Sunday, June 22, 2014

PNN - ISIS WHOSE MANNING THE PUPPETS? DEP or PETROLEUM ENABLERS


PNN 6/22/14

RWS……..…………………….  7:01pm
Jeanne Economos…..   7:16pm
Dale Slongwhite
Kip Rafferty……………      7:48 Jobs for Justice
Emine Dilek …………..      7:52pm
Gwen Holden Barry     8:30pm
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0. Kit Rafferty, Executive Director, South Florida Voices for Working Families
Our facebook page is South Florida Voices for Working Families - the event is posted and they can message us.

Jeannie Economos -
As a follow up to the talk today, attached is a Get Involved page that gives people various ways they can support the better protections for farmworkers from pesticide exposure by making their voices heard to the EPA.  Also, here is the link directly to the EPA web page for the proposed new regulations for the Worker Protection Standard.  http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/safety/workers/proposed/index.html
 
 

Also, folks can google "The Dirty Dozen: The Clean 15" to learn about the fruits and veggies with the most and least pesticide content.



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1. Net Neutrality Will Require Us to Shine the Light on Internet Providers

A neutral Internet—one where Internet service providers (ISPs) can’t unfairly limit our access to parts of the Net, create special fast lanes for some services, or otherwise handle data in non-neutral ways—will require more than just rules that prohibit bad conduct. We’re also going to need real transparency.
Transparency is the crucial first step toward meaningful network neutrality. Without a detailed and substantive window into how providers are managing their networks, users will be unable to determine the reason why some webpages are slow to load. New services that hope to reach those users will have a harder time figuring out if there is some artificial barrier in place, and competitors won’t know whether and how they can offer better options (assuming some kind of competitive environment exists).
Fortunately, the FCC realizes how important transparency will be in ensuring a neutral Net. A key section of the network neutrality proposal released by the FCC last month asks for comments on how the agency should require Internet providers to disclose how they manage traffic over their networks. Here are some initial thoughts


2. OPEN HEARING  (so sue me?)
DR. DWYER ON THE DEP - RESPONSE TO A PUBLIC MEETING
WHY WASN'T THE MEETING OPEN TO THE PUBLIC? This is what I wrote yesterday to the press...Just heard from a credible source that Herschel Vinyard, head of the DEP, is in Naples having private talks with each of the Commissioners late into the night. The whole point of filing a petition was to have government transparency and full disclosure in a public forum rather than secret talks. The County lawyer told the Commissioners that once they filed their petition that there could be no more discussion. Private talks could very well undermine the hearings and unduly influence what the Commissioners finally settle on as an acceptable resolution. The sun for shame, will not shine today.
Please confirm. Is Herschel Vinyard in town talking to the Commissioners? And if so, where and when?
Article posted here: State DEP head meets with Collier Commission chair, promises transparency on Immokalee oil well
Herschel Vinyard, the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, traveled Monday night to Collier County, promising greater transparency and an open dialogue to address local concerns about issues at an oil well near Immokalee.
Vinyard met with Tom Henning, chairman of the Collier County Board of Commissioners, in a late meeting that was not open to the public.
“We want to find out how we can help folks in Collier County,” Vinyard said. “Our objective is to listen and develop partnerships. We want to be as transparent as humanely possible.”
The visit comes days after Henning and Collier commissioners rejected an invitation to meet with DEP officials in Tallahassee, and instead filed a legal challenge to the state’s consent order with the Dan A Hughes co., a Texas-based oil company that was caught using a drilling procedure without permission at a well south of Lake Trafford. The technique had never before been used in Florida and raised concern among state regulators about potential groundwater contamination and environmental damage.
In the days since the county filed its challenge late last week, the DEP has promised to provide additional tests for groundwater contamination at the oil well and, pending permission of the owners, on properties next to the site.
The state department had previously warned county officials that their challenge would delay essential groundwater testing until the legal process was resolved.
Vinyard said Monday that the tests will go forward as soon as possible.
“We’re not going to let any litigation hold us up from protecting the environment,” he said. http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2014/jun/17/state-dep-head-meets-collier-commission-chair-prom/

