Sunday, February 6, 2011

The international war complex versus the shining principles of democracy, part 3

"Maybe America gains a lot when it exports to us arms and cars or planes, but it loses more when it does not export the best that its civilisation has produced, which is freedom and democracy and human rights. The value of America is that it should defend this product, not only in its country but throughout the world! It may harm some of its interests, but it will make gains that will live hundreds of years, for the friendship of peoples live forever, because the peoples do not die, but governments change like the winter weather." - Mostafa Amin, Egyptian journalist

Wikileaks strikes again. This is the work of Julian Assange, and perhaps Bradley Manning, tortured by the American army whose top leadership is but an empty machine, without, at this point, any contact with heart or soul; see the brilliant, sad letter of protest of Dennis Kucinich to Robert Gates here. The Guardian below depicts the vast flow of American arms to the key torturers and oppressors who work for Mubarak – Suleiman (see part 1 here) and General Enan. The column quotes Mostafa Amin, an Egyptian journalist, who contrasts Obama’s speeches extolling democracy in Cairo – Barack said he heard the voices of poor people exercising their rights in the streets – and the machinery of the military-industrial-Congressional-political-think tank/academic (in this case, all “Orientalists” that is, many people employed by academic departments to study the Middle East) complex. Bernard Lewis is the most perverse, neo-con example among academics (a direct advisor to Bush and Cheney, someone whose advocacy and "scholarship" contributes to the horrors visited on Egyptians by Mubarak and the United States, on Palestianians, by Israel and the United States). Edward Said was a great exception as well as anyone who has learned from him – his Orientalism has transformed much in “cultural studies” and “postcolonialism” and is one of the most important books published in academia in the past 35 years.

As Pratap Chatterjee's "Egypt's Military-Industrial Complex: with US-made tear gas canisters fired on protesters in Cairo, Washington's role in arming Egypt is under the spotlight," February 4, 2011 in the Guardian underlines, what I have called the war complex is also international. I have described this – for instance, that every helicopter murdering 300 Palestinian children in Operation Cast Lead was an Apache, built in the United States (Hamas rockets murdered one 7 year old Israeli child), and that the words of fanatic rabbis about an alleged theological “justification” for murdering "heathen" children are linked to American-made murder and the profits of military/former military people in the war industry. But I had not named the international client extension as a component of this war complex. Still, Mubarak’s, General Enan's and the torturer Suleiman's fortune (the “respectable” Suleiman of the New York Times is actually an avatar/caricature of a James Bond-style villain – actually, I’m not sure that any of Fleming’s bad guys in the movies really equal Suleiman – see here) and the other senior military officials keeps them all working to harm the protestors – and every tear gas shell is made by Combined Systems Inc. and other weapons by Boeing, Lockheed Martin (the latter has a secret operation off Deer Creek Canyon which I sometimes drive up to my house), and so forth. Abrams tanks from General Dynamics, Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky Aircraft: everybody in Egypt knows that every weapon was sent from the United States. As Charterjee reports:

"Egypt has received over $70bn in economic and military aid approved by the US Congress in the past 60 years, according to numbers compiled by the Congressional Research Service. Maj Gen Williams is the man in charge of the $1.3bn in annual US military aid supplied to the country."

"Specifically, the aid money pays for US-designed Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo under contract with General Dynamics. Boeing sells Egypt CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, Lockheed Martin sells F-16s, Sikorsky Aircraft sells Black Hawk helicopters. Lockheed Martin has taken in $3.8bn from Egypt in the last few years; General Dynamics $2.5bn; Boeing $1.7bn; among many others."

"In addition, hundreds of Egyptian military officers come for short training courses to the US each year. Two days after Livingston and Miner met with the US officials in Cairo, the embassy sent a cable to Washington with a list of Egyptian officials approved to take a three-week military training course in the US in February 2010. Under the 'Leahy law' – a human rights requirement named after Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont that prohibits US military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights – the embassy must, as a matter of routine, vouch for the prospective trainees."

