Processing Distortion with Peter B. Collins: Drone Whistleblowers Warn of Blowback

Peter B. Collins Presents Cian Westmoreland

Four veterans of America’s drone warfare operations have gone public, warning that our use of weaponized drones—and especially the large numbers of deaths to innocent civilians—has and will produce blowback from the populations living under coverage of American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s). Cian Westmoreland helped set up the communications networks that gave the US military control over airspace in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his unit was given a certificate crediting them with “200+ enemy kills”. Westmoreland isn’t proud of that, and wants Americans to discuss and debate the use of drones and their true impact on the operators and their targets.

*Cian Westmoreland served in the US Air Force in the 606th Air Control Squadron and the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron in Kandahar, Afghanistan. You can read his essays here and here.

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The New Great Game Round-Up: June 4, 2015

Saakashvili's Appointment Spells More Trouble for Transnistria, Tajikistan's War on Islam Backfires as OMON Commander Joins ISIS & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

The disappearance of Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, commander of Tajikistan's Interior Ministry paramilitary squad (OMON), has caused a great stir in the Central Asian country. Tajik media reports suggested early on that Halimov had traveled to Syria in order to join the West's beloved terrorist army ISIS but his family dismissed these reports as "baseless" and portrayed him as a dedicated policeman and father of eight. While his brother insisted that Halimov had never spoken about ISIS, Asia-Plus quoted a friend as saying that he had turned into an ISIS fanatic. The story got even more confusing when Tajik law enforcement agencies denied a report by news agency TojNews claiming that Halimov had been arrested in Turkey while trying to cross into Syria with a fake passport. As the speculations were getting out of hand, ISIS eventually cleared up the mystery of Halimov's disappearance by releasing a new shiny propaganda video featuring none other than Tajikistan's missing OMON commander:

Missing Tajik Police Commander Appears On Internet, Says Has Joined IS A top Tajik police commander who has been missing for weeks has reappeared on the Internet, claiming that he has joined the Islamic State (IS) militant group in protest at official restrictions on religious observance back home.

In a video posted on YouTube, Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, the commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's Special Forces, known as OMON, singled out Tajikistan's crackdown on Islamic dress and limitations on public prayer as reasons for his radicalization.

Halimov, a father of eight, says that Tajik labor migrants "must stop serving infidels" in Russia and join IS in Syria and Iraq in order to establish Shari'a law in other countries, including Tajikistan.

Tajikistan's War on Islam Backfires as OMON Commander Joins ISIS

After vowing to bring jihad to Tajikistan and Russia, Halimov also added a threat for the United States: "We will come to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you." The OMON commander turned ISIS fighter pointed out that he is well-prepared for future battles thanks to the counterterrorism training that he received on American soil: "Listen, you American pigs: I've been to America three times. I saw how you train soldiers to kill Muslims." State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala confirmed to CNN that Halimov participated in five counterterrorism training courses in the U.S. and in Tajikistan, through the Department of State's Diplomatic Security/Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. While much of the media coverage focused on Halimov's training by Blackwater and his references to the U.S., some analysts suggested that his threats to Russia might be more significant. But one thing is certain: the radicalization of the OMON commander was driven by Tajikistan's repression against religious activities, which is now reaching grotesque proportions:

Tajiks Probe Fake Permits For Hijab, Beards Tajik prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected fraud in connection with the sale of bogus permits to unsuspecting people hoping to avoid falling afoul of official efforts to combat religious extremism.

The "permits" -- which grant permission to Muslims to wear long beards in the case of men, or head scarves (hijabs) in the case of women -- purport to be from the State Committee for Religion and Traditions and Rites Regulations.

Officials at the Prosecutor-General's Office told RFE/RL on May 18 that investigations are targeting the "repeated forgery of documents" and the "incitement of religious, ethnic, racial, and social hatred."

