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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anarmyAn Army of occupation, not liberation. (Photo:US Army)

You can start with the profoundly tragic irony that the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Iraq War of 2003 created a terrorist threat instead of ending one. That point was made yesterday in a BuzzFlash commentary by Steve Jonas, "Real Goal of Iraq War in 2003: Oil and Inciting Terrorism to Create Permanent Conflict."

The devastating implications of how the invasion of Iraq ignited an al Qaeda offshoot uprising are also emphasized by Peter Bergen, CNN's security analyst:

From where did ISIS spring? One of George W. Bush's most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship.

If this wasn't so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein's men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war. After the fall of Hussein's regime, no documents were unearthed in Iraq proving the Hussein-al Qaeda axis despite the fact that, like other totalitarian regimes, Hussein's government kept massive and meticulous records

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had by 2006 translated 34 million pages of documents from Hussein's Iraq and found there was nothing to substantiate a "partnership" between Hussein and al Qaeda.

Two years later the Pentagon's own internal think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, concluded after examining 600,000 Hussein-era documents and several thousand hours of his regime's audio- and videotapes that there was no "smoking gun (i.e. direct connection between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda.)"

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R - SC) argues that the US needs to recommence warfare in Iraq because another 9/11 might occur, he is one of the senators who bears the responsibility for this hypothetical occurrence, given that he was a captain of the cheerleading squad for the Iraq War when it was launched on the basis of lies.

In a revealing 2007 Atlantic interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell (he of the infamous mendacious UN speech warning of the horrors of Saddam Hussein's virtually nonexistent chemical warfare capabilities), David Samuels asked:

You were famously quoted as saying “if you break it, you own it” about the consequences of an American invasion of Iraq. So do we own it? And, as a practical matter, is it possible for the United States to declare at this late date that we don’t take part in other people’s Civil Wars, and to withdraw our troops?

To which Powell replied, tacitly admitting that the cynical narrative of bringing democracy to Iraq was a cover story:

The famous expression, if you break it you own it—which is not a Pottery Barn expression, by the way—was a simple statement of the fact that when you take out a regime and you bring down a government, you become the government. 

In what fashion other than ownership of the nation can the invasion be considered a success, as Steve Jonas argues, when the launching of the war against Iraq produced the very threats that it was supposed to eliminate - threats that did not exist at the time in 2003? 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aawallstTo the Pentagon, non-violent protesters against the ruling elite are potential terrorists. (Photo: Nataraj Metz)

In a June 12 Guardian column entitled, "Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown: Social science is being militarised to develop 'operational tools' to target peaceful activists and protest movements," Nafeez Ahmed writes of a painfully ominous Pentagon research initiative:

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research program is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar program is designed to develop immediate and long-term "warfighter-relevant insights" for senior officials and decision makers in "the defense policy community," and to inform policy implemented by "combatant commands."

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD 'Minerva Research Initiative' partners with universities "to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US."

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions." The project will determine "the critical mass (tipping point)" of social contagions by studying their "digital traces" in the cases of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey."

Notice that the word "contagion" is used in association with democratic movements overseas. The Department of Defense (DOD) is concerned, it appears, that democracy might go viral and contaminate governments in a way that will force military intervention in order to preserve empire.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avictimiraqCivilians are the biggest casualties of the Iraq War unleashed by the US. (Photo: US Army)

If you are a US family who lost a son or daughter, brother or sister, niece or nephew in the Iraq War, the searing pain of loss can only be compounded by the current implosion of the nation into a failed state of factional warring chaos. 

If you are an Iraqi who lost a son or daughter, brother or sister, niece or nephew in the Iraq War, the devastating grief is now compounded by the realization that the loss was not only due to the vain and imperious assertion of empire, but the abominable slaughter of a civil war is returning to Iraq at this very moment.

Mission accomplished, George W. Bush swaggeringly declared on the stage set of an aircraft carrier those many years ago.  It was supposed to be the shining moment of neocon triumph, the ultimate assertion of United States hegemony and military power as an empire. 

Instead, it was the beginning of a bloody and unnecessary conflict that resulted in more than 100,000 Iraqis killed (and that is probably a conservative estimate), more than 5000 US service men and women killed (and countless wounded or returned to the states with PTSD. Although the waste of money pales in comparison to the loss of human life, hundreds of billions of tax dollars were spent on destroying the homes and businesses of Iraqis and the infrastructure of a nation.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

agunscoffee

It's the third rail of US politics: Never vote against an NRA bill unless you are in a safe urban Democratic district where people prefer paninis to semi-automatics.

