— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for November, 2013

Dirty Wars Trailer: JSOC in Action

It has been quite a few years now since Jeremy Scahill told the world about Blackwater and its nefarious actions, but now he is set to be back on people’s minds bothering administrations in an attempt to bring truth to the people: Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill into the heart of America’s covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond. Part political thriller and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time (29 November 2013).

The freelance journalist and researcher Dawn Paley tells us that “Scahill’s latest book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield [, released on 23 April] . . .  is a valuable volume for those wishing to better understand how current and past events in Mexico and Central and South America connect to the so-called war on terror. A must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the US drone wars and targeted kill programs, Dirty Wars is a bit slow going off the top, but before long, Scahill introduces compelling characters and provides readers with access to entire families who have been adversely impacted by US war policies in Yemen and elsewhere. Dirty Wars also contains a number of items of specific interest to folks whose interests lie south of the US border. Using carefully gathered evidence, Dirty Wars makes it clear that American military campaigns do little more than exacerbate existing situations. Sadly, this is as true in the Western hemisphere as it is in the Middle East. Scahill carefully documents how the militaristic approach taken by the US government towards perceived terror threats in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere has served to drive up the influence of local armed groups”.[1]

As such, Scahill wants to create a new meaning for the term ‘dirty wars’, which has been in use since the seventies to describe “state repression against political opponents, trade unionists and civilians in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia)”,[ii] as Paley reminds us. Scahill’s Dirty Wars clearly refer to what is happening today, as the U.S. is flexing its covert military muscle. On the film’s dedicated website this can be read: “Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill stumbles upon a US night raid gone badly wrong in a remote corner of Afghanistan, where a witness swears to having seen American soldiers digging bullets out of the bodies of pregnant dead women. Scahill’s investigation leads him to unravel the secret manoeuvres of the shadowy and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as he is drawn into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and may never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for Obama’s “kill list,” including US citizens. From Afghanistan to Yemen and Somalia, as well as back home in New York where he tries to piece the puzzle together, Scahill meets with Special Forces operators, military generals and US-backed warlords who go on camera and on the record—some for the first time. He tracks down the survivors of targeted assassinations and drone strikes, including the family of the first American citizen being hunted by his own government. Described as “a mystery thriller as compelling as any feature film” by The Huffington Post, Dirty Wars is also a New York Times Bestselling book (Serpent’s Tail publishers) by Jeremy Scahill on the same topic, exhaustively researched and footnoted”.[3]

[1] Dawn Paley, “Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Offers Lessons for Latin America” Upside Down World (10 July 2013). http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/4370-scahills-dirty-wars-offers-lessons-for-latin-america.

[2] Dawn Paley, “Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Offers Lessons for Latin America”.

[3] “FILM SYNOPSIS” Dirty Wars. http://dirtywars.org/blog.

Turkey, the Gülen Movement, and Taraf

Some time ago, in the summer of 2010 actually, a well-known Turkish journalist and columnist wrote down that one has to wait for news from Pennsylvania before being able to do anything in Turkey . . . this was an underhand reference to Fethullah Gülen who has been living in the U.S. since 1999 and whose influence upon Turkish government policy was a universally acknowledged fact at the time. Time flies and things change, and now the erstwhile pro-governments and Gülen-funded newspaper Zaman and its English-language appendage Today’s Zaman have recently become known as the new opposition press in Turkey’s media landscape, and as if to prove the point, the paper recently published the following piece: a “secret national security document recently discovered by a Turkish daily has revealed that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government signed on to a planned crackdown on the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. The Taraf daily published a document on Thursday [, 28 November] prepared by the National Security Council (MGK) on Aug. 25, 2004, persuading the government to implement a series of measures to curb the activities of the Gülen movement. It advises the government to adopt legal measures that would impose harsh penalties on Gülen-affiliated institutions. The two-page document was signed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, then-President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Cabinet members, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök, Land Forces Commander Aytaç Yalman, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek, Air Forces Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and Gen. Şener Eruygur. The document, identified as MGK decision No. 481, asked the government to develop an action plan to pursue the MGK’s recommendations and instructed the Prime Ministry Monitoring Council (BTK) to coordinate the ministries and monitor whether the steps were being implemented. The MGK decision urges the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to closely monitor and report on the activities of the Gülen movement at home and abroad. It advises the government to instruct the Interior Ministry and Ministry of Education to investigate and monitor schools affiliated with the Gülen movement and report their activities to the BTK. The document states that the government must ensure that the financial activity of Gülen-affiliated businesspeople be monitored thorough the Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK). The MGK wanted the Ministry of Education to investigate Gülen schools as well. It also asks then-Foreign Minister Gül to cancel his earlier instructions to Turkish missions abroad to help the network of National View (Millî Görüş) and Gülen schools. The document also comments on the psychological aspects of an operation against the Gülen movement, describing the use of defamation tactics”.[1]

