Susan's Views                                 
International writer Susan Trevelyan-Syke on politics, media and economics.

President Obama's Latest Adventure

The CIA is helping train rebels in Libya and support NATO no-fly zones and anti-Gadhafi targeted bombing.  

Are the CIA agents unarmed?

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the UK are not sure they want to go as far as President Sarkozy of France who wants to arm the Libyan rebels.

How can the rebels succeed with limited training and antiquated weapons against Gadhafi who is armed to the teeth with up-to-date weapons sold to him by the big powers?

China, Russia and Iran sit hypocritically on the sidelines ready to benefit whatever way the action goes. 

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is the first backlash victim of the rebellion for sitting on the sidelines and refusing to endorse NATO action against Gadhafi.  The Greens and Socialists trounced her party in recent by-elections forcing her to realign her alliances to retain power if she can. 

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the U.S. is not ready to declare against President Assad of Syria or the Bahraini government despite their crackdowns and murder of demonstrators.

President Salal of Yeman, ever co-operative with the U.S., is being forced to leave office leaving a massive power void.   

Israel wants to invade anywhere claiming they see Al-Qaida everywhere and continues its ruthless killing of Palestinians and annexing their homes (dead or alive).

They have inspired the U.S.' most brutish citizens into frenzied Islamaphobia. 

The neocons, right-wing Republicans, Christian Evangelicals and military-industrial-security-oil (MISO) corporations are tightly connected to Israel's ruling Likud party. 

They are all waging a massive lobbying effort to force the U.S. to attack Syria enroute to their ultimate target - Iran. 

How can the over-extended U. S. economy support all the wars, occupations and military bases (over 800 across the world)? 

We are already sacrificing support for our more strategically important space program and domestic programs which help suffering Americans. 

Instead the money is channelled to war and oil/gas energy (instead of developing alternative energy). 

A responsible President must put statesmanship and the best interests of the U.S. ahead of his re-election. 

He needs to reign in the out-of-control financial hucksters and the neocon/neoliberal hawks in order for America to live according to its Constitution and the moral and ethical values of its people. 

Oddly enough, doing just that - the hardest things - would probably ensure re-election by landslide. 

But does the President get it?

©Posted March 31, 2011

President Obama Owns Af-Pak War

Worldwide coverage of President Obama's speech outlining his policy decisions on Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorist movements in the Middle and Near East has almost-universally claimed that he now owned "Obama's War". 

*Bob Cesca, writing in the Huffington Post, disagreed and quite rightly called it "Obama's Chore".

How anyone could think the grey-faced Obama wanted to claim a war and set time lines for withdrawal to coincide with U.S. elections just so that he could be re-elected is beyond comprehension. 

Also beyond comprehension are Republican charges that Obama's announcing a targeted time line for withdrawal would both endanger U.S. forces and/or simply prompt the Taliban (they seem to have forgotten Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden in their attacks) to lay low and then move to Somalia or Yeman once the U.S. troops left the area.

Either U.S. troops will be endangered by a revitalized Taliban or they will have an easy time until they train Afghani police and militia before they depart.

As to the Taliban, they will not leave their homeland.  The departure of Al-Qaida and Bin Laden anywhere far away from the nuclear weapons in Pakistan would be very good news indeed.

Yeman is not a likely option for refuge given the pasting the Saudi forces just gave the Yemenis who invaded their southern borders.  Further, it has been rumoured that Bin Laden has an agreement with the Wahhabis to stay away from Saudi Arabia.

Another ridiculous charge is that a very inexperienced and naive Obama dangerously delayed his decisions so that the enemy would have the advantage to build up forces and U.S. troops would not be ready to depart for months.

Those of us Americans who live in Europe have heard for months of increased unmanned drone attacks in the border area of AfPak (Pashtun territory), 500 or more CIA agents arriving in Afghanistan and secret Blackwater "black opps" apparently doing or preparing for something.

Today, the Marines landed in operation "Cobra Anger" to support the beleagured British troops in Helmand province which is the Taliban's southern base.   

