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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

(Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Ehud) Olmert's deep secrets...


We begin with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s mostly unknown ties to Mitt Romney:

Romney and Netanyahu were brought together by a new endeavor, The Boston Consulting Group. Each had been approached to act as a corporate advisor for the firm. Romney was a recent honors graduate from Harvard with dual degrees in law and business administration; Netanyahu, with an architecture diploma in hand, had just enrolled in the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue a master’s degree.

Imagine that… Netanyahu in the late ’70s worked with Romney, at Boston Consulting Group, both holding corporate advisor positions at the new firm run by one Ira Magaziner. The ties must have been deep because:

Romney said publicly he would make Israel his first visit destination if elected President. (He) last visited Israel in January of 2011, before he had formally declared his candidacy, and was hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence.

Ira Magaziner was a member of the CFR…and both Romney and Netanyahu would follow in his footsteps.

Who better than Ron Paul to expose Mitt Romney’s CFR membership? And look at all the CFR grooming and control.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was spotted at MIT in 1973 and the grooming began there when he was in his early twenties. After graduating, he received a high paying job at The Boston Consulting Group. His boss was Ira Magaziner (CFR), later President Bill Clinton’s (CFR) health advisor. (Clinton later shoved the Oslo “peace” accord down Israel’s throat.) But he quit the job in 1979, returned to Israel, staring selling furniture at the Rim Company, then organized an anti-terror convention. Inexplicably, the CFR sent a team of their biggest guns including George Bush Sr., Richard Perle and George Shultz to this unknown 27-year-old’s get-together. Once the convention was over, Netanyahu returned to work selling home furniture for three years until 1982, when Washington Ambassador Moshe Arens invited him to be his deputy. He claimed the choice was indirectly made by those who came to his convention and “were impressed with his performance.” That means Bush and Shultz pressed Arens to bring Bibi to Washington. From there, they pushed his career higher. In 1985, Shultz chaired another anti-terror convention in Washington supposedly organized by Netanyahu. By the time Bibi was UN Ambassador Schultz visited him every time he was in New York, and that was often.

Now please kind readers, ask yourselves: What are the odds that of the two advisors of Ira Magaziner’s new company, one would become the Prime Minister of Israel, while, at the same time, the other would be running for the American presidency? Come on now, one in a million, a billion?

- – - – - – - – - -

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Ehud Olmert was acquitted of major corruption charges on Tuesday but convicted of breach of trust, a lesser offence, in what was widely seen as a stunning victory for the former prime minister.

This was not Olmert’s first escape from fraud charges leaving others to shoulder the blame. In the late ’80s, Olmert committed mass fraud as co-Treasurer of the Likud Party. He was charged with the crime but only his partner, Menachem Atzmon, sat in prison for over three years. Olmert, apparently, paid his partner in crime well for taking the rap, the consequences of which led to 9-11. Menachem Atzmon, former partner of Ehud Olmert as Likud Co-Treasurer, convicted in Israel in 1996 for campaign finance fraud, took over management of security at the Boston and Newark airports when their company ICTS International, N.V [OTC:ICTSF] bought Huntleigh USA in 1999. UAL Flight 175 and AA 11, which struck the twin towers, both originated in Boston, while UAL 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, departed from the Newark airport. This convicted Likud criminal’s firm was in charge of security at Logan Airport inspecting the validity of passports and visas, searching cargo, screening passengers when two airliners were hijacked from there on Sept. 11, 2001, and demolished the World Trade Center towers in New York. Without Atzmon in charge of Newark and Logan Airports, 9-11 could NOT HAVE HAPPENED.

Now, once again kind readers… What are the odds that a convicted defrauder, just released from prison, would not only have the funds available but that the Boston and Newark airports would choose this crook to guard their security? In a normal world, the odds of this being mere co-incidence would be what, one in a million, a billion?

Israelis know or suspect that Netanyahu is controlled by America. They just don’t know who in America. Those Americans dumb or desperate enough to vote Romney, might be rewarded with a CFR-groomed lackey. Into this awful equation, we have ridiculously direct and suspicious ties between Olmert’s corruption and 9-11.

You make the connections yourself as America loses its economic dignity and Israelis face an impending missile war.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

SGB (Video)

SGB (Sonny Green), hailing from Southend on Sea, is one of the new bright lights in Hip-Hop

Billboard ads will use facial recognition technology...

Via ZH

As you scan the face on that giant billboard, it may just be scanning your face right back.

Increasingly sophisticated digital facial-recognition technology is opening new possibilities in business, marketing, advertising and law enforcement while exacerbating fears about the loss of privacy and the violation of civil liberties.

Businesses foresee a day when signs and billboards with face-recognition technology can instantly scan your face and track what other ads you’ve seen recently, adjust their message to your tastes and buying history and even track your birthday or recent home purchase.

The FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies already are exploring facial-recognition tools to track suspects, quickly single out dangerous people in a crowd or match a grainy security-camera image against a vast database to look for matches.

Many fear that future is coming too quickly, with facial-recognition technology becoming increasingly advanced, available and affordable before restrictions on its use can be put into place.

Concerns have been raised on Capitol Hill in recent weeks that FBI searches using the technology could trample Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, while some in the industry say excessive regulations could cripple cutting-edge technology.

“In our country, government shouldn’t be looking over your shoulder unless it has a reason,” said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech, privacy and technology project. “They should not be collecting data on innocent subjects.”

The potential to “data-mine” raw video or photography using facial-recognition technology is another concern, he said, but one that could clash with First Amendment rights on the right to photograph.

Facebook enters the fray

Sparking fresh concerns on the commercial front was social media behemoth Facebook’s acquisition last month of the Israeli technology company Face.com.

The acquisition enabled Facebook to implement a feature called “tag suggestions,” which lets the social networking site use facial recognition technology to make suggestions about who is in a picture. Users can opt out of this service, but the default setting is “on.”

Although there are no rules governing the use of this information, Facebook, which is estimated to have pictures and demographic information for more than 900 million users, has publicly stated multiple times that it will not allow any third-party access to its database.

This includes the government, though it has cooperated with law enforcement officials in a limited manner, a company spokesman said at a July 18 Senate hearing on face-recognition technology concerns.

One proposal is for a comprehensive privacy law, similar to those in many European countries.

This would provide for a “privacy commissioner” to deal with concerns raised by technological developments as well as basic rules such as a requirement to ask permission before using any pictures or videos.

“If companies take and use [my picture], that’s fine,” said Justin Brookman, director for consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “Just tell me about it.”

The rise of the police state and the absence of mass opposition...


One of the most significant political developments in recent US history has been the virtually unchallenged rise of the police state. Despite the vast expansion of the police powers of the Executive Branch of government, the extraordinary growth of an entire panoply of repressive agencies, with hundreds of thousands of personnel, and enormous public and secret budgets and the vast scope of police state surveillance, including the acknowledged monitoring of over 40 million US citizens and residents, no mass pro-democracy movement has emerged to confront the powers and prerogatives or even protest the investigations of the police state.

In the early fifties, when the McCarthyite purges were accompanied by restrictions on free speech, compulsory loyalty oaths and congressional ‘witch hunt’ investigations of public officials, cultural figures , intellectuals, academics and trade unionists, such police state measures provoked widespread public debate and protests and even institutional resistance. By the end of the 1950’s mass demonstrations were held at the sites of the public hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in San Francisco (1960) and elsewhere and major civil rights movements arose to challenge the racially segregated South, the compliant Federal government and the terrorist racist death squads of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (1964) ignited nationwide mass demonstrations against the authoritarian-style university governance.

The police state incubated during the first years of the Cold War was challenged by mass movements pledged to retain or regain democratic freedoms and civil rights.

Key to understanding the rise of mass movements for democratic freedoms was their fusion with broader social and cultural movements: democratic freedoms were linked to the struggle for racial equality; free speech was necessary in order to organize a mass movement against the imperial US Indo-Chinese wars and widespread racial segregation; the shutting down of Congressional ‘witch hunts’ and purges opened up the cultural sphere to new and critical voices and revitalized the trade unions and professional associations. All were seen as critical to protecting hard-won workers’ rights and social advances.