Sadly, Leahy's human rights law becomes a shadow in the corrupt stamp of approval issued by the State Department. In the third article below, Marian Wang tries to get an explanation out of a State Department spokesperson for selling tear gas canisters to Mubarak's police. In a language only Kafka can take the measure of, the cipher replies:

"The US government licensed the sale of certain crowd dispersal articles to the government of Egypt. That license was granted after a thorough vetting process and after a multi-agency review of the articles that were requested."

Chaterjee continues:

"One of the training courses listed in the cable made public by WikiLeaks was listed as one in how to handle explosives. The WikiLeaks cables show that numerous officials working for 'state security,' aged between 30 and 50 with ranks from major to lieutenant colonel, were given clean bills of health to take a variety of such specialised military training programmes."

Suleiman's thugs - and I am speaking to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton whose chosen "transition leader" he is - may viciously pretend that Egyptian reporters, incuding women, are “foreigners”: Americans, Israelis, or Iranians (Paul Oman of the University of California at Santa Barbara spoke forcefully on DemocracyNow Saturday of how Suleiman's foreign-baiting, anti-radical -blaming Egyptians standing up on supposed "outside agitators"- fury, resembling Glenn Beck, inspired massive contempt among ordinary Egyptians.

Now American clients also have wills of their own. Al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister of Iraq, will not oppose or attack Iran, no matter how many times General David Petraeus breathes on him. Nonetheless, the international element is still a large component of the war complex, even though sometimes doing its own thing, sometimes collapsing as today in Egypt, sometimes tossed off or murdered (Diem in Vietnam) by the American “master.” For instance, the Israeli military elite (as well as corporate politicians - the Israeli mini-war complex) is also an important component of the American war complex, even though Netanyahu and his fascist - Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann - coalition are self-destructive. Obama has been trying to encourage them to find a way out (though the four powers Saturday, led by Obama in one of his worst moments, corruptly did not condemn the settlements). But Netanyahu and his flacks in American politics stigmatize Obama. Israel, like the Egyptian dictatorship, is an offshoot of the American war complex, not the reverse. However nasty on occasion toward its master, the tail does not wag the dog.

As my student Becky Neely brilliantly suggested in a seminar Friday, there were arguably a higher percentage of protestors in the American population against the Iraq war before the war started than the outburst for democracy is as a percentage of the Egyptian population now (I doubt that one can, without a lot of research, offer such a calculation/estimation for two very large movements, but I would just say that the American revolts were deep and, broadly speaking, comparable to this massive democratic rebellion, except that the Egyptians are far more courageous, in such desparation and anger about the regime that they would pay – and have paid - an enormous price in blood. If you are nonwhite and in a satellite of the war complex, the government – the loudly self-proclaimed “Egyptian” government - shoots you down and tortures you as a “foreigner,” as if you were – in the American 1960s South – black (or an ally of blacks)…

And if you are Anderson Cooper of CNN, your bright blue eyes will not save you from beatings and reporting from a darkened apartment, with a weak signal, in fear...See the stunning, commendable Sunday New York Times' Week in Review piece by Souad Mekhenet and Nicholas Kulish, two reporters who were taken for Mukhabarat interrogation and heard the torture of Egyptians and some of their colleagues here.

Now, the American population is, in a recent poll, 63% opposed to the war in Afghanistan, and wants the troops out now, despite Obama. If one wants to see the powerful influence of the international war complex on a rare smart and decent politician/President, this is a striking example. The Guardian article traces the nexus of payments – thanks to Wikileaks – that makes American politics work, that the New York Times and the AP tiptoe around. As students learn in high school civic courses, democracy works best when citizens are informed. The bipartisan Congressional agreement about secrecy in foreign policy (overwhelmingly, about corrupt arms deals) as well as the self-censorship of the Times, keeps Americans ignorant about the war complex's criminality.

Read Dreams from my Father – and anyone can see that Obama is a decent human being, a man who has grown into taking a large leading role in American society in a way that no other mainstream political figure has. He is as genuine as Palin is a caricature (the sexy sportscaster or Fox news anchor, who just wants to cut off the head of that Russia rearing up over Alaska, back Israel so it can explode the world in Armageddon and she can float overhead, a good Christian, at age 35 – back to the future – watching those jews and urban Americans swimming in hellfire).

