Failure Is Success… How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

You listen in on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet.  You bring on board hundreds of thousands of crony corporate employees, creating the sinews of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order.  You break into the “backdoors” of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts.  You create new outfits within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew embedded inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies).  Your leaders lie to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt.  Your acts are subject to secret courts, which only hear your versions of events and regularly rubberstamp them — and whose judgments and substantial body of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.

You have put extraordinary effort into ensuring that information about your world and the millions of documents you produce doesn’t make it into our world.  You even have the legal ability to gag American organizations and citizens who might speak out on subjects that would displease you (and they can’t say that their mouths have been shut).  You undoubtedly spy on Congress.  You hack into congressional computer systems.  And if whistleblowers inside your world try to tell the American public anything unauthorized about what you’re doing, you prosecute them under the Espionage Act, as if they were spies for a foreign power (which, in a sense, they are, since you treat the American people as if they were a foreign population).  You do everything to wreck their lives and — should one escape your grasp — you hunt him implacably to the ends of the Earth.

As for your top officials, when their moment is past, the revolving door is theirs to spin through into a lucrative mirror life in the intelligence-corporate complex.

What They Didn’t Know

Think of the world of the “U.S. Intelligence Community,” or IC, as a near-perfect closed system and rare success story in twenty-first-century Washington.  In a capital riven by fierce political disagreements, just about everyone agrees on the absolute, total, and ultimate importance of that “community” and whatever its top officials might decide in order to keep this country safe and secure.

Yes, everything you’ve done has been in the name of national security and the safety of Americans.  And as we’ve discovered, there is never enough security, not at least when it comes to one thing: the fiendish ability of “terrorists” to threaten this country.  Admittedly, terrorist attacks would rank above shark attacks, but not much else on a list of post-9/11 American dangers.  And for this, you take profuse credit — for, that is, the fact that there has never been a “second 9/11.”  In addition, you take credit for breaking up all sorts of terror plans and plots aimed at this country, including an amazing 54 of them reportedly foiled using the phone and email “metadata” of Americans gathered by the NSA.  As it happens, a distinguished panel appointed by President Obama, with security clearances that allowed them to examine these spectacular claims in detail, found that not a single one had merit.

Whatever the case, while taxpayer dollars flowed into your coffers, no one considered it a problem that the country lacked 17 overlapping outfits bent on preventing approximately 400,000 deaths by firearms in the same years; nor 17 interlocked agencies dedicated to safety on our roads, where more than 450,000 Americans have died since 9/11.  (An American, it has been calculated, is1,904 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a terrorist attack.)  Almost all the money and effort have instead been focused on the microscopic number of terrorist plots — some spurred on by FBI plants — that have occurred on American soil in that period.  On the conviction that Americans must be shielded from them above all else and on the fear that 9/11 bred in this country, you’ve built an intelligence structure unlike any other on the planet when it comes to size, reach, and labyrinthine complexity.

It’s quite an achievement, especially when you consider its one downside: it has a terrible record of getting anything right in a timely way.  Never have so many had access to so much information about our world and yet been so unprepared for whatever happens in it.

When it comes to getting ahead of the latest developments on the planet, the ones that might really mean something to the government it theoretically serves, the IC is — as best we can tell from the record it largely prefers to hide — almost always behind the 8-ball.  It seems to have been caught off guard regularly enough to defy any imaginable odds.

Think about it, and think hard.  Since 9/11 (which might be considered the intelligence equivalent of original sin when it comes to missing the mark), what exactly are the triumphs of a system the likes of which the world has never seen before?  One and only one event is sure to come immediately to mind: the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden. (Hey, Hollywood promptly made a movieout of it!)  Though he was by then essentially a toothless figurehead, an icon of jihadism and little else, the raid that killed him is the single obvious triumph of these years.

Otherwise, globally from the Egyptian spring and the Syrian disaster to the crisis in Ukraine, American intelligence has, as far as we can tell, regularly been one step late and one assessment short, when not simply blindsided by events.  As a result, the Obama administration often seems in a state of eternal surprise at developments across the globe.  Leaving aside the issue ofintelligence failures in the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi, for instance, is there any indication that the IC offered President Obama a warning on Libya before he decided to intervene and topple that country’s autocrat, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011?  What we know is that he was told, incorrectly it seems, that there would be a “bloodbath,” possibly amounting to a genocidal act, if Gaddafi’s troops reached the city of Benghazi.

Might an agency briefer have suggested what any reading of the results of America’s twenty-first century military actions across the Greater Middle East would have taught an observant analyst with no access to inside information: that the fragmentation of Libyan society, the growth of Islamic militancy (as elsewhere in the region), and chaos would likely follow?  We have to assume not, though today the catastrophe of Libya and the destabilization of a far wider region of Africa isobvious.