In the face of mass opposition, many of the overt police state tactics of the 1950’s went ‘underground’ and were replaced by covert operations; selective state violence against individuals replaced mass purges. The popular pro-democracy movements strengthened civil society and public hearings exposed and weakened the police state apparatus, but it did not go away. However, from the early 1980’s to the present, especially over the past 20 years, the police state has expanded dramatically, penetrating all aspects of civil society while arousing no sustained or even sporadic mass opposition.

The question is why has the police state grown and even exceeded the boundaries of previous periods of repression and yet not provoked any sustained mass opposition? This is in contrast to the broad-based pro-democracy movements of the mid to late 20th century. That a massive and growing police state apparatus exists is beyond doubt: one simply has to look up the published records of personnel (both public agents and private contractors), the huge budgets and scores of agencies involved in internal spying on tens of millions of American citizens and residents. The scope and depth of arbitrary police state measures taken include arbitrary detention and interrogations, entrapment and the blacklisting of hundreds of thousands of US citizens. Presidential fiats have established the framework for the assassination of US citizens and residents, military tribunals, detention camps and the seizure of private property.

Yet as these gross violations of the constitutional order have taken place and as each police state agency has further eroded our democratic freedoms, there have been no massive “anti-Homeland Security” movements, no campus ‘Free Speech movements'. There are only the isolated and courageous voices of specialized ‘civil liberties’ and constitutional freedoms activists and organizations, which speak out and raise legal challenges to the abuse, but have virtually no mass base and no objective coverage in the mass media.

To address this issue of mass inactivity before the rise of the police state, we will approach the topic from two angles.

We will describe how the organizers and operatives have structured the police state and how that has neutralized mass responses.

We will then discuss the ‘meaning’ of non-activity, setting out several hypotheses about the underlying motives and behavior of the ‘passive mass’ of citizens.

The Concentric Circles of the Police State

While the potential reach of the police state agencies covers the entire US population, in fact, it operates on the basis of ‘concentric circles’. The police state is perceived and experienced by the US population according to the degree of their involvement in critical opposition to state policies. While the police state theoretically affects ‘everyone’, in practice it operates through a series of concentric circles. The ‘inner core’, of approximately several million citizens, is the sector of the population experiencing the brunt of the police state persecution. They include the most critical, active citizens, especially those identified by the police state as sharing religious and ethnic identities with declared foreign enemies, critics or alleged ‘terrorists’. These include immigrants and citizens of Arab, Persian, Pakistani, Afghan and Somali descent, as well as American converts to Islam.

Ethnic and religious “profiling” is rife in all transport centers (airports, bus and train stations and on the highways). Mosques, Islamic charities and foundations are under constant surveillance and subject to raids, entrapment, arrests, and even Israeli-style ‘targeted’ assassinations.

The second core group, targeted by the police state, includes African Americans, Hispanics and immigration rights activists (numbering in the millions). They are subject to massive arbitrary sweeps, round-ups and unlimited detention without trial as well as mass indiscriminate deportations.

After the ‘core groups’ is the ‘inner circle’ which includes millions of US citizens and residents, who have written or spoken critically of US and Israeli policy in the Middle East, expressed solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people, opposed US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or have visited countries or regions opposed to US empire building (Venezuela, Iran, South Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, etc.). Hundreds of thousands of these citizens have their telephone, e-mail and internet communications under surveillance; they have been targeted in airports, denied passports, subject to ‘visits’ and to covert and overt blacklisting at their schools and workplaces.

Activists engaged in civil liberties groups, lawyers, and professionals, leftists engaged in anti-Imperialist, pro-democracy and anti-police state activities and their publications are on ‘file’ in the massive police state labyrinth of data collecting on ‘political terrorists’. Environmental movements and their activists have been treated as potential terrorists ­ with their own family members subjected to police harassment and ominous ‘visits’.

The ‘outer circle’ includes, community, civic, religious and trade union leaders and activists who, in the course of their activity interact with or even express support for core and inner circle critics and victims of police state violations of due process . The ‘outer circle’ numbering a few million citizens are ‘on file’ as ‘persons of interest’, which may involve monitoring their e-mail and periodic ‘checks’ on their petition signing and defense appeals.

These ‘three circles’ are the central targets of the police state, numbering upward of 40 million US citizens and immigrants - who have not committed any crime. For having exercised their constitutional rights, they have been subjected to various degrees of police state repression and harassment.

The police state, however, has ‘fluid boundaries’ about whom to spy on, whom to arrest and when - depending on whatever arouses the apparatchiks ‘suspicion’ or desire to exercise power or please their superiors at any given moment.

The key to the police state operations of the US in the 21st century is to repress pro-democracy citizens and pre-empt any mass movement without undermining the electoral system, which provides political theater and legitimacy. A police state ‘boundary’ is constructed to ensure that citizens will have little option but to vote for the two pro-police state parties, legislatures and executives without reference to the conduct, conditions and demands of the core, inner and outer circle of victims, critics and activists. Frequent raids, harsh public ‘exemplary’ punishment and mass media stigmatization transmit a message to the passive mass of voters and non-voters that the victims of repression ‘must have been doing something wrong’ or else they would not be under police state repression.

The key to the police state strategy is to not allow its critics to gain a mass base, popular legitimacy or public acceptance. The state and the media constantly drum the message that the activists’ ‘causes’ are not our (American, patriotic) ‘causes’; that ‘their’ pro-democracy activities impede ‘our’ electoral activities; their lives, wisdom and experiences do not touch our workplaces, neighborhoods, sports, religious and civic associations. To the degree that the police-state has ‘fenced in’ the inner circles of the pro-democracy activists, they have attained a free hand and uncontested reach in deepening and extending the boundaries of the authoritarian state. To the degree that the police state rationale or presence has penetrated the consciousness of the mass of the US population, it has created a mighty barrier to the linking of private discontent with public action.

Hypothesis on Mass Complicity and Acquiescence with the Police State

If the police-state is now the dominant reality of US political life, why isn’t it at the center of citizen concern? Why are there no pro-democracy popular movements? How has the police state been so successful in ‘fencing off’ the activists from the vast majority of US citizens? After all, other countries at other times have faced even more repressive regimes and yet the citizens rebelled. In the past, despite the so-called ‘Soviet threat’, pro-democracy movements emerged in the US and even rolled back a burgeoning police state. Why does the evocation of an outside ‘Islamic terrorist threat’ seem to incapacitate our citizens today? Or does it?

There is no simple, single explanation for the passivity of the US citizens faced with a rising omnipotent police state. Their motives are complex and changing and it is best to examine them in some detail.

One explanation for passivity is that precisely the power and pervasiveness of the police state has created deep fear, especially among people with family obligations, vulnerable employment and with moderate commitments to democratic freedoms. This group of citizens is aware of cases where police powers have affected other citizens who were involved in critical activities, causing job loss and broad suffering and are not willing to sacrifice their security and the welfare of their families for what they believe is a ‘losing cause’ ­ a movement lacking a strong popular base and with little institutional support. Only when the protest against the Wall Street bailout and the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movements against the ‘1%’ gained momentum, did this sector express transitory support. But as the Office of the President consummated the bailout and the police-state crushed the ‘Occupy’ encampments, fear and caution led many sympathizers to withdraw timidly back into passivity.

The second motive for ‘acquiescence’ among a substantial public is because they tend to support the police state, based on their acceptance of the anti-terror ideology and its virulent anti-Muslim-anti-Arab racism, driven in large part by influential sectors of pro-Israel opinion makers. The fear and loathing of Muslims, cultivated by the police state and mass media, was central to the post-9/11 build-up of Homeland Security and the serial wars against Israel’s adversaries, including Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and now Syria with plans for Iran.

Active support for the police state peaked during the first 5 years post- 9/11 and subsequently ebbed as the Wall Street-induced economic crisis, loss of employment and the failures of government policy propelled concerns about the economy far ahead of support for the police state. Nevertheless, at least one-third of the electorate still supports the police state, ‘right or wrong’. They firmly believe that the police state protects their ‘security’; that suspects, arrestees, and others under watch ‘must have been doing something illegal’. The most ardent backers of the police state are found among the rabid anti-immigrant groups who support arbitrary round-ups, mass deportations and the expansion of police powers at the expense of constitutional guarantees.

