From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.” First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia. As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would later put it, “On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the [Afghan] border [in 1979], I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.'” And with that in mind, the CIA (aided by the Saudis and Pakistanis) would arm, train, and advise extreme Islamist factions in Pakistan and dispatch them across the border to give the Soviets a taste of what Washington considered their own medicine, Vietnam-style.

It worked in a major way. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later call Afghanistan “the bleeding wound” and, in 1989, a decade after the Red Army had crossed that border, it would limp home to a fading empire on the edge of implosion. It was a classic Cold War triumph for Washington, the last needed before the Soviet Union stepped off the edge of history and disappeared… oh, except for one small thing: those well-armed extremists didn’t conveniently go away. It wasn’t mission accomplished. Not by half. A taste of Vietnam for the Russians turned out to be only the hors d’oeuvre for a main course still to come. And the rest of the disastrous history of what Chalmers Johnson would term “blowback,” even before it fully blew back not just on devastated Afghanistan, but on New York City and Washington, is painfully well known and not yet over. Not by half.

As a result, when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s. Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring. Now, another 13 years have passed. We’re three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case. The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 billion. In the meantime, the “democracy” that the U.S. promised to bring to the country has experienced a second deeply fraudulent presidential election, this time with a vote so contested and filled with questionable balloting practices that the final count couldn’t be released to the country. A new government was instead cobbled together under Washington’s ministrations in a way that bears no relation to the country’s constitution.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is rife with corruption of every imaginable sort and, worst of all, its only real success story, its bumper crop, is once again the opium poppy. In fact, last year the country raised a record opium crop, worth $3 billion, beating out the previous global record holder – Afghanistan – by 50%! On America’s watch, it is the planet’s preeminent narco-state. And keep in mind that, in line with the history of the last 13 years of the American occupation and garrisoning of the country (with a possible 10 more to go), the U.S. put $7.6 billion dollars into programs of every sort to eradicate poppy growing. So, once again, mission accomplished! TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars – The Untold Story, looks back at what those 13 years of “America’s Afghanistan” meant to the women whom the Bush administration so proudly “liberated” on invading the country. And given its success in poppy eradication, how do you think Washington did on that one? Read her article here.

Originally posted at TomDispatch.

The shooting of a prominent Jewish activist who frequented the sacred Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharifon a nearly daily basis by a Palestinian gunmen on October 29, 2014, is another cornerstone signaling a deteriorating state of affairs. Young Israeli Jewish nationalists declared that they would attempt to visit the Temple Mount tomorrow morning in response. This latest incident comes after another attack in which a Palestinian driver ran over an Israeli baby and a woman, while several days earlier an Israeli settler ran over a Palestinian girl in the Occupied West Bank.

Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions and contains residents of all three faiths. Ever since 1967, when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, it did not grant Arab residents of the city the same rights given to Jewish residents. Non-Jewish residents in the East are given residency permits but usually not full citizenship. They are often barred from expanding their homes as their families grow in number while they suffer from neglect by the municipal services in an attempt to "Judaize" the city.

The city’s poster site, the Temple Mount where the magnificent Al Aqsa Mosque is located, is occupied by Israeli soldiers who guard the entrances and exits and frequently raid the area once clashes break out. Israel limits access to the holy site to Palestinians below the age of 45, thereby restricting Palestinian Muslims’ freedom of religion. For many Palestinian Muslims, it is not easy to accept that that this holy site is under a foreign occupation. As Israel expands its building of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem it appears that a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as Jerusalem remains as elusive and ungraspable as a religious vision.

For Jews who are residents of Jerusalem a different situation emerges. While Israeli settlers are encouraged to settle Arab East Jerusalem, Israeli Jews are not allowed to pray in the Temple Mount due to Israel’s fear of instigating a religious war. While most religious Jews believe that entering the area is forbidden until the coming of the Messiah, a small yet adamant minority continues to visit the area in an attempt to reclaim it. In the eyes of Palestinian Muslims, this is as an attempt to forcibly grab a religious site with the goal of eventually destroying the Al Aqsa Mosque and rebuilding the Jewish temple in its stead. From the perspective of nationalist religious Jews, however, the Israeli government is not allowing them to practice their religion in a Jewish holy site while they may be blind to the fact that the presence of Israeli soldiers in the area is seen as a foreign occupation by Muslim worshippers. The situation is further compounded by the fact that Israel often prevents Palestinian Christians from visiting the Holy Sepulcher during Easter, reserving the area for international tourists.