Let’s focus for a moment, however, on a case where more is known.  I’m thinking of the development that only recently riveted the Obama administration and sent it tumbling into America’s third Iraq war, causing literal hysteria in Washington.  Since June, the most successful terror group in history has emerged full blown in Syria and Iraq, amid a surge in jihadi recruitment across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  The Islamic State (IS), an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which sprang to life during the U.S. occupation of that country, has set up a mini-state, a “caliphate,” in the heart of the Middle East.  Part of the territory it captured was, of course, in the very country the U.S. garrisoned and occupied for eight years, in which it had assumedly developed countless sources of information and recruited agents of all sorts.  And yet, by all accounts, when IS’s militants suddenly swept across northern Iraq, the CIA in particular found itself high and dry.

The IC seems not to have predicted the group’s rapid growth or spread; nor, though there was at least some prior knowledge of the decline of the Iraqi army, did anyone imagine that such an American created, trained, and armed force would so summarily collapse.  Unforeseen was the way its officers would desert their troops who would, in turn, shed their uniforms and flee Iraq’s major northern cities, abandoning all their American equipment to Islamic State militants.

Nor could the intelligence community even settle on a basic figure for how many of those militants there were.  In fact, in part because IS assiduously uses couriers for its messaging instead of cell phones and emails, until a chance arrest of a key militant in June, the CIA and the rest of the IC evidently knew next to nothing about the group or its leadership, had no serious assessment of its strength and goals, nor any expectation that it would sweep through and take most of Sunni Iraq.  And that should be passing strange.  After all, it now turns out that much of the future leadership of IS had spent time together in the U.S. military’s Camp Bucca prison just years earlier.

All you have to do is follow the surprised comments of various top administration officials, including the president, as ISIS made its mark and declared its caliphate, to grasp just how ill-prepared 17 agencies and $68 billion can leave you when your world turns upside down.

Producing Subprime Intelligence as a Way of Life

In some way, the remarkable NSA revelations of Edward Snowden may have skewed our view of American intelligence.  The question, after all, isn’t simply: Who did they listen in on or surveil or gather communications from?  It’s also: What did they find out?  What did they draw from the mountains of information, the billions of bits of intelligence data that they were collecting from individual countries monthly (Iran, 14 billion; Pakistan, 13.5 billion; Jordan, 12.7 billion, etc.)?  What was their “intelligence”?  And the answer seems to be that, thanks to the mind-boggling number of outfits doing America’s intelligence work and the yottabytes of data they sweep up, the IC is a morass of information overload, data flooding, and collective blindness as to how our world works.

You might say that the American intelligence services encourage the idea that the world is only knowable in an atmosphere of big data and a penumbra of secrecy.  As it happens, an open and open-minded assessment of the planet and its dangers would undoubtedly tell any government so much more.  In that sense, the system bolstered and elaborated since 9/11 seems as close to worthless in terms of bang for the buck as any you could imagine.  Which means, in turn, that we outsiders should view with a jaundiced eye the latest fear-filled estimates and overblown “predictions” from the IC that, as now with the tiny (possibly fictional) terror group Khorasan, regularly fill our media with nightmarish images of American destruction.

If the IC’s post-9/11 effectiveness were being assessed on a corporate model, it’s hard not to believe that at least 15 of the agencies and outfits in its “community” would simply be axed and the other two downsized.  (If the Republicans in Congress came across this kind of institutional tangle and record of failure in domestic civilian agencies, they would go after it with a meat cleaver.)  I suspect that the government could learn far more about this planet by anteing up some modest sum to hire a group of savvy observers using only open-source information.  For an absolute pittance, they would undoubtedly get a distinctly more actionable vision of how our world functions and its possible dangers to Americans.  But of course we’ll never know.  Instead, whatever clever analysts, spooks, and operatives exist in the maze of America’s spy and surveillance networks will surely remain buried there, while the overall system produces vast reams of subprime intelligence.

Clearly, having a labyrinth of 17 overlapping, paramilitarized, deeply secretive agencies doing versions of the same thing is the definition of counterproductive madness.  Not surprisingly, the one thing the U.S. intelligence community has resembled in these years is the U.S. military, which since 9/11 has failed to win a war or accomplish more or less anything it set out to do.

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‘Bought Journalism’: German bestseller reveals CIA pay Western media for spin & bias

As we know via Chris Hedges and of course Noam Chomsky the western media has always attempted to spin the news, however manufacturing consent has reached new heights when the CIA control the news with spin that amounts to outright lies.

ISIS Beheadings of Journalists: CIA Admitted to Staging Fake Jihadist Videos in 2010

Questions arise after experts say Foley ISIS beheading video likely “staged”

A 2010 Washington Post article authored by former Army Intelligence Officer Jeff Stein features a detailed account of how the CIA admittedly filmed a fake Bin Laden video during the run up to the 2003 Iraq war.

The article, which includes comments from multiple sources within the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group, explains how the agency had planned to “flood Iraq with the videos” depicting several controversial scenarios.

“The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory,” the article states. “The actors were drawn from ‘some of us darker-skinned employees.’”

Other CIA officials admitted to planning several fake videos featuring former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, one of which would depict the leader engaged in sexual acts with a teenage boy.

“It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera,” said one of the former officials. “Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session.”