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Herschel Vinyard, the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, traveled Monday night to Collier County, promising greater transparency and an open dialogue to address local concerns about issues at an oil well near Immokalee.
Vinyard met with Tom Henning, chairman of the Collier County Board of Commissioners, in a late meeting that was not open to the public.
“We want to find out how we can help folks in Collier County,” Vinyard said. “Our objective is to listen and develop partnerships. We want to be as transparent as humanely possible.”
The visit comes days after Henning and Collier commissioners rejected an invitation to meet with DEP officials in Tallahassee, and instead filed a legal challenge to the state’s consent order with the Dan A Hughes co., a Texas-based oil company that was caught using a drilling procedure without permission at a well south of Lake Trafford. The technique had never before been used in Florida and raised concern among state regulators about potential groundwater contamination and environmental damage.
In the days since the county filed its challenge late last week, the DEP has promised to provide additional tests for groundwater contamination at the oil well and, pending permission of the owners, on properties next to the site.
The state department had previously warned county officials that their challenge would delay essential groundwater testing until the legal process was resolved.
Vinyard said Monday that the tests will go forward as soon as possible.
“We’re not going to let any litigation hold us up from protecting the environment,” he said.

3. IMMUNITY from War Crimes
The Department of Justice has filed a Grant of Immunity for war crimes against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld. The filing for the immunity of war crimes was made with the United States District Court, Northern District of California San Francisco Division.
The filing is for procedural immunity in a case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law.
The Plaintiff in this case is Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan. She filed a complaint in March 2013 in a San Francisco federal court alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals
In her lawsuit, Saleh alleges that:
  • Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began planning the Iraq War in 1998 through their involvement with the “Project for the New American Century,” a Washington DC non-profit that advocated for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
  • Once they came to power, Saleh alleges that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convinced other Bush officials to invade Iraq by using 9/11 as an excuse to mislead and scare the American public into supporting a war.
  • Finally, she claims that the United States failed to obtain United Nations approval prior to the invasion, rendering the invasion illegal and an act of impermissible aggression.
“The DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, ex-President Bush and key members of his Administration were acting within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit,” chief counsel Inder Comar of Comar Law said.
The “Westfall Act certification,” submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988, permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.
“The good news is that while we were disappointed with the certification, we were prepared for it,” Comar stated. “We do not see how a Westfall Act certification is appropriate given that Ms. Saleh alleges that the conduct at issue began prior to these defendants even entering into office. I think the Nuremberg prosecutors, particularly American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, would be surprised to learn that planning a war of aggression at a private non-profit, misleading a fearful public, and foregoing proper legal authorization somehow constitute lawful employment duties for the American president and his or her cabinet.”
The case is Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).

4. They caught their TITSA(s) in a Leak
Another secret trade deal has leaked to WikiLeaks and it looks as if it is one more effort to lock into law the interests of certain already-huge corporations above the interests of governments, their citizens and potentially competing businesses.
As with leaks from the secret Tran-Pacific Partnership negotiations, this leak shows that the largest corporations are working to bypass recent efforts by governments to rein them in by pushing through "trade" agreements that override their ability to write their own laws and regulations.
This time the leak is the "Financial Services Annex" of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). It shows that the TISA negotiations are an effort to not only undo the minimal regulation of Wall Street that occurred after the financial crash, but to further deregulate financial markets worldwide. As WikiLeaks words it...
"Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets."
TISA is a huge "trade" agreement that covers the services sector, which includes audiovisual; finance; insurance; energy services; transportation, logistics, and express delivery services; information technology services; and telecommunications. TISA currently has 50 countries participating in the negotiations: Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. (European Union includes: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.)
Jane Kelsey, Law Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, has provided a preliminary analysis of the draft. In Memorandum on Leaked TISA Financial Services Text, Kelsey writes that the secrecy "runs counter to moves in the WTO [World Trade Organization] towards greater openness," that the agreement appears to be "a new template for future free trade agreements and ultimately for the WTO" and that participating governments "will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis."
Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch put out this statement on the leak:
"If the text that was leaked today went into force, it would roll back the improvements made after the global financial crisis to safeguard consumers and financial stability and cement us into the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s that led to the crisis in the first place and the billions in losses to consumers and governments.
"This is a text that big banks and financial speculators may love but that could do real damage to the rest of us. It includes a provision that is literally called 'standstill' that would forbid countries from improving financial regulation and would lock them into whatever policies they had on the books in the past."
This is one more leak showing that the giant corporations and the billionaires behind them consider themselves powerful enough to just ignore governments, and are negotiating among themselves the rules for world corporate domination in the 21st century.