Of course, gun makers, gun sellers, gun show vendors, NRA execs and lobbyists - and so many more - make a fortune off the gun male entitlement fetishism in the US. Meanwhile, as the shooting of women by misogynist men, and the shooting of children in schools, and even the shooting of police officers having lunch, is doing far more to destroy the United States than a terrorist group ever could.

Heck, the gun nuts are terrorizing citizens. How do you think a kid feels when a bunch of guys with AK-47s slung over their shoulders are thumping grapefruit at their favorite store because of its name: Target? Those children are - one can presume - emotionally terrorized by the sight of guys walking around with heavy duty guns.  How do their parents explain this to the youngsters: "You see, there are good guys with semi-automatic machine guns in Target and bad guys." "How do you tell them apart," the child might ask. "I can't," the parent helplessly answers.

Of course, the ostentatious open carrying of guns in Texas into just about anywhere is the expected outcome of a climate in which politicians cower in fear that they might be picked off in a primary by the NRA. As a result, they give the gun lobby everything it wants; it's the political version of paying protection money. After all, carrying military-style weapons into Target - or other stores - is akin to saying: "Hey, look at me, I'm a real man and I have a right to scare you half to death because you don't know if I'm a good guy or bad guy, right? So suck on it!" Let's face it; that's the reality of what is going on.

And it is also going on elsewhere, including Arizona, where the gun guys are defiantly buying their lattes open-holstered at Starbucks outlets there.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

abritbp(Photo: The Logo Smith)

Wall Street gets away with illegal acts and regulatory violations by paying fines that are merely a cost of doing business. The same people continue running the financial giants and doing what they have been doing for years: pushing throughthe edge of the envelope to make gluttonous amounts of money. They are secure in knowing that neither the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Justice will hold executives accountable.

Such is also the case with the fossil fuel industry. When has an oil, fracking or natural gas company honcho been held accountable for massive spills, injuries, illnesses or deaths due to toxic waste?

The Obama administration actions of actually protecting British Petroleum (BP) after the 2010 Gulf oil spill is a case in point. From the moment that the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and a massive oil leak began, it appeared that the US government was more concerned about insulating BP from accountability and transparency than providing the US public with accurate information and corrective action. 

For those who need a reminder, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History describes the disaster that ensued in the Gulf of Mexico as "the largest accidental oil spill in history." An April 8, 2014, a National Geographic article captures the longevity of the disaster with a headline, "Gulf Oil Spill 'Not Over': Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers." The Deepwater Horizon devastation was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the BP's notorious safety and environmental record.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ainvestneig(Photo: sierraromeo [sarah-ji])The Washington Post is not known for exposing the greed, gluttony and financial exploitation of the masters of the universe who run our economy. However, last week, it did focus on an important engine for the growth in the white elite's supercharged drive to privatize public education through charter schools: hedge funds.

Yes, BuzzFlash and Truthout have extensively detailed the flaws behind the concept of charter schools somehow magically changing the urban educational landscape - without resolving the decades-old economic abandonment of large expanses of cities, as well as the incarceration-industrial complex that feeds on minority imprisonment. We've detailed studies that show a lot of money is being made off of shortchanging students in charter schools and pocketing profit (or paying high administration salaries in nonprofit charter schools, as well as their politically connected subcontracting to for-profit consultants and vendors.) We've shown that many analyses find that charter schools perform well in their first year, but then actually trail behind public schools in the Washington DC ultimate measure of education: test results.

An abundance of evidence reveals charter schools are largely a sham that benefits the white ruling elite while destroying the public education that has been the foundation of this nation.

Add a June 4 Washington Post column entitled, "Why Hedge Funds Love Charter Schools," to the journalistic case of the people vs. charter schools. Overall, the commentary adds to the larger charge that charter schools are making a lot of people a lot of money. However, it emphasizes that the radioactive sector of the runaway financial sector, hedge funds, are in on profiting from the charter school racket. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afracsand2A frac sand excavation in Wisconsin. (Photo: uwex)

An essential resource needed in the fracking extraction process is a relatively rare sand - and Illinois has one of the largest supplies in the United States. As a result, once again the fossil fuel industry is forcing destructive changes in nature that threaten, in this case, farming in the United States heartland: the nation's breadbasket. This is because the sand exists in deposits under rich Illinois agricutural land.

