America between 1898 and 1994, and many of those regime changes were ostensibly carried out, as Woodrow Wilson once put it in reference to Mexico, to teach Latin Americans “to elect good men.” Their resistance only gave Bush’s ambassador to the OAS, Luigi Einaudi, a chance to up the ethical ante. He quickly and explicitly tied the assault on Panama to the wave of democracy movements then sweeping Eastern Europe. “Today we are… living in historic times,” he lectured his fellow OAS delegates, two days after the invasion, “a time when a great principle is spreading across the world like wildfire. That principle, as we all know, is the revolutionary idea that people, not governments, are sovereign.”

Einaudi’s remarks hit on all the points that would become so familiar early in the next century in George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda”: the idea that democracy, as defined by Washington, was a universal value; that “history” represented a movement toward the fulfillment of that value; and that any nation or person who stood in the path of such fulfillment would be swept away.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Einaudi said, democracy had acquired the “force of historical necessity.” It went without saying that the United States, within a year the official victor in the Cold War and the “sole superpower” left on Planet Earth, would be the executor of that necessity.  Bush’s ambassador reminded his fellow delegates that the “great democratic tide which is now sweeping the globe” had actually started in Latin America, with human rights movements working to end abuses by military juntas and dictators.  The fact that Latin American’s freedom fighters had largely been fighting against U.S.-backed anti-communist rightwing death-squad states was lost on the ambassador.

In the case of Panama, “democracy” quickly worked its way up the shortlist of casus belli.

In his December 20th address to the nation announcing the invasion, President Bush gave “democracy” as his second reason for going to war, just behind safeguarding American lives but ahead of combatting drug trafficking or protecting the Panama Canal. By the next day, at a press conference, democracy had leapt to the top of the list and so the president began his opening remarks this way: “Our efforts to support the democratic processes in Panama and to ensure continued safety of American citizens is now moving into its second day.”

George Will, the conservative pundit, was quick to realize the significance of this new post-Cold War rationale for military action. In a syndicated column headlined, “Drugs and Canal Are Secondary: Restoring Democracy Was Reason Enough to Act,” he praised the invasion for “stressing… the restoration of democracy,” adding that, by doing so, “the president put himself squarely in a tradition with a distinguished pedigree. It holds that America’s fundamental national interest is to be America, and the nation’s identity (its sense of its self, its peculiar purposefulness) is inseparable from a commitment to the spread — not the aggressive universalization, but the civilized advancement — of the proposition to which we, unique among nations, are, as the greatest American said, dedicated.”

That was fast. From Keystone Kops to Thomas Paine in just two months, as the White House seized the moment to radically revise the terms by which the U.S. engaged the world. In so doing, it overthrew not just Manuel Noriega but what, for half a century, had been the bedrock foundation of the liberal multilateral order: the ideal of national sovereignty.

Darkness Unto Light

The way the invasion was reported represented a qualitative leap in scale, intensity, and visibility when compared to past military actions. Think of the illegal bombing of Cambodia ordered by Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in 1969 and conducted for more than five years in complete secrecy, or of the time lag between actual fighting in South Vietnam and the moment, often a day later, when it was reported.

In contrast, the war in Panama was covered with a you-are-there immediacy, a remarkable burst of shock-and-awe journalism (before the phrase “shock and awe” was even invented) meant to capture and keep the public’s attention. Operation Just Cause was “one of the shortest armed conflicts in American military history,” writes Brigadier General John Brown, a historian at the United States Army Center of Military History. It was also “extraordinarily complex, involving the deployment of thousands of personnel and equipment from distant military installations and striking almost two-dozen objectives within a 24-hour period of time… Just Cause represented a bold new era in American military force projection: speed, mass, and precision, coupled with immediate public visibility.”

Well, a certain kind of visibility at least. The devastation of El Chorrillo was, of course, ignored by the U.S. media.