According to Lt. Col. Martin Wetterauer, their purpose is to "cut off enemy supply and communication lines to the north".
The President kept his election promises to escalate U.S. troop departures from Iraq and to do something about Afghanistan. 

It appears that the inexperienced and naive Obama has played a very successful game of cat and mouse with both the enemy in AfPak and the neocons of the Republican Party and New Dems who were so critical of his "dithering".

It appears that the "dithering" was actually fine tuning a surge with the support of 7,000 NATO troops (and more after the January NATO meeting).

Now he has to deal with those in his own Party who want the U.S. out of Afghanistan and those Democrats will have to deal with his cunning fait accompli.

Respected journalist Dan Rather, recently returned from Afghanistan which he visited many times, summed it up to the BBC:  "It's a gambol; it can work, but it's a gambol".  

If it can work, you can bet the Marines will make sure it does.

"Being There"*

There are many things to worry about instead of the GOP's nuclear option Sarah Palin (better known as "Being There").
Though it is disturbing that she and her book are being "handled" or "run" by Rupert Murdoch's worldwide business/political empire (he is her publisher), there are many more important things to consider.

Yes, it is galling that Murdoch's neocon employees Kristol and Rove are scripting "Being There" to inflame disgruntled Americans and isolate middle and left voters through endless attacks in their determination to return to national power.

Yes, it is madness to destroy the Grand Old Party to purify it, marginalize it and leave no other option for those left out than to create a third party.
Yes, they are dangerous in encouraging sedition, secession from the Union, defiance of the Constitution and all law, violence, bigotry, racism, classism, elitistism, murder of doctors, undermining and assassinating the President, etc.

Yes, they and their media and blogs spew hate and venom on everyone who is not they especially the 2008 winner Obama.

So what is new?  This is the far right since Nixon's Southern strategy opened GOP arms to the KKK, Dixiecrats and Messianic Evangelicals devoted to the second coming of Christ in Israel, hence their total support of expansionist colonial Zionism (Likud). 

The two Bushes and their dynamic duo, Atwater and Rove, won the Vice Presidency and Presidencies by playing Americans off against other Americans.  It works.

"Divide and conquer."

Problem for them (and us) is that they don't know how to govern once they win elections. 

GWB ignored real Americans until Iraq and the economy fell apart.  He could no longer sustain his and neocon illusions with faith-based 'reality' and turned desperately to the incoming President to stave off U.S. bankruptsy.

President Obama has made successful trips to Japan and China to prevent their calling in our national debt (which they own). 

He has even reached a 'detente' with Russia and is trying to make the right decisions about Afghanistan and the nightmare Middle East. 

He has been left a mess of incomprehensible proportions.  Pity this man.

Despite these overwhelming problems, the most important one the Obama Administration needs to solve is the real suffering of good, ordinary people in America. 

No excuses for ignoring those Americans now that Wall Street and Washington's lobbyists have 'got theirs'. 

The military-industrial-security-oil complex (that President Dwight D Eisenhower warned of as he left the Presidency) seems permanently fixed to getting theirs.

There are many places to cut budgets, resolve debt and return Federal money to American taxpayers so that they can meet their needs. 

Start with MISO described in TomDispatch's shocking report below:



MISO:  Military Industrial Security Oil Complex

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Out of Iraq, Into the Gulf

[Note for TomDispatch Readers:  As you undoubtedly have noticed, the TomDispatch website is in the process of being updated.  We're aware that it's a work in progress.  There will be glitches and we'll be correcting, adding, and filling in over the next couple of weeks.  Please be patient. 