According to one official, the video ideas were eventually scrapped due to the CIA officers, who spent their careers in Latin America and East Asia, not understanding “the cultural nuances of the region.”

“Saddam playing with boys would have no resonance in the Middle East — nobody cares,” a third former CIA official said. “Trying to mount such a campaign would show a total misunderstanding of the target. We always mistake our own taboos as universal when, in fact, they are just our taboos.”

The article does however admit that one specific psyop was successfully implemented, linking to a document from the Rand Corporation that explains the program.

“According to histories of the 2003 invasion, the single most effective ‘information warfare’ project, which originated in the Pentagon, was to send faxes and e-mails to Iraqi unit commanders as the fighting began, telling them their situation was hopeless, to round up their tanks, artillery and men, and go home,” the article states. “Many did.”

While the aforementioned videos were never released, the much looked over admission of such psychological operations raises questions in light of the recent ISIS beheading videos.

Only days after Infowars’ questioned several discrepancies in the James Foley beheading video, top British forensic experts concluded that the video was likely staged using “camera trickery and slick post-production techniques.”

“After enhancements, the knife can be seen to be drawn across the upper neck at least six times, with no blood evidence to the point the picture fades to black,” an analyst said.”I think it has been staged. My feeling is that the execution may have happened after the camera was stopped.”

Given the brutality seen in many of ISIS’ grainy, low quality cell phone videos from Iraq and Syria, many have also begun questioning why the “beheading” video’s hide the actual beheading while also exhibiting more advanced editing techniques and high definition cameras.

While no one questions the tragic fate of both James Foley and Steven Sotloff, other questions have been raised in light of who discovered the most recent video: the SITE Intelligence Group (Search for International Terrorist Entities).

“One of SITE’s founders, Rita Katz, is a government insider with close connections to former terrorism czar Richard Clarke and his staff in the White House, as well as investigators in the Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security according to SourceWatch,” notes Infowars’ Kurt Nimmo.

The most glaring issue still remains the United States government’s involvement in creating ISIS, recently pointed out by General Thomas McInerney.

“We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that’s a little confusing to people, so I’ve always maintained….that we were backing the wrong types,” McInerney said.

While the Obama Administration admits to having no strategy against ISIS, internal sources claim the President has received intelligence on their rise for more than a year. Even as reports come in on possible ISIS attacks in the Southern US, the President still refuses to secure the border as border gates are left wide open.

By Mikael Thalen

US Global Power in the 21st Century: Military or Economic Imperialism?

By Prof. James Petras

Despite vast amounts of imperial data to the contrary, the great majority of writers on imperialism continue to describe and analyze US imperialism strictly in economic terms, as an expansion of “capital accumulation”, “accumulation on a world scale”.

In fact the major and minor US imperial wars have more to do with “capital dis-accumulation”, in the sense that trillion dollar flows have gone out from the US, hundreds of billions of dollars in profits from resource sites have been undermined, markets for exports have been severely weakened and exploitable productive labor has been uprooted.  At the same time US imperialist state ‘dis-accumulates capital’, multi-national corporations, especially in the extractive sector are expanding, “accumulating capital” throughout Latin America.

This new configuration of power, the conflicting and complementary nature of 21st century US imperialism, requires that we anchor our analysis in the real, existing behavior of imperial state and extractive capitalist policymakers.  The basic premise informing this essay is that there are two increasingly divergent forms of imperialism:  military driven intervention, occupation and domination; and economic expansion and exploitation of resources, markets and labor by invitation of the ‘host country’.

We will proceed by examining the choices of imperial strategy, in a historical – comparative framework and the alternatives which were selected or rejected.  Through an analysis of the practical decisions taken regarding ‘imperial expansion’ we can obtain insights into the real nature of US imperialism.  The study of imperial strategic choices, past and present, state and corporate, requires three levels of analysis: global, national and sectoral.

Global Strategies:  US Imperial State and the MNC

US imperial state invested trillions of dollars in military expenditures, hundreds of thousands of military personnel into wars in theMiddle East (Iraq, Yemen, and Syria), North and East Africa (Libya, Somalia), South Asia (Afghanistan) and imposed sanctions on Iran costing the US hundreds of billions in “capital dis-accumulation”.

The US corporate elite, driven out of Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere where US military imperialism was engaged, chose to invest in manufacturing in China and extractive sectors throughout Latin America.

In other words the US imperial state strategists either chose to expand in relatively backward areas (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen) or imposed under-development by  destroying or sanctioning lucrative extractive economies (Iraq, Libya, Iran).

In contrast the MNC chose the most dynamic expanding zones where militarist imperialism was least engaged – China and Latin America.  In other words “capital did not follow the flag” – it avoided it.

Moreover, the zones where extractive capital was most successful in terms of access, profits and stability were those where their penetration was based on negotiated contracts between sovereign nations and CEO’s – economic imperialism by invitation.

