Category Archives: Warfare

Skewering Kissinger, the idealistic thug

While former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has been dubbed a masterful practitioner of Realpolitik, the German-born politician was, in fact, a classic idealist, for whom the lives of untold thousands could be sacrificed in service of the ideal of geopolitical stability, argues New York University historian Greg Grandin.

In his newly published Kissinger’s Shadow, The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, makes the argument that Kissinger’s brutal legacy, discredited in the wake of the disastrous Vietnam War and his support of the brutal regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, has not only been rehabilitated, but elevated to the gold standard of American foreign policy, with results just as disastrous as in the 1960s and 1970s.

For many of esnl’s generation, Henry Kissinger represented everything wrong in American politics, and his name served as an embodiment of imperial ambition, and nobody captured the Kissinger essence better than political caricaturist David Levine, most notably in this illustration for the cover of the New York Review of Books:

BLOG Henry 1

When the New Republic’s Steven Cohen recently interviewed Grandin, he asked the historian what had sparked his latest tome. The answer is revealing:

Honestly, I saw a picture of Samantha Power [the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] and Henry Kissinger at a Yankees game that so drove me over the edge. You know, Samantha Power wrote this book about genocide, including several genocides that Kissinger was implicated in, and then to see their banter about power and realism and human rights…I thought I would write a snarky book called The People’s Obituary of Henry Kissinger. That introduction, “An Obituary Foretold,” is kind of all that’s left from it. I don’t think I have the comic imagination to justify a full-length book that would have said anything new.

From The Laura Flanders Show on Telesur English, here’s an interview with the author, followed by an excerpt of a documentary on his legacies:

Greg Grandin: Empire and Resistance

Program notes:

The tools of empire, and the resistance: We talk with professor and author Greg Grandin about his latest book, Kissinger’s Shadow. Then, later in the show, we look at the US-supported coup in Honduras in 2009. And some words from Laura on Guatemala.

Finally, one more David Levine illustration this one named after a Ray Bradbury novel, The Illustrated Man:

BLOG Henry 2

Andrew Cockburn dissects high tech warfare

From The Laura Flanders Show on Telesur English, Andrew Cockburn [Harpers Magazine Washington editor] examines the pernicious psychological and prodigious profits reaped from America’s transition to boots on the ground to drones in the air:

Andrew Cockburn: Modern War

Program notes:

This week’s episode focuses on modern warfare and US imperialism. Is drone warfare here to stay? It’s one of the few things Republicans and Democrats agree on. Andrew Cockburn has been a rare critical voice on the subject. He is the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine and the author of several nonfiction books on war and international politics. His new book is Kill Chain: The Rise of High-Tech Assassins. And later in the show, an excerpt from a new film about a young man held in the US prison at Guantanamo – Fahd Ghazy.

The Empire Report: The corrupt Saudi state

In her latest edition of The Empire Files, Abby Martin takes on the corrupt Saudi royal house and their brutal campaigns of repression and class warefare, armed and supported by Barack Obama’s government.

Sexual repression, assassinations of labor leaders, and massacres of political protesters have been part of the House of Saud’s leadership style for generations, and Abby Martin lays it all out in context.

From Telesur English:

The Real House of Saud – Saudi Arabia’s Oil-For-Tyranny

Program notes:

Meet the new head of the United Nations panel on Human Rights: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abby Martin takes us inside the brutal reality of this police-state monarchy, and tells the untold people’s history of resistance to it. With a major, catastrophic war in Yemen and looming high-profile executions of activists, The Empire Files exposes true nature of the U.S.-Saudi love affair.

She’s back: Abby Martin lands a Telesur show

A hearty welcome back to the East San Francisco Bay Area’s own Abby Martin, a passionate video journalist and artist whose RT America series Breaking the Set provided incisive alternative takes on critical issues of the day from September, 2012 to February 2015.

We were saddened by her departure from RT, and welcome the arrival her new show every Friday on Telesur English.