Last Tuesday, this site ran an article by Pratap Chatterjee on the endemic nature of corruption and nepotism in Afghanistan, "Paying Off the Warlords."  A related piece by Chatterjee -- a fascinating case study of what a mess American reconstruction efforts are in that country -- has just appeared at the Corpwatch website. Check it out, and while you're at it, take a look at a striking new Corpwatch feature, its "Spies for Hire" database on the private security firms that do for-profit dirty work for the U.S. Intelligence Community. Tom]

So here's the mystery. You have a country that only recently had upwards of 300 military bases, monster to micro, in a single war-torn land, Iraq. It probably now has something like 300 bases combined in Iraq and Afghanistan (where base-building is on the rise). Outside of those war zones, it has perhaps 800 more "facilities" (as they're called) around the globe and thousands more at home. Some of them are absolutely enormous, the equivalent of small American towns with all the amenities of home.

Without a doubt, this represents an accomplishment of some sort. Historically speaking, it's news of the first order. No other great power, from the Han Chinese and the Romans to the British Empire, has ever built so many military outposts in such far-flung places.

So is this empire of bases a matter of pride at home? Hardly. It's rarely thought about. It's not a matter for general discussion or mainstream debate, nor is it news, except on the rarest of occasions (usually when the government threatens to shut down domestic bases and job losses loom). Changes in Pentagon global basing policy are for Washington policy wonks, not ordinary Americans, and certainly not American reporters. From the mainstream media, you get at best a kind of shrug on the subject. Yes, from time to time, you can find a decent piece on an American military base abroad, but normally they are places where American TV reporters can safely set up their cameras and discuss other matters entirely. News about U.S. military bases being built or upgraded in distant lands is usually left to websites like TomDispatch to keep track of.

When it comes to the Middle East, the building of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, or of secret nuclear facilities in Iran are major news subjects, but the building up of U.S. base infrastructure in the region?  Not so much. If, for the first time in its history, the U.S. Navy sets up a permanent strike force based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, Expeditionary Strike Group 5, remember to check the National, the English-language paper in the United Arab Emirates, for it, not your local rag or the Washington Post, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. Mind you, we're talking about the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, the unsettled oil and natural gas heartland of the planet, yet not a peep.

A basic principle taught to any young reporter is: "follow the money." A similar principle should apply to U.S. foreign policy reporting: follow the bases. As striking facts-on-the-ground, such bases tell us much about bedrock U.S. policy, whatever the policy debates in Washington. If the mainstream media ignores such bases, TomDispatch has long made it a policy of keeping an eye on them. Recently, Nick Turse, this site's associate editor and the award-winning author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, reported on a story only modestly and partially covered here: the way the Pentagon has been pouring money into building up its base infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Now, he turns to the Persian Gulf region where the news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. It turns out, however, that we're withdrawing into something -- that, in fact, there's been a massive, if hardly noticed, Pentagon build-up in this region, too. You'd think it might be news. Now, at TomDispatch, thanks to Turse, it is. Tom

The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region
By Nick Turse

Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.

Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn't mean getting out of the Middle East. For one thing, it's likely that a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces will remain garrisoned on several large and remotely situated U.S. bases in Iraq well past December 2011. Still others will be stationed close by -- on bases throughout the region where, with little media attention since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, construction to harden, expand, and upgrade U.S. and allied facilities has gone on to this day.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee early this year, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), stated: "The Arabian Peninsula commands significant U.S. attention and focus because of its importance to our interests and the potential for insecurity." He continued:

"[T]he countries of the Arabian Peninsula are key partners... CENTCOM ground, air, maritime, and special operations forces participate in numerous operations and training events, bilateral and multilateral, with our partners from the Peninsula. We help develop indigenous capabilities for counter terrorism; border, maritime, and critical infrastructure security; and deterring Iranian aggression. As a part of all this, our FMS [Foreign Military Sales] and FMF [Foreign Military Financing] programs are helping to improve the capabilities and interoperability of our partners' forces. We are also working toward an integrated air and missile defense network for the Gulf. All of these cooperative efforts are facilitated by the critical base and port facilities that Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], and others provide for US forces."