The third possible motive for acquiescence in the police state is ignorance: those millions of US citizens who are not aware of the size, scope and activities of the police state. Their practical behavior speaks to the notion that ‘since I am not directly affected it must not exist’. Embedded in everyday life, making a living, enjoying leisure time, entertainment, sports, family, neighborhoods and concerned only about household budgets … This mass is so embedded in their personal ‘micro-world’ that it considers the macro-economic and political issues raised by the police state as ‘distant’, outside of their experience or interest: ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I don’t know enough’, ‘It’s all ‘politics’ … The widespread apoliticism of the US public plays into its ignoring the monster that has grown in its midst.

Paradoxically as some peoples’ concerns and passive discontent over the economy has grown, it has lessened support for the police state as well as having lessened opposition to it. In other words the police state flourishes while public discontent is focused more on the economic institutions of the state and society. Few, if any, contemporary political leaders educate their constituency by connecting the rise of the police state, imperial wars and Wall Street to the everyday economic issues concerning most US citizens. The fragmentation of issues, the separation of the economic from the political and the divorce of political concerns from individual ones, allow the police state to stand ‘above and outside’ of the popular consciousness , concerns and activities.

State-sponsored fear mongering on behalf of the police state is amplified and popularized by the mass media on a daily basis via propagandistic-‘news’, ‘anti-terrorist’ detective programs, Hollywood’s decades of crass anti-Arab, Islamophobic films. The mass media portrayal of the police state’s naked violations of democratic rights as normal and necessary in a milieu infiltrated by ‘Muslim terrorists’, where feckless ‘liberals’(defenders of due process and the Bill of Rights) threaten national security, has been effective.

Ideologically, the police state depends on identifying the expansion of police powers with ‘national security’ of the passive ‘silent’ majority, even as it creates profound insecurity for an active, critical minority. The self-serving identification of the ‘nation’ and the ‘flag’ with the police state apparatus is especially prominent during ‘mass spectacles’ where ‘rock’, schlock and ‘sports’ infuse mass entertainment with solemn Pledges of Allegiance to uphold and respect the police state and busty be-wigged young women wail nasally versions of the national anthem to thunderous applause. Wounded ‘warriors’ are trotted out and soldiers rigid in their dress uniforms salute enormous flags, while the message transmitted is that police state at home works hand in hand with our ‘men and women in uniform’ abroad. The police state is presented as a patriotic extension of the wars abroad and as such both impose ‘necessary’ constraints on citizen opposition, public criticism and any real forthright defense of freedom.

Conclusion: What is to be done?

The ascendancy of the police state has benefited enormously from the phony bi-partisan de-politicization of repressive legislation, and the fragmentation of socio-economic struggles from democratic dissent. The mass anti-war movements of the early 1990’s and 2001-2003 were undermined (sold-out) by the defection of its leaders to the Democratic Party machine and its electoral agenda. The massive popular immigration movement was taken over by Mexican-American political opportunists from the Democratic Party and decimated while the same Democratic Party, under President Barack Obama, has escalated police state repression against immigrants, expelling millions of Latino immigrant workers and their families.

Historical experience teaches us that a successful struggle against an emerging police state depends on the linking of the socio-economic struggles that engage the attention of the masses of citizens with the pro-democracy, pro-civil liberty, ‘free speech’ movements of the middle classes. The deepening economic crisis, the savage cuts in living standards and working conditions and the fight to save ‘sacred’ social programs (like Social Security and Medicare) have to be tied in with the expansion of the police state.

A mass social justice movement, which brings together thousands of anti-Wall Streeters, millions of pro-Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid recipients with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers will inevitably clash with the bloated police-state apparatus. Freedom is essential to the struggle for social justice and the mass struggle for social justice is the only basis for rolling back the police state. The hope is that mass economic pain will ignite mass activity, which, in turn, will make people aware of the dangerous growth of the police state. A mass understanding of this link will be essential to any advance in the movement for democracy and people’s welfare at home and peace abroad.

US shares contingency plans for possible Iran strike with Israel's PM...


U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon shared Washington’s contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran with Israel’s PM, according to a senior American official.

The U.S. national security adviser has shared with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the United States’ contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran.

According to a senior American official, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon briefed Netanyahu on the plans during Donilon’s visit to Israel two weeks ago. According to the official, who requested anonymity, Netanyahu hosted Donilon at a three-hour dinner. For part of the time, Israel’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, was on hand.

Donilon sought to make clear that the United States is seriously preparing for the possibility that negotiations will reach a dead end and military action will become necessary. He said reports of such preparations were not just a way to assuage Israel’s concerns.

Romney opens Jerusalem fundraiser to press, reversing earlier decision...

Via WP

Mitt Romney is opening his high-dollar fundraiser here Monday to the news media, reversing his campaign’s earlier decision to block press access to the event.

By banning reporters from covering the event, the Romney campaign would have violated the ground rules it had previously negotiated with news organizations regarding coverage of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s finance events.

After reporters objected and several national news outlets, including The Washington Post, reported on Saturday that the campaign was keeping its Jerusalem fundraiser closed to the press, it reversed its decision.

Campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said a regular press pool would be allowed in to cover the Monday morning event, held at the King David Hotel.

Several of Romney’s national finance co-chairmen — including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, oil investor L.E. Simmons, Detroit businessman John Rakolta and the candidate’s older brother, Scott Romney — flew to Israel to attend the event. Other guests include Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to personally give tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC.

Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy...


Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.

Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a "stern warning" to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are "spiralling out of control" in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that "given the regime's stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching". Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia's designs on China, which declared that it was "keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia"? Now it is Obama's turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.

But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.

Then there's that neighbouring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria's bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was "down the page" from Syria, buried "below the fold", as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn't we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn't have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq's suffering today. Right?

And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting "world" news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his despatches directly from Aleppo.

Then, of course, there's us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel's savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel's crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.

And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!

Massive global floods and severe droughts the "new normal" (Video)


Was 'Dark Knight' shooter a product of MK-ULTRA?

Via CP

Appearing on the Alex Jones Show today, investigative journalist Wayne Madsen said accused shooter James Holmes had a number of links to U.S. government-funded research centers, including the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

James Holmes was one of six recipients of a National Institutes of Health Neuroscience Training Grant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, Madsen writes for the Wayne Madsen Report.

"The Anschutz Medical Campus is on the recently de-commisioned site of the U.S. Army's Fitzsimons Army Medical Center and is named after Philip Anschutz, the billionaire Christian fundamentalist oil and railroad tycoon who also owns The Examiner newspaper chain and website and the neo-conservative Weekly Standard," Madsen explains.

"The Anschutz Medical Campus was built by a $91 million grant from the Anschutz Foundation."

Holmes also worked as a research assistant intern at the Salk Institute at the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla. The Salk Institute teamed up with DARPA, Columbia University, University of California at San Francisco, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wake Forest University, and the candy bar company Mars "to prevent fatigue in combat troops through the enhanced use of epicatechina, a blood flow-increasing and blood vessel-dilating anti-oxidant flavanol found in cocoa and, particularly, in dark chocolate," according to Madsen's research.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

HSBC narco-bank: Too big to fail, too big to go to jail

Via MC

The big news in the US Senate’s Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigation’s 340-page report released last week on drug money-laundering by London’s HSBC Bank, the world’s 4th largest, is the answer to the question:

Is there a bigger Drug Lord in the world than Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel Honcho Shorty (El Chapo) Guzman?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes. His job's as important at Shorty Guzman's, even if he doesn't get the same kind of press. But first, a quick peek at how and why the Senate Report made one thing— as Richard Nixon used to say—perfectly clear:

Crime pays. At least if you’re a banker.

No crimes. No felonies. Just "serious administrative faults"

Wearing a bespoke pin-stripe suit is the world's best "get out of jail free" card. But it doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry, as the Senate Hearing illustrated.

Newspapers reported that executives with Europe's biggest bank “were subjected to a humiliating onslaught from US senators" while lawmakers “hammered the British-based bank.”

