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U.S.A. 2012: Is This What We've Become?

Drowning Liberty
© Media Freedom International Org
Incentivize victimhood, fraudulent accounting of income/collateral and gaming the system, and guess what you get? A nation of liars and thieves.

Memorial Day is traditionally a day to speak of sacrifices made in combat. Like much of the rest of life in America, it has largely become artificial, a hurried "celebration" of frenzied Memorial Day marketing that is quickly forgotten the next day.

Instead of participating in this rote (and thus insincere) "thank you for your sacrifice" pantomime, perhaps we should ask what else has been sacrificed in America without our acknowledgement. Perhaps we should look at the sacrifices that need to be made but which are cast aside in our mad rush to secure "what we deserve."

The unvarnished reality is that most Americans have no idea what service members experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they don't want to know. When 4,488 white crosses were erected on a hillside to remind us of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, people didn't like it, labeling it "unpatriotic."
Cemetary
© Nobody Ask Me Blogspot
That is not the real reason, of course; what is more patriotic than keeping those who served and sacrificed fresh in our awareness? One reason those 4,000 crosses make us uncomfortable is that they remind us of being conned by our civilian leadership into "wars of choice."

Another is that the reality of war and its long aftermath are not sufficiently "uplifting" for a brittle nation that prefers the distractions of "reality" TV to an acknowledgement of our problems and the sacrifices made and yet to be made.

Longtime readers know that one of my embedded concerns is the disconnect between the civilian populace and the U.S. Armed Forces. This disconnect starts with raw numbers: THANK YOU TO THE 0.45% of the population who served in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Personnel are costly, not just in civilian life but in the Armed Forces, too, and so the Pentagon has "downsized" the Armed Forces to a smaller but more professional force. This reflects not just budgetary realities but the evolution of modern warfare.

But it's not just that fewer serve because fewer are needed; the number of civilians who want to know and want to acknowledge the experience of those who serve is dwindling everywhere, from Congress to the media to the living rooms of the nation.

Attention

Organic Watergate: Fed Agencies Allow GMOs in 'USDA-Certified Organic'

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© foodfreedomgroup.com
The Cornucopia Institute is challenging what it calls a "conspiracy" between corporate agribusiness interests and the USDA that has increasingly facilitated the use of questionable synthetic additives and even dangerous chemicals in organic foods. In its new white paper, The Organic Watergate, Cornucopia details violations of federal law, ignoring congressional intent, that has created a climate of regulatory abuse and corporate exploitation.

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 it set up an independent advisory panel, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that, uniquely, has statutory power. Any synthetic input or ingredient used in organic farming or food production must be reviewed by the NOSB to assure that it is not a threat to human health or the environment.

At the NOSB meeting in Savannah, Georgia last year, a giant Dutch-based multi-national conglomerate, Royal DSM N.V./Martek Biosciences, partnered with the nation's largest dairy processor, Dean Foods, to muscle through approval of DHA/ARA synthetic nutrient oils. The additives, derived from genetically mutated algae and soil fungus, are processed with petrochemical solvents, grown in genetically engineered corn, and formulated for use in infant formula, dairy and other products with a myriad of other unreviewed synthetic ingredients.

Eye 1

"Infocrafting" or Propaganda Online? USA Today journalists targeted by Pentagon sockpuppets

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Army of fake social media accounts
As many have learned the hard way, protecting your reputation online can be difficult. The way the web works, once just one person publishes something bad or inaccurate about you, it lives forever in the net's cache. Should you be unfortunate enough to have someone, or even a team of people, who know their way around the Internet writing malicious things about you, it can be impossible to ever fully correct the record. Bad stuff tends to thrive online.

Just ask Tom Vanden Brook or Ray Locker. They're both reporters at USA Today; Vanden Brook covering the Pentagon for the paper since 2006, and Locker the White House and other agencies. Recently they teamed up to explore what the Pentagon calls "information operations" in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. A term of military art, "Info Ops" is frankly just another phrase for propaganda: the transmission of information, factual or not, with the specific goal of changing beliefs. "Winning the hearts and minds," as President Lyndon Johnson was fond of saying during the Vietnam war.

Yoda

In WikiLeaks case, Bradley Manning seeks dismissal of 10 charges

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An Army private charged in a massive leak of U.S. government secrets to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks is seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts he faces.

Pfc. Bradley Manning's civilian defense lawyer posted the motions on his website Wednesday night. A military judge will hear oral arguments at a pretrial hearing starting June 6 at Fort Meade, Md.

Manning contends eight of the counts are unconstitutionally vague. He claims two other charges fail to state a prosecutable offense.

Manning faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. He is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

He allegedly sent WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and war logs downloaded from government computers.

USA

NOW ethnic cleansing is taking place in Libya (Thanks, NATO)

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© REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
A mother and child ride atop a camel as a Tuareg caravan travels north through a remote region of southern Niger July 4, 2005.
Libyan Tuaregs Flee to Algeria Amid Reports of Ethnic Cleansing

More than 55 Libyans from the Tuareg tribe have crossed over into Algerian territory in the last two days through the border crossing at Debdeb in the province of Illizi. They left the town of Ghadames and its surrounding villages out of fear of reprisals by armed groups against certain individuals, and particularly against Tuareg families.

Sources inside the Libyan city of Ghadames told El-Khabar that the Tuareg tribes have been subjected to ethnic cleansing for the past eight months. The Ghadames tribe, which is backed by forces affiliated with the National Transitional Council, is allegedly carrying out these acts. The latter burned and destroyed hostels and stables belonging to the Tuareg tribe and expelled them from the city, forcing them to flee into Algeria.

Pirates

US drone destroys Afghani mosque; 10 killed

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US democratization technology
At least 10 people were killed and several others sustained injuries when unmanned US predator drone targeted a mosque in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan Agency on Thursday.