But a President Obama had to support the war complex, had to preside over weapons sales. Thus, Obama announces $60 billion in contracts for American companies with Saudi Arabia. After the recent coalition of Republicans-Blue Dog Democrats against Keynsianism and any decent government spending of money - a renewed stimulus - to generate jobs and a real recovery, as well as the Democrats' loss in 2010, Obama sought to revive himself by going to India, hawking weapons, and announcing, through military sales: "20,000 new war jobs for American workers!" According to Chalmers Johnson in Blowback, 6,500 foreign service people, working in American embassies all over the world, sell weapons to every government but the Palestinians. During the last 5 years of the Clinton administation, US tax payers forked over $20 billion in secret subsidies to foreign government to sweeten $100 billion in arms purchases (these governments got a deal, only paid $80 billion). Americans might be angry to know about this bipartisan stealing of funds for criminality. But the bipartisan deficit commission is as mum as the Tea-baggers and the Democrats about this secret.

Under Obama, the US spent $704 billion officially on the Pentagon last year. It spent $60 billion on the “strengthened” State Department headed by a world-famous and popular leader, Hillary Clinton. Diplomacy and professional diplomats, under Secretary of State Clinton, are being replaced by inexperienced, private company/Blackwater ops at the behest of the lordly Petraeus. They officially receive but 1/12 of the military budget (of course, even Petraeus is really shaky as a "military" leader: he presides over a for profit and relentlessly expanding, relentlessly losing, relentlessly making enemies for ordinary Americans “army”). Throw in the money for arm sales involved in "diplomacy" (6,500 is a large number of employees) and the replacement of career foreign service people by Blackwater and other private ops, and the figure probably declines to 1/20.

Thus, if we were to take the Pentagon and State Department budgets together, the US spends perhaps 5% on actual diplomacy compared to 95% on the Pentagon under the peace candidate - the anti-"dumb Iraq War candidate" Obama. Obama is the one who emphasizes negotation and wishes to scale down uniteralism and the cowardly Bush screaming into the wind: "Obey me or I will kill you." Since Obama is the genuine item in this regard - it was why he and not Hillary was elected to answer the phone at '3 AM": he does not wake up shooting...), the fact that 5 tax dollars in every $100 that are spent on the State and the Pentagon combined are spent on diplomacy, $95 on weapons, the international network of 1,180 bases abroad and the like is pretty sad. At the Super Bowl, the troops at a camp in Afghanistan flashed on at the beginning, 4 jet planes fly over the stadium as a woman belts out the National Anthem. Flashing to soldiers after half time, the announcers note that American troops are watching in 175 countries on AFN (Armed Forces Network]...**

America is not just mainly militarist; as Martin Luther King once said, militarism is America, "the most violent government in the world," and has diminished the promise of Obama.

For Obama incarnated the bipartisan elite restoration of diplomacy as in the Cairo speech, and knows of principle – he spoke, I think with conviction, about hearing the protestors, differing from Mubarak. But the money – the principal – involved in the war complex made his words, as Chomsky rightly said, vague. Suleiman, Obama's man in Cairo, is after the "foreigners." It is important to see, in detail, the dark side of the international war complex. On day 13 in Egypt and worldwide, the hope for democracy is in the streets.

Democracy Now Saturday here about 90 minutes in, replayed the beautiful and courageous statement by Asmaa Mahfouz on Facebook on January 18 urging people to demonstrate on National Police Day - January 25 - against police murder and tyranny. See also here. Egyptian men including some on the left have long looked down on women (The Arab students at my school do the opposite; electing women as half the officers). Mahfouz said: do not give up hope! Join me in Tahrir (Liberation) Square. If you have given up hope, you ally with the regime. You claim to protect women. I am brave. We are out there. We have hope. Act with honor. Be men!"

Professor Oman also mentioned the role of women workers from small rural factories (started by Russian and other foreign investment) in these protests. Women, and women workers, took the lead. The Democracynow coverage was striking and unique on this point.