But spending one day every three of four years tugging your forelock and eating humble pie in front of generally-sympathetic Senators whose re-election you’re bankrolling isn’t all that difficult. The worst that could happen was if you got a headache from all the TV lights.

It’s not like somebody was videotaping you being beheaded with a dull knife.

Laughing all the way to their own bank

One week after a scathing U.S. Senate report slammed HSBC for laundering at least $9 billion in Mexican drug money, Mexico's National Banking and Securities Commission levied a $27.5 million fine on HSBC, the largest in Mexican history.

It was hardly a draconian measure. On the contrary, it showed how good life can be. If you work for HSBC, you can laugh all the way to the bank. Money launderers typically charge hefty fees of 20-30%.

The bank was fined just three-tenths of a penny for every dollar the bank laundered. You don’t need an MBA in Accounting to figure out that somebody's pocketing the difference… a risk-free $3 billion profit.

Why risk free? That’s a good question. Nobody has any good answers.

Laundering drug money through HSBC is as important a job in the international drug trafficking industry as being a coca grower, or even a Cartel Honcho. And its got more perks. As we witnessed three years ago when Wachovia Bank admitted to laundering a stupefying $378 billion of drug money over a half-dozen years, nobody goes to prison.

In fact, nobody even gets charged.

"'Low-risk' means don't worry about the goddam drug money, got it?"

HSBC's chief executive in Mexico, Luis Pena, echoed what bank officials told Senator Levin’s Senate Committee last week. He said the bank recognized its mistakes and that the issue was now settled after the fine, the biggest-ever handed out to a bank in Mexico. "The case is concluded," Pena told Mexican reporters. "As I say, this was about serious administrative faults."

No it wasn’t. It’s about a criminal enterprise acting around the globe with impunity.

During the middle of the most conspicuous drug war in world history in Mexico, HSBC Bank labeled the bank’s transaction in that bedeviled country “low-risk,” meaning there was very little chance the enormous sums the bank was forwarding from Mexico to the US—as much as $9 billion in just a few years—were drug money.

After all, Mexico exports other things too. Pinatas. Tequila. Jalapeno sauce. More.

Bankers get a bad rap

London’s HSBC Bank started as The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. It was founded in Hong Kong 150 years ago in the aftermath of the First Opium War, when local merchants felt the need for a bank to finance the growing opium trade between Britain and China.

Many banks offer industry-specific financial specialists, to serve the unique needs of different industry segments: the chemical industry, the energy sector, party items. As the report made clear, HSBC Bank continues to specialize in servicing the specific needs of the drug trade.

What that means is that the Western World’s major media, and most especially the financial press, all got it wrong. Take the Wall Street Journal headline: “HSBC FAILS TO STOP DRUG MONEY LAUNDERING IN MEXICO.”

The bank didn’t fail to stop money laundering. You can only fail at something you’re trying to do. And the report made abundantly clear, without ever stating the conclusion openly, that stopping money laundering was never the bank’s goal.

The bank’s goal was to facilitate money laundering and make a killing doing it. Which it did…

And no bank in the world was better at money laundering than HSBC… except possibly Wachovia Bank, so embarrassingly successful—laundering $378 billion in just a half-dozen years—that like the infamous Chicago Black Sox baseball team that threw the 1919 World Series, the bank was forced to permanently retire their ‘Wachovia’ jerseys and play for a new team, Salt Lake City’s Wells Fargo Bank.

Meet Lord Green

So who is this shadowy Drug Lord on equal footing with Shorty Guzman? During most of the past decade, while HSBC Bank grew and prospered as a global narco-bank, he was the Chairman and CEO.

His identity may come as something of a shock. But he’s got a cool and oddly appropriate Global Drug Lord-type name. It's easy to pronounce; with no hyphenated multiple last names, like so many pesky Drug Lords from Central and South America.

Meet Lord Green. Or, to give him his full name, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint.

He's currently Britain's Minister of State for Trade and Investment.

Global Narco-Bank HSBC, the evidence in the 340-page report clearly indicates, wasn’t being snookered by sly money launderers representing sophisticated international drug traffickers. HSBC was an integral and enthusiastic partner in the drug trade.

They were only following orders from the top.The buck stopped with Lord Green.

If the US policy of zero tolerance—which lets the Coast Guard confiscate everything from kayaks to cabin cruisers for a single marijuana seed—were applied to HSBC, Federal marshals would even now be showing up at the homes of the bank’s far-flung top executives and asking for the keys to their company cars.

So, is that happening? Yes it is, one knowledgeable observer told us:

Just as soon as the nine American Supreme Court justices get around to interpreting the words chiseled in marble above the Court’s handsome façade—Equal Justice Under Law—to mean, well, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Until then, he implied, don’t hold your breath.

Colorado shooter was under psychiatric care of former US Air Force doctor...


The former University of Colorado graduate student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a shooting rampage at a cinema last week had been under the care of a psychiatrist who was part of a campus threat-assessment team.

The disclosure came in court documents filed yesterday by lawyers for James Holmes, 24, who is accused of opening fire last Friday on a packed showing of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The defence attorneys, in their request to an Arapahoe County district judge, are seeking a court order requiring prosecutors to turn over the contents of a package that Holmes sent to Dr. Lynne Fenton and was later seized by investigators.

“Mr. Holmes was a psychiatric patient of Dr. Fenton, and his communications with her are protected,” the filing said.

CNN: Fenton has held many jobs over the years. She worked as a physician in private practice in Denver from 1994 to 2005, and was chief of physical medicine with the U.S. Air Force in San Antonio, Texas, in the early 1990s, according to the resume. Since 2008, she’s won various grants and contracts to study schizophrenia.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strong storms threaten ozone layer over U.S.


Strong summer thunderstorms that pump water high into the upper atmosphere pose a threat to the protective ozone layer over the United States, researchers said on Thursday, drawing one of the first links between climate change and ozone loss over populated areas.

In a study published online by the journal Science, Harvard University scientists reported that some storms send water vapor miles into the stratosphere — which is normally drier than a desert — and showed how such events could rapidly set off ozone-destroying reactions with chemicals that remain in the atmosphere from CFCs, refrigerant gases that are now banned.

The risk of ozone damage, scientists said, could increase if global warming leads to more such storms.

“It’s the union between ozone loss and climate change that is really at the heart of this,” said James G. Anderson, an atmospheric scientist and the lead author of the study.

For years, Dr. Anderson said, he and other atmospheric scientists were careful to keep the two concepts separate. “Now, they’re intimately connected,” he said.

Ozone helps shield people, animals and crops from damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. Much of the concern about the ozone layer has focused on Antarctica, where a seasonal hole, or thinning, has been seen for two decades, and the Arctic, where a hole was observed last year. But those regions have almost no population.

A thinning of the ozone layer over the United States during summers could mean an increase in ultraviolet exposure for millions of people and a rise in the incidence of skin cancer, the researchers said.

The findings were based on sound science, Dr. Anderson and other experts said, but much more research is needed, including direct measurements in the stratosphere in areas where water vapor was present after storms.

“This problem now is of deep concern to me,” Dr. Anderson said. “I never would have suspected this.”

While there is conclusive evidence that strong warm-weather storms have sent water vapor as high as 12 miles — through a process called convective injection — and while climate scientists say one effect of global warming is an increase in the intensity and frequency of storms, it is not yet clear whether the number of such injection events will rise.

“Nobody understands why this convection can penetrate as deeply as it does,” said Dr. Anderson, who has studied the atmosphere for four decades.

Mario J. Molina, a co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for research in the 1970s that uncovered the link between CFCs and damage to the ozone layer, said the study added “one more worry to the changes that society’s making to the chemical composition of the atmosphere.” Dr. Molina, who was not involved in the work, said the concern was “significant ozone depletion at latitudes where there is a lot of population, in contrast to over the poles.”

The study, which was financed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, focused on the United States because that is where the data was collected. But the researchers pointed out that similar conditions could exist at other midlatitude regions.

Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, who reviewed the study for Science, also called for more research. “One of the really solid parts of this paper is that they’ve taken the chemistry that we know from other atmospheric experiments and lab experiments and put that in the picture,” he said. “The thing to do is do field work now — measure moisture amounts and whether there is any impact around it.”