In fact, since 2001 the Pentagon has been pouring significant sums of money into the "critical base and port facilities" mentioned by the general -- both U.S. sites and those of its key regional partners. These are often ignored facts-on-the-ground, which signal just how enduring the U.S. military presence in the region is likely to be, no matter what happens in Iraq. Press coverage of this long-term infrastructural build-up has been remarkably minimal, given the implications for future conflicts in the oil heartlands of the planet. After all, Washington is sending tremendous amounts of military materiel into autocratic Middle Eastern nations and building-up bases in countries whose governments, due to domestic public opinion, often prefer that no publicity be given to the growing American military "footprint."

Given that the current conflict with al-Qaeda stemmed, in no small part, from the U.S. military presence in the region, the issue is obviously of importance. Nonetheless, coverage has been so poor that much about U.S. military efforts there remains unknown. A review of U.S. government documents, financial data, and other open-source material by TomDispatch, however, reveals that an American military building boom yet to be seriously scrutinized, analyzed, or assessed is underway in the Middle East.

Consider, then, what we can at present know now about this Pentagon build-up, country by country from Qatar to Jordan, and while you're reading, think about what we don't know -- and why Washington has chosen this path.

Qatar: The Pentagon's Persian Gulf Pentagon

In 1996, although it had no air force of its own, the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base at a cost of more than $1 billion. The goal: attracting the U.S. military. In September 2001, U.S. aircraft began to operate out of the facility. By 2002, tanks, armored vehicles, dozens of warehouses, communications and computing equipment, and thousands of troops were based at and around Al Udeid.  In 2005, the Qatari government spent almost $400 million to build a cutting-edge regional air operations center.

Today, Qatar is all but indispensable to the U.S. military. Just recently, for example, Central Command redeployed 750 personnel from its Tampa, Florida headquarters to its new forward headquarters at Al Udeid to test its "staff's ability to seamlessly transition command and control of operations… in the event of a crisis in the CENTCOM area of responsibility or a natural disaster in Florida."

Qatar has not, however, picked up the whole tab for the expanding U.S. military infrastructure in the country. The Pentagon has also been investing large amounts of money in upgrading facilities there for the last decade. From 2001-2009, the U.S. Army, for example, awarded $209 million in contracts for construction in the energy-rich emirate. In August, Rizzani de Eccher, an Italian engineering and construction giant, signed a $44 million deal with the Pentagon to replace an unspecified facility at Al Udeid. In September, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services a $6 million contract for "construction of a pre-engineered warehouse building... warehouse bay and related site work and utilities" at the base.

Later in the month, American International Contractors, a global construction firm that specializes in "US-funded Middle East and African infrastructure projects," inked a deal for nearly $10 million to build a Special Operations Forces Training Range, complete with "a two-story shooting house, an indoor range, breach and storage facilities[,] a test fire bunker and bunker road" in Qatar. Just days after that, the Pentagon awarded a $52 million contract to Cosmopolitan–EMTA JV to upgrade the capacity of Al Udeid's airfield by building additional aircraft parking ramps and fuel storage facilities.

Bahrain Base's and Kuwait's Subways

In nearby Bahrain -- a tiny kingdom of 750,000 people -- the U.S. stations up to 3,000 personnel, in addition to regular visits by the crews of Navy ships that spend time there. Between 2001-2009, the Navy awarded $203 million in construction contracts for military projects in the country. One big winner over that span has been the engineering and construction firm Contrack International. It received more than $50 million in U.S. government funds for such projects as building two "multi-story facilities for the U.S. Navy" complete with state-of-the-art communication interfaces and exterior landscaping.

In September 2009, the company was awarded a new $27 million deal "for the design/bid/build construction of the waterfront development program, US Naval Support Activity, Bahrain." This facility will join the Navy's undisputed crown jewel in Bahrain -- a 188,000 square-foot mega-facility known as "the Freedom Souq" that houses a PX or Navy Exchange (NEX). The NEX, in turn, offers "an ice cream shop, bicycle shop, cell phone shop, tailor shop, barber and beauty shops, self-serve laundry, dry cleaning service, rug Souq, nutrition shop, video rental, and a 24/7 mini-mart," while selling everything from cosmetics and cameras to beer and wine.