In contrast in the priority areas of expansion chosen by imperial state strategists, entry and domination was by force, leading to the destruction of the means of production and the loss of access to the principle sites of extractive exploitation.  US military driven imperialism undermined  energy companies’ agreements in Iraq and Libya.  Imperial state sanctions in Iran designed to weaken its nuclear and defense capabilities undercut US corporate extractive, public-private contracts with the Iranian state oil corporations. The drop in production and supply in oil in Iraq, Iran and Libya raised energy prices and had a negative impact on the “accumulation of capital on a world scale”.

If imperial state decision-makers had followed the direction of economic rather than military driven policymakers they would have pivoted to Asia and Latin America rather than the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. They would have channeled funds into economic imperialist strategies, including joint ventures, high and medium tech trade agreements, and expanded exports by the high-end manufacturing sector, instead of financing 700 military bases, destabilization campaigns and costly military exercises.

Twentieth century military imperialism stands in stark contrast to late twentieth century economic imperialism.  In the mid 1960’s the US announced a vast new economic program in Latin America – the Alliance for Progress which was designed to finance economic opportunities in Latin America via joint ventures, agrarian reform and investments in the extractive sector.  The imperial state’s military policies and interventionist policies were designed to secure US business control over mines, banks, factories and agro-business. US backing for the coups in Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru led to the privatization of key resource sectors and the imposition of the neo-liberal economic model.

US policy in Asia under Nixon was directed first and foremost to opening economic relations with China, expanding trade agreements with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.  The ‘pivot from war’ to free trade led to a boom in US exports as well as imports, in private investments and lucrative profits.  Military expenditures declined even as the US engaged in covert operations in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Imperial intervention combined military and economic expansion with the latter dictating policy priorities and the allocation of resources.

The reversal set in with the US military backing of the jihadist extremists in Afghanistan and the demise of the USSR.  The former set the stage for the rise of the Taliban to power and the emergence of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. The latter led US imperial strategists to pursue wars of conquest with impunity – Yugoslavia and Iraq during the 1990’s.

Easy military conquests and visions of a ‘unipolar’ world dominated by US military supremacy, encouraged and fostered the emergence of a new breed of imperial strategists – the neo-conservative militarists with closer ties to Israel and its military priorities than to the US   extractive petrol capitalists in the Middle East.

Military versus Economic Imperialist at the ‘National Level’

In the post-Cold War period, the competition between the two variants of imperialism was played out in all the nation subject  to US intervention.

During the first Iraq war the balance between militarists and economic imperialists was in play.  The US defeated Iraq but did not shred the state, nor bomb the oil fields.  Sanctions were imposed but did not paralyze oil deals.  The US did not occupy Iraq; it partioned the north –so-called“Kurdish” Iraq but left the secular state intact.  Extractive capital was actively in competition with the militarist neo-conservatives over the future direction of imperial policy.

The launch of the second Iraq war and the invasion of Afghanistan marked a decisive shift toward military imperialism:  the US ignored all economic considerations.  Iraq’s secular state was destroyed; civil society was pulverized; ethno-religious, tribal and clan warfare was encouraged.  US colonial officials ruled by military fiat; top policymakers with links to Israel replaced oil-connected officials. The militarist “war on terror” ideology replaced free market, free trade imperialism. Afghanistan killing fields replaced the China market as the center of US imperial policy.  Billions were spent, chasing evasive guerrillas in the mountains of a backward economy while US lost competitive advantages in the most dynamic Asian markets.

Imperial policymakers chose to align with sectarian warlords in Iraq over extractive technocrats. In Afghanistan they chose loyal ex-pat puppets over influential Taliban leaders capable of pacifying the country.

Extractive versus Military Imperialism in Latin America

Latin American neo-liberalism went from boom to bust in the 1990’s.  By the early 2000’s  crisis enveloped the region.  By the turn of the century US backed rulers were being replaced by popular nationalist leaders.  US policymakers stuck by their neoliberal clients in decline and failed to adapt to the new rulers who pursued modified socially inclusive extractivism.  The US military imperialists longed for a return of the neo-liberal backers of the “war on terrorism”.  In contrast, international multinational extractive corporations were realists – and adapted to the new regimes.

On a global scale, at the beginning of the new millennium, two divergent tendencies emerged.  US military imperialism expandedthroughout the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Caucuses, while Latin American regimes turned in the opposite direction – toward moderate nationalism, and populism with a strong emphasis on poverty reduction via economic development in association with imperial extractive capital

In the face of these divergent and conflicting trends, the major US extractive multi-national corporations chose to adapt to the new political realities in Latin America.  While Washington, the imperial state, expressed hostility and dismay toward the new regimes refusal to back the “war on terror” (military imperialism) the major MNCs, robust embrace of economic imperialism, took advantage of the investment opportunities opened by the new regimes’ adoption of a new extractivist model, to pour billions into the mining, energy and agricultural sectors.

The Specificities of Extractive Imperialism in the Era of “Post Neo-Liberalism”

Extractive imperialism in Latin America has several specific characteristics that sharply demark it from earlier forms agro-mineral imperialism.