1a CCR stands against further military action in Iraq, 
in solidarity with our partners and allies in Iraq and the U.S.
Call the White House today, at (202) 456-1111, and tell the Obama administration to resist calls for military intervention and focus on diplomacy.
Yesterday CCR released the statement below and, along with our partners in the Right to Heal Initiative, sent a letter to the State Department.
The two catastrophic decades of U.S. military action in Iraq should put to rest any delusion that further U.S. military involvement of any kind can foster a lasting resolution to the current crisis. Any plan for security and reconciliation in Iraq must begin by bolstering the voices of the millions of Iraqi civilians who have been caught between brutal abuses by ISIS and other fundamentalist forces and the U.S.-backed government alike.
A strong civil society exists in Iraq despite enormous odds, and there is sustained opposition to the sectarian political system at the heart of this crisis and formally entrenched under the U.S. occupation. With the support of the U.S. government, Prime Minister Maliki further institutionalized violent discrimination and escalated sectarianism. Heeding calls for U.S. military action does not address the underlying political problem, but it could bring further disaster for civilians already reeling from the devastating effects of his policies and the decade-long U.S. military intervention and occupation.
The U.S. should be making reparations to rebuild the country and address the health and environmental crisis and decimation of Iraq’s infrastructure brought on by the previous administration’s illegal war. The U.S. government, which has been bombing Iraq since 1991, is in no small part responsible for what is happening today.  Further violence against the Iraqi people would be just as illegal and just as devastating, whether it involved airstrikes, the deployment of troops, or the expansion of an unlawful drone killing program.


U.S. military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways over the past decade, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to a yearlong Washington Post investigation. 

Documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes

3a. Study finds oil from BP spill impedes fish’s swimming. A new study has found that oil from the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico is impairing swimming in one of the ocean’s fastest fish: mahi-mahi. Miami Herald, Florida

The next breadbasket. Within a few minutes the one-acre plot in Mozambique, which had fed Flora Chirime and her five children, was consumed by a Chinese corporation building a 50,000-acre farm. Chirime’s situation is hardly unique. She’s one character in the biggest story in global agriculture: the unlikely quest to turn sub-Saharan Africa into a major new breadbasket for the world. National Geographic Magazine

7,500 gallons of oil spills in Colorado river. A storage tank damaged by floodwaters dumped 7,500 gallons of crude oil into the Poudre River near Windsor in northern Colorado, slickening vegetation a quarter-mile downstream, but apparently not affecting any drinking water, state officials said Friday. Associated Press

White House task force charged with saving bees from mysterious decline. Barack Obama is taking steps save honey bees from a mysterious die-off, ordering new research into the pesticides linked to the pollinators' collapse. The Guardian

Surprise: Drought may have helped Marin's young coho. A record number of Marin's young coho salmon are making their way out to sea and it may be the winter drought that helped boost the numbers, according to biologists. Marin Independent Journal, California

Runway plan may displace dolphins but they'll be back. The loss of marine habitat to a new airport runway will probably displace the population of Chinese white dolphins from north Lantau - but they will come back eventually, airport officials and their consultants say. South China Morning Post, China

Nicaragua’s Mayagna people and their rainforest could vanish. More than 30,000 members of the Mayagna indigenous community are in danger of disappearing, along with the rainforest which is their home in Nicaragua, if the state fails to take immediate action to curb the destruction of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the third-largest in the world. Tierramerica, Latin America