Work is also going on in nearby Oman where, in the 1930s, the British Royal Air Force utilized an airfield on Masirah Island for its ventures in the Middle East. Today, the U.S. Air Force and members of other service branches do much the same, operating out of the island's Camp Justice. From 2001-2009, the Army and Air Force each spent about $13 million on construction projects in the sultanate. Contractor Cosmopolitan-EMTA JV is now set to begin work there, too, after recently signing a $5 million contract with the Pentagon for an "Expeditionary Tent Beddown" (presumably an area meant to accommodate a potential future influx of forces). Meanwhile, in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Army alone spent $46 million between 2001-2009 on construction projects.

In 1991, the U.S. military helped to push Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. After that, however, the country's leader, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, refused to return home "until crystal chandeliers and gold-plated bathroom fixtures could be reinstalled in Kuwait City's Bayan Palace." Today, about 30 miles south of the plush palace sits another pricey complex. Camp Arifjan grew exponentially as the Iraq War ramped up, gaining notoriety along the way as the epicenter of a massive graft and corruption scandal. Today, the base houses about 15,000 U.S. troops and features such fast-food favorites as Pizza Hut, Hardees, Subway, and Burger King.

Another facility in Kuwait that has become a major stopover point on the road to and from Baghdad is Camp Buehring. Located north of Kuwait City, near the town of Udairi, the installation is chock-a-block full of amenities, including three PXs, telephone centers, two internet cafes, Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers, a movie theater, chapel, gym, volley-ball court, basketball court, concert stage, gift shop, barber shop, jewelry store, and a number of popular eateries including Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robbins, and Starbucks.

Writing about the base recently, Captain Charles Barrett of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team remarked, "There's a USO with computers and a Café. You know the café is good because it has that little mark over the letter 'e.' Soldiers are gaming on XBOX, Play Station and Wii. There are phone banks and board games and a place where parents can read to their kids and have the DVD mailed home."

The price tag for living the big-box-base lifestyle in Kuwait has, however, been steep. From 2003 to 2009, the U.S. Army spent in excess of $502 million on contracts for construction projects in the small, oil-rich nation, while the Air Force added almost $55 million and the Navy another $7 million. Total military spending there has been more massive still. Over the same span, according to U.S. government data, the Pentagon has spent nearly $20 billion in Kuwait, buying huge quantities of Kuwaiti oil and purchasing logistical support from various contractors for its facilities there (and elsewhere), among other expenditures.

In 2006, for example, the international construction firm Archirodon was awarded $10 million to upgrade airfield lighting at Al-Salem and Al-Jaber, two Kuwaiti air bases used by American forces. Recently, there has also been a major scaling up of work at Camp Arifjan. In September, for example, the Pentagon awarded CH2M Hill Contractors a nearly $26 million deal to build a new communications facility on the base. Just days later, defense contractor ITT received an almost $87 million contract for maintenance and support services there.

Saudi Base Building and Jordan's U.S. Army Training Complex

According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, "From 1950 through 2006, Saudi Arabia purchased and received from the United States weapons, military equipment, and related services through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth over $62.7 billion and foreign military construction services (FMCS) worth over $17.1 billion." Between 1946 and 2007, the Saudis also benefited from almost $295 million in foreign assistance funding from the U.S. military.

From the lead up to the First Gulf War in 1990 through the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military stationed thousands of troops in Saudi Arabia. The American presence in the kingdom -- the location of some of the holiest sites in Islam -- was a major factor in touching off al-Qaeda's current war with the United States. In 2003, in response to fundamentalist pressure on the Saudi government, the U.S. military announced it was pulling all but a small number of trainers out of the country. Yet while many U.S. troops have left, Pentagon contracts haven't -- a significant portion of them for construction projects for the Saudi Arabian military, which the U.S. trains and advises from sites like Eskan Village, a compound 20 kilometers south of Riyadh, where 800 U.S. personnel (500 of them advisors) are based.