These developments led the other English-language Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News to write that the “row between followers of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement of and the Turkish government took another dimension after a daily revealed Nov. 28 that a decision from the National Security Council (MGK)”.[2]  In Today’s Zaman, the piece continues that the “MGK is the top state body created by the 1960 military coup. It was seen as a shadow government while the military was in power. Furthermore, it ruled the country directly from 1980 to 1983 before transferring power to the civilian government. Yet the military became part of the executive branch through the MGK, joining the president and a committee of ministers. It became the final authority in decisions on a wide range of issues, including law, the economy, education, rights and freedoms. Though its decisions were expressed as advice on paper, they behaved as direct orders to the government. The document has sparked outrage in Turkey, with opposition parties criticizing the government for lying to the Turkish people while intellectuals have slammed the government for endorsing an MGK decision that is seen as a plot against the country’s citizens”.[3]

The daily Hürriyet Daily News states that “[t]ension between the government and the Gülen Movement, known in Turkish as “Cemaat” (community) or “Hizmet” (service), escalated recently after Erdoğan announced plans to abolish private examination prep schools (dershane), many of which are financed and run by Gülen’s followers. Erdoğan describes the group’s loud objections to his government’s plans as “a smear campaign.” Although the Gülen Movement is thought to have had close relations with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) until recently, the daily Taraf claimed the MGK document proved that a decision to “finish” the movement had already been made in 2004”.[4]  As such, the daily Taraf has made many important revelations that have had far-reaching consequences in Turkish society, particularly the so-called Balyoz or Sledgehammer plot springs to mind readily. On 20 January 2010, the Taraf writers Mehmet Baransu, Yıldıray Oğur and Yasemin Çongar revealed the existence of a secret plot, allegedly hatched by the top brass of the Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri or TSK), to overthrow the government, known as Sledgehammer or Balyoz.[5]

Curiouser and curiouser indeed, does this mean that the so-called 28 Şubat süreçi or Feb. 28 process, that had its beginnings in 1997 did not really come to an end with the ascension of the AKP in 2002???  The Gülenist Today’s Zaman explains that the “Feb. 28 military intervention, called a “postmodern coup” because it was carried out without the use of arms, occurred when military generals confronted a civilian coalition government at an MGK meeting on Feb. 28, 1997, which resulted in the forced resignation of the government led by a now-defunct religious-minded party [, the Refah Partisi led by Necmettin Erbakan].[6]  The period following Feb. 28 was characterized by mass human rights violations in Turkey, and conservative [or Islamist] groups were put under immense pressure”.[7]

For his part, the “Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı ruled out the possibility that the government was working to finish off the Gülen movement, saying that the government had shown resistance to such plans during difficult times”.[8]

[1] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily” Today’s Zaman (29 November 2013). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-332584-govt-endorsed-mgk-plot-against-gulen-exposed-by-daily.html.

[2] “Row between Turkish government and Gülen heats up with new document” Hürriyet Daily News (28 November 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=238&nID=58670&NewsCatID=338.

[3] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

[4] “Row between Turkish government and Gülen heats up with new document”.

[5] “Operation Sledgehammer on Trial” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (18 December 2010). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/operation-sledgehammer-on-trial/.

[6] “Turkey Loses its Islamist Figurehead: Erbakan has Died” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (28 February 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/turkey-loses-its-islamist-figurehead-erbakan-has-died/.

[7] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

[8] “Gov’t-endorsed MGK plot against Gülen exposed by daily”.

Eat the Rich: Bill Maher

As long ago as 3 December 2011, comedian Bill Maher did a monologue on the Wealth Gap in America.

Maher’s words are funny and true, but according to the website famenetworth.com, the comedian has a net worth of $23 Million,[1] but who knows, he might have more . . . a lot more, perhaps . . .

[1] “Bill Maher Net Worth” famenetworth.com. http://www.famenetworth.com/2010/07/bill-maher-net-worth.html.

The Door to Hell & Centralia Ghost Town, PA

Vlogbrother Hank Green talks about a crater in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for decades and has earned itself the title of: The Door to Hell.