Economy trumps environment for India's rivers. Polluted rivers in India pose a major threat to agriculture and public health but there are few signs that costly efforts to tackle the problem are making headway. In New Delhi, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent since the 1990s to clean up the Yamuna river - but with little positive impact. Al Jazeera America

Curbing carbon could help improve air quality. The EPA's proposed CO2 regulations, designed to start a battle against the consequences of global warming, will produce a co-benefit, say researchers: Millions of people could breathe easier, especially those who live in the Ohio River Valley, where coal has long been king. Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky

Water war bubbling up between California and Arizona. The next water war between California and Arizona is coming soon. The issue still is the Colorado River. Overconsumption and climate change have placed the river in long-term decline. It's never provided the bounty that was expected – and the shortfall is growing. Los Angeles Times

Oklahoma fights EPA publicly, reduces emissions privately. While Oklahoma politicians denounce climate change mitigation efforts in public, the state has been quietly expanding its renewable energy portfolio and bringing down carbon emissions on its own initiative. MSNBC
Water Pressure: West Virginia, North Carolina vary in responses to river contamination. Another chemical spill. This phrase is becoming familiar for officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and residents living in the Kanawha Valley. But how does the state's response differ from that of North Carolina? Charleston WOWK TV, West Virginia
Japanese satellites enter orbit to monitor Fukushima, Chernobyl. A pair of small Japanese satellites for monitoring environmental changes around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and capturing images of areas around the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine were placed in orbit shortly after they were launched Thursday night from a Russian base. Kyodo News, Japan
Shell faces payouts in Nigerian oil spill case. The first judgment in what lawyers have said could be one of the world's largest ever environmental trials has ruled that Shell may have to compensate some communities for oil spills from their pipelines caused by criminals in the heavily polluted Niger delta. The Guardian
Gabes: Industrial pollution choking the region. In addition to a great variety of natural landscapes and an abundance of marine life, the city of Gabes also contains the largest industrial zone in the country. However, these factories add little to the local economy, and, in the process, cause great damage to the environment. Tunisia Live, Africa

4.  COW VICTORY
TOKYO (AP) — Two Japanese farmers whose livelihoods were wrecked by the 2011 nuclear disaster staged a protest Friday at Tokyo's agriculture ministry, scuffling briefly with police as they unsuccessfully tried to unload a bull from a truck.
Masami Yoshizawa and fellow farmer Naoto Matsumura have remained at their farms to care for their own and others' abandoned livestock in areas where access has been restricted due to radiation fears since the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
The two drove down from Fukushima, bringing the black bull in the back of a truck, to appeal for help with the livestock, some of which have developed unexplained white spots on their hides.
"Stop, stop, stop, stop," shouted a policeman in a blue uniform who climbed into the back of the truck and blocked the farmers from leading the bull onto the pavement in front of the ministry. "It's dangerous. Absolutely not!"

5. Silent Coup: How Enbridge is Quietly Cloning the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline   - -     Steve Horn DeSmog Blog
While the debate over the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has raged on for over half a decade, pipeline giant Enbridge has quietly cloned its own Keystone XL in the U.S and Canada. 
It comes in the form of the combination of Enbridge's Alberta Clipper (Line 67), Flanagan South and Seaway Twin pipelines.
The pipeline system does what Keystone XL and the Keystone Pipeline System at large is designed to do: ship hundreds of thousands of barrels per day of Alberta's tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) to both Gulf Coast refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, and the global export market.
Alberta Clipper and Line 67 expansion
Alberta Clipper was approved by President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department (legally required because it is a border-crossing pipeline like Keystone XL) in August 2009 during congressional recess. Clipper runs from Alberta to Superior, Wis.


