Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Coming Collapse Of The Middle East

Lawrence of Arabia aided in the fragmentation of the Middle East by encouraging the Arabs to rebel against their brothers the Ottoman Empire.

The Regions’s Borders Have Long Been Artificial. The War In Iraq Accelerated Their Demise.

Fred Kaplan writes in "Slate"

On Feb. 26, 2003, President George W. Bush gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, spelling out what he saw as the link between freedom and security in the Middle East. “A liberated Iraq,” he said, “can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region” by serving “as a dramatic and inspiring example … for other nations in the region.”

He invaded Iraq three weeks later. The spread of freedom wasn’t the war’s driving motive, but it was considered an enticing side effect, and not just by Bush. His deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, had mused the previous fall that the spark ignited by regime-change “would be something quite significant for Iraq … It’s going to cast a very large shadow, starting with Syria and Iran, but across the whole Arab world.”
Ten years later, it’s clear that the Iraq war cast “a very large shadow” indeed, but it was a much darker shadow than the fantasists who ran American foreign policy back then foresaw. Bush believed that freedom was humanity’s natural state: Blow away the manhole-cover that a tyrant pressed down on his people, and freedom would gush forth like a geyser. Yet when Saddam Hussein was toppled, the main thing liberated was the blood hatred that decades of dictatorship had suppressed beneath the surface.

Bush had been warned. Two months before the invasion, during Super Bowl weekend, three prominent Iraqi exilespaid a visit to the Oval Office. They were grateful and excited about the coming military campaign, but at one point in the meeting they stressed that U.S. forces would have to tamp down the sectarian tensions that would certainly reignite between Sunnis and Shiites in the wake of Saddam’s toppling. Bush looked at the exiles as if they were speaking Martian. They spent much of their remaining time, explaining to him that Iraq had two kinds of Arabs, whose quarrels dated back centuries. Clearly, he’d never heard about this before.
Many of Bush’s advisers did know something about this, but not as much as anyone launching a war in Iraq, and thus overhauling the country’s entire political order, should have known.
It wasn’t rocket science; it was basic history. And to learn the history, they didn’t have to read vast, dry dossiers assembled by the CIA or the State Department (though that might have helped). There was just one book that would have told them, in this respect, everything they needed to know: David Fromkin’s 1989 best-seller, A Peace to End All Peace.
Subtitled “The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East,” Fromkin’s book (still available in paperback) tells the tragic story of how, toward the end of World War I, British and French diplomats redrew the map of the Middle East in ways that were certain to sow violence for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.
Before WWI, the countries we now know as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey did not exist. They were all part of the Ottoman Empire, and had been for 500 years. As the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the face of war, the British and French made plans to weave the territories into their own empires. Country names were coined, boundaries were drawn, tribal leaders were anointed, coopted, or traded promises for their obeisance. As it turned out, though, the war exhausted the British and French—their treasuries and their people’s patience—and over the subsequent two decades, their empires collapsed. But the borderlines they drew in the Middle East survived. These lines bore no resemblance to the natural, historic borders between tribes and sectarian groups; often they divided the members of a group from one another, or imposed the rule of minorities over majorities. The western-installed rulers of these artificial states survived too, and one of their main tasks was to oppress the groups, or buy them off, or play them against one another, in order to sustain their own rule.