(1)   Extractive capital is not dominated by a single imperial country-like the Spanish in the 18t century, the British in the 19thcentury or the US in the 20th century. Imperial extractive capital is very diverse:  Canadian, US, Chinese, Brazilian, Australian, Spanish, Indian and other MNCs are deeply involved.

(2)   The imperial states of the diverse MNC do not engage in “gun boat diplomacy” (with the exception of the US). The imperial states provide economic financing and diplomatic support but are not actively involved in subverting Latin American regimes.

(3)   The relative weight of US MNCs, in the new imperial extractivism is much less than it was a half century earlier.  The rise of diverse extractive MNC and dynamism of China’s commodity market and deep financial pockets have displaced the US, the IMF and WB and established new terms of trade with Latin America.

(4)   Probably the most significant aspect of the new imperial extractivism is that its entry and expansion is by invitation. The Latin American regimes and the extractive MNCs negotiate contracts – MNC entry is not unilaterally imposed by an imperial state.  Yet the ‘contracts’ may result in unequal returns; they  provide substantial revenues and profits to the MNC; they grant large multi –million acre tracts of land for mining or agriculture exploitation; they  obligate the national state to dispossess local communities and police/repress the displaced. But they also have allowed the post-neo-liberal state to expand their social spending, to increase their foreign reserves, to eschew relations with the IMF, and to diversify their markets and trading partners.

In regional terms extractive imperialism in Latin America has “accumulated capital” by diverging from the military imperialism practiced by the US in other regions of the world political- economy.  Over the past decade and a half, extractive capital has been alliedwith and relyies both on post-neoliberal and neoliberal regimes against petty commodity producers, indigenous communities and other anti-extractive resistance movements. Extractive imperialists do not rely on ‘their’ imperial state to quell resistance- they turn to theirnational political partners.

Extractive imperialism by invitation also diverges from the military imperial state in its view toward regional organizations.  US military imperialism placed all its bets on US centered economic integration which Washington could leverage to political, military and economic advantage.  Extractive capital, in the great diversity of its ‘national identity’, welcomed Latin American centered integration which did not privilege US markets and investors.

The predominance of economic imperialism, in particular the extractive version, however, needs to be qualified by several caveats.

US military imperialism has been present in several forms. The US backed the military coup in Honduras overthrowing the post neo-liberal Zelaya government; likewise it supported an “institutional coup” in Paraguay.

Secondly, even as MNC corporations poured capital into Bolivian mining and energy sectors, the US imperial state fomented destabilization activity to undermine the MAS government. And was defeated and the agencies and operatives were expelled.  The crucial issue in this, as well as other, instances is the unwillingness of the MNC’s to join forces with the military imperialists, via boycotts, trade embargoes or disinvestment. Clearly the stability, profitability and long-term contracts between the Bolivian regime and the extractive MNC counted for more than their ties to the US imperial state.

US military imperialism has expanded its military bases and increased joint military exercises with most Latin American armed forces. Indoctrinated military officials can still become formidable potential allies in any future ‘coup’, if and when the US “pivots” from the Middle East to Latin America.

US military imperialism in its manifest multiple forms, from bankrolling NGO’s engaged in destabilization and street riots in Venezuela, to its political support of financial speculators in Argentina and rightwing parties and personalities in Brazil, has a continuous presence alongside extractive imperialism. The success of the latter and the eclipse of the former are based in part on two contingentcircumstances. The US serial wars in the Middle East divert attention away from Latin America; and the commodity boom fuels the growth of extractive capital.  The economic slowdown in China and the decline of commodity prices may weaken the regimes in opposition to US military imperialism.

Paradoxically the weakening of the ties between the post-neo-liberal regimes and extractive imperialism resulting from the decline of commodity prices is strengthening the  neo-liberal socio-political forces allied with US military imperialism.

Latin America’s Right Turn:  The Co-Habitation of Extractive and Military imperialism?

Throughout Latin America the post-neoliberal regimes which ruled for the better part of a decade and a half face serious challenges – from consequential social opposition at the micro-level and from aggressive political-economic elites at the macro-level.  It is worthwhile to survey the prospects for a return to power of neo-liberal regimes allied with military imperialism in several key countries.

Several factors are working in favor of a return to power of political parties and leaders who seek to reverse the independent and inclusive policies of the post neoliberal power bloc.

First the post-neo-liberal regimes development strategy of depending on foreign extractive capital, perpetuated and strengthened the economic basis of imperialism:  the ‘colonial style’ trade relation, exporting primary commodities and importing finished goods, allowed the agro-mineral elites to occupy key positions in the politico-social structure.  With the decline in commodity prices, some post-neoliberal regimes are experiencing fiscal and balance of payments shortfalls.  Inflation and cuts in social expenditures adversely affect the capacity of the post-neo-liberal regimes to retain popular and middle class electoral support.

The divergences between post-neoliberals and economic imperialism are accentuating with return of the neoliberal right.  The agro-mineral sectors perceive an opportunity to rid themselves of their power and revenue sharing agreements with the state and to secure even more lucrative arrangements with the advance of the neo-liberal right which promises tax and royalty reductions, deregulation and lower wage and pension payments.