In a June 8 article, the Chicago Tribune spelled out the financial stakes at play:

Dallas-based Eagle Materials Inc., poised to start operating in LaSalle County, estimates it would sell at least 900,000 tons of sand a year from a single mine on 564 acres. At $110 a ton, the company estimates the mine will generate $99 million a year over the next 45 years, according to a state permit application. Analysts who follow Eagle Materials say about $40 of the $110-per-ton price is pure profit.

"Mining frac sand is a lot like mining regular sand except it's wildly profitable, and that's why everyone wants to do it," said Todd Vencil, managing director of equities research at Sterne Agee, a privately owned brokerage firm based in Birmingham, Ala.

The company paid $8 million to buy the land, according to property and state records, and it expects to invest $25 million to $50 million to get the mine running, according to company filings.

The rolling corn and soybean fields near Starved Rock State Park, 95 miles southwest of Chicago, are coveted by multinational corporations for the fine-grain sand deep below the rich soil. Known as Ottawa white, the sand is uniformly circular — perfect for drillers who pump a mixture of sand and chemicals into fracking wells across the nation.

"In the world, there are not that many — geographically speaking — deposits of very high quality northern white sand that has the technical specifications that are in greatest demand. One of those areas is in Illinois, and it's close to the surface of the earth," said Robert Stewart, executive vice president of strategy, corporate development and communications at Eagle Materials.

Cities in LaSalle County, in north central Illinois, are exempt from a county ban on new sand excavation, and many are cutting deals for royalties that are being paid to towns from the frac sand mining companies.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ajudgesec(Photo: stockmonkeys.com)On Wednesday, June 4, an appeals court overturned an earlier ruling by Federal District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff that would have required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to crack down harder on Wall Street banks that egregiously violate regulations and the law.

In a 2011 decision, Rakoff prohibited an SEC settlement with Citigroup from proceeding. His objections included that the SEC let Citigroup "off with little more than a slap on the wrist," according to The New York Times. Rakoff admonished the regulatory agency, saying that it could not continuously "punish" serious and massive financial wrongdoing with financial fines without requiring the banks to admit wrongdoing.

The Rakoff 2011 ruling was one of few on the federal level that challenged the SEC's and Department of Justice's (DOJ) practice of allowing Wall Street financial institutions to get away with malfeasance by levying fines that become merely the cost of doing business. In short, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed many times, the primary enforcement institutions over the integrity of our financial system enable prodigious wrongdoing.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trickledown345(Photo: Bankenstein)If someone insists that it is not raining when it is, you might think that you can persuade him or her by taking the denier to a window and showing him or her the downpour, with drops splattering against the glass.

When the person insists that the drenching rain is really only due to a sprinkler being on - even though the sky is filled with lightning and booming with thunder - you know that you have a reality denier in your midst.

The upholders of the reigning economic policy in the US - trickle-down economics - are once again taking issue with data that disproves that the concentration of wealth will benefit the economy as a whole. Such is the case in financial media criticism of Thomas Piketty's data in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which Piketty has already refuted. (You can watch a highly informative conversation between Piketty and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in which he handily dismisses challenges to his book.)

Aside from periodic economic studies that debunk the idea that the concentration of capital in the hands of the few improves the US gross domestic product and expands jobs and wages - as BuzzFlash at Truthout discussed in a commentary last week - there is a more compelling refutation of the notion that letting the rich get richer benefits everyone: reality.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahomeless6(Photo: Vlastula)

BuzzFlash at Truthout has posted several commentaries on the war on the homeless, including one yesterday entitled, "Liberal Bastion of San Francisco Bay Area Continues NIMBY Crackdown on Homeless." In April, we offered the commentary, "Criminalizing People Who Live in Cars Is a New Low in the War on the Poor."

Nothing increases homelessness like income inequality. Other causes of people in the United States living without permanent shelter include a decrease in services for persons with mental health needs, less funds for agencies that provide homeless services (including places to sleep), foreclosures, domestic violence, loss of work, gentrification and the lack of availability of inexpensive single room occupancy housing, teenage runaways without resources, etc.

As a result, we have seen a nationally spreading war on the homeless that aims to make them disappear without assisting them.  Many cities and communities, as BuzzFlash noted in our commentary yesterday, regard the homeless as a form of urban blight.

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