What is happening in much of the Middle East now is the collapse of this system. When the U.S. military ousted Saddam Hussein, this process took a leap; initially, it was unclear to what effect. Soon it became obvious that the administration had no plan for post-war Iraq, in part because Bush didn’t think one was needed (democracy would spring forth naturally, once the dictator’s jackboot was lifted), in part because neither Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nor the top military leaders had much desire to wade into “nation-building.” The coup de grace came when the U.S. proconsul, L. Paul Bremer, issued his two infamous orders, abolishing the Iraqi military and blocking Baathist party members from holding government jobs—as a result of which, order broke down completely. In the vacuum emerged the insurgency, which was never a unified rebellion but rather a multiplicity of groups, harboring a multiplicity of resentments and ambitions, some of them against the interim government, some against the American occupiers, some against one another. The fighting intensified and widened, the American commanders (at least for the occupation’s first three years) had little idea what to do about it—and so it degenerated into civil war.
The main parties in this bourgeoning civil war were Sunni and Shiite Arabs. Each faction had allies in neighboring states, and some of them took the new phase of the war as a rallying cry either for coming to the aid of their brethren in Iraq or for mounting their own rebellions at home. As the authorities in these always-artificial (and therefore illegitimate) states weakened for various reasons (some of them having little to do with the Iraq war), the internal clashes between Sunni and Shiite came to dominate local—then regional—politics.
The question is how far this unraveling goes. Will civil wars erupt in one artificial state after another? That is, will the path of Syria be followed by Lebanon, then Jordan, then (hard as it may be to imagine) Saudi Arabia? Will Sunnis or Shiites, or both, take their sectarian fights across the borders to the point where the borders themselves collapse? If so, will new borders be drawn up at some point, conforming to some historically “natural” sectarian divisions? There have been many such alternative-maps proposedover the years, none of them quite alike, which raises the possibility that the definition of “natural” borders may itself be a contentious matter, likely to set off its own disputes or wars. Will these new borders conform to the results of these new battles? (Borders, like histories, are usually drafted by the winners.)
David Fromkin foresaw all this when he wrote A Peace to End All Peace a quarter-century ago. He also noted that the then-impending havoc would go on for quite a while, likening the situation to that of Europe’s in the fifth century “when the collapse of the Roman Empire’s authority in the West threw its subjects into a crisis of civilization that obliged them to work out a new political system of their own.” Fromkin went on:
“It took Europe a millennium and a half to resolve its post-Roman crisis of social and political identity: nearly a thousand years to settle on the nation-state form of political organization, and nearly five hundred years more to determine which nations were entitled to be states … The continuing crisis in the Middle East in our time may prove to be nowhere near so profound or so long-lasting. But its issue is the same: how diverse peoples are to regroup to create new political identities for themselves after the collapse of an age-old imperial order to which they had grown accustomed.”
There is a danger that such a cosmic view of world politics might breed passivity: The dynamics of conflict seem so inexorable, and so glacial, that outside intervention—even outside interest—appears futile. That’s not necessarily the case. History still walks on two feet. Leaders of nations can take steps, in alliance with other leaders, to reduce the human misery, control the level of violence, prevent the rise of some new empire that, in its full power, might threaten our own security.
But one clear lesson of Fromkin’s tome is that there are limits to what we—especially we, as sectarian outside powers—can do. Another clear lesson is that, if our leaders are going to intervene in another country’s fate (and not just in the Middle East), they should have some understanding of the country’s politics, history, and culture—which is to say, they should have some notion of the consequences of their actions—ahead of time. We and much of the rest of the world would be much better off today, if a few people in the Bush administration had read that one book.