Jerusalem is a holy city to the three monotheistic faiths and has rarely been a peaceful city. Yet the ongoing Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the lack of a conclusive Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement and Israel’s discriminatory policies in the holy city, only ensure that the crisis will deepen and deteriorate. As a first step towards resolving the current predicament, the rights of all citizens living in the city must be respected and granted unconditionally and the military occupation must come to an end. Otherwise, the holy city may witness yet another round of bloodshed and misery.

Joshua Tartakovsky is an Israeli-American independent journalist and a graduate of Brown University and LSE.

From the Institute for Public Accuracy:

A billboard challenging Amazon to fully disclose the terms of its $600 million contract to provide cloud computing services for the Central Intelligence Agency has been unveiled at a busy intersection near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

The billboard’s launch — asking “the $600 million question: What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?” — marks the escalation of a campaign by the online activist organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts.org. The groups are calling for accountability from Amazon in an effort to inform the public of serious privacy implications of the Amazon-CIA collaboration. (ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

The positioning of the 48-foot-wide billboard on Amazon’s doorstep at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street in Seattle follows a RootsAction petition calling for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to make a legally binding commitment to Amazon’s commercial customers that it will not provide customer data to the CIA.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. “The same company that stores vast quantities of customer records and even provides cloud storage services also stores the CIA’s surveillance data — yet the actual terms of the Amazon-CIA agreement are secret,” said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

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The White House has announced today that a long-standing plan to roll out a federal “Internet ID” authentication scheme that would be used to log in to all websites across the Internet will move forward, and the service will launch in six to twelve months.

“We simply have to kill off the password,” insisted White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. The initiative began in 2011, with an eye toward public-private plans, but seems now to be centering on wearable authentication bracelets that Americans would apparently get instead of passwords.

Private multiple site authentication systems like OpenID have been around for years, and logging in to websites with a Facebook or Twitter account is also becoming popular. The downside to this, from the administration’s perspective, seems to be that they don’t have direct control over the backbone of such a system.

Given the huge privacy implications of such a federally-run scheme, it’s hard to imagine eager adoption. Distrust in the wake of the NSA surveillance leaks, along with the federal government’s other fiascos in the webspace, like the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website, make this a recipe for monumental failure.

Details are scant, and in the past the administration insisted the program would be “purely voluntary,” though if the goal is really to “kill off the password” nationwide, it clearly will not remain voluntary for long, and full-scale government control over your ability to log in to websites seems to be the ultimate goal.

The following is being released by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy:

A federal lawsuit seeks immediate release of a closely held government report about how American branches of Israeli charitable and educational institutes fund secret nuclear weapons research and development programs.

An unclassified 1987 study conducted for the Department of Defense titled "Current Technology Issues in Israel" discovered Technion University technicians developing nuclear missile re-entry vehicles and working at the Dimona nuclear weapons production facility. Hebrew University computer scientists working at the Soreq nuclear facilities were "developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs." Israel’s Weizmann Institute "studied high energy physics and hydrodynamics needed for nuclear bomb design, and worked on lasers to enrich uranium, the most advanced method for making the material dropped on Hiroshima in 1945" say sources attributed to the report cited in the lawsuit.

IRmep filed suit for the report in the DC District Court as part of a public-interest drive to obtain long overdue enforcement of the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act. The laws prohibit U.S. foreign aid to nuclear weapons states such as Israel that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A recent Google Consumer Survey (PDF) reveals that despite longstanding Israeli and US government gag orders on publicly discussing the arsenal, 63.9 percent of Americans now believe Israel possesses nuclear weapons. 60.7 percent of Americans oppose sending the largest share (9 percent) of the US foreign aid budget to Israel.

Israel’s Weizmann Institute, Technion, and Hebrew University raise substantial tax-exempt charitable funding through affiliates in the United States creating a "tax gap" that must be financed by individual American taxpayers. According to their most recent IRS filings, American branches of the three organizations raise a combined $172 million in annual US tax-exempt funding. IRmep’s "request for determination" filings with the IRS reveal that secret foreign nuclear weapons development has no recognized US tax-deductible "social welfare" purpose.

Defendants Department of Defense, the DC US Attorney Office and Attorney General have until October 30 to respond to IRmep’s public interest lawsuit demanding release of the explosive report. The Center for Policy and Law Enforcement is a unit of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington. Inquiries about the lawsuit or opinion poll results may be directed to Grant F. Smith at info@irmep.org or 202-342-7325.

Citing “law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case,” Michael Isikoff reports that the government has identified “the second leaker” – a source of information on drone targeting and terrorist watchlisting for The Intercept.

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called second leaker who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

Because it raises questions about whether the Administration has the “appetite” to prosecute another source for journalists, the article seems designed to generate pressure to do just that – to get Congress (among others) to demand that the Justice Department prosecute this source.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the USintelligence community that top Justice Department officials – stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases – may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.”

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