In this edition of The Empire Files, she interviews former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges on the power of the media and its spinners in the furtherance of American imperial dreams and the internalization of imperial control in the United States itself:

Abby Martin & Chris Hedges: War, Propaganda & the Enemy Within

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges on American myths, war and revolt. Hedges explains the ‘folly of Empire,’ the dangers posed by right-wing extremism and the urgent need for a new system.

Chris Hedges is a former New York Times journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of several books including his most recent, “Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt.” He publishes a weekly column on and is the host of Days of Revolt, airing every Monday night on teleSUR english.

teleSUR’s The Empire Files airs every Friday night at 10:00 EST / 7:00 PST. Watch live here:

FOLLOW @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

Quote of the day: The coercive deep state

From former Central Intelligence Agency officer Philip Giraldi, executive director of the Council for the National Interest, writing in the American Conservative:

America’s deep state is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards. A bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm, even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has become a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies. Both are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system and for providing current access to their replacements in government.

What makes the deep state so successful? It wins no matter who is in power, by creating bipartisan-supported money pits within the system. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries, and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the deep state persists in promoting policies that make no sense, to include the unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan. The deep state knows that a fearful public will buy its product and does not even have to make much of an effort to sell it.

Stunning news from Japan: An academic purge

First, a cartoon from the Japan Times:


And now for the story. . .

In parallel with  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government’s vote to abandon Japan’s 70-year-long ban on waging war overseas, Japan’s universities are closing their social science and humanities departments — long the bastions of resistance to the military aspirations of successive national governments.

From the ICEF Monitor:

A recent survey of Japanese university presidents found that 26 of 60 national universities with social science and humanities programmes intend to close those departments during the 2016 academic year or after. The closures are a direct response to an extraordinary request from the Japanese government that the universities take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities departments] or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs.”

The government’s position was set out in an 8 June 2015 letter sent by Minister of Education Hakubun Shimomura to all national universities and higher education organisations in the country. In it, Minister Shimomura argued that the move was necessary “in the light of the decrease of the university-age population, the demand for human resources and…the function of national universities.”

The Minister also made it clear to the universities that the government’s ongoing financial support for each university depended on their response. “There was a clear ‘or else’ behind the demand,” wrote journalist and educator Kevin Rafferty in the South China Morning Post, “or else you won’t get money.”


Higher education policy in Japan is now reportedly determined via the President’s Council on Industrial Competitiveness, a special body composed of government ministers, business executives, and (two) academics. And it appears that the Minister’s June letter to universities emerged from deliberations within that group and, more fundamentally, from the President’s conviction that Japan’s higher education institutions should be more directly focused on the country’s labour market needs.

In other words, given the choice between an soldiers and a workforce to keep them in arms and the cultivation of an informed electorate, Abe has opted for the way of the gun.

Oddly, even during World War II — which could be dated to \Japan’s invasion of China — humanities and social sciences remained on the course schedule of the island nation’s institutions of higher learning, notes Takamitsu Sawa, president of Shiga University, in an essay for the Japan Times. But things didn’t go well for students majoring in human studies:

During World War II, students of the natural sciences and engineering at high schools and universities were exempt from conscription and only those who were studying the humanities and social sciences were drafted into military service.

And Abe’s move fulfills the wishes of another post-war government, Sawa writes:

In March 1960, the education minister in Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s Cabinet said that all departments of the humanities and social sciences at national universities should be abolished so that those schools would concentrate on the natural sciences and engineering. He also said that education in the humanities and social sciences should be placed in the hands of private universities.

One could argue that the real justification of studying the humanities and social sciences is the development of a culture that will strive for peace through the cultivation of a deeper understandings of the wellsprings of the human condition.

By opting for the way of the gun, Abe is forgetting the maxim set forth by tht ardent student of the humanities, George Santayana, set forth in The Life of Reason:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Yet another American military con game

A blockbuster story from a highly-respected American journalist has detonated with scarcely a peep.