Operation Condor

The Thirty Years Dirty War In Latin America

Pierre Abramovici writes,

The ramifications of Operation Condor were first revealed in December 1992 by several tonnes of documents from the Stroessner dictatorship, soon dubbed the “archives of terror”, discovered in a police station in Lambare, 15 miles from the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion. The tale they told was confirmed in detail by CIA documents declassified last November.
The United States had begun warning South American military commanders about the dangers of communism at the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace, held at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City in February 1945. Bilateral agreements on mutual military assistance followed in 1951. They covered the supply of US arms and funding to Latin American countries, the secondment of US military advisers, and the training of Latin American officers in the US and at the US army’s School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone.
The move towards “continental defence against communism” was speeded by the victory of Castro’s revolution in 1959. The following year General Theodore F Bogart, US Southern Command supremo, invited his Latin American colleagues to a “friendly meeting” at his base in the Canal Zone to discuss problems of common interest. The outcome was an annual Conference of American Armies (CAA), first held at Fort Amador in Panama. In 1964 it was transferred to West Point, and from 1965 it met every two years. The West Point venue, a secretive meeting place symptomatic of cold war paranoia, was the heart of the future Operation Condor.

Sharing intelligence

Apart from “international communism”, a convenient catchphrase for all political opponents, Latin American military commanders were obsessed with links between their intelligence services. At its second meeting, the CAA called for the creation of a standing committee in the Panama Canal Zone to exchange information and intelligence (1). In response, a continent-wide communication network was established and top-secret bilateral intelligence meetings were held between Argentina and Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, and others.
Files made available by those countries were circulated through a network of military attachés known as Agremil. Most were supplied by military intelligence services (G-2), but others came from security police or shadier bodies like the Organismo Coordinador de Operaciones Antisubversivas (Ocoa), a Uruguayan death squad that carried out interrogations, torture and executions, mainly in Argentina (2).
At the CAA’s 10th meeting, held in Caracas on 3 September 1973, General Breno Borges Fortes, commander-in-chief of the Brazilian army, agreed that the struggle against communism was exclusively a matter for the armed forces of the individual countries. As far as collective action was concerned, “the only effective methods are the exchange of experience and information, plus technical assistance when requested” (3). On this basis, the CAA decided to “strengthen information exchange in order to counter terrorism and control subversive elements in each country” (4).
From the time of Juan Domingo Peron’s return to power in 1973 to the 1976 putsch, when most of South America was gradually coming under the thumb of military regimes on the Brazilian model, Argentina lived through a curious transition period. Its police and armed forces stepped up repression and authorised the establishment of death squads like the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (AAA). But, at the same time, it was the only country in the Southern Cone in which thousands of mainly Chilean and Uruguayan victims of political and social repression were able to take refuge.
In March 1974 Chilean, Uruguayan and Bolivian police leaders met with the deputy chief of the Argentinian federal police, Alberto Villar (joint founder of the AAA), to investigate ways of working together to destroy what they saw as the hotbed of subversion constituted by the presence of thousands of foreign political refugees in Argentina. The Chilean representative, a general of thecarabinieri (military police), proposed that a police officer or member of the armed forces be accredited to every embassy as a security agent in order to coordinate operations with the police and security authorities of each country. He also called for the creation of “an intelligence centre where we can obtain information on individual Marxists and … exchange programmes and information about politicians. In addition,” he argued, “we must be able to move freely across the frontiers between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and operate in all three countries without an official warrant” (5).
Villar promised that the Argentinian Federal Police’s Foreign Affairs Department (DAE) would deal with foreigners that neighbouring juntas wanted out of the way. In August 1974 the corpses of foreign, especially Bolivian, refugees started to appear on Buenos Aires refuse tips. On 30 September a bomb placed in Buenos Aires by a Chilean commando group led by CIA agent (or former agent) Michael Townley killed General Carlos Prats, commander-in-chief of the Chilean army under the Popular Unity government, who was the spearhead of opposition to Pinochet.
Police and military commando groups now crossed borders at will. In March and April 1975 more than two dozen Uruguayans were arrested in Buenos Aires by Argentinian and Uruguayan police officers, who interrogated them jointly in Argentinian police stations. Jorge Isaac Fuentes Alarcon, an Argentinian militant, was arrested on the Paraguayan border by Paraguayan police. As Chile’s National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (the Retting commission) subsequently established in its report of 8 February 1991 to President Patricio Aylwin (6), he was interrogated not only by Paraguayan police and Argentinian intelligence officers but also by officials of the US embassy in Buenos Aires, who passed information on to Chile’s National Intelligence Directorate (Dina).