In this sense, the invasion of Panama was the forgotten warm-up for the first Gulf War, which took place a little over a year later.  That assault was specifically designed for all the world to see. “Smart bombs” lit up the sky over Baghdad as the TV cameras rolled. Featured were new night-vision equipment, real-time satellite communications, and cable TV (as well as former U.S. commanders ready to narrate the war in the style of football announcers, right down to instant replays). All of this allowed for public consumption of a techno-display of apparent omnipotence that, at least for a short time, helped consolidate mass approval and was meant as both a lesson and a warning for the rest of the world. “By God,” Bush said in triumph, “we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

It was a heady form of triumphalism that would teach those in Washington exactly the wrong lessons about war and the world.

Justice Is Our Brand

In the mythology of American militarism that has taken hold since George W. Bush’s disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his father, George H.W. Bush, is often held up as a paragon of prudence — especially when compared to the later reckless lunacy of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. After all, their agenda held that it was the messianic duty of the United States to rid the world not just of “evil-doers” but “evil” itself.  In contrast, Bush Senior, we are told, recognized the limits of American power.  He was a realist and his circumscribed Gulf War was a “war of necessity” where his son’s 2003 invasion of Iraq was a catastrophic “war of choice.” But it was H.W. who first rolled out a “freedom agenda” to legitimize the illegal invasion of Panama.

Likewise, the moderation of George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, has often been contrasted favorably with the rashness of the neocons in the post-9/11 years. As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, however, Powell was hot for getting Noriega. In discussions leading up to the invasion, he advocated forcefully for military action, believing it offered an opportunity to try out what would later become known as “the Powell Doctrine.” Meant to ensure that there would never again be another Vietnam or any kind of American military defeat, that doctrine was to rely on a set of test questions for any potential operation involving ground troops that would limit military operations to defined objectives. Among them were: Is the action in response to a direct threat to national security? Do we have a clear goal? Is there an exit strategy?

It was Powell who first let the new style of American war go to his head and pushed for a more exalted name to brand the war with, one that undermined the very idea of those “limits” he was theoretically trying to establish. Following Pentagon practice, the operational plan to capture Noriega was to go by the meaningless name of “Blue Spoon.” That, Powell wrote in My American Journey, was “hardly a rousing call to arms… [So] we kicked around a number of ideas and finally settled on… Just Cause. Along with the inspirational ring, I liked something else about it. Even our severest critics would have to utter ‘Just Cause’ while denouncing us.”

Since the pursuit of justice is infinite, it’s hard to see what your exit strategy is once you claim it as your “cause.” Remember, George W. Bush’s original name for his Global War on Terror was to be the less-than-modest Operation Infinite Justice

Powell says he hesitated on the eve of the invasion, wondering if it really was the best course of action, but let out a “whoop and a holler” when he learned that Noriega had been found. A new Panamanian president had already been sworn in at Fort Clayton, a U.S. military base in the Canal Zone, hours before the invasion began.

Here’s the lesson Powell took from Panama: the invasion, he wrote, confirmed all his “convictions over the preceding twenty years, since the days of doubt over Vietnam. Have a clear political objective and stick to it. Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for going in big if that is what it takes… As I write these words, almost six years after Just Cause, Mr. Noriega, convicted on the drug charges contained in the indictments, sits in an American prison cell. Panama has a new security force, and the country is still a democracy.”

That assessment was made in 1995. From a later vantage point, history’s judgment is not so sanguine. As George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering said about Operation Just Cause: “Having used force in Panama… there was a propensity in Washington to think that force could provide a result more rapidly, more effectively, more surgically than diplomacy.” The easy capture of Noriega meant “the notion that the international community had to be engaged… was ignored.”

“Iraq in 2003 was all of that shortsightedness in spades,” Pickering said. “We were going to do it all ourselves.” And we did.

The road to Baghdad, in other words, ran through Panama City.  It was George H.W. Bush’s invasion of that small, poor country 25 years ago that inaugurated the age of preemptive unilateralism, using “democracy” and “freedom” as both justifications for war and a branding opportunity. Later, after 9/11, when George W. insisted that the ideal of national sovereignty was a thing of the past, when he said nothing — certainly not the opinion of the international community — could stand in the way of the “great mission” of the United States to “extend the benefits of freedom across the globe,” all he was doing was throwing more fuel on the “wildfire” sparked by his father.  A wildfire some in Panama likened to a “little Hiroshima.”