Sources said that earlier the death toll was put at six which later rose to 10 with several others were still in critical condition. The mosque was completely destroyed as two missiles were fired on it. Identities of the victims in the strike are not known immediately as North Waziristan is a far-flung mountainous tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

This was the fourth strike since Parliament in March demanded an end to the drone hits and first attack after the Chicago Summit.

Forty-five US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan's tribal belt in 2009, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011.

Agencies add: The attack, in the Khassokhel village near Mir Ali in the North Waziristan, was the second to take place in less than 24 hours.

USA

Syria, Yemen and America's Quest for Imperial Dominance

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At the G8 summit last week, President Obama and other officials in his administration, began utilizing the talking point of Yemen being a model to be emulated in Syria. Ostensibly, they were referring to the "peaceful" transition of power in Yemen as an example of what they would like to see in Syria. However, the comparison goes much deeper than simply this superficial connection. The truth is that Yemen represents, in more ways than one, the blueprint that the US imperialist ruling class would like to see applied to the escalating conflict in Syria.

Puppet Regimes and Faux Democracy

The "transition" of power in Yemen, from Saleh to Hadi, is a prime example of the hypocrisy of US policy, touting it as a victory for democracy while concealing the obvious fact that it was the creation of a puppet regime. Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been presented as the legitimate leader of Yemen, despite the fact that he was the U.S. choice to govern that country. His legitimacy depended on the myth of a democratically elected regime; the US propagates this myth wantonly, pretending that people won't remember that Hadi ran unopposed in February.

Eye 1

Obama Seeks Renewal of Bush Warrantless Spying Powers

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Obama officials demand full, reform-free renewal of the once-controversial power to eavesdrop without warrants

In 2006, The New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won the Pulitzer Prize for their December, 2005 article revealing that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the FISA law (headline: "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts" "Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law"). Even though multiple federal judges eventually ruled the program illegal, that scandal generated no accountability of any kind for two reasons: (1) federal courts ultimately accepted the arguments of the Bush and Obama DOJs that the legality of Bush's domestic spying program should not be judicially reviewed; and (2) the Democratic-led Congress, in 2008, enacted the Bush-designed FISA Amendments Act, which not only retroactively immunized the nation's telecom giants for their illegal participation in that spying program and thus terminated pending lawsuits, but worse, also legalized the vast bulk of the Bush spying program by vesting vast new powers in the U.S. Government to eavesdrop without warrants (in his memoir, President Bush gleefully recounted that the 2008 eavesdropping bill supported by the Democrats gave him more than he ever expected).

Vader

The Authoritarian Mind: US cheers death of entire Afghani family in airstrike

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Yet another Afghan family (and a bakery in Pakistan) is extinguished by an airstrike: unleash the justifications

Yesterday, I wrote about the rotted workings of Imperial Mind, but today presents a tragic occasion to examine its close, indispensable cousin: the Authoritarian Mind. From CNN today:
A suspected NATO airstrike killed eight civilians - including six children - in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial spokesman said.

The airstrike took place Saturday night in Paktia province, said Rohullah Samoon, spokesman for the governor of Paktia. He said an entire family was killed in the strike.
The LA Times identified the victims as "Mohammed Shafi, his wife and his six children," and cited the statements from the spokesman for the Paktia governor's office that "there is no evidence that Shafi was a Taliban insurgent or linked with Al Qaeda." The Afghan spokesman blamed the incident on the refusal of NATO to coordinate strikes with Afghan forces to ensure civilians are not targeted ("If they had shared this with us, this wouldn't have happened"). Also yesterday:
An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday, killing four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed ahead with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week. . . .

The officials said the victims were buying goods from a bakery when the missiles hit. Residents were still removing the debris, officials said. All of the dead were foreigners, but the officials did not have any information on their identities or nationalities.

Vader

The Imperial Mind: CIA Vaccination Program Infected Pakistani Children with Hepatitis B

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© Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
A Pakistani health worker gives a hepatitis vaccination to a boy at a makeshift school in southern Sindh. The CIA orchestrated a scam vaccination programme in Pakistan, ostensibly to try to locate Osama Bin Laden's family, but really just for the pathological fun of it.
American rage at Pakistan over the punishment of a CIA-cooperating Pakistani doctor is quite revealing

Americans of all types - Democrats and Republicans, even some Good Progressives - are just livid that a Pakistani tribal court (reportedly in consultation with Pakistani officials) has imposed a 33-year prison sentence on Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who secretly worked with the CIA to find Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Their fury tracks the standard American media narrative: by punishing Dr. Afridi for the "crime" of helping the U.S. find bin Laden, Pakistan has revealed that it sympathizes with Al Qaeda and is hostile to the U.S. (NPR headline: "33 Years In Prison For Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Hunt For Bin Laden"; NYT headline: "Prison Term for Helping C.I.A. Find Bin Laden"). Except that's a woefully incomplete narrative: incomplete to the point of being quite misleading.

What Dr. Afridi actually did was concoct a pretextual vaccination program, whereby Pakistani children would be injected with a single Hepatitis B vaccine, with the hope of gaining access to the Abbottabad house where the CIA believed bin Laden was located. The plan was that, under the ruse of vaccinating the children in that province, he would obtain DNA samples that could confirm the presence in the suspected house of the bin Laden family. But the vaccine program he was administering was fake: as Wired's public health reporter Maryn McKenna detailed, "since only one of three doses was delivered, the vaccination was effectively useless." An on-the-ground Guardian investigation documented that "while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine, the medical professionals involved were not following procedures. In an area called Nawa Sher, they did not return a month after the first dose to provide the required second batch. Instead, according to local officials and residents, the team moved on."