State within a state

Meanwhile, Chile had put the finishing touches to its own system of repression. Following the putsch of 11 September 1973, for which US president Richard Nixon and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger bore direct responsibility, Pinochet gave Colonel Manuel Contreras full powers to “extirpate the cancer of communism” from the country. Dina soon became a state within the state.
The Chilean dictatorship was particularly exercised by the presence of large numbers of implacable opponents abroad. It had managed to kill General Prats, but in February 1975 the anti-Castro Cubans recruited for the purpose bungled the assassination of Carlos Altamirano and Volodia Teitelboim, the leaders of the exiled Chilean Socialist and Communist parties. In early April Contreras visited the Latin American capitals in order to persuade the security services of the whole continent to set up a special anti-exile force. On 25 August he was at CIA headquarters in Washington, where he met Vernon Walters, deputy director responsible for Latin America.
Two days later he had a meeting with Rafael Rivas Vasquez, assistant director of the Venezuelan intelligence agency (Disip), in Caracas: “He explained … that he wanted to place agents in all Chilean embassies abroad and that he was already training embassy officials who were prepared to act as intelligence agents if required. He said he had already made several successful trips to obtain the support of Latin American intelligence services. Everything was based on unwritten agreements” (7). According to Rivas, the Venezuelan government ordered the Disip to reject Contreras’ overtures. It was the only refusal. All the other countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia) agreed.
At the same time the order was given to set up an anti-subversion network in Europe based on Italian rightwing terrorist groups. Unable to get at Carlos Altamirano, who was living under armed guard in the Federal Republic of Germany, the assassins turned their attention to Bernardo Leighton, Chile’s former vice president and a founder member of the Christian Democratic Party. On 6 October 1975 Leighton and his wife were attacked by a fascist hit squad in Rome. They survived the shooting, but Mrs Leighton was left permanently paralysed. Despite this failure, Pinochet had a meeting with Stefano Delle Chiaie, leader of the Italian commando groups, who agreed to remain at Chile’s disposal.
At its meeting of 19-26 October 1975 in Montevideo, the CAA gave the go-ahead for a first “working meeting on national intelligence services”, prepared by Contreras. It took place from 25 November to 1 December in Santiago de Chile and was classified top secret. Contreras’ main proposal was the creation of a continental database “similar to the Interpol database in Paris, but specialising in subversion”. This was the beginning of the Chilean contribution to Operation Condor.
According to the CIA, which claims not to have heard of Condor until 1976 (8), three of the countries involved, namely Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, “extended cooperation on anti-subversion activities to the assassination of high-ranking terrorists living in exile in Europe”. Although it had been accepted for years that information was to be exchanged bilaterally, “a third, top-secret phase of Operation Condor apparently involved training special teams from member countries for joint operations that included the assassination of terrorists and terrorist sympathisers. When a terrorist or sympathiser from a member country was identified, a team would be sent to locate the target and keep him under surveillance. Then a hit squad would be despatched. The special teams were made up of people from one or several Condor states who were supplied with false identity papers issued by member countries.”
The CIA claims that the operation centre for phase three was in Buenos Aires, where a special team had been set up. Meanwhile, bilateral meetings between the countries of the Southern Cone continued as usual under the aegis of the CAA, and their effects were just as devastating (9).
Many Condor meetings took place in 1976. They were often attended by the same people who took part in CAA bilateral meetings. According to the CIA, “although cooperation between the various intelligence and security services had existed for some time, it was not formalised until late May 1976 at a Condor meeting in Santiago de Chile, where the main topic was long-term cooperation between the services of the participating countries going well beyond the exchange of information. The Condor member countries identified themselves by code numbers: Condor One, Condor Two, etc.
It was a bad year for their political opponents, who had taken refuge wherever they could. Under the pretext of attacking terrorists committed to armed resistance, the murderers struck out at anyone, crossing frontiers at will. Increasing numbers of political opponents were assassinated or “disappeared”. On 8 June, in the course of a friendly chat in Santiago, Kissinger assured Pinochet that “the people of the United States are wholeheartedly behind you … and wish you every success” (10).

Flying like a condor

But the scale of repression made the existence of Condor increasingly difficult to hide. The CIA itself became a source of embarrassing rumours as staff exchanged quips about colleagues sent abroad because they could “fly like a condor”. Finally, Contreras’ own policy of targeted assassinations put paid to the operation. On 21 September 1976 he had Chile’s former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, assassinated in Washington. It was a major blunder. The US investigators were determined to identify those responsible. The FBI’s chief officer in Buenos Aires filed a special report on phase three of Operation Condor, and extracts found their way into the American press. A Congressional committee of inquiry was quickly set up. The Chileans responded by disbanding Dina and replacing it by another organisation. Contreras was ditched.
The newly elected US president Jimmy Carter had made human rights part of his platform. He was not prepared to countenance Condor-type operations. At the very least, he did not want the US involved in them. The prevailing view is that the Carter administration pressured the Latin American countries to close Condor down.
Representatives of all the Condor member states met in Buenos Aires on 13-15 December 1976 to discuss future plans in the light of the new situation. The Argentinians, who had outstripped all the other dictatorships in the ferocity of their methods since the putsch of 23 March, took matters in hand. With help from Paraguay, they sought a more secure and discreet channel for anti-subversion operations in the form of the Latin American Anti-Communist Federation (CAL), an offshoot of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL).
The CAL held its third meeting in Asuncion in March 1977. It was attended by the top brass of the dictatorships, including General Gustavo Leigh, a member of the Chilean junta, and General Jorge Videla, the Argentinian president, together with an assortment of Latin America’s torturers and death squad members. Their main problems were the US’ new strategy of re-establishing democracy in Latin America, the spread of guerrilla movements in Central America, and the position of whole sections of the Catholic Church that appeared to be an integral part of the international communist movement.
A plan proposed by the Bolivians, named after the Bolivian dictator, was adopted. Its purpose was to “eradicate” proponents of liberation theology. Under the Banzer plan, which culminated in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador, hundreds of priests, monks, nuns, lay members of religious communities and bishops were executed,