Greg Grandin, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of a number of books including, most recently, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, which was a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize, was anointed by Fresh Air’s Maureen Corrigan as the best book of the year, and was also on the “best of” lists of the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the Financial Times. He blogs for the Nation magazine and teaches at New York University.

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

Copyright 2014 Greg Grandin

 

Ukraine Storm forecast over Cuba

By: Synoia Sunday December 21, 2014 4:40 pm

In a new long range weather forecast designed to predict the spread of Neo-Imperialism from West to East, a severe new cell of potential Neo-Liberalism is being reported in the Caribbean, and is expected to make landfall on Cuba, so Batistering the Island Nation into a Neo-Liberal dream.

The Bateristing of this new Ukraine Storm is being fomented by US foreign Policy apparatchiks.

President Obama mentioned this new cell, caused by a secret gust of desire for the Oil off Cuba’s North West Coast; he averred that in such cases, the traditional American method of political weather forecasting, (simply denying there was any weather,) does not work.

The process is explained in this quote by President Obama:

After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.

Nice idea. New approach to what objective, one asks?

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What’s Really Behind US-Cuba Normalization? by MrJayTee

By: Anti-Capitalist Meetup Sunday December 21, 2014 3:45 pm

A spectre is haunting the United States–the spectre of normal relations between the United States and communist bugbear Cuba. For the lazy, captured US media, it’s all about the Cold War poses struck by Republicans (and a few Democrats like New Jersey senator Bob Menendez) whose needles are permanently stuck in an anti-Castro groove. Add a few snips about how US corporations can’t wait to get into the Cuban market and you have the domestic version of the story.

But is it really as simple as big business finally tilting the balance away from right wing nuttery? It’s tempting to say yes. The machinations of capital are relentless and there can’t be any doubt that capital wants Cuba back in the worst way, but being slightly smaller in both area and population than Pennsylvania, it’s hard to believe the attraction of the Cuban market finally thawed the ideological iceberg of the Embargo all by itself.

Certainly generational change has helped take the risk of losing Florida’s electoral votes out of the issue. A recent survey of Cuban-American adults for the Miami Hearald showed about equal support for both sides of the issue, with wide support for normalization from respondents under 65. Opposition to the Castro regime just isn’t that potent an issue any more even for Cuban-Americans.

Then there’s the notion that a throwdown over Cuba policy benefits the Democrats in 2016 by encouraging a rift between doctrinaire conservative Republicans and liberal business Republicans while giving Democrats greater appeal among the non-crazy center. This scenario not only doesn’t need Congress to end the Embargo, it benefits from congressional drama. While I have no doubt that resuming relations with Cuba is a sincere goal among the liberal bourgeoisie, they need have no genuine expectation of success to make this argument part of the 2016 political strategy.

Is there more to the story? Let’s look around and see what some on the left are saying.

In Defense of Marxism strikes a triumphalist note, while cautioning that the change in US tactics does not mean the end of America’s efforts to destroy the Cuban revolution. It also rightly notes the history of US terrorism in Cuba; since the US is a major perpetrator of terrorism globally, this is fitting. IDoM also takes note of the Venezuela connection. Targeting Cuba and targeting Venezuela are part of the same Imperialist project.

On Wednesday December 17, the United States admitted that its attempt to bully Cuba into submission had failed. This should be seen as a victory for the Cuban Revolution and its resilience against the relentless onslaught of the most powerful imperialist power on earth only 90 miles away from its shores. However, US imperialism has not given up on its aims: the restoration of the rule of private property and the destruction of the gains of the revolution. It has just changed the means to achieve the same result….

The statement from the White House announcing the change of policy starts with a clear admission of bankruptcy: “A Failed Approach. Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” Of course, where it says an “open and democratic country” what they really mean is a capitalist country, where “democracy” is just a fig leaf for the rule of big corporations…

The coming to power of the Bolivarian revolution in 1998 threw a new life line to Cuba. On the one hand, it meant the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban medical services on very favourable terms. On the other, it broke the isolation of the Cuban revolution and provided the hope that it could spread even further.

