Boots on the Ground

Show Details for the week of November 16th, 2015

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On The Monitor this week we take an extended look at the background of the terror attacks in Paris. What are the historical connections are future implications? Our first interview is withJ. Michael Springman and our second is with Christian Parenti.

More about this week’s guests:

J. Michael Springmann was a career official with both the Commerce and State departments. He was economic/commercial officer in Stuttgart (1977–1980), a commercial attaché in New Delhi (1980–1982), a visa officer in Jeddah (1987–1989), a political/economic officer in Stuttgart (1989–1991), and, finally, an economic analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1991). He recently published the book Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World.

Quote: “During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”

From the book description:

“Thousands of American soldiers and civil servants have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Innocent citizens of many nations, including Americans killed on 9/11, have also paid the ultimate price. While the US government claims to stand against terror, this same government refuses to acknowledge its role in creating what has become a deadly international quagmire. Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World sets the record straight by laying the blame on high-ranking US government officials.

During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.

christianparenti_small2 Christian Parenti is author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University

Quote: “The growing crisis of war and state breakdown in the Middle East is partially driven by climate change. We have to deal with climate change — that is, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or face escalating chaos. Parenti is professor in the global liberal studies program at New York University. He has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East and studies the history of political violence. He said U.S. policies “have repeatedly created failed states” in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. “Trying to overthrow [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad is a very bad idea. Assad is admittedly a dictator who inherited a state from his father but he is doing more than anyone to fight ISIS. Seeking his violent overthrow, as has been U.S. policy, is to court further disaster and a wider swath of misery.”

    In an interview published earlier this year, “Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State,” Parenti stated: “Syria is a prime example. There has been a terrible drought there, which coincided with austerity measures imposed by the Assad government cutting aid to Sunni farmers. Many of them were forced to leave the land, partly due to drought, partly due to the lack of support to properly deal with the drought. Then, they arrive in cities, and there’s more austerity taking place. This is experienced as oppression by the Alawite elite against an increasingly impoverished Sunni proletariat who’ve been thrown off their land.

“This situation then explodes as religious conflict, which is really the fusion of environmental crises with neoliberal economic policies. Of course, the violent spark to all of this is the fact that the entire region is flooded with weapons. Some of these weapons are from the Cold War, and some of those guns are from recent U.S. militarism in the region. There were a lot of vets of the anti-U.S. struggle in Iraq who are Syrian — Mujahideen veterans who went to Iraq and came back to Syria and started to fight. There were Syrians who were selling guns to Iraqi underground groups. These groups were buying their guns back, and re-importing them to Syria.”

Show Details for the week of June 29th, 2015

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Former Soldier and current Peace Activist Ellen Barfield on her transformation and the activism of Resisting Drones
  • Writer, Academic, Activist, and Commentator Yasmin Nair on The Supreme Court same-sex ruling and “The Secret History of Gay Marriage”

More about this week’s guests:

Ellen Barfield grew up in Texas. Like so many, she joined the Army to get the money to
finish college. While in the army she was stationed in Germany and Korea. She served in the U.S. Army from 1977-1981. She has been a full-time peace and justice activist for nearly thirty years. In addition to being on the board of the War Resisters League, Ellen is the coordinator of the Veterans for Peace Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, and works on national committees of VFP, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and School of the Americas Watch.

Since 2010 Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010 Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations. Read more about anti-drone actions www.upstatedroneaction.org

Ellen Barfield was  among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock’s main gate on East Molloy Rd on April 28, 2013 for “dieing-in” with bloody shrouds or for attempting to read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to “prick the conscience” of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.

On June 27th, after deliberating a couple hours, a six-person jury found four of those arrested, including Ellen, not guilty of obstructing government administration (OGA) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, New York, but guilty of trespass, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day imprisonment.

Yasmin Nair is a co-founder and member of the editorial collective  Against Equality; she contributed essays on gay marriage, hate crime legislation, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to their book, Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. She is also a member of the Chicago grassroots organisation Gender JUST (Justice United for Societal Transformation) and serves as its Policy Director (a volunteer position).  Nair was, from 1999-2003, a member of the now-defunct Queer to the Left.  Her activist work includes gentrification, immigration, public education, and youth at risk. Her recent article is called The Secret History of Gay Marriage

Yasmin Nair‘s writing and organizing focuses on neoliberalism and inequality, queer politics and theory, the politics of rescue and affect, sex trafficking, the art world, and the immigration crisis.  You can read her work in various anthologies and journals, including Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It, Windy City Queer: Dispatches from the Third Coast, Arab Studies Quarterly and Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.