“The connection with future climate is the most important issue,” Dr. Cicerone said.

Large thunderstorms of the type that occur from the Rockies to the East Coast and over the Atlantic Ocean produce updrafts, as warm moist air accelerates upward and condenses, releasing more heat. In most cases, the updrafts stop at a boundary layer between the lower atmosphere and the stratosphere called the tropopause, often producing flat-topped clouds that resemble anvils. But if there is enough energy in a storm, the updraft can continue on its own momentum, punching through the tropopause and entering the stratosphere, said Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

When Dr. Anderson produced data about five years ago clearly showing these strong injections of water vapor, “I didn’t believe it at first,” Dr. Emanuel said. “But we’ve come to see that the evidence is pretty strong that we do get them.”

At the same time, he added, “we don’t really understand what determines the potential for convection in the atmosphere,” so it is difficult to say what the effect of climate change will be.

“We’re much further along on understanding how hurricanes respond to climate change than normal storms,” Dr. Emanuel said.

The use of CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, was phased out beginning in the late 1980s with the signing of an international treaty called the Montreal Protocol, but it will take decades for them to be cleansed fully from the atmosphere. It is chlorine from the CFCs that ultimately destroys ozone, upsetting what is normally a balanced system of ozone creation and decay. The chlorine has to undergo a chemical shift in the presence of sunlight that makes it more reactive, and this shift is sensitive to temperature.

Dr. Anderson and his colleagues found that a significant concentration of water vapor raises the air temperature enough in the immediate vicinity to allow the chemical shift, and the ozone-destroying process, to proceed rapidly.

“The rate of these reactions was shocking to us,” Dr. Anderson said. “It’s chemistry that was sitting there, waiting to be revealed.”

Dr. Anderson said that if climate change related to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane led to more events in which water was injected well into the stratosphere, the effect on ozone could not be halted because the chemistry would continue. “It’s irreversible,” he said.

If CFCs had not been banned, the ozone layer would be in far worse shape than it is. But by showing that CFC-related ozone destruction can occur in conditions other than the cold ones at the poles, the study suggests that the full recovery of the ozone layer may be further off than previously considered.

“The world said, ‘Oh, we’ve controlled the source of CFCs; we can move on to something else,’ ” Dr. Anderson said. “But the destruction of ozone is far more sensitive to water vapor and temperature.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"It's the guns - but we all know, it's not really the guns"...

Via MM

Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence. There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children. Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.

In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are – the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany … the list seems endless.

And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.

But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.

That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?

Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to "the why" of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they're both half right.

The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself – that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Of course, they know they're being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.

But they are half right when they say "Guns don't kill people." I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: "Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people."

Because we're the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you'll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don't have to deal with what's really behind all this murder and mayhem.

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours – and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns – and in 2006 the number was two!

Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here – and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.

People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years – and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.

So those countries (and many others) are just like us – except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.

My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad – calories, smoking, reality TV – will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.

But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) – and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada's culture is very similar to ours – the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don't grow up wanting to kill each other. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.

So – why us?

I posed this question a decade ago in my film 'Bowling for Columbine,' and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago – and it doesn't seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.

This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:

1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.

Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a "civil" war). It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we're afraid of. It's invasion as foreign policy. Sure there's Iraq and Afghanistan – but we've been invaders since we "conquered the wild west" and now we're hooked so bad we don't even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn't hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don't have a loved one over there don't spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage. And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.

2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here's a good example of what I mean).

Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you'd like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we're lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I'm in if you are.

Was the "Batman shooting" a ritualistic murder carried out by a mind-controlled patsy?

Via VC

When terrible events like the now infamous “Batman Shooting” occurs, I tend to not have a knee-jerk reaction of yelling “It’s a conspiracy” because, obviously, sometimes it is not. But in some cases, like this one, tidbits of information begin leaking out, weird synchronicities surface and, at a certain point, one can’t help but think “hmm”, “huh?” and “what?”. Pieces of the puzzle start coming together and, when one is aware of the symbolism and workings of the occult elite, the whole thing starts to look like a big, dark, disturbing ritual that was carried out by pre-programmed patsy. No, I won’t say that I cracked the case, but here are some facts that simply cannot be overlooked.

A Mind-Controlled Pasty?

As new information surfaces regarding James Holmes (who dubbed himself “The Joker”), many facts point toward a man who is prone to having alter-personas, delving into “inner-worlds” and generally exhibiting the behavior of either a schizophrenic or a programmed drone. Obviously in an altered state of mind and most probably embodying a completely different alter-persona, Holmes told police at the time of his arrest that he was “The Joker”. In this article that appeared in the Telegraph, Holmes was reportedly fixated on the concept of altered states of mind.

After the massacre Holmes calmly told detectives he had taken 100mg of the prescription painkiller Vicodin, and identified himself as “The Joker”. The same drug was found in the system of actor Heath Ledger when he died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2008. Ledger played The Joker in the previous Batman film The Dark Knight. Vicodin side-effects can include euphoria, paranoia and, in rare cases, hallucinations.

The video footage of Holmes was taken at Miramar College in San Diego and showed him explaining that “temporal illusions” are “an illusion that allows you to change the past”. Holmes said he had been working on “subjective experience, which is what takes place inside the mind as oppose to the external world”
- Source: The Telegraph

According to news sources, Holmes was pursuing a neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus. Could this prestigious academic location dedicated the study of human brain functioning and behavior also be Holmes’ mind-control programming site? The concepts stated above of “illusions that allow you to change the past” and “subjective experience” are very reminiscent to the programming of alter-personas in mind control, where illusions are indeed used to create a false pasts in MK alter-personas.

After his arrest, Holmes appeared to be completely dissociated from reality, as if still in character.

Holmes has yet to show any signs of remorse and his behavior is reported to be erratic and bizarre. Per a released inmate outside the jail, “He was spitting at the door and spitting at the guards. He’s spitting at everything. Dude was acting crazy.”
- Source: The Examiner

The Odd Batman Connection

As stated above, Holmes dyed his hair orange and claimed he was “The Joker” – as played by Heath Ledger in the previous installment of the Batman series The Dark Knight. We’ve seen in previous articles (notably “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and Heath Ledger’s Sacrifice), that there are many odd and ritualistic facts surrounding the death of Heath Ledger after he played the dark and disturbed character of the Joker, a role that apparently took a toll on the actor’s health.

Shooter James Holmes even went as far as to take Vicodin, a drug found in Heath Ledger at the time of his death. Vicodin is a powerful pain-killer with morphine-like effects that is used in mind control to “dull out” victims.

Is there some kind of ritualistic connection between The Dark Knight, the sacrificial death of Heath Ledger and this new installment of a Batman movie that was “launched” with a mass murder? Is there a reason why this mass-murder, which occurred during the midnight screening of a movie called Dark Knight RISING took place in a city called Aurora, the name Roman goddess of dawn (dawn being the time where the sun begins to rise)? Another interesting fact: Aurora is considered to be the mother of the morning star, also know as the Light Bringer, or Lucifer....


Ghana's president dies unexpectedly, weeks after undergoing 'medical checks' in the U.S.



Ghana’s President John Atta Mills has died unexpectedly, a presidential statement said, and an aide said his death occurred on Tuesday after he took ill on Monday night.

The death of the president of the world’s number two cacao grower comes months before Mr. Mills was due to stand for re-election at the helm of the West African country that posted double-digit growth in 2011 and has been praised for its strong democracy in a turbulent region.

“It is with a heavy heart ... that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the Republic of Ghana,” a statement sent to Reuters by the president’s office said.

It said that Mr. Mills, 68, died a few hours after being taken ill but no further details were given.

A presidential aide, who asked not to be named, said the president had complained of pains on Monday evening and died early on Tuesday afternoon when his condition worsened.

Mr. Mills, who oversaw the start of oil production in Ghana, returned from medical checks in the United States several weeks ago.

Vice-president John Dramani Mahama will be sworn in as the country’s new president on Tuesday evening, a parliament official in charge of proceedings told Reuters.

Ebenezer Djietror said Mr. Mahama would be sworn in at 6:00 p.m. (GMT).