Democracy is in the streets, internationally. Palestinians demonstrated at the Egyptian embassy, harassed by the treacherous Palestinian "Authority." Young people were arrested by the police and interrogated for hours. But the protests continue. See here. Parisians protested, harassed by the French government.

The sunrise of democracy continues and the revolt from below, though not coordinated, is more international – involves the people, projects the shining principles of democracy and equal basic rights, and hope, against war and global warming, for the human future. Haider sent me a second letter below (see also here), which underlines this point. It is from his time in Greece in December where he joined a workers demonstration of protest against the corrupt government of the rich and the American banks (last week Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs took a tripling of his salary and several million extra dollars in stock options, though the reporting of the latter is probably a small fraction of his actual wealth in that form; the bankers whom American tax payers rescued are living high amidst surging misery and unemployment) and was tear gassed.

What happened to Haider, the protests of the Greek workers and the Egyptian democratic rebellion are all connected. For the war complex is also the speculative casino. If “Wall Street” is especially desparate to have its hands on social security (what else is the “Republican” Party – its only conviction greater than tax cuts for the rich – and much of the Wall Street Democrats?), don’t think weapons sales or the capitalization of Boeing, Sikorski, General Dynamics are irrelevant. Lenin used to call this (then in a weaker form) finance capital, which dominates modern imperialism. China, a rising capitalist power which, since it once was Communist, has important state control in the economy, allows no investment by banks in speculation (American banks during the economic crisis of 2008 could keep less than 5% of their deposits on hand and speculate with 95%). China looks like a serious, pre-Imperial, rising capitalist power. But as I am just describing it, America looks like what Lenin foresaw on steroids...

On Saturday December 18th in Barcelona, I was walking near Corte Ingles – the block-size store, decorated for Christmas, near the Rambla, and a demonstration of 6,000 workers surged by. I, too, joined. There were a lot of police. But this was a comparatively small march – there had been 70,000 in September, a radical told me. There have been huge demonstrations and resistance in Greece, the center of the crisis, in Spain, in France...

At about the same time, Tory headquarters was attacked by a large number of student protestors against the enormous rise in tuition in England. Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, whom Andrew Sullivan admires, is far better on gays who serve in the government and on protecting the environment and even on the rule of law than Obama. Tony Blair, the Omar Suleiman of London, does get questions in Parliament-sponsored hearings; some legal proceedings about torture have been initiated by the Tories. Sullivan amusingly refers to Obama as a decent Tory (Sullivan rightly objects fiercely to American torture and Obama’s “looking to the future”) and there is some truth in what he says. The Cameron Government has more integrity on gays (though Obama has been catching up) or on the rule of law – where Obama protects those who made the US infamous as torturers. In American terms, one might say the Tories are more liberal than Obama (the Republicans are police state fantasists, not conservatives). But Cameron’s vast cutbacks – 20% on everything but war where the Pentagon intervened and so only 8% - has pushed Britain further into depression. Sadly, Andrew Sullivan shares Cameron’s delusions about economics – economic growth of a decent sort is crucial, a balanced budget important but secondary. If a balanced budget, meaning endless subsidies for the rich, is enforced at the expense of “growth," it means massive impoverishment for ordinary people.

Saturday, Charles Blow reports 9% unemployment in the New York Times in an informative table. Sadly, he drops the correct emphasis by David Leonhardt on those who have given up looking for work, those who have part-time work but would gladly take full-time. Real unemployment in the United States is probably 16.5%, The Times is thus singing editorially "happy days are here again" at the expense of one of the few commendable aspects of its own reporting.

In this respect, in contrast, Obama wanted to stimulate the economy, to transform it in the direction of green jobs. But his efforts are curtailed or bent by the war complex and the corporate media and the Citizens United decision. Still, at the G-20, he rightly warned the Europeans against further cutbacks in a depression. Thousands of British students are being driven out of school. The promise of education as part of a democracy – something Europe delivers on – has been broken in a situation where many thousands of working people in the North of England have been allowed by capitalist governments to languish in unemployment into their thirties. Two years ago, I met 25 year old white men on the streets of London homeless, asking for money. Any working class student can see the distance, especially with the failure of New Labor and Tony Blair, between here and there.