Trotskyist World Socialist Website looks at the potential thaw (after noting that the Obama administration is slapping new sanctions on Venezuela allegedly to punish it for it’s handling of protests earlier this year) as evidence of the Castro regime saving saving what’s left of itself by means of Chinese-style state-controlled capitalism:

No doubt the demands of the Chamber of Commerce and the American Manufacturers Association for access to the Cuba market played a major role in Obama’s decision. So too did the prospect that a massive influx of US dollars would do far more than the economic blockade to unravel what remains of the radical reforms instituted by the Cuban Revolution, while helping to bring to power a more pliant regime in Havana, restoring the kind of neocolonial relationship that prevailed before 1959.

For its part, the Castro regime sees the turn toward its longtime imperialist nemesis as a means of salvaging its rule and pursuing a path similar to that of China, preserving the privileges of the ruling strata through the development of capitalism and at the expense of the Cuban working class.

It’s this view that I find the most suggestive. While the Cuban revolution deservedly enjoys broad from the serious left, that support often comes with criticism of the stratified, ossified, top-down nature of the regime. Is the Castro regime so pressed for money that they have no choice? Is it kidding itself that it can dance with the Beast and not come away unharmed?

Obviously, there are many factors at work here besides the US business community seeing an opportunity to extract value from Cuban workers and Cuba’s natural heritage. What is going on under the surface?

Speculate, anti-Capitalists!

The Sony hack… (warning: pure speculation to follow)

By: David Seaton Sunday December 21, 2014 10:59 am

The FBI said technical analysis of malware used in the Sony attack found links to malware that “North Korean actors” had developed and found a “significant overlap” with “other malicious cyber activity” previously linked to Pyongyang. Reuters

It’s obvious that North Korea is behind the attack on Sony in retaliation for making “The Interview”…

In fact it is so obvious that it makes me suspicious.

The North Koreans say they didn’t do it… I believe them.

Much of North Korea’s hacking is done from China. And while the attack on Sony used some commonly available cybertools, one intelligence official said, “this was of a sophistication that a year ago we would have said was beyond the North’s capabilities.” Fareed Zakaria – Washington Post

I think they have been set up for the fall by a much more sophisticated attacker, one who doesn’t want to take “credit” for the attack. There are two prime suspects in that case: China and Russia.  In my opinion it was the Russians. Here is a recent report of their work:

Russian state-backed cyber spies are behind coordinated, sophisticated digital attacks in the past two years against sensitive political and military targets, including Nato, the EU and government ministries, according to a security analyst. “Up until now the focus has been on China – but Russia is really the far more advanced player. Russia has been more effective at integrating cyber espionage into a geopolitical grand strategic campaign – not just a military one, but economic and political. They are more tactical too. More targeted in the institutions they go after . . . and more accomplished.” Financial Times – October 28, 2014

For me the Sony hack shows a very deep knowledge of the American economic and social system’s weak points, where the celebrity culture intersects with the insurance/financial/complex and the communication infrastructure that supports it… and the rest of corporate America. I believe the Russians accumulated this kind of “reverse-Kremlinology” during the decades of the Cold War and that neither the Chinese or especially the North Koreans, would know how to touch so many of America’s raw nerves simultaneously.

Why would the Russians pin it on the North Koreans?

They would for the same reason that Sony made the film: the North Koreans are comic book villains that are seen as crazy enough to do anything and it’s precisely the the craziness that has made this incident so viral, where the comments about Angelina Jolie’s possible insanity take precedence over the plus $90,000,000 that Sony stands to lose by pulling the film or the uncountable, confidential, corporate information, now in hostile hands. Russia certainly wouldn’t want to provoke a hostile confrontation with the United States over something so “comic bookish”, but the “comic bookishness” is an essential part of the incident’s power. An attack on JP Morgan is probably much more serious than the Sony hack, but that would never grab the public’s attention in the same way.

That leads us directly to the following questions:

What has the attack achieved? What would Russia have to gain by this attack?

The answer to the first question is the answer to the second.