According to the country’s constitution, Mr. Mahama will complete Mr. Mills’s term, which was due to end with elections in December.

Assad family has been in the U.S. cross-hairs for decades...

Via SC

The governments of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar al-Assad have been in the cross-hairs of the United States for a number of decades. What is surprising about America’s antipathy toward to Assads is that whenever the United States called on the assistance of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leaders have responded energetically.

During Operation Desert Storm, Syria committed troops to the U.S.-led coalition force that drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s troops from Saudi and Kuwaiti soil and subsequently entered Iraq. The United States was able to capitalize on the long-standing bitter rivalry between the Arab Ba’athist governments of Syria and Iraq.

It was the government of Bashar al-Assad that assisted the CIA in its “extraordinary rendition” program, largely the brainchild of President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser John O. Brennan. Brennan, who was in charge of the CIA’s counter-terrorism program, counted on Syria, particularly the Syrian intelligence chief Asef Shawkat, to conduct interrogations, including torture sessions, of suspected terrorists kidnaped by CIA operatives and flown to CIA “black sites” in Syria.

Some six years before President George H. W. Bush, with the assistance of then-UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, convinced Hafez al-Assad to join the military coalition against Saddam Hussein, the insider “confidential” newsletter with strong links to the U.S. intelligence community, “Early Warning,” co-owned by John Rees and consummate Washington fixture Arnaud de Borchgrave, the then-editor of the Sun Myung Moon-owned Washington Times, ran a dubiously-sourced story on Hafez al-Assad training “kamikaze” pilots and suicide bombers to launch attacks on “Western, Israeli, and moderate Arab” targets.

The report appeared to have been spun from the same whole cloth as current reports about Bashar al-Assad’s government conducting brutal human rights abuses throughout Syria. These reports have been augmented by fabrications that Syria is moving its chemical weapons out of storage for deployment on the battlefield. The sources for such propaganda, masked as legitimate news reports, are the same disinformation factories that produced falsified stories about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction and massive genocide by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. The same neo-conservative construct has been used in the campaign against Assad. These falsified reports have included blaming Assad’s forces for carrying out atrocities on civilians for which the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army rebels have been responsible.

It is interesting to compare the present Western propaganda onslaught against Bashar al-Assad to the one waged by the CIA and its news media organs, such as “Early Warning,” against Assad’s father in the 1980s. “Early Warning” of June 1985 discussed Hafez al-Assad’s alleged “kamikaze pilots.” The report stated, under the headline “Syria’s Kamikazes,” that “there are disturbing indications that Syria’s President Hafiz [sic] al-Assad has decided to sponsor a new wave of terrorist attacks on Western, Israeli, and moderate Arab targets in which suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots will attempt acts of mass destruction. The recent release of 1,150 captive terrorists by the Israelis in a prisoner exchange with Syria will provide plenty of new recruits for this offensive.”

And just like the present attempt to link Russia to Bashar al-Assad, the CIA and neo-conservative provocateurs during the administration of President Ronald Reagan attempted to the same with Hafez al-Assad, terrorism, and the Soviet Union. The “Early Warning” report continued by stating: “According to informed sources in Damascus, President Assad expects Soviet blessing for his plans. Syrian intelligence already provides the KGB with useful channels to the Shi’ite terrorist networks. There is now the prospect that Assad could play marriage broker in sealing a new accommodation between Moscow and the fundamentalist rulers of Iran – though this would require the Soviets to cut back on arms deliveries to Iraq and to speed the flow of weapons and materiel to Teheran.”

The rhetoric was the same in 1985 as it is today. There was then, as there is now, a clear attempt to construct an “axis” between Damascus, Tehran, Moscow, and the Shi’as of Lebanon. In 1985, Hafez al-Assad was being portrayed by dubious sources in the West, all having links to the CIA and Israel, in the same manner that his son is today: a “madman” dedicated to killing as many innocent people as possible.

From the 1985 “Early Warning” report comes the following on Hafez al-Assad:

“Assad has been profoundly impressed by the success of Lebanese Shi’ite suicide squads in forcing a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Beirut and in “breaking Israel’s fighting spirit” – as he has expressed himself in recent conversations with his brother Rifaat and his key intelligence aide, General Muhammad al-Kholi. Some veteran observers believe that Assad has himself has undergone a dramatic psychological change in recent months, and that he is inspired today by the Islamic cult of shahadah (martyrdom in a holy cause), which is characteristic of the Shi’ite extremist terrorists, as much as he is by any political calculations.”

The report quotes Assad, inter alia, from a speech he made to the National Federation of Syrian Students on May 4, 1985. The quote should have been taken with a grain if salt because inter alia means that the quote was extracted from meeting minutes but combined with information obtained from a fuller record on other matters. Such is a favorite tactic of propagandists, that is, quoting someone out of context in order to push a wider or incongruous agenda. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a favorite target for neo-conservative propaganda tacticians who practice such tradecraft.

Assad, inter alia, reportedly said, “Early in my military life, I used to discuss with my colleagues the necessity for the state to form suicide squads from among the pilots. We used the word ‘suicidals’ [intinhariyin] and well well-known Japanese word ‘kamikaze.’ We used to say: True, every pilot is already a commando [fida’i] by virtue of his profession. Still, we must differentiate between the ordinary mission which requires the pilot to pounce on the enemy target and strike enemy ships, airports and other targets by turning himself, his plane and the bombs into one fireball. Such attacks can inflict heavy losses on the enemy. They guarantee results, in terms of scoring a direct hit, spreading terror among enemy ranks, raising people’s morale, and enhancing citizens’ awareness of the importance or martyrdom. Thus, waves of popular martyrdom will follow successively and the enemy will not be able to endure them.”

The report then states that Assad, along with al-Kholi, was personally supervising the training of handpicked Syrian kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers. The information came from “reliable intelligence sources” that sounded ,much like Israeli government propaganda interlocutors.

Some six years later, Hafez al-Assad, the “kamikaze pilot trainer,” was a full member of the George H. W. Bush global coalition against Iraq. And just a few years after they participated in Brennan’s CIA extraordinary rendition program, Bashar al-Assad and the assassinated Syrian intelligence chief Asef Shawkat, like the deceased Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, faced coordinated action by the United States, NATO, and Israel to topple their regimes. The lesson for any leader, democratic or otherwise, and including the Assads; Saddam Hussein; Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who died during medical “tests” in Cleveland within hours of the bomb assassination of Shawkat in Damascus; Qaddafi; and Manuel Noriega is that one plays with fire and their own lives any time they make a deal with the CIA and an American president…

"The US Central Intelligence Agency and other international security forces "don't fight drug traffickers", instead "they try to manage the drug trade". "It's like pest control companies, they only control. If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs"...


The US Central Intelligence Agency and other international security forces "don't fight drug traffickers", a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico has told Al Jazeera, instead "they try to manage the drug trade".

Allegations about official complicity in the drug business are nothing new when they come from activists, professors, campaigners or even former officials. However, an official spokesman for the authorities in one of Mexico's most violent states - one which directly borders Texas - going on the record with such accusations is unique.

"It's like pest control companies, they only control," Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, the Chihuahua spokesman, told Al Jazeera last month at his office in Juarez. "If you finish off the pests, you are out of a job. If they finish the drug business, they finish their jobs."

A spokesman for the CIA in Washington wouldn't comment on the accusations directly, instead he referred Al Jazeera to an official website.

Accusations are 'baloney'

Villanueva is not a high ranking official and his views do not represent Mexico's foreign policy establishment. Other more senior officials in Chihuahua State, including the mayor of Juarez, dismissed the claims as "baloney".

"I think the CIA and DEA [US Drug Enforcement Agency] are on the same side as us in fighting drug gangs," Hector Murguia, the mayor of Juarez, told Al Jazeera during an interview inside his SUV. "We have excellent collaboration with the US."

Under the Merida Initiative, the US Congress has approved more than $1.4bn in drug war aid for Mexico, providing attack helicopters, weapons and training for police and judges.

More than 55,000 people have died in drug related violence in Mexico since December 2006. Privately, residents and officials across Mexico's political spectrum often blame the lethal cocktail of US drug consumption and the flow of high-powered weapons smuggled south of the border for causing much of the carnage.