As a fierce form of democratic expression, English students attacked and smashed the windows of the Tory headquaters...This is not, I think, a wise form of protest. But it reflects the great anger at the endless taking of the rich, the fading of a decent life for others. This is a worldwide phenomenon, and the Egyptians have provided a strong answer. It will resonate.

Ilene Cohen also underlines Mubarak's pathetic role in Gaza. The US war complex worked over time, with Mubarak’s Egypt and the Israeli regime to reduce Gaza to a large open air concentration camp. Imagine if, instead, the US and the neocons had let the governments evolve in Gaza and the West bank to try to work out a two state solution with Israel. (Neocons want markets – American corporate plunder – and “democracy” at gunpoint though in the last post, I noted Robert Kagan also wants weak parlimentarianism or low intensity democracy; neocons oppose serious, principled, robust popular rule* -see Benjamin Barber Strong Democracy, my Democratic Individuality, and William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy.) Surely, this might have been an alternate possibility. Respect for human rights of all people, not US anti-democratic (let alone, torture and pro-torture, arms-hawking) intervention, is in fact the hope of a flourishing of democracy and decency here as well as there.

The corporate meida may cover unflaggingly the Tea Party (the Times again last Sunday). The Koch brothers (oil fortunes) bankroll it, the Times hastens to tell “teabaggers” that they are really the Boston Tea Party. The original tea party would throw these deluded Loyalists to the ultra-rich into the ocean. But even a wet tea bag has more coherence than the view of Sherrin Angle that really “why should she be taxed to have an insurance pool so that the autistic child of her neighbor be provided for." These people call themselves “Christian” though I seem to remember the thought: I should care for others now, lest there be no one to care for me in my hour of need…

Ordinary people are hurting in the United State ; foreclosures and unemployment are reducing the middle class and retirees to poverty. Income inequality, as Laura Flanders and Charles Blow on Saturday underline, is far greater in the United States than in Egypt today (Blow rates the gini coefficient* for the US at 45%, for Egypt at 34.4% ) or for that matter, under Pharoah (of course, the slavery of Jews and the murder of the slaves who built the pyramids was a far worse form of oppression). Our hope is in serious nonviolent resistance with major international solidarity. That is the answer to the international war complex which seems pretty well bent on destroying humanity and itself.

As Ramin Jahanbegloo pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor last week, in Egypt what is needed is not Elbaradei, who is nonetheless a serious and admirable man, one who stood out with the demonstrators and was teargassed, but a new Badshah Khan (Haider knew this great Pathan leader of nonviolence who fought for a United India – see my post on the Islamic Martin Luther King here). The sunrise of democracy of the Arab world illustrates Hannah Arendt’s notion of power, that ordinary people stand up together for decency (see her wonderful little book On Violence). Arendt misses, however, the importance of a shining common good, that of ordinary people in Egypt and around the world, who need jobs and an end to governmental corruption. The dying murder, torture and “chaos “in Egypt – mere violence, she calls it - is that of Mubarak and Suleiman and Enan.

Last year, striking Greek workers put a flag up on the Acropolis: “Europe, join us.” We are all the young Egyptians who cannot find work and are standing up. We are all those Hellenic workers. We are all the homeless 25 year old in London, the students for whom the doors of university are closing, the American students who cannot afford school or end up in debt slavery. Amazingly, Barack and Michelle Obama paid off their student debts only with his Dreams from my Father in their forties. What are the rest of us, less talented writers and politicians, to do?

One of those dreams Barack acquired might have been doing something more substantial about aid to students – but Barack, though decent and imaginative, is a corporate American politician and the Blankfeins and Kochs have pulled the plug. He must curry up to them to get the funding to be reelected if he can – and that means no more large scale programs to put people to work (last December, he did get some tax cut Keynsianism for the poor - $300 billion worth – in exchange for two years of wasting an additional trillion on the rich…).