Between 2003-2009, the U.S. Army awarded $559 million in contracts for Saudi construction projects. In 2009, for example, it gave a $160 million deal to construction firm Saudi Oger Limited for the construction of facilities for a Saudi mechanized brigade based at Al Hasa, a $127 million contract to Saudi Lebanese Modern Construction Co. to erect structures for the Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Battalion, and an $82 million agreement to top Saudi construction firm Al-Latifia Trading and Contracting Company to build ammunition storage bunkers, possibly at the Saudi Arabian National Guard's Khashm Al An Training Area.

Additionally, military weaponry has continued to flow into Saudi Arabia by way of the Pentagon and so, too, have contracts to provide support services for that materiel. For example, earlier this year, under a U.S. Air Force contract extension, Cubic Corporation was awarded a $9.5 million deal "to continue to operate and maintain the air combat training system used to support F-15 fighter pilot training for the Royal Saudi Air Force."

Like the Saudis, Jordan's leader, King Abdullah II, has long had a complex relationship with the U.S. shaped by domestic concerns over U.S. military action in the region and support for Israel. As with Saudi Arabia, none of that has stopped the U.S. military from forging ever closer ties with the kingdom.

Recently, after testing and evaluating various training systems at multiple U.S. Army bases, the Jordanian Armed Forces selected Cubic's combat training center system and under the auspices of the U.S. Army, the company was "awarded an $18 million contract to supply mobile combat training center instrumentation and training services to the Kingdom of Jordan."

The Pentagon has also invested in Jordanian military infrastructure. Between 2001-2009, the Army awarded $86 million in contracts for Jordanian construction projects. One major beneficiary was again Archirodon which, between 2006-2008, worked on the construction of the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) -- a state-of-the-art military and counter-terrorism training facility owned and operated by the Jordanian government but built, in part, under a $70 million U.S. Army contract. In 2009, Archirodon was awarded two additional contracts for $729,000 and $400,000, by the Air Force, for unspecified work in Jordan.

When that 1,235-acre $200 million Jordanian training center was unveiled earlier this year, King Abdullah II himself gave the inaugural address, speaking "of his vision for KASOTC as a world-class special forces training center." Not surprisingly, General Petraeus was also on hand to give a speech in which he lauded Jordan as "a key partner... [which] has placed itself at the forefront of police and military training for regional security forces."

Garrisoning the Gulf

Even as it lurches toward a quasi-withdrawal from Iraq, the U.S. military has been hunkering down and hardening its presence elsewhere in the Middle East with little fanfare or press coverage. There has been almost no discussion in this country of a host of possible repercussions that might come from this, ranging from local opposition to the U.S. military's presence to the arming of undemocratic and repressive regimes in the region. With the sole exception of Iran, the U.S. military has fully garrisoned the nations of the Persian Gulf with air bases, naval bases, desert posts, training centers, and a whole host of other facilities, while also building up the military capacity of nearby Jordan.

The CIA efforts to topple Iran's government in the 1950s, Washington's support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the 1980s, the Pentagon's troop presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s -- all were considered canny geopolitical moves in their time; all had unforeseen and devastating consequences. The money the Pentagon has recently been pouring into the nations of the Persian Gulf to bulk up base infrastructure has only tied the U.S. ever more tightly to the region's autocratic, often unpopular regimes, while further arming and militarizing an area traditionally considered unstable. The Pentagon's Persian Gulf base build-up has already cost Americans billions in tax dollars. What the costs in "blowback" will be remains the unknown part of the equation.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University's Center for the United States and the Cold War. A paperback edition of his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books) was published earlier this year. His website is

Copyright 2009 Nick Turse

*"Being There" is a Jerzy Kosinski book which he adapted to the screen in 1979 with Peter Sellers playing Chance, a simple-minded Washington, D.C. gardener who was made homeless when his employer died.  He had no education except from  television.  In his wanderings, he encounters powerful political insiders.  Since he only knows what he learned on television, he can only repeat what he heard over the years.  His comments are taken as profound and the political elite enlists his advice on national policies and strategies.