By: Anti-Capitalist Meetup Sunday June 22, 2014 5:20 pm


Major General Smedley D. Butler warned us “War Is a Racket”
By Justina, Anti-Capitalist Meetup

In 1935, US General Smedley Butler detailed in his “War is a Racket” the World War I racket he had served. It is now much, much worse.
Vice-President Richard Cheney and his fellow Neo-Cons originally lit the barn fires with their factually unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bush-Cheney then torched the secular, but Sunni sect based, ruling Baathist Party and applauded the decapitation of its brutal, but anti-al Qaeda leader, Saddam Hussein. (Saddam himself had originally been put in place by the US CIA in a coup, but thereafter fell out of favor with the US government because he dared to assert exclusive control of Iraq’s oil industry.)
Up to his ouster, Saddam had successfully kept the radical jihadists out of Iraq, which even the US intelligence agencies have admitted:
There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”

Now jihadis even more extreme than Al Qaeda, the ISIS, are an hour outside of Baghdad, threatening the capitol city and its Shia sect residents. Its Sunni sect population, a minority in Baghdad, is seemingly terrified of the reaction of the Shiite majority as well as the blatantly brutal, although Sunni ISIS. Likely everyone there is arming. (The NRA must be delighted.)
Upon dissolving Saddam’s army, the US then paid its private defense industry contractors billions to build a new Iraqi army in addition to building all the infra-structures for the US’s own army in Iraq, along with providing both all their attendant services. (Chaney’s Halliburton company did very, very well.)
But we went into Iraq to stop its “weapons of mass destruction” build-up (of which they had none) and end its supposed connection to Al Qaeda (which didn’t exist), right?
The oil and military industries, having lost their main justification for charging US tax payers for armaments and related oil profits with the dissolution of the USSR , then turned for solace to the independently bellicose neoconservatives within the Bush-Cheney administration, s to sever its connection with al Qaeda terrorists (which did not exist) cheer-leading for their disastrous (for human beings) invasion of Iraq. After all, Iraq had the oil that their industries coveted.
(Did Cheney and the other oil and armaments profiteers have the malevolent foresight to see that the invasion of Iraq could set the stage for continuing war among the mid-east’s religious and political sectarians for their further enrichment in the endless future? Or was that merely a lucky coincidence?)
Idle Hands Holding Guns and Bombs.
The disbanded Sunni military members left their jobs taking their arms, ammunition and bomb-building skills with them. A portion of these now unemployed Sunnis, put their skills to work blowing up Iraqi civilians in market places in Shiite neighborhoods as well as US soldiers in their multiple new and expensively constructed bases for the next few years.
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Notes on the New Populism
By: David Seaton Sunday June 22, 2014 4:00 pm

 
Classic left wing parties are missing the boat today, almost to the point of irrelevance, because the traditional “working class”, which was their power base, has been largely fragmented and is now practically powerless as the enormous “reserve army of labor” that globalization provides means that the worker´s principal weapon, withdrawing their labor, is no longer effective, increasingly even in skilled or jobs requiring higher education: if an American legal assistant is expensive, get an Indian lawyer in India to do the paperwork at a tenth the price per hour. But this has a certain “death spiral” effect.
The “killer contradiction” today is that while workers are no long needed more and more consumers are. Globalization has also brought on overproduction, a glut of consumer goods flood the markets.
How are unemployed or underemployed formerly middle class people, brought up on the idea of their right, even duty to consume, consume? Credit? Been there, done that.
So the real “revolutionary protagonist” today is the enormous, but increasingly declassé and naturally resentful middle class that was created before globalization. Some sort of populism, “us against the one-percent” is the only possible progressive game in town now. 
The challenge is to keep this populism international, progressive and not nationalistic-racist, reactionary etc. 
That is why Thomas Piketty work, “Capital in the Twentyfirst-Century” is a great help, especially among statistic loving Americans, in building objective political consciousness in the middle class for this struggle, which is really just beginning.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes
By: Juan Cole Sunday June 22, 2014 1:59 pm
Welcome Anand Gopal (AnandGopal.com) (Twitter) and Host Juan Cole (Informed Comment blog -  JuanCole.com) (Twitter)
No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
Anand Gopal’s No Good Men Among the Living is a deconstruction of the American “War on Terror” as it pertained to Afghanistan. It is an argument that the US military allowed itself to fall into chasing phantoms, put up to search and destroy missions by tribal allies mainly interested in using the Americans to settle feuds and deflect rivals. They got drawn into what anthropologists call the segmentary lineage political system of rural Afghanistan.