Americans demonstrated support all over the country for Egypt last Saturday. I signed a letter of academics, circulated by Professor James Brownlee of Texas, to the President criticizing arming the military and calling for a reconsideration and renewal of American Middle East policy.

Such actions from below also embody democratic internationalism , the theme of my book, Must Global Poltiics Constrain Democracy? It is for the past 14 days in the huge and heroic demonstrations in Tahrir Square, before our eyes in Cairo and throughout Egypt. Those who prey on ordinary people here in the United States led by the banks and the war complex, have, sadly, had a long run. But what they and their allies are doing breeds resistance. Having had the Bush-Cheney era, and tolerating Obama briefly only because given two losing aggressions and an economic collapse, the American people demanded something different, the ruling elite is now trying to stave off Obama's inadequate but decent measures with the Empire-bankrolled “tea party.” As Haider indicates, however, the movement that supported Obama is reappearing all around us in a far deeper and less conciliatory form.


Friday, February 4, 2011 by The Guardian/UK
Egypt's Military-Industrial Complex
With US-made tear gas canisters fired on protesters in Cairo, Washington's role in arming Egypt is under the spotlight

by Pratap Chatterjee

In early January 2010, Bob Livingston, a former chairman of the appropriations committee in the US House of Representatives, flew to Cairo accompanied by William Miner, one of his staff. The two men were granted meetings with US Ambassador Margaret Scobey, as well as Major General FC "Pink" Williams, the defence attaché and director of the US Office of Military Cooperation in Egypt. Livingston and Miner were lobbyists employed by the government of Egypt, helping them to open doors to senior officers in the US government. Records of their meetings, required under law, were recently published by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, DC watchdog group.

Although the names of those who attended the meetings have to be made public, the details of what was discussed are confidential. I called Miner to ask him about their meetings, but he referred me to Karim Haggag, the spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in Washington, who did not respond. Miner did confirm that he was a retired Navy pilot who had worked for clients like the Egyptian government, as well as several military contractors.

The cozy relationship between the lobbyists, members of the US Congress, Pentagon officials and the Egyptian government is easily explained: much is at stake. Egypt has received over $70bn in economic and military aid approved by the US Congress in the past 60 years, according to numbers compiled by the Congressional Research Service. Maj Gen Williams is the man in charge of the $1.3bn in annual US military aid supplied to the country.

Specifically, the aid money pays for US-designed Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo under contract with General Dynamics. Boeing sells Egypt CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, Lockheed Martin sells F-16s, Sikorsky Aircraft sells Black Hawk helicopters. Lockheed Martin has taken in $3.8bn from Egypt in the last few years; General Dynamics $2.5bn; Boeing $1.7bn; among many others.

In addition, hundreds of Egyptian military officers come for short training courses to the US each year. Two days after Livingston and Miner met with the US officials in Cairo, the embassy sent a cable to Washington with a list of Egyptian officials approved to take a three-week military training course in the US in February 2010. Under the "Leahy law" – a human rights requirement named after Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont that prohibits US military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights – the embassy must, as a matter of routine, vouch for the prospective trainees.
One of the training courses listed in the cable made public by WikiLeaks was listed as one in how to handle explosives. The WikiLeaks cables show that numerous officials working for "state security", aged between 30 and 50 with ranks from major to lieutenant colonel, were given clean bills of health to take a variety of such specialised military training programmes.

After the US lobbyists returned to their offices in Washington, DC, Miner kept in touch with "Pink" Williams, corresponding via email. A little over three months later, an Egyptian military delegation led by Major General Mohamed Said Elassar, assistant to Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Egyptian minister of defence, came to Washington. Livingstone and Miner were on hand once again to take the Egyptian officials to meet with a number of members of Congress, as well to visit the office of the secretary of defence to discuss "US/Egyptian security issues".

So, when protesters in Cairo last week were struck by tear gas canisters fired by Egyptian security officials, it was not surprising that pictures taken by ABC TV would show that the canisters were manufactured in the US. Nor does it seem that surprising that a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald would find 12-gauge shotgun shells with ''MADE IN USA'' stamped on their brass heads when he visited the wounded in a makeshift casualty ward in a tiny mosque behind Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

The photographs show that the tear gas comes from a company named Combined Systems Inc (CSI), which describes itself as a "tactical weapons company" and is based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. A similar picture from the protests in Egypt was posted on Twitter of a "Outdoor 52 Series Large Grenade" grenade made by CSI, which is designed to discharge "a high volume of smoke and chemical agent through multiple emission ports". (CSI did not return calls for comment.)

