Tuesday, October 4

America's active help to al Qaeda

John Batchelor reported last night that TOW missiles and MANPADS are being smuggled into Syria from Bulgaria, a NATO member. Somehow I don't think the Bulgarian government has much interest in Syria, so the questions are which NATO member wants to arm al Qaeda with such hardware and has the ability to carry off that kind of gun-running operation. 

While John didn't take a guess the finger of accusation points straight at the United States of America, unless one wants to break up the monotony by pointing at the United Kingdom.

But it's John's discussion, in the same conversation, with Long War Journal's Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn about Afghanistan that will upset Americans. The country is just -- gone, gone to al Qaeda. AQ is in the process of taking over the Taliban. 

For details see John's extensive notes from the conversation at his show's schedule page, which lead off the notes on Hour One, or listen to the podcast of the conversation.  

So. All that American tax money, all those American troops maimed and killed. For what? Wall Street has a term for it; it's called churning. There's tremendous profit for American agencies and companies in bombing al Qaeda with one hand and assisting them with the other, provided the bombing is pretty useless. 

The Obama administration has been doing the same thing in Syria. While most Americans don't care about the country they should care enough to understand how the churning works because it's become the hallmark of U.S. foreign policy. Part 2 of Max Blumenthal's hair-raising investigative report on U.S. regime-change machinations in Syria is a primer on how the scam works.

But if Part 1 of Blumenthal's report was the stuff of nightmares, a barf bag is an essential aid for getting through Part 2. There is no relief anywhere in the report for readers with a delicate stomach, so picking at random from How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing U.S. Military Intervention and Regime Change in Syria:

The White Helmets’ founding fathers

Supporters of heightened U.S. military intervention in Syria routinely accuse President Barack Obama of not doing enough to support the forces fighting the Syrian government. James Traub, a leading liberal voice of interventionism, has repeatedly claimed over the past five years that the U.S. is “doing nothing” in Syria and paying a terrible price for it. But together with the $1 billion the CIA has spent on arming and training the rebels, a close look at the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent in Syria on projects including the White Helmets tells a different story.
Back in July 2012, a year after the Syrian conflict began, USAID began to lay the groundwork for its Syrian Regional Option. With American analysts excitedly proclaiming the imminent downfall of Bashar Al-Assad and his government, USAID rushed to “provide support to emerging civil authorities to build the foundation for a peaceful and democratic Syria,” according to a USAlD executive report from that year.
The grants were authorized by USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI), spearheading efforts to encourage what proponents like to call “democracy promotion” in countries like Cuba and Venezuela, but which amount to failed attempts at regime change. In Cuba, USAID’s OTI caused an embarrassing diplomatic incident in 2014 when it was exposed for funding a program aimed at spawning instability and undermining the government through a Purpose-built Twitter-like social network called Zunzuneo. [Pundita note: See Part 1 for a description of the Purpose company.]
Following a series of pilot programs carried out by a for-profit, Washington DC-based contractor called Development Alternatives International (DAI) at a cost of $290,756 to U.S. taxpayers, the OTI began setting up local councils in rebel-held territory in Syria. The idea was to establish a parallel governing structure in insurgent-held areas that could one day supplant the current government in Damascus. According to its 2012 USAID executive summary on the Syria Regional Option (PDF), “foreign extremist entities” already held sway across the country.
In March 2013, a former British infantry officer named James Le Mesurier turned up on the Turkish border of Syria. Le Mesurier was a veteran of NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo who moved into the lucrative private mercenary industry after his army days ended. But running security for the UAE’s oil and gas fields left him feeling unfulfilled with his career as a hired gun. He wanted to be a part of something more meaningful. So he became a lead participant in USAID’s Syria Regional Option.
Le Mesurier’s job was to organize a unique band of people who rush into freshly bombed buildings to extract survivors—while filming themselves—in rebel-held areas facing routine bombing by Syrian army aircraft. In 2014, he established Mayday Rescue, a non-profit based in Turkey that grew out of the Dubai-based "research, conflict transformation, and consultancy" firm known as Analysis, Research, and Knowledge, or ARK.

That group, which employed Le Mesurier while overseeing the White Helmets' training, has been sustained through grants from Western governments and the British Ministry of Defense. Mayday Rescue, for its part, received around $300,000 in initial funding from the U.S. Department of State to assist in training the first responders. Though they were known as Syrian Civil Defense, graduates of Le Mesurier’s course became popularly identified by the signature headgear they wore in the field: White Helmets.
Since being founded under the watch of Mayday Rescue, the White Helmets have received grants worth millions of dollars from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Japan and USAID. To date, USAID has donated $23 million to the White Helmets, a substantial sum for a civil defense project in a war zone.
In the Netflix documentary The White Helmets, Mayday Rescue is never identified as the administrator of the group, nor does Le Mesurier ever appear on screen. USAID and Chemonics, the for-profit contractor that supplies the group, are also curiously omitted from the film.
An unmonitored money dump?
USAID relies on Chemonics to deliver resources to the White Helmets. The company’s contract with the group is part of the $339.6 million committed by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.” This whopping sum of money supplements the reported $1 billion the CIA spent in the past year supplying and training the rebel forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian government, fueling a grinding civil war that necessitates the presence of thousands of first responders.
Based in downtown Washington DC, Chemonics has developed a checkered history across the world. In Haiti, the company squandered millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and delivered next to nothing for average Haitians while racking up a $2.5 million bonus for its CEO. Jake Johnston, a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, produced a series of reports exposing Chemonics' disastrous performance in Haiti. 
“After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Chemonics was the recipient of the largest single contract from the U.S. government. But despite the immediate and grave humanitarian needs, funding for Chemonics came from the Office of Transition Initiatives, the ‘political arm’ of USAID,” Johnston told me. “Rather than basing funding decisions on the needs on the ground, OTI provides funding based primarily on U.S. national interests and to help steer political transitions across the globe.”
Johnston pointed to a lack of independent monitoring procedures as one of USAID’s most substantial failures. “Unfortunately, it becomes extremely difficult to track where money spent by OTI and Chemonics actually ends up,” he said. “Programs are designed to be broad, flexible and fast, distributing millions of dollars to subcontractors with very little public oversight or accountability.”
In reports by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and USAID Inspector General, Chemonics was slammed for its incompetent performance and poor evaluation procedures, and was accused of wasting tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan.

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