Secondly, the post-neo-liberal regimes’ alliances with the building , construction, and other bourgeois sectors, was accompanied by corruption involving  pay-offs, bribes and other illicit financial transactions designed to finance their mass media based electoral campaigns and  patronage system which ensured electoral majorities.  The neo-liberal right is exploiting these corruption scandals to erode the middle class electoral base of the post -neo-liberal regimes.

Thirdly, the post-neo-liberal regimes increased the quantity of social services, but ignored their quality – provoking widespread discontent with the inadequate public educational, transport, and health services.

Fourthly, inflation is eroding the decade long advance of wage, pension and family allowances.  The post-neo-liberal regimes are caught between the pressures to “adjust” –to devalueand impose fiscal ‘austerity’ as proposed by the international bankers and lose mass support, or to engage in deeper structural changes which require among other things, changes in the extractive dependence model and greater public ownership.  The crises of the post-neo-liberal regimes is leading to irresolution and opening political space for the neo-liberal right which is allied to military and economic imperialism.

Military imperialism, which was weakened by the popular uprisings at the turn of 20th century is never absent.  US military imperialism is first and foremost powerfully entrenched in two major countries:  Mexico and Colombia.  In both countries neo-liberal regimes bought into the militarization of their societies, including the comprehensive and deep presence of US military-police officials in the structures of the state.

In both states, US military and economic imperialism operates in alliance with paramilitary death squads, even as they proclaimed “a war on drugs”.  The ideology of free market imperialism was put into practice with the elimination of trade barriers, widespread privatization of resources and multi-million acre land grants to MNC.

Through its regional clients, US imperialism has a springboard to extend its influence.  Mexican style ‘militarized imperialism’ has spread to Central America; Colombia serves as a launch-pad to subvert Venezuela and Ecuador.

Where dissident regimes emerged in regions claimed by militarized imperialism, Honduras and Paraguay, military and civilian coups were engineered. However because of the regional concentration of US military imperialism in the Middle East it relies heavily on local collaborators, political, military and economic elites as vehicles for “regime change”.

Extractive imperialism is under siege from popular movements in many countries in Latin America.  In some cases, the political elites have increasingly militarized the contested terrain.  Where this is the case, the regimes invite and accept an increased imperial military presence, as advisers, and embrace their militarist ideology, thus fostering a “marriage” between extractive and military imperialism.  This is the case in Peru under President Humala and Santos in Colombia.

In Argentina and Brazil, the moderate reformist policies of the Kirchner and Lula/Rousseff regimes are under siege.  Faltering export earnings, rising deficits, inflationary pressures have fueled a neo-liberal offensive, which takes a new form:  populism at the service of neo-liberal collaboration with military imperialism.  Extractive capital has divided -some sectors retain ties with the regime, others, the majority are allied with rising power of the right.

In Brazil, the Right has promoted a former environmentalist (Silva) to front for the hardline neo-liberal financial sector – which has received full support from local and imperial mass media.  In Argentina, the imperial state and mass media have backed hedge fund speculators and have launched a full scale economic war, claiming default, in order to damage  Buenos Aires’ access to capital markets in order  to increase its investments in the extractive sector.

In contrast Bolivia, the extractive model par excellence, has moved successfully to oust and weaken the military arm of imperialism, ending the presence of US military advisers and DEA officials, while deepening and strengthening its ties with diverse extractive MNCs on the one hand, and on the other consolidating support among the trade unions and peasant-Indian movements.

In Ecuador the extractive regime of Correa has diversified the sources of imperial capital from the US to China, and consolidated his power via effective patronage machinery and socio-economic reforms.

The US-Colombian military threat to Venezuela and Ecuador has diminished, peace negotiations with the FARC are advancing and the regime now faces trade union and Indian-peasant opposition with regard to its extractive strategy and corporatist labor reforms.

In both Ecuador and Bolivia, imperial militarism appears to lack the vital strategic military-civilian allies capable of engineering a regime change.

The case of Venezuela highlights the continuing  importance of imperial militarism in shaping US policy in Latin America.  The  pivot to a military policy, was taken by Washington prior to any basic social reforms or economic nationalist measures.  The coup of 2001 and lockout of 2002 were backed by the US in response to President Chavez forceful rejection of the “War on Terrorism”.  Washington jeopardized its important economic stake, petrol investments,  in order to put in place a regime in conforming to its global military strategy.

And for the next decade and a half, the US imperial strategy totally ignored investment, trade and resource opportunities in this wealthy petrol state; it chose to spend hundreds of millions in financing opposition NGO, terrorists, electoral parties, mass media and military officials to effect a regime change.  The extractive sector in the US simply became a transmission belt for the agencies of the militarized imperial state.  In its place, Russia and China, interested especially extractive sector signed multi-billion dollar  contracts with the Venezuelan state: a case of extractive imperialism by invitation – for economic and security reasons.