Although CSI markets these products as "less-than-lethal", several incidents indicate that they can cause injury and death. Bassem Abu Rahmah, a Palestinian man, was reportedly killed on 17 April 2009, when a CSI 40mm model 4431 powder barricade penetrating tear gas grenade struck him in the chest, according to a report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. Nels Cooper Brannan , a US marine deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, unsuccessfully sued CSI for injuries caused by an allegedly defective MK 141 flashbang grenade that caused serious damage to his left hand when it exploded accidently.

While the Egyptian protesters were facing tear gas grenades fired by security forces in Cairo, another delegation of Egyptian senior military officials led by Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, the chief of staff of Egypt's armed forces, was back in Washington to meet with Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (No public records have been filed yet, so it is unclear if Miner and Livingstone were escorting them again.)

Within hours of the news of the huge protests, Enan cut short his trip and dashed back to Cairo last Friday, but his boss, Minister Tantawi, has kept in touch with Washington, making daily phone calls to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. Both men – together with Egypt's spy chief, Omar Suleiman – are among President Hosni Mubarak's closest allies and enjoy close ties with Washington, according to the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks. And it was these men that Thomas E Donilon, the US national security adviser, was frantically phoning last weekend to try to gauge how to prevent the collapse of the Mubarak regime.

It could days, maybe even weeks, before the future of the Egyptian government is decided, and with it, the relationship with the US. But one thing is clear: the Egyptian protesters are well aware of the close ties between officials in Cairo and Washington and not happy about the US training and tear gas shells supplied to the Egyptian military. Crowds gathered in Liberation Square last week chanted: "Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are agents of the Americans." The protesters believe that the billions in military aid that kept Mubarak in power have helped him keep democracy from flowering in Egypt.

Two years after Obama's famous speech in Cairo, in which he called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims", it might be a little late for his administration to heed the words of Mostafa Amin, Egypt's most famous columnist and journalist:

Maybe America gains a lot when it exports to us arms and cars or planes, but it loses more when it does not export the best that its civilisation has produced, which is freedom and democracy and human rights. The value of America is that it should defend this product, not only in its country but throughout the world! It may harm some of its interests, but it will make gains that will live hundreds of years, for the friendship of peoples live forever, because the peoples do not die, but governments change like the winter weather.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media

"Dear Alan,

I am now in Greece where things are taking a sharp and potentially fruitful turn. I tried to show my solidarity with the Greek workers on Dec. 15 and got tear-gassed. Of course, it brought back very good memories from my own student-activist street-fighting years.

For those interested in the crisis of capitalism in Europe and elsewhere and the prospects for a new 21st century socialism in light of our collective learning from both the successes and failures of the past movements, the following excerpt from the editors of MR [Monthly Review] which refers inter alia to a published interview with a Greek scholar-activist in UK, may be relevant:

To what extent is this emerging theory of twenty-first century socialism — as articulated by Lebowitz in his new Monthly Review Press book and by Harnecker in this issue of Monthly Review — applicable to other regions of the world, outside of Latin America, even to Europe? We are convinced that the world is now deep in a transition phase away from capitalism, as witnessed by the fault lines emerging everywhere — global financial and economic crisis, planetary ecological crisis, growing militarism and imperialism, rising social unrest, and the emergence in some parts of the world of real alternatives. The fierce, courageous struggle being waged today by the Greek populace is an indication of how far things have now gone, even in Europe. We were recently impressed by a statement by Stathis Kouvelakis, who teaches philosophy at King’s College in London. In an interview for Esquerda.net on May 17, 2010, he commented: “Greece is the weak link [in the European context]. It’s the weak link because Greek capitalism is perhaps the most fragile, at least in Western Europe, but it is the weak link also because it is the country where the level of social resistance, social movements, and popular struggle is the highest. The ruling class is very much aware of this, and they want to make Greece a test case, so everyone should be aware of the stakes now” (“Greece: The Weak Link,” May 23, 2010).