The Sony hack has shown the fragility of America’s complex system in a way that even the least technical person can understand it and because of the celebrity gossip involved the entire country, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages have seen it and talked about it.

And what if the next target for the cyber attackers is not a film corporation but an electricity grid, or gas suppliers, or water pumping stations? Then what? Call this a comedy? I’m not sure there is much to laugh about. BBC

Russia is at this moment under tremendous pressure from the “West”; it would even appear that the Obama administration is bent on “regime change” in Moscow. The logic of the Russians acting under the cover of the wackos of Pyongyang would be the following: in the light of the Sony hack and seeing the damage that puny North Korea could do to a major corporation, the “good and the great”, the “serious” people in corporate America might pause to ask themselves: if Kim Jong-un could cause such havoc, what might Vladimir Putin be able to do, it sufficiently backed into a corner?

Cross posted from David Seaton’s News Links

20 Reasons(to start) I Hate Christmas; 1 Reason I Like It

By: Ohio Barbarian Sunday December 21, 2014 9:34 am

1. I see people on the road this time of year that I don’t for the rest of the year, and they can’t drive worth shit. Makes driving more dangerous, it does.

2. Piped-in Christmas music in stores and some workplaces.

3. The Chipmunks.

4. The constant clamoring to give to the needy because of the season. As if the needy don’t need help the other 11 months out of the year.

5. The smugness of those who engage in #4 and then how they look down their noses at those they so self-righteously helped at Christmas for the rest of the year.

6. TV commercials of vehicles in bows.

7. Traffic anywhere near a shopping mall.

8. Non-Christians who think Christmas is the most important day for Christians.

9. Christians who think Christmas is the most important day for Christians.

10. People who think Jesus of Nazareth was actually born on December 25th. According to the gospels, he was born in the spring. Why do you think early Christians used the sign of the fish? I’m not even Christian, and I know that.

11. A whole retail industry that lives or dies on sales made in just one month.

12. Doorbuster sales.

13. Online ads.

14. Wrapping paper.

15. Shoppers bitching about minimum wage retail employees who have been on their feet for hours being too slow.

16. Retail managers harassing minimum wage retail employees for looking tired and being too slow.

17. Fruitcake.

18. Advertisements that tell us that if we don’t spend a lot on gifts for our loved ones, then we don’t love them.

19. Idiots who believe the ads in #18.

20. Presidential Christmas messages.

Please feel free to add your own reasons to hate Christmas. For that matter, feel free to add any reasons you like Christmas.

I’ll start that one:

A. I get a paid holiday.

So Happy Friggin’ Holidays, and have a nice day.

 

Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two police officers, he claims over the death of a child with a toy gun

By: RichardKanePA Saturday December 20, 2014 9:32 pm

The internet and press is full of so called backlash over the protests due to Ismaayl Brinsley assassinating a black and a Hispanic police officer.

I have a fear similar to to the fears I had when Charles Manson tried to create mayhem. Charles Manson. Manson’s goal was Helter Skelter to leave the world in ruins. (It is too late to edit the title, Brinkley’s enpheses was in his home town of NY City).

Al Qaeda in disguise killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon knowing Hezbollah would be blamed    ,

https://consortiumnews.com/2011/09/01/hariri-murder-sleuths-ignored-al-qaeda/

Almost a million died from the tit for tat blood bath that followed.

If anyone remembers the Iraqi Congress in Exile made up fake stories and Saddam’s nukes and other weapons of mass destruction to get the US to overthrow him, leading to endless carnage,

http://www.businessinsider.com/chalabi-could-be-the-countrys-next-prime-minister-2014-6

 

Please remember that Tom Fox a Quaker peace maker went to Iraq to declare peace but was held hostage instead,

http://www.fwccamericas.org/publications/wqf/2006_May-June/TributetoaPeacemaker.htm

 

Suicidal maniacs who want mayhem as far as I am concerned are on the same side the side of mayhem.

