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Algeria: 32 militants killed, with 23 hostages

© AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Associated Press TV
Unidentified rescued hostages pose for the media in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013.
In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 23 hostages dead and killed all 32 militants involved, the Algerian government said.

With few details emerging from the remote site in eastern Algeria, it was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final operation, but the number of hostages killed on Saturday - seven - was how many the militants had said that morning they still had. The government described the toll as provisional and some foreigners remain unaccounted for.

The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military and its attack helicopters for four tense days that were punctuated with gun battles and dramatic tales of escape.

Algeria's response to the crisis was typical of its history in confronting terrorists, favoring military action over negotiation, which caused an international outcry from countries worried about their citizens. Algerian military forces twice assaulted the two areas where the hostages were being held with minimal apparent mediation - first on Thursday, then on Saturday.


Brookings' Bruce Riedel urges intensified US support for Saudi despots

© Photograph: Ho/REUTERS
Tony Blair meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Every now and then, leading mavens of the Foreign Policy Community have an uncharacteristic outburst of candor.

When it comes to the US "foreign policy community", few if any people are more representative of it than Bruce Riedel. A 30-year CIA officer and adviser to the last four US presidents, he is now a senior fellow at the wing of the Brookings Institution funded by entertainment mogul Haim Saban (whom the New York Times described as "a tireless cheerleader for Israel" and who described himself this way: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel"). In 2012, Riedel contributed to a book on Iran by Brookings "scholars" which argued that the US could launch a war against Iran by covertly provoking its government into responses that could then falsely be depicted by the US to the world "as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression" - exactly what Brookings' Ken Pollack proposed be done in 2002 to deceitfully justify the attack on Iraq. According to Brookings, "in January 2009, President Barack Obama asked Riedel to chair a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the results of which the president announced in a speech on March 27, 2009."

When they speak publicly, the mavens of the Foreign Policy Community - whose primary function is to justify US militarism and aggression - typically disguise their real beliefs and objectives with specialized obfuscating jargon. But every now and then, they have an outburst of uncharacteristic candor that clarifies their actual worldview. Such is the case with a remarkably clear memorandum to President Obama that Riedel just authored and Brooking published regarding the extremely close US alliance with the regime in Saudi Arabia.


Algeria, Mali, and why this week has looked like an obscene remake of earlier Western interventions


Mali's Special Forces receive advice 'humanitarian aid and assistance' from US Special Forces
We are outraged not by the massacre of the innocents, but because the hostages killed were largely white, blue-eyed chaps rather than darker, brown-eyed chaps

Odd, isn't it, how our "collateral damage" is different from their "collateral damage". Speaking yesterday to an old Algerian friend in the aviation business, I asked him what he thought of his country's raid on the In Amenas gas plant."Brilliant operation, Robert," he shouted down the phone. "We destroyed the terrorists!" But the innocent hostages? What about their deaths, I asked? "Poor guys," he replied. "We had thousands of women and children killed in our war [in the 1990s] - terrible tragedy - but we are fighting terrorism."

And there you have it. Our dead men didn't matter in the slightest to him. And he had a point, didn't he? For we are outraged today, not by the massacre of the innocents, but because the hostages killed by the Algerian army - along with some of their captors - were largely white, blue-eyed chaps rather than darker, brown-eyed chaps. Had all the "Western" hostages - I am including the Japanese in this ridiculous, all-purpose definition - been rescued and had the innocent dead all been Algerian, there would have been no talk yesterday of a "botched raid".


Egyptian activists teargassed during police brutality trial

© Image from twitter user@_amroali
Riot police have used tear gas to disperse a crowd of demonstrators outside an Alexandria courtroom where a former police chief and five other officers are on trial over the killing of civilians during the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Dozens of family members of those killed during the uprising along with activists led the demonstration outside the Alexandria courthouse.

Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd that had become outraged by the idea of the police officers on trial walking free.

So far, nearly 100 police officers have been brought to trial for killing and wounding protestors during the revolution that deposed Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - all of them have been acquitted or received suspended sentences.

Star of David

U.S. and Israeli leaders locked in tension as threats loom

US President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu will have to bury past hostilities if the Israeli prime minister is re-elected to jointly face looming threats such as Iran, analysts say.

The two men have never warmed to each other, and ties have remained frosty. Obama pointedly failed to make time to meet the Israeli leader on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

Netanyahu also made little secret of the fact that he was rooting for Obama's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, in November's US presidential election.

Yet another spat made public headlines this week when Netanyahu reacted angrily to comments attributed to Obama that "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are."

"I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state," Netanyahu snapped back.