In addition to targeting hijabs and beards, the Tajik government is now mulling a ban on names which sound too Arabic. This won't do much to calm the waves as more and more people question President Rahmon's ongoing secularization campaign. Halimov's defection to ISIS shows that radicalization of the population is a major problem and by no means limited to Tajikistan's poorer citizens, as is often said, but banning hijabs, beards and Arabic names is clearly not the solution. Shutting down schools affiliated with the shadowy movement of CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen makes much more sense. At the beginning of this year, the Tajik authorities announced that they are going to review the licenses of Gülen's schools and the review didn't end well for the Gülen movement. According to Tajikistan's Minister of Education and Science, the schools will be be shut down and reopened as state-run schools with different names. After taking the first step in the right direction, the Tajik regime should also consider taking measures against jihadi TV channels brainwashing the population:

Undeclared information war going on against Tajikistan

Several radical Islamic TV channels now broadcast to Tajikistan from abroad, Tajik journalist Nourali Davlat told Asia-Plus in an interview.

“These are Ahli Bayt, Tavhid, Fadak and Nour and Visoli Haq joined them this spring,” said the journalist. “These TV channels are engaged in brainwashing the youth in the Islamic world, especially in the Persian-speaking countries – Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.”

“Meanwhile, Afghan newspaper 8 Subh says this radical Islamic TV channels broadcasting to Afghanistan and Tajikistan have been established by Arabic sheikhs from the Persian Gulf countries,” said the journalist. “According to the newspaper, the Arabic sheikhs intend to spread war from Afghanistan to Central Asia’s countries. For this, the radical Islamic TV channels use problems existing in relationships between the governments and Muslim communities, in particular the problem of wearing beard or hijab, which is widely discussed in Tajik society.”

The democracy-loving petro-monarchies in the Gulf use every opportunity to find new comrade-in-arms in the fight for freedom and democracy in Syria, or wherever Washington deems it necessary. Halimov was not the first Tajik to join the terrorist gangs in Syria and he won't be the last one. Another high-profile Tajik fighter, Nusrat Nazarov, who came to prominence after claiming that 2,000 Tajiks are fighting for ISIS, was reportedly killed in Syria just recently. Tajikistan's Prosecutor General's Office has already opened criminal cases against 417 citizens on charges of mercenary activities. Halimov is the latest addition to the list. The defection of the former OMON commander highlights Tajikistan's struggle with extremism and it comes at the worst possible time considering that the country is currently trying to prevent a spillover of violence from Afghanistan. Dushanbe has lifted the ban on entry of foreign citizens to Gorno-Badakhshan but the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border remains volatile:

A joint military exercise conducted for Tajik and Russian servicemen in Gorno Badakhshan

A joint military exercise with a final phase featuring live-fire mission has been conducted for units of the Tajik national army and the 201st Russian military base in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on May 21.

In connection with the possible deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, Russia pays a special attention to strengthening its borders with Central Asia’s nations and helps train personnel for the national armies of the Central Asian countries, the Russian Central Military District press center was cited by RIA Novosti as saying.

Renewed Hope for Afghan Peace Talks

Strengthened by the arrival of foreign fighters who were forced to leave Pakistan due to a large-scale military operation, the Taliban and other groups have been making inroads in northern Afghanistan. The neighboring Central Asian countries are keeping a very close eye on the situation as NATO-trained Afghan forces are struggling to fend off the insurgents. China is equally concerned. This year's spring offensive by the Taliban is particularly noteworthy for the strong involvement of foreign fighters. According to eyewitness reports, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens and Uyghurs are involved in the fighting. Beijing has been trying for months to restart the stalled Afghan peace talks and the presence of Uyghur fighters in northern Afghanistan is certainly an extra motivation for the Chinese to get the Afghan chaos under control. China's efforts to bring Kabul and the Taliban to the negotiation table have been undermined by Obama's decision to slow the "withdrawal" but Beijing won't give up that easily:

Taliban and Afghan Peace Officials Have Secret Talks in China

A peace envoy from Afghanistan met in western China last week with former Taliban officials with close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, in an attempt to keep open the possibility of formal Afghan peace talks, officials said Monday.

The meeting, hosted by China and, in part, organized by Pakistani officials, took place Wednesday and Thursday in Urumqi, capital of the western region of Xinjiang, which has mountainous borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan and is home to many Muslims.

The fact that China agreed to host the talks was the latest sign that Beijing is encouraging peace efforts and an end to Afghanistan’s 13-year civil war. In late 2014, two Afghan Taliban officials came to Beijing with Pakistani officials to discuss peace moves.