Obama Wins Nobel Prize for Peace

The initial White House reaction to word from ABC News that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Hussein Obama the Nobel Prize for Peace was surprise and disbelief. 

The President himself expressed surprise in his remarks below and is "deeply humbled".

He quite rightly understands that it is a "call to action" by the wise and sane of the world. 

It is also a challenge to us all to meet our potential as human beings entrusted with this planet and a powerful declaration of our shared aspirations for peace so that every human being might enjoy "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".  

The very evening of President Obama's award I attended the last performance of "A New World:  A Life of Thomas Paine" by Trevor Griffiths at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.*
I was riveted throughout three hours of the lively and deeply moving history of the United States revolution and the founding of a new sort of country (an attempt at Plato's "Republic" based on the principles of democracy and human rights).

The play contrasted America's successful struggle to the failed attempt on the British Crown and the bloody, failed French Revolution through the eyes of the American Revolution's greatest writer/fighter Thomas Paine--the man who NEVER sold out.

Throughout the play we were confronted with our greatest shame:  slavery.  And we are not allowed to forget what we have done to the Indians and the corruption of men wherever they are.

What an extraordinary experience for the world to see a half-Black President take America beyond our shame, dream the dreams we dream, aspire to make those dreams reality and perhaps have the power to create a better, safer, more peaceful world! 

It is up to you, Mr President, to use your "Common Sense" to help the sane secure "The Rights of Man".  We have your back.

Following is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks in response to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.


"Good morning.

Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning.

After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday."

And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up."

So it's -- it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee.

Let me be clear, I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize, men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women and all Americans want to build, a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents.

And I know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

Now, these challenges can't be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that's why my administration's worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek.

We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people.

And that's why we've begun to take concrete steps to pursue a world without nuclear weapons: because all nations have the right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but all nations have the responsibility to demonstrate their peaceful intentions.

We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children, sowing conflict and famine, destroying coastlines and emptying cities.

And that's why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy.

We can't allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another. And that's why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years. And that effort must include an unwavering commitment to finally realize that -- the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can't accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for: the ability to get an education and make a decent living, the security that you won't have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

And even as we strive to seek a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and prosperity is widely shared, we have to confront the world as we know it today.

I am the commander in chief of a country that's responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies. I'm also aware that we are dealing with the impact of a global economic crisis that has left millions of Americans looking for work.

These are concerns that I confront every day on behalf of the American people.

Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime.

But I know these challenges can be met, so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration; it's about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

And that's why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity; for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard, even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace.

That has always been the cause of America. That's why the world has always looked to America. And that's why I believe America will continue to lead.

Thank you very much."

Note from Susan following her comments leading to President Obama's acknowledgement and informal acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

*By coincidence I sat next to a slightly nervous man in the middle tower of the recreated open-air Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the final night of "A New World:  A Life of Thomas Paine".   

That man was acknowledged at the play's end as Trevor Griffiths, the play's author, who spent 20 years analysing over 20 years of overlapping US-European history to produce three hours of sheer brilliance and a exciting tribute to a man who never sold out.

This superb musical play must be seen in the United States and should be filmed.   Our people need to learn our history and understand the obligations we have to the world.

Thank you Mr Griffiths.

Afghanistan: Downfall of the Obama Administration?

As we know, Clinton accepted Obama's offer to become SOS and is now advocating more troops for Afghanistan with her friend Richard Holbrooke who is Obama's envoy to the area. 

She is opposed by Vice-President Joseph Biden whose many years as head of the Foreign Relations Committee should give him better insight into the no-win war and into better defining the parameters of our engagement.

The war is becoming increasingly unpopular with Americans, British and other NATO allies especially after the 'questionable' voting practices by Karzai's allies.

The military, as always, has the mess made by politicians, to sort. 


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