Giving a bit more detail as well as some context, historian Kallie Szczepanski tells us that in “1971, Soviet geologists punched through the crust of the Karakum Desert about seven kilometers (four miles) outside of the little village of Derweze, Turkmenistan, population 350. They were searching for natural gas, and did they ever find it. The drilling rig hit a large natural cavern filled with gas, which promptly collapsed, taking down the rig and possibly some of the geologists as well, though those records remain sealed. A crater approximately 70 meters (230 feet) wide and 20 meters (65.5 feet) deep formed, and began spewing methane into the atmosphere. Even in that era, before concerns about methane’s role in climate change and its potency as a greenhouse gas had hit world consciousness, it seemed like a bad idea to have poisonous gas leaking from the ground in huge quantities near a village. The Soviet scientists decided that their best option was to burn off the gas by lighting the crater on fire. They accomplished that task by tossing a grenade into the hole, anticipating that the fuel would run out within the week. That was more than four decades ago, and the crater is still burning. Its glow is visible from Derweze each night. Fittingly, the name Derweze means “gate” in the Turkmen language, so locals have dubbed the burning crater the “Gate to Hell.” Although it is a slow-burning ecological disaster, the crater has also become one of Turkmenistan’s few tourist attractions, drawing adventurous souls out into the Karakum, where summer temperatures can hit 50ºC (122ºF) without any help from the Derweze fire. Despite the Derweze Door to Hell’s potential as a tourist site, Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov issued orders for local officials to find a way to put out the fire, after his 2010 visit to the crater. The president expressed fears that the fire would draw off gas from other nearby drilling sites, damaging Turkmenistan’s vital energy exports. The country exports natural gas to Europe, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. Turkmenistan produced 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2010; its Ministry of Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources published a goal of reaching 8.1 trillion cubic feet by 2030. Impressive though it looks, the Gates of Hell at Derweze seems unlikely to make much of a dent in those sorts of numbers”.[1]

The Turkmen crater reminds me of the other never-ending fire that has been burning underneath Pennsylvania in the vicinity of the small town of Centralia since 1962. Here is a short clip made by The Unknown Cameraman.

Writing in the Washington Post ten years ago, Tyler Currie declares that Centralia “is a very small town. No, that’s not right. Centralia used to be a very small town. Today, just a handful of resolute diehards keep Centralia from becoming a total ghost town. There are no more businesses here. The charred remains of Centralia’s last operating store, a motorcycle shop called Speed Spot, sit at the deserted center of town. The last church was demolished years ago, but its cemetery is still well groomed. There are no schools. Last year, the U.S. Postal Service said it was eliminating Centralia’s Zip code. And year by year, its people are disappearing too. Just 20 are left now, down from more than a thousand two decades ago. In this part of Pennsylvania, a mine town gone bust is hardly news. But there is none whose demise has been so spectacular and observable. Centralia has been on fire, literally, for the past four decades. The Centralia mine fire began in 1962 when a pile of burning trash ignited an exposed seam of coal. The fire soon seeped down into the lattice of old mine tunnels beneath town. When it was founded in 1866, Centralia’s ocean of underground coal, aptly named the Mammoth Vein, meant limitless wealth. But once the fire began, it came to mean endless destruction. This abandoned section of Route 61 runs smack through one of Centralia’s so-called hot zones. In these areas the underground fire directly affects the surface landscape. The traffic that used to flow over this section of road has been permanently detoured several hundred yards to the east. Thanks to a recent snowfall, the tracks of other visitors are obvious — that is until the snow cover abruptly ends. It’s as if someone has drawn a line across the road. On one side there’s snow. On the opposite side there’s bone-dry asphalt. The road’s surface is not exactly warm. But the asphalt is definitely not as cold as it should be on a chilly day in the Appalachian Mountains. In the roadside woods, all the trees are dead, baked to death by the subterranean smolder. Even their bark has peeled away . . . While the mine fire began in the spring of 1962, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Centralians began to quit their town in droves. According to [remaining resident, John] Lokitis, the catalyst for this exodus came on Valentine’s Day 1981, when a patch of ground collapsed beneath the feet of a 12-year-old boy named Todd Domboski. The exposed subsidence was hot, deep and spewing carbon monoxide. Todd was lucky. He grabbed a tree root, and a cousin helped pull him up to safety”.[2]

[1] Kallie Szczepanski, “The Gates of Hell | Derweze Turkmenistan” About.com (s.d.). http://asianhistory.about.com/od/asianenvironmentalhistory/ss/Gates-of-Hell-Derweze-Turkmenistan.htm.

[2] Tyler Currie, “Zip Code 00000” Washington Post (02 April 2003). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2003/04/02/AR2005033108150.html.

American Imperialism: A Short Survey and Critique

Even though Tom Engelhardt and Steve Fraser still declare on a dedicated website that ‘Americans have long believed that the very notion of empire is an offense against our democratic heritage’,[1] the reality of the American Empire has lately become acknowledged and even somewhat of a commonplace phrase.