In short, as Gopal tells the story, there was no Taliban activity in Afghanistan to speak of by 2002, but the US military machine required an enemy, and its clients among the men on the make in Karzai’s Afghanistan were glad to supply alleged Taliban (sometimes even tagging as such men who had spent a decade fighting the puritanical seminarians). In the course of these betrayals and injustices, the US managed actually to create a growing Taliban resistance to its presence in the country. The book is a 21st century Catch-22, and as with the original, is leavened by episodes of dark humor and profound irony.
Gopal’s vehicle for this canny take-down of America’s master narrative during the past decade is the stories of Afghans who lived through America’s longest war, in Pashtun provinces such as Uruzgan, Helmand and Wardak. We have heard more about Kabul and some of the Dari Persian-speaking areas (which are safer) than we have about these towns and villages.

He is alive to the fluidity of politics and even religion in village Afghanistan. One of his characters, Musqinyar, begins as a Communist and ends up turning to religion, but is assassinated by a pro-American police chief for protesting corruption. His widow seeks refuge with American troops, but knows they won’t accept that their own ally is lawless so she tells them the Taliban killed her husband. At that time in that place, there probably were no Taliban, but the US troops were sent in to arrest the men of entire villages on bad intelligence from self-interested supposed allies. Some chieftains were summarily shipped off to Guantanamo where JAG staff were puzzled as to why they had been arrested in the first place. Sometimes people were picked up by US troops for having a name similar to a prominent member of the Taliban and some of those ended up in Guantanamo. Afghans often have no formal papers like birth certificates and go by a single name, multiplying the possibility of such errors. The unfolding story is a comedy of tragedies.
One of Gopal’s major characters, Akbar Gul, begins as a member of the Taliban, then leaves the movement after 2001 and becomes a guest worker in Pakistan and Iran, then returns when President Hamid Karzai offered amnesty. He builds a new life as a cell phone repairman in his town in Wardak, but police shakedowns and corruption cause him to help begin a new insurgency in 2008. He discovers that he is ultimately actually acting for the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, which used the neo-Taliban to gain a foothold in Afghanistan just as they had used the “old Taliban” of Mullah Omar.

Gopal conducted lengthy interviews with his subjects over the years, getting them to tell him the details of their lives. Most of them end up politically compromised or dead. It is a riveting set of stories, but dark.

The corruption of the new order erected by the Americans affects the lives of all Gopal’s interviewees. Even the more appealing characters often are drawn into it. The US pumped billions into the fourth-poorest country on earth. Most of it went to military and security operations, but it often was captured by rural security entrepreneurs promising intelligence on “Taliban” or pledging to keep provinces safe, or undertaking phony infrastructure and development projects. Gopal speaks of ghost schools dotting the rural landscape, reported by the government and US spokesmen as populated by millions of students who were actually probably tilling fields, or if girls, secluded until married off early.
The US mistakes included the old one from Vietnam days of search and destroy missions that turned the population against US troops. The American authorities also acted unfairly, stigmatizing members of the Taliban who had committed atrocities but exonerating the old Mujahidin warlords. (Mass murderers sat in parliament or ran for high office, if their worst deeds occurred before 1996). In fact, many “Taliban” had been Mujahidin. Lacking good language and cultural knowledge, the US military often could not make the fine distinctions necessary to enact a less invidious set of policies.
The US-backing for corrupt local leaders who were little more than bosses of organized crime (crime in which the police were often implicated) made Americans increasingly unpopular. Entire provinces, like Wardak, went into rebellion and rejected being constantly mulcted. American allies treated the odd US insistence on holding frequent elections with contempt and resorted to ballot stuffing. As Obama began winding down the war, the insurgency was stronger than ever. But perhaps it was not, on Gopal’s telling, an ideological insurgency but a form of popular protest or a rejection of the dominance of one lineage over another.
NATO officials explained the relative calm in the provinces of the north by the lack of US troops and the inability of feuding clans to deploy them against one another. If this explanation is true, it could well be that the US departure in late 2016 will not kick off a revolution so much as finally allow things to settle down among jockeying clans who will no longer have high-tech Gurkhas at their beck and call.



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