An end to formal restraints

Taking charge of repression throughout Latin America, the Argentinians discarded all formal restraints. The coordination of repression was entrusted to death squads. Even though some were composed of soldiers and policemen, this was tantamount to privatising anti-subversion operations. At the same time bilateral intelligence meetings of national security agencies, as well as meetings of the CAA, continued under the aegis of the US. In 1977 the CAA met in Managua, Nicaragua, and in 1979 in Bogota, Colombia. The Argentinians also sent several missions to Central America to assist local armed forces and political police. In the spring of 1979 they started anti-subversion training courses in Buenos Aires to reduce dependence on the US war schools. The fall of the Somoza regime in July 1979 encouraged the Latin American dictatorships to standardise their anti-subversion methods.
The CAL’s fourth meeting, chaired by Argentinian general Suarez Mason in Buenos Aires in September 1980, favoured the adoption of an “Argentinian solution” throughout Latin America. From April 1980 the US Department of Defence was aware that Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil were once again pursuing the idea of an “international anti-terrorist organisation” – Condor in a new guise. Meanwhile, the CAL was coordinating massacres carried out by death squads and security forces in Central America. The Agremil files continued to circulate in the general staffs, yielding a rich harvest of cross-border arrests, exchanges of prisoners and international torture squads.
In 1981 the CAA meeting was held in Washington, following the election of a Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Developments took a new turn as the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua gave fresh impetus to anti-subversion cooperation (11). The participants decided to renew their bilateral agreements on the exchange of information about so-called terrorists and to set up a permanent CAA secretariat. This came into being on 24 May 1984 in Santiago de Chile.
When Argentina returned to democracy in 1985, the Chilean military regime was left as the last rampart against communism in South America except for Paraguay. The Reagan administration entrusted its programme of secret war in Central America to the CIA , the CAL and the private sector. The CAA remained committed to an ideology of war against international communism, except that the term now included human rights activists as well as leftwing and clerical opponents. Judges and journalists calling for torturers to be brought to trial were gradually included, as were critics of corruption, in which the military were deeply implicated..
Operation Condor as such vanished in the jungles of Central America when the US took over the struggle against the Nicaraguan Sandanistas. But it was the end of the cold war and the accumulation of its own excesses that dealt it a fatal blow. Strictly speaking, it was directed against only a few dozen or few hundred targeted victims. But the overall toll of repression in the Southern Cone alone during the period of its existence totalled over 50,000 murdered, 35,000 disappeared and 400,000 imprisoned.
Although torture and executions are no longer institutionalised on a continental scale, there is no reason to believe these practices have ceased. The crimes of the Colombian paramilitaries linked to sections of the country’s armed forces are clear evidence to the contrary. On 8 May 2000 a report by the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the Organisation of American States (OAS) reviewed 10 years of anti-subversion cooperation among the various South and Central American states. While the designated enemy is now drugs-traffickers rather than communists and there are references to human rights, the message is still the same.
Numerous Latin American states have concluded agreements among themselves and with the US aimed at greater bilateral or multilateral cooperation against terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. These agreements confirm the role of the armed forces in social control.
Similarly, since the mid-1990s and under the aegis of the US, the Latin American countries have increased their bilateral exchange arrangements. In the intelligence field alone, dozens of arrangements are in force, in addition to the annual conference of the intelligence services of the armies of the OAS member states. The CAA still meets (in Argentina in 1995 and in Ecuador in 1997). A multilateral military conference on intelligence services, the first since the meeting set up by Contreras in 1975, was organised by the Bolivian army on 8-10 March 1999. It was attended by representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, the US (Southern Command), Uruguay and Venezuela.
“Security in the Americas”, so dear to the US, does not necessarily give first place to democracy. It would not take much for Operation Condor to rise from the ashes.
(1) Permanent Executive Secretariat of the Conference of American Armies (PESCAA), Information Bulletin no. 1, Santiago, Chile, 1985
(2) See Nunca Más (never again): a report by Argentina’s National Commission on Disappeared People, Faber in association with Index on Censorship, London, 1986.
(3) See Diffusion de l’information sur l’Amérique Latine (DIAL), no. 125, Paris, 25 October 1973
(4) PESCAA, Information Bulletin No.1, op. cit.
(5) Stenographer’s record published by El Autentico, Buenos Aires, 10 December 1975.
(6) The full text of the report is available in English translation at
(7) Testimony given on 29 June 1979 to a Washington court during the trial of Orlando Letelier’s assassins.
(8) Whether this claim is true or false, the fact remains that Contreras was a CIA informer from 1974 to 1977 and was on the agency’s payroll until 1975 (“by mistake”, the CIA claims), as revealed by a declassified document submitted to the US Congress at its request on 19 September 2000. See El Nuevo Herald, Miami, 20 September 2000.
(9) The Argentinians alone did not rely entirely on the United States in their “dirty war”. In 1976 a French military mission was sent to Buenos Aires to train the Argentinian armed forces in anti-subversion operations.
(10) Declassified document quoted in El Pais, 28 February 1999
(11) On 1 December 1981 the US administration released $19m to fund the training of an initial contingent of 500 Contras (Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries) by Argentinian officers.
Le Monde Diplomatique (English edition), translated by Barry Smerin,  August 2001
link to the original version in French:
Carlos Osorio and Peter Kornbluh also add,