In solidarity,
Haider

State Department Approved Export of US-Made Tear Gas to Egyptian Government
Friday 04 February 2011
by: Marian Wang | ProPublica |

The American-made tear gas used to disperse pro-democracy protestors in Egypt earlier this week was sold to the country after government review, a State Department spokeswoman told us. The tear gas canisters used by Egyptian police against the protesters bore the label “Made in U.S.A.,” stirring controversy and bolstering the impression among Egyptians that the U.S. has propped up a dictatorship at the expense of its citizens.

Two government agencies, the Department of State and Department of Commerce, regulate the export of tear gas by granting export licenses allowing U.S. manufacturers to sell tear gas to foreign buyers. The State spokeswoman, Nicole Thompson, said she didn’t immediately know when the approval was given for Egypt.

The chemical compounds in the tear gas determine whether it’s State or Commerce that’s responsible for licensing the product. In general, the State Department licenses the export of defense items—including military-grade tear gas—as spelled out on its Munitions List. The Commerce Department licenses the export of tear gas formulations that are considered “dual use”—that is, for either military or civilian purposes—as well as products considered strictly civilian.

The tear gas canisters photographed in Egypt and Tunisia appear to have been manufactured by Combined Systems Inc. The company did not respond to our requests for comment. A spokesman for the company had previously told CNN that it operates well within the law by selling tear gas to countries like Tunisia and Egypt.

CNN also reported that labels on the tear gas canisters found in both countries read, “Danger: Do not fire directly at person(s). Severe injury or death may result.” According to CNN, a 32-year-old photographer in Egypt died recently after he was hit by a tear gas grenade at close range.

In the case of the tear gas used in Egypt, the State Department confirmed to me that it approved the sale of tear gas as a direct commercial sale between the manufacturer and the government of Egypt, as opposed to a government-to-government sale.

As part of a multi-agency approval process, the State Department said it takes a number of issues into consideration, including whether the purchaser could use it in a way that violates human rights.

“We want to ensure that when a defense article is being sold to a government, say the government of Egypt, we want to make sure it’s not going to fall in hands of another government … or any individual or organization who wants to do harm,” explained Thompson.

So why did the State Department license the sale of American-made tear gas to be used by the Egyptian police, when the State Department itself has documented the police’s history of brutality? When I asked this question, I received the following response, in full:

The US government licensed the sale of certain crowd dispersal articles to the government of Egypt. That license was granted after a thorough vetting process and after a multi-agency review of the articles that were requested.

Noticeably absent in that answer was anything about the Egyptian police. When I pressed further and mentioned this WikiLeaks cable — written by U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey describing “routine and pervasive” police brutality and torture in Egypt—the response was immediate.

“I cannot provide any authentication of anything that has been published by the website WikiLeaks,” Thompson said.

*W. and Condi were there in Jerry Jones's special box, flashed to by the cameras. At the same time, Bush cancelled a trip to Switzerland, ostensibly because of protest against torture, actually because he can be charged - and having said "I waterboarded and I would do it again" easily convicted under the Convention against Torture here. See Carol Rosenberg's "Bush trip to Switzerland axed over protest fears," McClatchy papers, Sunday, here. The announcers did not announce this. Neither Bush nor the former Secretary of State (nor any other member of the Bush cabinet) can any longer travel abroad...

**Invented by the Italian statistician, Corrado Gini in 1912, the Gini coefficient measures the inequality of an economic distribution, a value of 0 expressing total equality and a value of 1 maximal inequality. Thus, the United States is 10.6% more inegalitarian than Egypt today. But the average US family also spends, as Blow shows, less on food (the average American household spends 6.3% of its income on food v. the average Egyptian household 38.8%). Food prices are dramatically rising in Egypt. Hence, the continuation, for a time, of American illusions...

American "food-like substances" (Michael Pollan) are, of course, no longer food.

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