Although Beijing denied any knowledge of the talks and the Taliban rejected the reports as "propaganda," it is fair to assume that talks did take place and that they were brokered by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on behalf of the Chinese government. In recent months, China has been putting a lot of pressure on its all-weather friend to crack down on foreign fighters in North Waziristan and play a constructive role in the Afghan peace talks. It remains to be seen whether China's efforts to stabilize the region will be successful but they might have contributed to a rapprochement between Kabul and Islamabad. A few weeks ago, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's ISI signed a intelligence-sharing deal despite lots of opposition. Opponents of the agreement include NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, former President Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan's Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah. Nevertheless, President Ashraf Ghani got his way:

Afghan Unity Government Split On Intelligence-Sharing Deal

Cracks in Afghanistan's unity government are appearing following the signing of a controversial intelligence deal with neighbor and archrival Pakistan.

According to an inside source, the divide over the memorandum of understanding signed this week between the two countries' spy agencies is evident at the highest levels of the Afghan government.

The source -- a government official who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity -- said Abdullah considers the document "unacceptable" and has made his opposition known to Ghani and senior security officials.

Since many other people share Abdullah's opinion, Ghani came under fire at home for selling out to Pakistan. In order to silence the critics, the Afghan President quickly wrote a letter to Islamabad demanding that the Pakistanis take stronger action against the Taliban. But behind the scenes Kabul and Islamabad are apparently pulling together. NED-sponsored Afghan newspaper Hasht-e-Subh quoted a source as saying that the Afghan government is going to issue 210 political passports to Taliban leaders. During the recent visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Kabul, it was reportedly agreed that the Taliban will be allowed to reopen their political office and that some of the Taliban leaders will be removed from the United Nations blacklist. One of the first steps is exchanging the Pakistani passports that they are currently using for Afghan passports. As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, peace talks with the Taliban are probably the only way to stop the violence:

Wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan leave 150,000 dead, US study estimates

The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan have left nearly 150,000 soldiers and civilians dead since 2001, a new US study estimates.

Another 162,000 have been wounded since the US-led offensive that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, says the study by the Costs of War project, based at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The war in Afghanistan is intensifying rather than moving toward an end, it added, as the number of deaths and injuries has increased significantly in recent years.

Saakashvili's Appointment Spells More Trouble for Transnistria

Although the U.S. and its allies have not achieved any of their objectives in Afghanistan, except for boosting the opium production, they are still hailing the Afghan war as a major success. When Georgian civil society activist turned Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli recently visited the war-torn country during her first foreign trip, she congratulated the Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan for proving that "Georgia struggles for global security alongside with the civilized world." These are of course exactly the words one would expect from a Rose Revolution veteran and Soros-approved politician. Khidasheli picked up where her predecessors left off and she will certainly do her best to lead Georgia into NATO. Meanwhile, her former Rose Revolution ally Mikhail Saakashvili is dominating the headlines once again. The disgraced Georgian ex-president has spent a lot of time in Kiev since the Euromaidan protests. Lately, he has been advising President Petro Poroshenko, presumably on how to start a war with Russia, but now he can finally do this himself - one more time:

Ex-Georgian president, wanted at home, becomes governor in Ukraine

Georgia's former President Mikhail Saakashvili, wanted by his country's prosecutors for embezzlement, abuse of power and politically-motivated attacks, has been appointed governor of Ukraine's Odessa region.

President Petro Poroshenko personally appointed Saakashvili to the post, saying the former Georgian leader is "a friend of Ukraine." In a statement at Saakashvili's nomination in Odessa, Poroshenko said the two had known each other for 25 years, since university days.

According to Poroshenko, Saakashvili "has proven with deeds, not words that he can not only give birth to creative ideas, but also put them into practice." He added Georgia's ex-president had changed his country "in the direction of transparency, effectiveness, anti-corruption, appeal for foreign investors, fair justice, protection of citizen's rights, democracy," something Poroshenko "would like to see very much" in Odessa.