Show Details for the week of June 1st, 2015

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On The Monitor this week”

  • The Rise of the Islamic State – an interview with Loretta Napoleoni
  • The Voice Of Convicted CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling – an interview with Judith Ehrlich

More about this week’s guests:

About Loretta_ColorLoretta Napoleoni is the bestselling author of Maonomics, Rogue EconomicsTerror Incorporated and Insurgent Iraq. She is an expert on terrorist financing and money laundering, and advises several governments and international organizations on counter-terrorism and money laundering. As Chairman of the countering terrorism financing group for the Club de Madrid, Napoleoni brought heads of state from around the world together to create a new strategy for combating the financing of terror networks.

Napoleoni is a regular media commentator for CNN, Sky and the BBC. She is among the few economists who predicted the credit crunch and the recession, and advises several banks on strategies to counter the current ongoing crisis. She lectures regularly around the world on economics, terrorism and money laundering.

Napoleoni ’s books include Modern Jihad (Pluto Press, London, 2003); Terror Inc. (Penguin, London, 2004); Insurgent Iraq (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2005); Terror Incorporated (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2005); Rogue Economics (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2008); Terror and the Economy (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2010) and Maonomics: Why Chinese Communists Are Better Capitalists Than We Are (Seven Stories Press 2011) . Her latest book is the best seller Islamist Phoenix (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2014). “The IS doesn’t want to destroy. They want to build the 21st century version of the Calliphate and that is what makes them so dangerous”. Her books are translated into 18 languages including Chinese and Arabic. She lives in London and in the US with her husband and their four children.

From Loretta’s book The Islamist Phoenix

“For the first time since World War One, an armed organization is redesigning the map of the Middle East drawn by the French and the British. Waging a war of conquest, the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al Sham), or ISIS, is erasing the borders that the Sykes-Picot Accord established in 1916. The region where the black and golden flag of IS flies already stretches from the Mediterranean shores of Syria well into the heart of Iraq, the Sunni tribal area. It is bigger than the United Kingdom or Texas and, since the end of June 2014, is known as the Islamic Caliphate. “Caliphate” is the name given to an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad – the most famous being the Ottoman Caliphate (or Empire), which began in 1453 and lasted until the dissolution of the Caliphate and expulsion of the last caliph, Abdulmecid, at the hands of Kemal Ataturk in 1924.

Many believe that the Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, wants to turn back the clock, and indeed in Western media Syrian and Iraqi refugees describe its rule in their countries as a sort of carbon copy of the Taliban regime. Posters forbid smoking and the use of cameras. Women are not allowed to travel without a male relative, must be covered up, and cannot wear trousers in public. The Islamic State seems also engaged in a sort of religious cleansing through proselytism: people must either join its creed, radical Salafism; flee; or face execution.

Paradoxically, to deem the IS essentially backward would be mistaken. Indeed, during the last few years the belief that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader and the new Caliph, is a clone of Mullah Omar may well have led Western intelligence to undervalue him and his organization’s strength. While the world of the Taliban was limited to Koranic schools and knowledge based upon the writings of the Prophet, globalization and modern technology have been the cradle of the Islamic State.

What distinguishes the Islamic State from all other armed groups that predate it, including those active during the Cold War, and what accounts for its enormous successes, is its modernity and pragmatism. So far its leadership has understood the limitations that contemporary powers face in a globalized and multipolar world – for example, the inability to reach an agreement for foreign intervention in Syria, as happened in Libya and Iraq. Against this backdrop the Islamic State’s leadership has successfully exploited the Syrian conflict, the most recent version of the traditional war by proxy, to its own advantage almost unobserved, drawing funds from a variety of people: Kuwaitis, Qataris, Saudis, who, seeking a regime change in Syria, have been willing to bankroll several armed groups. However, instead of fighting the sponsors’ war by proxy, the Islamic State has used their money to establish its own territorial strongholds in financially strategic regions, for example in the rich oilfields of Eastern Syria. No previous Middle Eastern armed organization has been able to promote itself as the region’s new ruler with the money of its rich Gulf sponsors.