In the song “Where have all the flowers gone I keep thinking back to the lines “When will they ever learn”

Palestinian Children Win International Math Competition Two Years in a Row

By: Ben Norton Saturday December 20, 2014 5:58 pm

Palestinians Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, 8, on left, who won second place and Dania Husni al-Jaabari, 14, on right, who won first place in the 2014 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
CREDIT: Ma’an

In December 2014, Dania Husni al-Jaabari, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from Al-Khalil (not Hebron), won first place in the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition. She solved 240 math problems in six minutes.

Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, an eight-year-old Palestinian boy also from al-Khalil, won second place. He solved 180 problems in six minutes.

The two children competed against approximately 3,000 children from over 15 countries.

14-year-old Gazan Areej El Madhoun, who won first place in the 2013 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
CREDIT: UNRWA

In January 2013, Areej El Madhoun, a 14-year-old girl from a Gaza refugee camp, won first place as well. As UNRWA writes, in “recent years in Gaza, creativity and achievement has grown and flourished against extraordinary odds; a blockade and the rubble of many conflicts, the last of which was eight-day war on Gaza in November 2012.” UNRWA continued:

Areej sees her success as the greatest gift she can offer to the children of Gaza after the recent eight-day war, which saw houses and infrastructure destroyed, and incidences of psychological trauma rise.

“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine. I was very proud to carry my country‘s flag”, said a delighted Areej.

“When I was announced as the winner, I felt overwhelmed and cried so hard”.

The recent memory of war made her victory particularly poignant, Areej added

“I went through some difficult times before the competition. The most recent conflict in Gaza had just ended two weeks before the competition began.”

In the end, the fear and anxiety brought on by the conflict did not subdue her overwhelming joy at winning first prize, she said.

The Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition takes place every two years. Israel’s genocidal military assaults on Gaza also take place roughly every two years. It is no surprise, ergo, that, just as Areej’s victory came just after

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud,

  • an eight-day attack that, according to the UN,
  • killed 158 Palestinians,
  • 103 of whom were civilians (65%),
  • 30 of whom children (19%), and
  • injured more than 1,000,
  • so too did the victories of al-Jaabari and Nashwiyeh come right after

    Israel’s Operation “Protective” Edge,

  • a 51-day attack that, according to the UN and Amnesty International,
  • killed 2,192 Palestinians,
  • 1,523 of whom were civilians (69%),
  • 519 of whom were children (24%), and
  • injured around 11,000.
  • What is so inspiring is that, in a society that has been illegally military occupied for 47 years, and colonized and ethnically cleansed for 67 years, these children still flourish.

    Palestinians Dania Husni al-Jaabari, 14, on left, who won first place and Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, 8, on right, who won second place in the 2014 Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition
    CREDIT: Ma’an

    What is so inspiring is that, in occupied lands in which the vast majority of children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), in which children do not feel safe in their own homes (they are, rightfully, afraid of being kidnapped, detained without charge, tortured, and raped by the Israeli military), and in which almost 100% of children have experienced warfare, these children still flourish. In the words of University of California clinical professor of psychiatry and global health sciences Dr. Jesse Ghannam, nowhere else in the world is there anything “like the levels of traumatic exposure that [Palestinian children have] been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.”

    These children’s victories serve as a striking testament to the strength of the Palestinians, of their reluctance to give in to the oppression and ultimately death to which Israel has subjected them (with steadfast US support) for these almost seven long decades.

    As the Palestinian slogan goes, “Existence is resistance!”

    Cleveland Protests over Tamir Rice’s Assassination & Final Day of #ThisStopsToday

    By: wendydavis Saturday December 20, 2014 10:33 am

    The video of 12-year-old child Tamir being blown away in two seconds can be seen here.  Note the question asked by the dispatcher three times: “Is he black or white?”

    This page from Cleveland.com has a handy schedule of this weekend’s events; our thanks.  At least 100 Ferguson protestors planned to make the trip; shortstack is already there.  Events started at 10 a.m. with a rally and forum at Cudell Recreation Center, where Tamir was murdered, then there will be a demonstration at 11:30 at the Second District Police Headquarters, 3481 Fulton Road.  The killing of mentally ill Tanesha Anderson by Cleveland Serve and Protect officers will also be highlighted.