Drug war 'illusions'

"The war on drugs is an illusion," Hugo Almada Mireles, professor at the Autonomous University of Juarez and author of several books, told Al Jazeera. "It's a reason to intervene in Latin America."

"The CIA wants to control the population; they don't want to stop arms trafficking to Mexico, look at [Operation] Fast and Furious,” he said, referencing a botched US exercise where automatic weapons were sold to criminals in the hope that security forces could trace where the guns ended up.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms lost track of 1,700 guns as part of the operation, including an AK-47 used in 2010 the murder of Brian Terry, a Customs and Border Protection Agent.

Blaming the gringos for Mexico's problems has been a popular sport south of the Rio Grande ever since the Mexican-American war of the 1840s, when the US conquered most of present day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico from its southern neighbour. But operations such as Fast and Furious show that reality can be stranger than fiction when it comes to the drug war and relations between the US and Mexico. If the case hadn't been proven, the idea that US agents were actively putting weapons into the hands of Mexican gangsters would sound absurd to many.

'Conspiracy theories'

"I think it's easy to become cynical about American and other countries' involvement in Latin America around drugs," Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser to the White House on drug control policy, told Al Jazeera. "Statements [accusing the CIA of managing the drug trade] should be backed up with evidence… I don’t put much stake in it."

Villanueva's accusations "might be a way to get some attention to his region, which is understandable but not productive or grounded in reality", Sabet said. "We have sort of 'been there done that' with CIA conspiracy theories."

In 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published Dark Alliance, a series of investigative reports linking CIA missions in Nicaragua with the explosion of crack cocaine consumption in America's ghettos.

In order to fund Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's socialist government, the CIA partnered with Colombian cartels to move drugs into Los Angeles, sending profits back to Central America, the series alleged.

"There is no question in my mind that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of, the CIA were involved in drug trafficking," US Senator John Kerry said at the time, in response to the series.

Other newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, slammed Dark Alliance, and the editor of the Mercury News eventually wrote that the paper had over-stated some elements in the story and made mistakes in the journalistic process, but that he stood by many of the key conclusions.

Widespread rumours

"It's true, they want to control it," a mid-level official with the Secretariat Gobernacion in Juarez, Mexico's equivalent to the US Department of Homeland Security, told Al Jazeera of the CIA and DEA's policing of the drug trade. The officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he knew the allegations to be correct, based on discussions he had with US officials working in Juarez.

Acceptance of these claims within some elements of Mexico's government and security services shows the difficulty in pursuing effective international action against the drug trade.

Jesús Zambada Niebla, a leading trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel currently awaiting trial in Chicago, has said he was working for the US Drug Enforcement Agency during his days as a trafficker, and was promised immunity from prosecution.

"Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel under the leadership of [Jesus Zambada's] father, Ismael Zambada and 'Chapo' Guzmán were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tonnes of illicit drugs... into... the United States, and were protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution in return for providing information against rival cartels," Zambada's lawyers wrote as part of his defence. "Indeed, the Unites States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel."

The Sinaloa cartel is Mexico's oldest and most powerful trafficking organisation, and some analysts believe security forces in the US and Mexico favour the group over its rivals.

Joaquin "El Chapo", the cartel's billionaire leader and one of the world's most wanted men, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 by sneaking into a laundry truck - likely with collaboration from guards - further stoking rumours that leading traffickers have complicit friends in high places.

"It would be easy for the Mexican army to capture El Chapo," Mireles said. "But this is not the objective." He thinks the authorities on both sides of the border are happy to have El Chapo on the loose, as his cartel is easier to manage and his drug money is recycled back into the broader economy. Other analysts consider this viewpoint a conspiracy theory and blame ineptitude and low level corruption for El Chapo's escape, rather than a broader plan from government agencies.

Political changes

After an election hit by reported irregularities, Enrique Pena Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is set to be sworn in as Mexico's president on December 1.

He wants to open a high-level dialogue with the US about the drug war, but has said legalisation of some drugs is not an option. Some hardliners in the US worry that Nieto will make a deal with some cartels, in order to reduce violence.

"I am hopeful that he will not return to the PRI party of the past which was corrupt and had a history of turning a blind eye to the drug cartels," said Michael McCaul, a Republican Congressman from Texas.

Regardless of what position a new administration takes in order to calm the violence and restore order, it is likely many Mexicans - including government officials such as Chihuahua spokesman Guillermo Villanueva - will believe outside forces want the drug trade to continue.

The widespread view linking the CIA to the drug trade - whether or not the allegations are true - speaks volumes about officials' mutual mistrust amid ongoing killings and the destruction of civic life in Mexico.

"We have good soldiers and policemen," Villanueva said. "But you won't resolve this problem with bullets. We need education and jobs."

Does the CIA really have no idea about the nature of Syria's rebels?


Syria's war has raged for well over a year in a region of intense US interest. The country shares borders with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and NATO ally Turkey. President Bashar al-Assad's regime has a chemical weapons stockpile. The country is a close ally of Iran. And the US has long urged Syrians, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, to upend their country's political order and build a new order while successively piling sanctions on the central government.

But according to a Washington Post article yesterday, which relies entirely on the anonymous sourcing so prevalent in coverage of Washington, the Central Intelligence Agency and other US intelligence agencies have no idea about the composition of the forces fighting Mr. Assad and their ultimate political goals. The Obama administration has been supporting rebels with communications equipment and other non-lethal support for months, and appears eager to do more. But the Post writes that, according to "officials," Team Obama has been stymied by a lack of information.

The Post article quotes a US "official who expressed concerns over persistent gaps" in the government's knowledge. “We’ve got to figure out who is over there first, and we don’t really know that,” the source told the Post. “It’s not like this is a new war. It’s been going on for 16 months.”

The story made a splash this morning on the Twitter feeds and blogs of people who follow the Middle East, with many sniggering about the incompetence implied: How could the US intelligence services and their allies know so little about who is fighting in Syria? After all, there's an overt intelligence budget of $70 billion and however many more billions for covert intelligence gathering, and Syria is right at the top of the government's foreign police concerns.

I think something else is at work here. It's axiomatic that the agendas of people who talk to reporters (advancing their interests) are not generally aligned with those of the reporters themselves (getting as close to the truth as possible). When sources are anonymous, the likelihood of manipulation tends to go up. I think that the US intelligence community and the politicians they advice know plenty about the insurgency in Syria, but are uncomfortable with the implications of what they're finding.

This is not to say that Syria's uprising is easy to understand, marked as it is by regional and sectarian interests, little to no central command and, yes, a paucity of clear information flows. It is undoubtedly the case that there's a great deal that the US would like to know about the rebellion that remains out of reach.

But that is a far different thing from driving blind. In the same Post article an unnamed "Middle Eastern intelligence official" implied that a great deal is understood, though he complained that vetting the rebel groups is "still in the very early stages." The Post writes: "The foreign official cited concern that the opposition is at risk of becoming dominated by Islamists pushing for a Muslim Brotherhood government after Assad. 'We think this is a majority view, at least among those who are fighting in the streets,' the official said."

That seems highly likely. Assad is an Alawite, a secretive minority sect that split from mainstream Shiism about 1,000 years ago. Assad's regime is dominated by Alawis, who are estimated to make up about 10 percent of the country while the country's majority faith is Sunni Islam, a community that has long felt like second-class citizens in their own land and his turned to Islamist movements in the past to fight the central government. Assad's father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad, crushed an uprising against him led by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 1982 when he sacked the city of Hama, killing at least 10,000 of its residents.

What I'll call, for lack of a better phrase, mainstream Sunni Islamism has long been a dominant strain of opposition politics and resistance in Syria and remains so today. Rebel commanders use religious language and banners in their propaganda videos, many of them grouped within the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a patchwork of rebel factions. There are, of course, many supporters of the uprising who favor a more secular form of government. But if the US is actually waiting for a day of clarity over what ideology or person will come to control the insurgency, that day will never come. It's a blend of forces and agendas at play on the rebel side.


