Focal Points Blog

Marcus Raskin: Nuclear Watchdog

President John F. Kennedy and his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara tried to create a nuclear policy more flexible than the initial U.S. policy of massive retaliation. (Photo: AlternateHistory.com)

President John F. Kennedy and his Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara tried to create a nuclear policy more flexible than the initial U.S. policy of massive retaliation. (Photo: AlternateHistory.com)

Prior to founding the Institute for Policy Studies along with Richard Barnet, Marcus Raskin was a member of the special staff of the National Security Council in President Kennedy’s administration. I recently re-read Fred Kaplan’s 1983 book, The Wizards of Armageddon, a history of how the Rand Corporation developed and drove U.S. nuclear weapons strategy for decades. In case you’re wondering, yes, there is definitely something wrong with people who can spend their days for years on end contemplating the deaths of tens of millions.
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Daniel Ellsberg Was a Hero Long Before the Pentagon Papers

Ellsberg, Daniel TruthinMedia.com

Most of us know Daniel Ellsberg because he copied and released the top-secret Pentagon studies of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg actually ran the documents by the Institute of Policy Studies before sharing them with the New York Times. As you know, Watergate ensued and American politics has never been the same.
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Opposition to Iran Deal Fueled by Hatred of Hezbollah and Hamas

To a certain extent Hezbollah and Hamas have gone legit. Pictured: Hezbollah flag and signage. (Photo: Yeowatzup / Wikimedia Commons)

To a certain extent Hezbollah and Hamas have gone legit. Pictured: Hezbollah flag and signage. (Photo: Yeowatzup / Wikimedia Commons)

The effort by Israeli leaders and their American supporters to scuttle the nuclear agreement with Iran was not, as they often claimed, based on the fear that the pact did not provide enough safeguards against Iran’s producing a bomb. As the agreement’s opponents knew, Iran has only to show signs of violating the agreement to bring on immediate retaliation by the U.S. and Israel. The Iranians undoubtedly remember Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981.

Hostility to Iran on the part of Israel and the U.S. has in fact far less to do with its nuclear program than with its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that Israeli spin doctors and their American supporters have made virtually synonymous with “terrorism.” They worry that the pact will bring an easing of economic sanctions against Iran and thereby enable it to increase its support for the two resistance groups.
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Where’s There’s War, There’s Refugees

The European refugee disaster is the legacy of the war makers. Pictured: Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. (Photo: DFID / Flickr Commons)

The European refugee disaster is the legacy of the war makers. Pictured: Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. (Photo: DFID / Flickr Commons)

While Europe flounders, compelled at last to begin seeking short term measures of humane response, our shameless war hawks hide from blame: it’s Assad’s doing, Obama’s “weakness” in failing to bomb Syria and intervene militarily early on.

There is blame aplenty historically for the Middle East tragedy that is spilling over into Europe and for other refugee crises affecting all continents. Anti-immigrant racists rant, build walls, and terrorize millions of parents and children desperate for survival. But the major culprit is WAR.
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Drug Abuse in Poland Part of the Social Fabric

Clinical psychologist Danuta Wiewiora (pictured) of MONAR (Youth Movement against Drug Addiction) works with drugs addicts in Poland. (Photo: John Feffer)

Clinical psychologist Danuta Wiewiora (pictured) of MONAR (Youth Movement against Drug Addiction) works with drugs addicts in Poland. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Until the 1970s, drug addicts didn’t exist in Poland – at least not officially. In those days, drugs were expensive and the supply was limited, so the Polish state could hide the problem by giving a different label to the small number of addicts. But then heroin became more readily available, in part as a byproduct of domestic poppy farming (poppy seeds are a key ingredient in the Polish strudel known as makowiec). And addiction started to grow. By the mid-1980s, heroin use – along with glue-sniffing, marijuana, and speed – had grown to epidemic proportions.
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Emergence of Islamic State an Embarrassment for National Security Community

The United States persists in underestimating the sophistication and savvy of the Islamic State. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The United States persists in underestimating the sophistication and savvy of the Islamic State. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The national security community in the United States and the West neither predicted the Islamic State’s rise, nor has been able to figure out how to halt it. Writes Burak Kadercan at National Interest, the Islamic State has

… constituted a source of embarrassment for the security community…. Consequently, there is little agreement in the security community over the true nature of ISIS and the proper strategy to effectively “degrade and destroy” the organization. Put bluntly, for all the pride that the security community takes in its predictive, explanatory, and prescriptive capabilities, it has failed (with a capital F) over the puzzle that ISIS poses.