Former military officers from Argentina and Uruguay went on trial this week in Buenos Aires for their human rights abuses in Operation Condor, a cross-border conspiracy of dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s to “eradicate ‘subversion,’ a word which increasingly translates into non-violent dissent from the left and center left,” according to declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive (
Today’s posting of documents and evidence provided by the Archive to Argentine prosecutors includes the first briefing report, from August 1976, to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the secret police collaboration in the Southern Cone to “find and kill” opponents of their military regimes.
“The documents are very useful in establishing a comprehensive analytical framework of what Operation Condor was,” said Pablo Enrique Ouvina, the lead prosecutor in the case.
Founded by the Pinochet regime in November 1975, Operation Condor was the codename for a formal Southern Cone collaboration that included transnational secret intelligence activities, kidnapping, torture, disappearance and assassination, according to the National Security Archive’s documentary evidence from U.S., Paraguayan, Argentine, and Chilean files.
Prominent victims of Condor include two former Uruguayan legislators and a former Bolivian president, Juan Torres, murdered in Buenos Aires, as well as former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 26-year old American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Washington D.C.
The historic trial charges 25 high-ranking military officials, including former Argentine presidents Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, with conspiracy to “kidnap, disappear, torture and kill” 171 opponents of the military dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the victims are approximately 80 Uruguayans, 50 Argentines, 20 Chileans and a dozen from Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador who were targeted by Condor operatives. The kidnapping and disappearance of two Cuban Consulate officials in Buenos Aires on August 9, 1976, is also part of the prosecution.
“Condor was a latter day rendition, torture and assassination program,” noted Carlos Osorio, who directs the Archive’s Southern Cone Documentation project. “Holding these officials accountable for the multinational crimes of Condor,” he said, “cannot help but set a precedent for more recent abuses of a similar nature.”
Besides Generals Videla and Bignone, those indicted included 22 Argentine military intelligence officers and agents. In preparation for the trial, prosecutors sought the extradition of several foreign high ranking officers from Chile and Paraguay among other Condor countries. The only foreigner sitting at the courtroom, however, is Uruguayan Army Major Manuel Cordero, charged with participating in death squads and torture at the infamous Orletti Motors secret detention center in Buenos Aires. He was extradited by Brazil where he was living.
Of the 171 Condor victims cited in the indictments, approximately forty-two survived and a number of them are expected to testify in court. One hundred twenty others were killed and/or disappeared.


Document l: Department of State, Report to Kissinger, SECRET, “The Third World War and South America,” August 3, 1976.
This report, based on CIA intelligence, was written by Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Harry Shlaudeman and presented to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in August 1976. The document summarizes the coordination of Southern Cone security forces:
“[T]hey are joining forces to eradicate ‘subversion,’ a word which increasingly translates into non-violent dissent from the left and center left. The security forces of the Southern Cone now coordinate intelligence activities closely; operate in the territory of one another’s countries in pursuit of ‘subversives’; have established Operation Condor to find and kill terrorists…in their own countries and in Europe. Brazil is cooperating short of murder operations.”
Document 2: Defense Intelligence Agency, [Report on Operation Condor] “Special Operations Forces,” SECRET, October 1, 1976.
This comprehensive intelligence report, based on information gathered by the FBI legal attaché in Buenos Aires, provides details on the collaboration between Argentina, Uruguay, and other Southern Cone military dictatorships. The document provided critical information to prosecutors on a joint operation with Uruguayan intelligence agents in late September 1976, in which dozens of Uruguayan members of the militant leftist movement OPR-33 were rounded up, detained, tortured, and a number killed in Buenos Aires. “The entire OPR-33 infrastructure in Argentina has been eliminated,” the document states. The kidnapped Uruguayans are among the over one hundred disappeared victims included in the Operation Condor trial. The document goes on to describe the “formation of special teams” to “carry out operations to include assassinations” in countries as far away as Portugal and France. The report cited a “favorite remark” of Southern Cone military officers as saying that “one of their colleagues is out of country because he is flying like a condor.”
Document 3: CIA, SECRET, A Brief Look at Operation Condor, August 22, 1978.
In the aftermath of the Letelier-Moffitt assassination, the CIA prepared this short briefing paper for Eugene Propper, the Justice Department’s lead prosecutor in the case. “Operation Condor is a cooperation effort by the intelligence/security services of several South American countries to combat terrorism and subversion. The original members included services from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia; Peru and Ecuador recently became members.”
Document 4: Department of State, SECRET, “Conversation with Argentine Intelligence Source,” April 7, 1980.
In this revealing memorandum to Ambassador Castro, James J. Blystone, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, details his April 2 meeting with an Argentine intelligence source. The anonymous Argentine source describes how Horacio Campiglia and Susana Binstock, two militant Montoneros, were captured by Argentine officers of Battalion 601 (in coordination with Brazilian intelligence), taken to Argentina and held at the Campo de Mayo Army base. Campiglia and Binstock who were never seen again, are amongst the more than a hundred victims included in the Operation Condor trial.