Crash Course US History #28

The vlogbrother John Green tells us the following in his admirable online class Crash Course: ‘In the late 19th century, the great powers of Europe were running around the world obtaining colonial possessions, especially in Africa and Asia. The United States, which as a young country was especially susceptible to peer pressure, followed along and snapped up some colonies of its own. The US saw that Spain’s hold on its empire was weak, and like some kind of expansionist predator, it jumped into the Cuban War for Independence and turned it into the Spanish-Cuban-Phillipino-American War, which usually just gets called the Spanish-American War. John will tell you how America turned this war into colonial possessions like Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and almost even got to keep Cuba. The US was busy in the Pacific as well, wresting control of Hawaii from the Hawaiians. All this and more in a globe-trotting, oppressing episode of Crash Course US History’.

From the early beginnings in the late 19th century, over its complete articulation in the 20th and its current postscript in Afghanistan,[2] American Imperialism still persists today . . . and, as mentioned by John Green as well, not every American is in favour of this overseas empire. Today, one of its most vocal critics has to be Chris Hedges. Here he is talking on C-Span in 2012.

Brace Yourself! The American Empire Is Over

[1] “The American Empire Project” The American Empire Project. http://www.americanempireproject.com/.

[2] Cfr. “The Longest War or Endless Occupation: The U.S. Afghan Colony???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (23 November 2013). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/the-longest-war-or-endless-occupation-the-u-s-afghan-colony/; “Ten Years in Afghanistan: Central Asia Blues or Building Bases”  A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (09 October 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/ten-years-in-afghanistan-central-asia-blues-or-building-bases/.

Only in America: Penny Lane and the CIA

‘AP investigates a secret GuantanamoBay facility where CIA turned prisoners into double agents. The program had numerous official CIA codenames, but those who were aware of the cluster of cottages knew it best by its sobriquet: Penny Lane. (26 Nov 2013)’.

Elaborating, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo write that in “the early years after 9/11, the CIA turned some Guantanamo Bay prisoners into double agents then sent them home to help the U.S. kill terrorists, current and former U.S. officials said. The CIA promised the prisoners freedom, safety for their families and millions of dollars from the agency’s secret accounts. It was a risky gamble. Officials knew there was a chance that some prisoners might quickly spurn their deal and kill Americans. For the CIA, that was an acceptable risk in a dangerous business. For the American public, which was never told, the program was one of the many secret trade-offs the government made on its behalf. At the same time the government used the risk of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely, it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA. The program was carried out in a secret facility built a few hundred yards from the administrative offices of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The eight small cottages were hidden behind a ridge covered in thick scrub and cactus. The program and the handful of men who passed through these cottages had various official CIA code names. But those who were aware of the cluster of cottages knew it best by its sobriquet: Penny Lane. It was a nod to the classic Beatles song and a riff on the CIA’s other secret facility at GuantanamoBay, a prison known as Strawberry Fields. Nearly a dozen current and former U.S officials described aspects of the program to The Associated Press. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret program publicly by name, even though it ended in about 2006. Some of the men who passed through Penny Lane helped the CIA find and kill many top al-Qaida operatives, current and former U.S. officials said. Others stopped providing useful information and the CIA lost touch with them. When prisoners began streaming into Guantanamo Bay in January 2002, the CIA recognized it as an unprecedented opportunity to identify sources. That year, 632 detainees arrived at the detention center. The following year 117 more arrived . . . By early 2003, Penny Lane was open for business. Candidates were ushered from the confines of prison to Penny Lane’s relative hominess, officials said. The cottages had private kitchens, showers and televisions. Each had a small patio. Some prisoners asked for and received pornography. One official said the biggest luxury in each cottage was the bed — not a military-issued cot but a real bed with a mattress. The cottages were designed to feel more like hotel rooms than prison cells, and some CIA officials jokingly referred to them collectively as the Marriott. Current and former officials said dozens of prisoners were evaluated but only a handful, from a variety of countries, were turned into spies who signed agreements to work for the CIA. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment. The U.S. government says it has confirmed that about 16 percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees rejoined the fight against America. Officials suspect but have not confirmed that 12 percent more rejoined”.[1]

As a kind of afterthought, Goldman and Apuzzo finally say that “Penny Lane still stands and can be seen in satellite photos. A dirt road winds its way to a clearing. The special detachment of Marines that once provided security is gone. The complex is surrounded by two fences and hidden among the trees and shrubs of GuantanamoBay. It has long been abandoned”.[2]

[1] Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, “Penny Lane: Gitmo’s other secret CIA facility” AP (26 November 2013). http://news.yahoo.com/penny-lane-gitmos-other-secret-cia-facility-050929062–politics.html.

[2] Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, “Penny Lane: Gitmo’s other secret CIA facility”.

Turkish FM on Egypt, Iran, and Syria: Pseudo-Ottoman Thoughts

‘Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sat down with Al Jazeera‘s Jamal Elshayyal for an extended interview in Doha, commenting about Turkey’s latest diplomatic spat with Egypt as Cairo expelled Turkish ambassador from the country (24 Nov 2013)’.