It concerns a fake terrorist attack aboard an American airliner, a staged provocation designed to intimidate Al Qaeda and to reassure Americans about the safety of travel on the nation’s airliners.

A Canadian by birth, Sean D. Naylor is senior writer for Army Times, the privately owned weekly newspaper. Gannett, the media conglomerate that owns the paper, also publishes sister publications devoted, respectively, to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

Naylor dropped his blockbuster is his newest book, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], published by St. Martins Press.

JSOC assembles under one administrative roof the ranks of the military’s self-styled “operators,” the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the Army’s Delta Force, and the Air Force’s little-known 24th Special Tactics Squadron. These are the highly trained fighters whose successes and failures rarely reach the public’s eyes and ears, the covert operators, provocateurs, and assassins who thrive best under a shroud of secrecy.

One notable former JSOC commander was four-star Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose career was demolished by Michael Hastings in his reporting for Rolling Stone — leading some to suspect a hidden hand in the journalist’s subsequent death in a curious one-car high-speed accident.

What Naylor discovered was a JSOC plot worthy of a Ridley Scott film, triggered by a 14 September rumor that a hikjacked airliner was sitting on an airport runway outside Washington D.C.

Naylor writes:

Hijackings in the United States were usually the purview of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, but after the September 11 there was a sense at [Ft. Bragg] that the old rules might no longer apply. “We flexed out on that and got ready to deploy the aircraft takedown team up there,” before the there was no hijacking reached Bragg, said the Delta source.

Meanwhile, Delta’s operators brainstormed. To dete future hijackings, they suggested the government, in conjunction with the FBI and the airlines, “leak out that there are Delta operators on board almost every flight and do a fake takedown” using role players “in a first class compartment that’s all stooges” on an otherwise regular commercial flight, said the Delta source. A “terrorist” would attempt a hijacking before operators in plainclothes too him down with “hand-to-hand or something,” the source said. “Get that out [via the media]. Get inside their heads.” The aim was to make [Al Qaeda] think twice and begin to think, “Hey, they’re on to us, there’s special mission guys on every airplane.”

While Delta commander Colonel Jim Schwitters gave the concept only cautious support, higher-ups wisely relegated the plan to the round file.

Lest the reader think the notion was only hare-brained cerebral flatulence, consider the America military’s long history of creating pretexts for military intervention.

To folks of esnl’s generation, one provocation stands, the so-called “Gulf of Tonkin” incident, in which an American destroyer sailed into North Vietnamese waters, triggering a exchange of fire that provided the pretext for a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in Vietnam and leading to the first acknowledged American military defeat in a major war.

But the incident that offers the deepest resonance was part of a package submitted to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara by Admiral Lyman L. Lemnitzer, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 13 March 1962. The memo [pdf], dubbed Operation Northwoods, was a package of provocation proposals designed to create an incident justifying a full-scale U.S. military invasion of Cuba and the ouster of the government of President Fidel Castro.

One aspect of the plans seems especially notable in light of the proposed post-9/11 JSOC ploy, and here’s the key section from that memo [click to enlarge]:

BLOG Northwoods

In the words of James Bamford, a former Navy intelligence analyst and perhaps America’s premier journalist on the trail of misdeeds of America’s secret world, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”

And while the plan talks about loading the initial flight with students and then moving them off so an empty aircraft could then be destroyed, the Pentagon planners had to know that local newspapers and television stations would bombard their parents with requests for information about their “dead” children — and that would lead to the truth and consequent international condemnation.

And that leads to one somber conclusion: The Pentagon planners knew that the only way the plan would’ve worked was to have let the airliner passengers die.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed.

If there is one fact that stands out, it’s that America’s military leaders must always be regarded with suspicion.

Which takes us back to where we began, the curious lack of coverage from the mainstream media.

Aside from a very few blogs, only the blog Gawker gave the story any coverage, with Sam Biddle parsing the key components of the JSOC plot. That the New York Times and other papers failed to sound the alarm should raise a great many questions about the institutions professing to be the watchdogs of democracy and the champions of full disclosure..