At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points. 
Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU, is one of the 2,000 braniacs who contributed their DNA. I spoke to him about what this creepy-ass program might mean for the future of Chinese kids.
Geoffrey Miller: As soon as Deng Xiaoping took power in the late 70s, he took the whole focus of the Chinese government from trying to manage the economy, to trying to manage the quality and quantity of people. In the 90s, they started to do widespread prenatal testing for birth defects with ultrasound, and more recently, they've spent a lot of money researching human genetics to figure out which genes make people smarter.
BGI is also doing lots of plant genetics, animal genetics, anything that’s economically relevant or scientifically interesting.
They seem mostly interested in people of Chinese and European descent. They’re basically recruiting through a scientific conference, through word of mouth. You have to provide some evidence that you’re as smart as you say you are. You have to send your complete CV, publications you’ve produced, standardized-test scores, where you went to college... stuff like that.
Once you’ve got that information and a fertilized egg that’s divided into a few cells, you can sample one of the cells to figure out the expected intelligence if it’s implanted and becomes a person.
Even if it only boosts the average kid by five IQ points, that’s a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the competitiveness of the country, how many patents they get, how their businesses are run, and how innovative their economy is.
Actual use of the technology to do embryo screening might take five to ten years, but it could be just a few years. It depends on how motivated they are.
In fact, almost any trait other than intelligence would be easier to do. We know that intelligence depends on lots of genes while physical traits—like hair or eye color—only depend on a few genes. Things like body shape would be easier to do, physical attractiveness would be pretty complicated, personality traits might be a little simpler than intelligence—how hard working somebody is, how impulsive, how politically liberal or conservative they are would be easier. How religious you are—that’s definitely influenced by genes to some degree.
What Else Is China Doing That We Aren’t?
Well, they’re also investing a huge amount of money in education, they’re creating new systems of universities that emphasise more creative approaches to learning, and they’re sending hundreds of thousands of college students to America and Europe to see how our education systems operate so they can bring their own systems up to our standards and above.
Do You Think Global Domination Is In The Cards?
The Chinese Communist party has never really sought global domination. They think of it as restoring China to its rightful and historical place as the central culture of humanity. Europe got a temporary advantage, but they’re just restoring the natural balance as the world’s most populous country. I don’t think they have any imperial ambitions to spread China’s borders—they’re not going to act like Nazi Germany or America in the 20th century—but they do want respect and they do want influence and they don’t trust America or Europe to run the world in the right way, in terms of issues like global warming or equality or economic stability.
Via: "Vice"

UN: US Drone War In Pakistan Is Illegal

SEBASTIAN ABBOT reports in Chron that,

The head of a investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.
The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties.
According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator's three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.
Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson's team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians.
The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries was launched in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.
Pakistani officials regularly criticize the attacks in public as a violation of the country's sovereignty, a popular position in a country where anti-American sentiment runs high.
"The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear," said Emmerson. "It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The drone campaign "involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
Pakistan claimed the drone strikes were radicalizing a new generation of militants. 
A major reason why the U.S. has stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan is because it has failed to convince the government to target Taliban militants using its territory to launch cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
Emmerson met with a variety of Pakistani officials during his visit, as well as tribal leaders from the North Waziristan tribal area — the main target for U.S. drones in the country — and locals who claimed they were injured by the attacks or had lost loved ones.
The tribal leaders said innocent tribesmen were often mistakenly targeted by drones because they were indistinguishable from Taliban militants, said Emmerson. Both groups wear the same traditional tribal clothing and normally carry a gun at all times, he said.
"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," said Emmerson.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Down To The Earth's Core

Down to the Earth's Core takes viewers from the sidewalk to the center of the planet in one epic unbroken shot. Using spectacular computer generated imagery; the camera smashes through almost 9 000 kilos of solid rock to explore the hidden world beneath our feet. 