Guatemala's president: 'My country bears the scars from the war on drugs'

Guatemala's president says that leaders of drug-consuming countries in the west have to accept it has brought Latin countries to their knees

In any war there are innocent victims. In the 40-year war on drugs, the central American state of Guatemala can lay claim to being just such an innocent casualty. It has been caught in the crossfire between the nations to the south (principally Peru, Colombia and Bolivia) that produce illegal narcotics and the country to the north (America) that has the largest appetite to consume them. Guatemala does little of either.

The problem is that the drugs - principally cocaine - have to be transported from the producing countries to the US, from the south to the north. Unfortunately for Guatemala, it's in the way.

But Guatemala's location at the tip of Central America did not always present a problem. As recently as 2008 the US National Drug Intelligence Centre estimated that less than 1% of the estimated 700 tonnes of cocaine that left South America passed through Central America. But that was before the war on drugs intervened, and Guatemala was caught in the fallout.

Prior to 2008 the favoured method of transporting drugs from South America to the US was by sea (via the Caribbean or the Pacific) or by air; land-based smuggling was rare. But two things happened to radically change that, both initiatives of the "war on drugs".

Snakes in Suits

Anderson Cooper 'debunks' Sandy Hook massacre as government psy-op

In the following Anderson Cooper 360 talkshow, aired on CNN on January 11th, the former CIA internee turned journalist 'debunks' the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories by drawing attention to the nonsense proliferating on the Internet about Sandy Hook being an out and out "HOAX!".

Just as the mainstream media relished the opportunity to portray anyone who is dissatisfied with the contradictory official story of a lone gunman being responsible for the Sandy Hook massacre when rabble-rouser Alex Jones was given primetime attention on Piers Morgan's TV show, Cooper gave nationwide airtime to the lunatic fringe's half-baked theories about 'actors' being cast in the role of the child victims' parents and singled out arguably the most credible sceptic of the official version of events, tenured professor James Tracy, who must be kicking himself for mentioning - in an otherwise balanced article analysing the event - the possibility that actors played roles on that horrific day.

In doing so, Cooper and his employers are killing two birds with one stone: conflating intelligent criticism with kooky and insensitive conspiracy-mongering, and pouring more fuel on the conspiracy bandwagon to the point that "Hoax!" videos on YouTube are garnering millions of views.

Tune in to Sott.net's radio talk show 'SOTT Talk Radio' tomorrow at 8pm CET when SOTT editors Joe Quinn and Niall Bradley will be discussing the Sandy Hook massacre.

Comment: See also: Anderson Cooper's CIA Secret


DOD and Homeland Security are unauditable

© Dvorak.org
How much did Madoff bilk investors out of? And how many years did he get in prison for it? If the books were cooked on purpose (ie, bilking the American public's out of their money), how many years will these people get in prison?

The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that it could not complete an audit of the federal government, pointing to serious problems with the Department of Defense.

Along with the Pentagon, the GAO cited the Department of Homeland Security as having problems so significant that it was impossible for investigators to audit it. The DHS got a qualified audit for fiscal year 2012, and is seeking an unqualified audit for 2013.

The report released by the GAO on Friday indicates serious accounting problems at two of the largest government agencies: the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Defense has a net cost of $799.1 billion to the federal budget, while the Department of Homeland Security has a net cost of $48.7 billion.

The Department of Defense's inability to get its books in order also comes as Congress is slated to cut $500 billion from its budget over ten years starting March 1.

Bad Guys

France launches war in Mali in bid to secure resources, stamp out national rights struggles

© merriam-webster
France, the former slave power of west Africa, has poured into Mali with a vengeance in a military attack launched on January 11. French warplanes are bombing towns and cities across the vast swath of northern Mali, a territory measuring some one thousand kilometers from south to north and east to west. French soldiers in armoured columns have launched a ground offensive, beginning with towns in the south of the northern territory, some 300 km north and east of the Malian capital of Bamako.

A French armoured convoy entered Mali several days ago from neighbouring Ivory Coast, another former French colony. French troops spearheaded the overthrow of that country's government in 2011.

The invasion has received universal support from France's imperialist allies. The U.S., Canada and Europe are assisting financially and with military transport. To provide a figleaf of African legitimacy, plans have been accelerated to introduce troops from eight regional countries to join the fighting (map here).

"Islamist terrorists" etc., etc.

Comment: Coincidentally this military action comes at the same time that the German central bank has asked for repatriation of its gold, some of which is stored at the Bank of France in Paris.


Real life shooting imitates training exercise at Parker medical school

The tragedy that played out in an Aurora movie theater Friday was ironically paralleled as a classroom learning experience in a medical school in Parker the same day.

Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine is in the middle of holding specialized classes in disaster life support for 150 second-year medical students. Along with response to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods and terrorist attacks, one of the scenarios being used to train the students is how to respond if a shooter fires at people in a movie theater and also uses a bomb in the attack.

"The irony is amazing, just amazing," said Rocky Vista Dean Dr. Bruce Dubin.