Judith Ehrlich is a producer and director, known for The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009), The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It (2000) and Untitled Film on World Citizen # 1 Garry Davis (2015).She is the director of the just-released short documentary “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.” She just wrote the short piece “On Jeffrey Sterling: From the Filmmaker of ‘The Invisible Man’,” which notes: “Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in large part on the basis of metadata — not the content of his communication.”

This is a story with shocking elements. While most of us don’t quite understand what metadata is exactly, this case reminds us it’s time to get a grip on that. In fact Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in large part on the basis of metadata — not the content of his communication. That is, they don’t have to know what he said, just that he talked to or emailed  the New York Times reporter who leaked news of Operation Merlin to which Jeffrey was assigned while a CIA case officer. And that metadata, the where, when and whom is not protected as the conversation might be.

The most shocking element of this story is that  Jeffrey Sterling seems to be punished because he “pulled on Superman’s cape” first with a racial discrimination suit they were able to squash and then by reporting what he considered a dangerous CIA operation to the proper government channels for hearing such a concern.

I wanted to make a film that captured this couple’s deep commitment and belief in one another in the face of a decade of Kafkaesque uncertainty at the hands of the CIA. Ellsberg followed the same initial trajectory as Sterling, going to Congress with his concerns about the Vietnam War and being ignored by the oversight committees. CIA veteran Ray McGovern calls them “overlook committees.”

I was thrilled to collaborate with Norman Solomon and Expose Facts to reach an audience with this story that exposes deep problems in our justice system.

Show Details for the week of May 25th, 2015

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On this week’s show we talk with Gareth Porter and Adam Johnson.

Our interview with Gareth will focus on his two most recent articles: The Misfire In Hersh’s Big Bin Laden Story and How The US Treasury Department Promotes Israel’s Propaganda Lines

Our interview with Adam Johnson will focus on his recent article “White House Reveals ‘Boots on Ground’ in Syria, but Media Too Giddy Over Special Ops Porn to Notice,” which states: “The White House announced on Saturday that a team of Delta Force soldiers had gone into sovereign Syrian territory to kill an alleged ISIS  ‘commander’ and a few dozen other faceless bad guys.

At the start of the show we will be reading parts of Ray McGovern’s article titled How to Honor Memorial Day

More about this week’s guests:

Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy.  His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February 2014. Gareth has also published investigative articles on Salon.com, the Nation, the American Prospect, Truthout and The Raw Story. His blogs have been published on Huffington Post, Firedoglake, Counterpunch and many other websites. Porter was Saigon bureau chief of Dispatch News Service International in 1971 and later reported on trips to Southeast Asia for The Guardian, Asian Wall Street Journal and Pacific News Service. He is also the author of four books on the Vietnam War and the political system of Vietnam. Historian Andrew Bacevich called his latest book, ‘Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War’, published by University of California Press in 2005, “without a doubt, the most important contribution to the history of U.S. national security policy to appear in the past decade.” He has taught Southeast Asian politics and international studies at American University, City College of New York and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Adam Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) just wrote the piece “White House Reveals ‘Boots on Ground’ in Syria, but Media Too Giddy Over Special Ops Porn to Notice,” which states: “The White House announced on Saturday that a team of Delta Force soldiers had gone into sovereign Syrian territory to kill an alleged ISIS  ‘commander’ and a few dozen other faceless bad guys.
“Per usual, the media would retell the narrative based entirely on Pentagon and White House action movie prose. Just as with the bin Laden raid narrative — that later turned out to be mostly false — this tale involved some unbelievably compelling details: ‘rescuing a Yazidi slave,’ ‘hand-to-hand combat,’ ‘women and children as human shields,’ ‘precise fire’ (that, of course, avoided these women and children), and a body count, ’40 extremists,’ that would make Jack Bauer blush.”To the New York Times‘ credit, it did issue one of the most passive-aggressive ‘we could not independently verify these claims’ disclaimers in journalistic history:

“A Defense Department official said Islamic State fighters who defended their building and Abu Sayyaf tried to use women and children as shields, but that the Delta Force commandos ‘used very precise fire’ and ‘separated the women and children.’ The official said the operation involved close ‘hand-to-hand fighting.’ (The accounts of the raid came from military and government officials and could not be immediately verified through independent sources.)

“No, of course they couldn’t!