Apart from the ideological conflict over US militarist expansion, Venezuela’s promotion of Latin American centered regional integration, weakened US leverage and control in the region.  In its struggle against Latin American centered regional organizations  and  to regain its dominance,  US imperialism has upgraded its economic profile via the Trans-Pacific Alliance, which includes its most loyal neo-liberal allies – Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.  The global eclipse of  economic – driven imperial expansion in favor of the military has not totally displaced several key economic advances in strategic countries and sectors in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.

The privatization and denationalization of the biggest and most lucrative public petrol company in Latin America, PEMEX, the Mexican giant, opens up enormous profitable opportunities for US MNC.  The rapid appropriation of oil fields by US MNC will enhance and compliment the militarization of Mexico undertaken by the US military-security apparatus.

The Mexican example highlights several features of US imperialism in Latin America.

Imperial militarization does not necessarily preclude economic imperialism if it takes place within an existing stable state structure.  Unlike the imperial wars in Iraq and Libya, the military imperialist policies in Mexico advanced via powerful local political clients willing and able to engage in bloody civil wars costing over 100,000 civilian deaths in over a decade.  Under the aegus and guidance of US imperial rulers, the US and Mexican military devastated civil society, but safeguarded and expanded the huge mining and manufacturing enclaves open to economic imperialist exploitation.  Militarization contributed to weakening the bargaining rights of labor – wages have declined in real terms over the decades and the minimum wage is the lowest in the hemisphere.

Mexico highlights the crucial role that collaborator elites play in imperial capital accumulation. Mexico is an excellent example of ‘imperialism by invitation’ – the political agreements at the top impose ‘acquiescence’ below.  The extraordinary levels of corruptionwhich permeates the entire political class, solidifies the longstanding links between Mexican political-business elite, the MNC and the security apparatus of the imperial state.  Extractive imperialism is the principal beneficiary of this “triple alliance”.

In the case of Mexico, militarized imperialism laid the groundwork for the expansion of economic imperialism.

A similar process, involving ‘triple alliances’ is operative in Colombia.  For the past decade and a half, militarized-imperialism poured over $6 billion in military aid(Plan Colombia) to finance the dispossession, assassination, arrest and torture and of over 4 million Colombians, including the killing of thousands of trade union and social movement leaders.

The scorched earth policy, backed by a substantial US military mission operated through the existing state apparatus and with the active support of the agro-mineral and banking elite ,aided by nearly 40,000 member paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers laid the groundwork for the large scale entry of extractive capital – particularly mining capital.

Military imperialism preceded the long-term, large scale ‘invasion’ by economic imperialism in the form of a free trade agreement and multi-million acre land grants to mining MNC.

This general pattern was repeated in Peru.  The ‘war on terror” under Fujimori and the subsequent liberalization of the economy, under three subsequent Presidents, culminated in the massive primarization of the economy under President Humala – who deepened and extended the expansion of imperial extractive capital.

The economic downturn in some of the post-neo-liberal economies, namely Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, and the rightward moving political spectrum, has opened a window of opportunity for US economic imperialism to work in tandem with the rising neo-liberal political opposition.  The military option, a military coup or US military intervention is not on the horizon for the present time.  The central focus of imperial state decision makers regarding regime change is a combination of overt electoral and covert ‘street intervention’:  adopting ‘populist’, moralist and technocratic rhetoric to highlight  corruption in high offices, inefficiency in the delivery of social services with claims of bureaucratic interference in the operations of the market.  Business disinvestment, financial speculation on the currency and negative mass media propaganda has coincided strikes and protests against shortages and lag between wage and price increases.

Despite costly and failed imperial wars in the Middle East, despite a decade of military retreat in Latin America, economic imperialism is advancing via the electoral route; it already has established a formidable array of allies among the political regimes in Mexico, Colombia and Peru and is posed to re-establish neo-liberal allies in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.

Conclusion

Imperialism as it has evolved over the past quarter of a century cannot be understood as a ‘unified whole’ in which the two basic components, military and economic are always complimentary.  Divergences have been graphically illustrated by the imperial wars in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.  Convergences are more obvious in Latin America, especially in Mexico, Colombia and Peru, where ‘militarization’ facilitated the expansion of extractive capital.

The theoretical point is that the nature of the political leadership of the imperial state has a high degree of autonomy in shaping the predominance of one or another strand of the imperial expansion.  The capacity for imperial capital to expand is highly contingent on the strength and structure of the collaborator state: militarized imperialism that invades and destroys states and the fabric of civil society has led to disinvestment; in contrast economic imperialism by invitation in neo-liberal collaborator states has been at the center of successful imperial expansion.

The ambiguities and contradictions intrinsic to the post-neo-liberal extractivist based development model have both constrainedthe military component of imperialism while expanding opportunities for economic imperial accumulation.  Accumulation by invitation, and accumulation by dispossession are simply ‘moments’ in a complex process in which political regime changes intervene and establish the locations and timing for refluxes and influxes of capital.

The rise of new economic imperialist powers like China competing with established imperial powers like the US, has led to alternative markets and sources of financing, which erodes the effectiveness political, military and diplomatic instruments of imperial coercion.