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Will Awlaki’s Personal Scandal Undermine His Status as World’s Most Beloved Jihadist?

Awlaki had a secret life involving American motels. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Awlaki had a secret life involving American motels. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American citizen killed without trial by the U.S. government in decades, is arguably the most influential and beloved teacher of Islam and, later,  jihadist in recent years. In the New York Times magazine, Scott Shane writes about both his 53-CD series on the life of Muhammad and his domination of YouTube, in one of which he explains why Muslims must kill Americans. He was a favorite of Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, and Umar Farouk Abulmutallab, would-be airline bomber.

But if both mainstream and extremist Muslims knew the true Awlaki, their esteem for him might not have been so high. Before we get ahead of ourselves, from Shane’s piece:

In fact, Awlaki’s pronouncements seem to carry greater authority today than when he was living, because America killed him. On Sept. 30, 2011, the day that Obama announced Awlaki’s death, many Islamic websites attached the word ‘‘martyrdom’’ to this news. … [His] rich afterlife on the web raises disturbing questions: Is Awlaki as dangerous — perhaps even more dangerous — dead than alive?

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What Happens When the Islamic State Has Its Own Air Force?

A Syrian MiG similar to those allegedly captured by the Islamic State. (Photo: Airforce-technology.com)

A Syrian MiG similar to those allegedly captured by the Islamic State. (Photo: Airforce-technology.com)

In October 2014, Ewen MacAskill reported in the Guardian: Islamic State training pilots to fly MiG fighter planes, says monitoring group.

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to … the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). … Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based group, said Isis has trainers who had gained experience in the Iraqi air force under former president Saddam Hussein [and that witnesses].

… The monitoring group reported witnesses saying the planes flying low over Aleppo recently appeared to be MiG 21s or MiG 23s and had taken off from and returned to the nearby al-Jarrah base. It added that training courses are taking place at the base.

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Obama Administration’s Wishful Thinking on Islamic State Recalls Bush Years

A decade after the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses, intelligence is still being tailored to preordained policy.  Pictured: the Islamic State's de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

A decade after the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, intelligence is still being tailored to preordained policy. Pictured: the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Apparently U.S. intelligence and military officials have been pressuring terrorism analysts to turn the pig’s ear of news about the Islamic State into a silk purse. At the Daily Beast, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef write:

Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.

… Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

… Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy of the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.

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The Remarkable Saga of the Pankow Peace Group in East Germany

The Pankow Peace interpreted peace to include pedagogy, economic development, and environmentalism. Pictured: Ruth Misselwitz, a founder. (Photo: John Feffer)

The Pankow Peace interpreted peace to include pedagogy, economic development, and environmentalism. Pictured: Ruth Misselwitz, a founder. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It was one thing to establish an independent peace group in Poland or Hungary during the last decade of the Communist era. Freedom and Peacechallenged military service in Poland, where there was a long tradition of independent organizing. In Hungary, perhaps the most liberal country in the region outside of Yugoslavia, Dialogus opposed nuclear weapons on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Both groups experienced their share of surveillance and harassment.

But organizing in East Germany was something else. Dissidents were put on trial, thrown in jail, and often kicked out of the country against their will. The Stasi kept a tight watch on everything.

That’s why the story of the Pankow Peace Group is so remarkable. Organized in the Pankow neighborhood of East Berlin in 1981, the group not only took bold positions on nuclear issues but interpreted peace more broadly to include pedagogy, economic development, and environmentalism.
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