There are also Islamist militants of a darker color, from a US perspective, at work in Syria. Jihadis more in the style of Al Qaeda are also operating inside the country. Veterans of the war against the US in Iraq have been involved in attacks on government forces, bringing with them the skills honed in building powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) around Iraqi cities like Fallujah to target Assad. There have also been persistent, though difficult to confirm, reports of rebels executing government forces that surrender to them, with Alawi soldiers far more likely to be killed than fellow Sunnis.

These fighters often stand apart from the FSA. Time's Rania Abouzeid reported from the town of Saraqeb, along the highway from Aleppo to Damascus, earlier this month that the Ahrar al-Shams Brigade was fighting alongside FSA members there. The Shams Brigade is composed of Salafis – members of the austere form of Islam embraced by Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda who are particularly hostile to US interests. Suicide bombing has been at least an occasional tactic. Last week Assad's deputy defense minister and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat was among those killed in an attack on a strategy meeting at a Damascus military building that the government said was carried out by a suicide bomber. Also killed were Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and former defense minister Hassan Turkmani, with the interior minister surviving.

The FSA said the bomb was planted in the meeting room and suicide was not involved. But this was far from the first claim of suicide bombings. In April, alleged suicide bombings in Idlib killed eight people. And a group calling itself Jabhat al-Nusra took responsibility for at least three suicide attacks in Damascus earlier this year. FSA spokesmen have insisted that any suicide bombings against the government have been carried out by the regime itself in an effort to paint the opposition as dangerously radical.

Perhaps. But it's hard to imagine that hard-core jihadists like the ones who flooded into Iraq after the US invasion in 2003 aren't at work in Syria. Just as they poured across the Syrian (and other borders) into Iraq, foreign fighters have been entering Syria to fight Assad and the hated Alawites, joining up with like-minded Syrians. How many of them are there and how important are they to the fight against Assad? That's probably one of the data points US officials are struggling with.

But if the recent history of Iraq is anything to go by, they're likely to become more important the longer the war drags on. And as in Iraq, a true sectarian bloodbath – with Alawites and perhaps Syria's Christian minority in the cross-hairs of Al Qaeda-style militants – is a real possibility.

Marc Lynch wrote earlier this week at Foreign Policy that whatever hopes there ever were for Syria's war to end in a negotiated settlement look to be well and truly over and that he expects the conflict to grind on dangerously.

Nor should the US be joining the dangerous game of arming the insurgency, which seems to be getting plenty of weapons from other sources. All of the risks of the proliferation of weapons into a fragmented insurgency of uncertain identity and aspirations, so blithely dismissed by the Op-Ed hawks, remain as intense as ever. There are still vanishingly few, if any, historical examples of such a strategy actually leading to a rapid resolution of a civil conflict, and all too many examples of it making conflicts longer and bloodier. Nor is it likely that providing weapons will provide the US with great influence over the groups they are. I see no reason to believe that armed groups will stay bought, or stay loyal, just because they were given weapons, or that the U.S. would be able to credibly threaten to cut off the flow of weapons if groups deemed essential to the battle used them in undesirable ways. As a general rule of thumb if you really think that a group might join al-Qaeda if you don't give them guns, you'd best not give them guns.

That paragraph deftly captures both what is unknown but more importantly what is known: The chance is real that Sunni jihadis deeply hostile to US interests will get their hands on weapons the US supplies to the uprising. In fact, I'll go further and say it's likely, an irony that should be lost on no one who watched officials insist for years that the US had to stay in Iraq to defeat precisely those kinds of people (though they're not exactly defeated in Iraq now either).

To be blunt, I think the US intelligence community knows this. The Washington Post article touches on this, with an "administration official" saying the US is concerned about blowback (never mind that the Post gets it wrong when it writes the US armed "militias in Afghanistan that later morphed into Al Qaeda;" the US actually armed different militant groups in that country's war against the Soviet Union).

Help and consequences

Fear of blowback, and being held responsible for any horrors that might follow a collapse of the Syrian regime in Syria, are precisely the things that are staying the administration's hands, not simply a lack of knowledge. Obama faces a policy and political question that has no good answer. A direct US invasion is off the table, doing nothing will allow a war that is taking a ruinous toll on civilians to drag on, and arming the rebels is likely to have very unpleasant consequences. And he has an election coming up.

The Obama administration is still hoping that Assad will fall soon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described his fall as "inevitable" today and said the US "has to work closely" with rebels to draw up plans to secure the country's chemical weapons and to protect against reprisal killings on the day after.

"We're working across many of these important pillars of a transition that is inevitable," she said. "It would be better if it happened sooner both because fewer people would die or be injured, but also because it would perhaps prevent sectarian retribution."

Note the use of her word "perhaps" in that sentence.

None of this is to try to turn reality on its head and suggest Assad is the "good guy" and the rebels the "bad ones." The depredations of the Baath regime –the torture centers, the mass executions, the pervasive abuse of citizens for daring to speak their minds – are legendary. That history has contributed mightily to the tragic situation Syria finds itself in today.

But we know enough now to understand how truly dangerous Syria has become.

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups all over Syria, according to German intelligence...

Via AT

German intelligence estimates that "around 90" terror attacks that "can be attributed to organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups" were carried out in Syria between the end of December and the beginning of July, as reported by the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). This was revealed by the German government in a response to a parliamentary question.

In response to the same question, the German government admitted that it had received several reports from the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, on the May 25 massacre in the Syrian town of Houla. But it noted that the content of these reports was to remain classified "by reason of national interest", Like many other Western governments, Germany expelled Syria's ambassador in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, holding the Syrian government responsible for the violence.

Meanwhile, at least three major German newspapers - Die Welt, the FAZ, and the mass-market tabloid Bild - have published reports attributing responsibility for the massacre to anti-government rebel forces or treating this as the most probable scenario.

Writing in Bild, longtime German war correspondent Jurgen Todenhofer accused the rebels of "deliberately killing civilians and then presenting them as victims of the government". He described this "massacre-marketing strategy" as being "among the most disgusting things that I have ever experienced in an armed conflict". Todenhofer had recently been to Damascus, where he interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for Germany's ARD public television.

Wring in Die Welt, Alfred Hackensberger noted that Taldo, the sub-district of Houla where the massacre occurred, has been under rebel control since December 2011 and is in an open plain, making it unlikely that "hundreds of soldiers and Assad supporters" could have entered the village to commit the massacre. (An abridged version of Hackenberger's report also appeared in Die Berliner Morgenpost.) Hackensberger visited Houla to conduct investigations for his report.

He also interviewed an alleged eyewitness - identified simply by the pseudonym "Jibril" - at the Saint James Monastery in Qara, Syria. In contrast to an earlier report in the FAZ, which had claimed that the victims were largely Shi'ites and Alawis, Jibril told Hackensberger that all of the victims were Sunnis "like everybody here". By his account, they were killed for refusing to support the rebellion. Jibril added that "a lot of people in Houla know what really happened" but would not say so out of fear for their lives. "Whoever says something," he explained, "can only repeat the rebels' version. Anything else is certain death."

While traveling in the region of Homs, Hackensberger heard similar stories about the conduct of the rebels. One - now former - resident of the city of Qusayr told him that not only were Christians like himself expelled from the town, but that anyone who refused to enroll their children in the Free Syrian Army had been shot. Hackensberger's source held foreign Islamists responsible for the atrocities. "I have seen them with my own eyes," he said, "Pakistanis, Libyans, Tunisians and also Lebanese. They call Osama bin Laden their sheikh."

A Sunni resident of Homs told Hackensberger that he had witnessed how an armed group stopped a bus: "The passengers were divided into two groups: on the one side, Sunnis; on the other, Alawis." According to Hackenberger's source, the insurgents then proceeded to decapitate the nine Alawi passengers.

That the German government would cite national interest in refusing to disclose its information concerning the circumstances of the Houla massacre is particularly notable in light of Germany's support for the rebellion and its political arm, the Syrian National Council (SNC).

While France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have figured as the most visible Western powers supporting the rebellion, Germany has been quietly playing a major role behind the scenes. According to a new report in the FAZ, the German foreign office is working with representatives of the Syrian opposition to develop "concrete plans" for a "political transition" in Syria following the fall of Assad.


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