Experience an earthquake inside the San Andreas Fault, blast out of a volcano, encounter bizarre cave-dwelling creatures and enter caves full of giant crystals -- all inside planet Earth. 

As the camera lowers into Earth's bosom, the planet's extraordinary story, is laid bare layer by layer, showing how prehistoric forests became modern-day fuel, witnessing the dinosaur's cataclysmic death, and watching as stalactites form and gold grows before our eyes. 

Deeper, beyond the reach of any mine, any drill, we find wonders beyond imagination: towering molten metal tornadoes, forests of solid iron crystals, until we reach the strangest, least understood place on the planet -- the core. To infinity and beyond, this is Earth like never before.

Pentagon Creates 13 Offensive Cyber Teams For Worldwide Attacks

"Russia Today" reports the following:
The head of the United States Cyber Command says the US is developing 40 new teams of cyber-agents that will both protect America’s critical infrastructure from hackers and as well as launch attacks against the country’s adversaries.
Gen. Keith Alexander, who leads both the Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the 40 online support teams should be ready for action by 2015, with 13 of those units existing specifically to attack other countries.
Alexander has been reluctant to go into detail about how the newly-designed teams will engage in cyber battle with America’s enemies, but he did say that the 13 squads of offensive fighters won’t be sitting around waiting for hackers from abroad to strike first. The NSA chief described the groups as‘‘defend-the-nation’’ teams but also stressed that their role will be one that puts them on both sides of the action.
“I would like to be clear that this team. . . is an offensive team,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“The teams are analogous to battalions in the Army and Marine Corps — or squadrons in the Navy and Air Force,” said Alexander. “In short, they will soon be capable of operating on their own, with a range of operational and intelligence skill sets, as well as a mix of military and civilian personnel.”
Chris Strohm, a national security reporter for Bloomberg, says the units will “focus on missions such as protecting vital computer networks from attacks, supporting combat operations and keeping the Pentagon’s information-technology systems secure.”
The Associated Press reports that Gen. Alexander likened the teams’ duties to “knocking an incoming missile out of the sky before it hits a target,” and that they’d serve as defensive teams with added offensive capabilities. What offensive actions the teams will engage in exactly will likely remain unknown for now, however, as the US has continues to closely guard its secretive cyber operations. Anorder signed by President Barack Obama last year outlining the offensive capabilities of US cyber squads remains classified four months later, but it has been described as being the most aggressive cybersecurity directive ever. Meanwhile, the commander-in-chief and other administration officials have only said that attacks aimed at US infrastructure are increasing in frequency.
"What is absolutely true is that we have seen a steady ramping up of cyber security threats,” Pres. Obama told ABC News during an interview filmed on Tuesday.
And while Gen. Alexander’s 40 new teams won’t be ready for either side of a cyberbattle until 2015, meanwhile Washington is looking for other ways to protect an onslaught of attacks. In addition to the classified order signed by Mr. Obama in November — Presidential Policy Directive 20 — the White House has also released an executive order that will pave the way for the country’s private businesses to share threat information with the US government.
“I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs and our privacy,” Pres. Obama said during last month’s State of the Union address. Moments later during his speech, he also urged Congress to act fast on their own “by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.” One day later members of Congress reintroduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, and again this week Pres. Obama asked for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act on it.
"There are ways that we can harden our critical infrastructure, our financial sector," Obama to ABC. "They need to get this done."
Gen. Alexander and Pres. Obama’s statements come on the heels of a series of cyberattacks aimed at America’s military computers, government servers, utility companies and banks. Iran has been largely considered responsible for a series of recent attacks on US banking websites, and China has repeatedly been linked to both cyber-espionage and cyberattacks on the US Department of Defense, Department of State and the private sector. Earlier this week, hackers claiming to be from the Tunisian Cyber Army took credit for hacking a handful of government websites, and say that, along with the al-Qaeda Electronic Army and a crew of Chinese hackers, will continue to attack US websites as part of Operation BlackSummer, or #OpBlackSummer.