"Delusional" does not even begin to describe Poroshenko's statement. Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Odessa is crazy, to say the least. It came as a huge surprise because the former Georgian President had rejected previous offers to take a post in the government saying that he doesn't want to give up his Georgian citizenship. He reiterated this only a few weeks ago but he suddenly changed his mind. This begs the question of whether Saakashvili had a change of heart or whether his friends in Washington told him to take the governor post. The timing of Saakashvili's appointment is curious. Some have suggested that Poroshenko is trying to reduce the influence of his rival Igor Kolomoisky but there might be more to this story. Odessa Oblast borders Moldova and more importantly Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. Only a few days before Saakashvili was named as governor of Odessa, Ukraine and Moldova began restricting Russian access to Transnistria:

Russian Troops In Transnistria Squeezed By Ukraine And Moldova

Ukraine and Moldova are restricting Russian military access to the breakaway territory of Transnistria, where Russia maintains about 1,500 troops.

Last week Ukraine's parliament voted to suspend military cooperation with Russia. And while much cooperation was of course already suspended, throughout the current crisis Russia has been able to use Ukrainian territory to supply its troops in Transnistria, a slender territory on Ukraine's western border. No longer.

Further complicating Russia's predicament, on May 25 the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Moldova has quietly been arresting and deporting Russian soldiers who try to fly into Moldova en route to Transnistria. Moldova hasn't stopped all Russian soldiers from traveling through its territory -- only those not in the Moldova-supported peacekeeping mission, and only those who don't give a month's notice that they will be traveling to Moldova. (Of the roughly 1,500 Russian troops stationed in Moldova, about 1,000 are in the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova, which Moldova does not support; the rest are peacekeepers regulated by the Joint Control Commission, which includes authorities from Moldova, Transnistria, and Russia.)

As The Saker and others have pointed out, there is a very real danger that Washington and its lackeys will try to provoke a conflict with Russia by squeezing Transnistria. A columnist in the Russian newspaper Izvestia warned a few days ago that Russia "seriously faces the prospect of a repeat of 08.08.08, now around Transnistria." Who better to run the crucial Ukrainian region of Odessa at this moment in time than the man who started the Russo-Georgian War in 2008? And Saakashvili is not alone. Ukrainian media reported that he will be joined by his former Justice Minister Zurab Adeishvili, who is also wanted in Georgia. Adeishvili was reportedly appointed as chief prosecutor of Odessa. A few months ago, Tbilisi asked Kiev to extradite both Saakashvili and Adeishvili, to no avail. The Georgian authorities didn't object to Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Odessa but they heavily criticized the former president for renouncing his citizenship and they will certainly cancel it - sooner or later:

‘We’ll cancel Saakashvili’s citizenship when we want’

The Georgian government is not in a hurry to go through with the formal procedures that will strip ex-President Mikheil Saakashvilli of his native citizenship after being appointed governor of Odessa and acquiring Ukrainian citizenship.

“Let this issue hang over his head like a sword of Damocles. This is a political decision and we will make it when it is necessary,” Justice Minister Thea Tusulukiani said. In January Ukraine appointed as its Deputy Justice Minister former Georgian official Gia Getsadze, who served on various high-ranking positions in ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration till mid-2005.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall- Episode 96

Central Banking and the Madness of Markets

EPPWhat is the purpose of central banks? How do they function, whose interest do they serve? How have they evolved over the years? Commonly referred to as 'lenders of last resort,' they are now also known as 'market makers of last resort,' once subjected to the 'fiscal dominance' of state authority, they are now under the 'financial dominance' of banks. What does the central banking system tell us about financial markets, about the global economy? What are the common criticisms of the central banking system, and are they valid, flawed, or irrelevant? This episode does not posit to have the answers, but more to begin asking the questions.

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Podcast Show #96: Austerity is the Consensus of Both Parties

The Boiling Frogs Show Presents Eric Draitser

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Eric Draitser joins us to define and discuss austerity, what austerity looks like in the US, the fact that austerity is the consensus of both parties, why an anti-austerity movement is essential in the US, and helps us connect what's happening here to Greece, Italy, and Spain. Mr. Draitser talks about the deception of Obama on austerity-selling out his base and all progressives, Romney & Ryan as the bringers of death for many, possible solutions-including his recent activities organizing an anti-austerity movement in New York City, and more!

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Here is our guest Eric Draitser unplugged!

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draitserEric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. He is a partner producer at Boiling Frogs Post, and the editor and host of StopImperialism.com and the Stop Imperialism podcast. He has provided analysis for Russia Today, Dr. Webster Tarpley’s World Crisis Radio and other programs.

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