Regional variations in political configurations, imperial priorities and choice of instruments of power, have deeply influenced the nature and structure of imperialism.  And as the world historic record seems to argue, military driven empire building in the Middle East has been a disaster while economic driven imperialism shows signs of rapid recovery and successes in Latin America.

“Reporter” Who Broke Propaganda Piece “Justifying” Bombing Syria Clears His Stories with CIA Before Publishing

A Stooge for the CIA?

We recently pointed out that the immediate “justification” for the U.S. bombing of Syria – the “Khorasans” – is as fake as the Kardashians’ physique.

Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain and Justin Raimondo have written must-read stories proving that we were right.

And Democracy Now – interviewing Hussain – notes that the same “reporter” who broke the “story” of the Khorasan “threat” was recently busted for clearing his stories in advance with the CIA:

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: … It was interesting that Ken Dilanian reported the story first in the Associated Press, saying that this was a new threat and a new group, and he was one of the first people to break the story afterwards saying that U.S. officials are now adding more “nuance,” is the word he used, to their previous warnings about the group. So, it was kind of a really egregious case of media spin, whereby the media had taken up this narrative of a threat from a new terrorist, and then, after the strikes had been conducted which justified this group, they immediately took the opposite tack, saying that in fact there was no threat that was imminent and the group itself did not exist per se. So, it was really quite a failure of the media, which we’ve seen several times in the past, as well.

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AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Ken Dilanian of AP. Now, Intercept just put out another story, “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories with Agency Before Publication.” Ken Silverstein writes, “A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.” He goes on to say, “Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the [Los Angeles] Times.

Indeed, American media is always pro-war.

And an official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles planted in majorAmerican newspapers and magazines which, when reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq” (page x).

Indeed, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists. See also this New York Times piece, this essay by the Independent, this speech by one of the premier writers on journalism, and this and this roundup.

And given that the ban against domestic propaganda has now been repealed,  more extreme and blatantpropaganda will likely be deployed against the American public.

Turkey and Israel Are Directly Supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda Terrorists In Syria

U.S. Allies Support the Terrorists We’re Supposedly “Fighting”

The Jerusalem Post reports that an ISIS fighter says that Turkey funds the terrorist group. Turkey is a member of NATO and a close U.S. ally.

A German news program – with English subtitles captions – shows that Turkey is sending terrorists into Syria:

http://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=46a20438da46

Opposition Turkish lawmakers say that the government is protecting and cooperating with ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists, and providing free medical care to their leaders.

According to a leading Turkish newspaper (Today’s Zaman), Turkish nurses are sick of providing freemedical treatment to ISIS terrorists in Turkish hospitals.

According to Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Seymour Hersh and leaked phone calls between top Turkish officials, Turkey also carried out the chemical weapons attack which has been blamed on Assad, and has planned other “false flag attacks” within Turkey.

Foreign Policy documents that Israel is also treating ISIS terrorists for free in its hospitals:

Israel is  …  providing medical care and other unidentified supplies to the insurgents ….

In the past three months, battle-hardened Syrian rebels have transported scores of wounded Syrians across a cease-fire line that has separated Israel from Syria since 1974, according to a 15-page report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the work of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Once in Israel, they receive medical treatment in a field clinic before being sent back to Syria, where, presumably, some will return to carry on the fight.

U.N. blue helmets responsible for monitoring the decades-old cease-fire report observing armed opposition groups “transferring 89 wounded persons” from Syrian territory into Israel, where they were received by members of the Israel Defense Forces, according to the report. The IDF returned 21 Syrians to armed opposition members back in Syria, including the bodies of two who died.

“Throughout the reporting period, UNDOF frequently observed armed members of the opposition interacting with the IDF across the cease-fire line,” according to the report. “On one occasion UNDOF observed the IDF on the Alpha side [inside Israel] handing over two boxes to armed opposition on the Bravo side [inside Syria].”

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The Israeli government has been providing medical assistance to Syria’s wounded for more than a year. In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to a military field hospital in the Golan Heights

http://syrianfreepress.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/israhell-snake-visiting-terrorists.jpg

The Times of Israel reported last month:

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Monday … Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms. Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, on July 22.

“The [opposition] factions would receive support and send the injured in [to Israel] on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured. No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities,” Safouri said in the video.

***

In the edited confession video, in which Safouri seems physically unharmed, he says that at first he met with an Israeli officer named Ashraf at the border and was given an Israeli cellular phone. He later met with another officer named Younis and with the two men’s commander, Abu Daoud. In total, Safouri said he entered Israel five times for meetings that took place in Tiberias.

Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian [rifles], 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56 millimeter bullets.

In March, Haaretz reported:

The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad, a top opposition official told Al Arab newspaper, according to a report in Al Alam.

***

The Western-backed militant groups want Israel to enforce a no-fly zone over parts of southern Syria to protect rebel bases from air strikes by Assad’s forces, according to the report.

Other close U.S. allies – including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar back ISIS – back the ISIS terrorists as well.

What’s really happening?  It’s all about pushing for regime change in Syria … AGAIN.