North Korea’s leader holds fire on Guam missile launch
North Korea’s leader received a report from his army on plans to fire missiles towards Guam and said he will watch the actions of the US before making a decision to fire, North Korea’s official news agency said on Tuesday.
Kim Jong-un ordered the army to be ready to launch should he make the decision for military action.
North Korea said last week it was finalising plans to launch four missiles into the waters near the US Pacific territory of Guam, and its army would report the attack plan to Kim and wait for his order.
Kim, who inspected the command of North Korea’s army on Monday, examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with army officers, the official KCNA agency said.
“He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared,” it said.
The DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea’s threat to attack near Guam prompted a surge in tensions in the region last week, with US President Donald Trump warning he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it did so.
Christopher Hill: US and North Korea in a ‘propaganda spat’
Kim said the US should make the right choice “in order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean Peninsula”.
The visit to the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force marks Kim’s first public appearance in about two weeks.
Trump spoke to Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, late on Monday to discuss North Korea.
“President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or actions taken by North Korea against the United States or its allies, South Korea and Japan,” a White House statement said early Tuesday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday there would be no military action without Seoul’s consent and his government would prevent war by all means.
“Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by South Korea and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea,” Moon said in a speech to commemorate the anniversary of the nation’s liberation from Japanese military rule in 1945.
“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.
North Korea is angry about new UN sanctions over its expanding nuclear weapons and missile programme and annual military drills between the US and South Korea beginning later this month that North Korea condemns as invasion rehearsals.
Guam braces for planned North Korea missile strike
A Guam official said he was “ecstatic” as North Korea appeared to back away from its threat.
“There doesn’t appear to be any indication, based on what we’re hearing, that there will be any missiles attacking in the near future or in the distant future,” Lieutenant-Governor Ray Tonorio said.
Jim Mattis, US defence secretary, warned on Monday the US military would be prepared to intercept a missile fired by North Korea if it was headed to Guam.
Mattis said that the US military would know the trajectory of a missile fired by North Korea within moments and would “take it out” if it looked like it would hit the US Pacific territory.
“The bottom line is, we will defend the country from an attack. For us that is war,” Mattis said.
Richard Broinowski, former Australian ambassador to Seoul, told Al Jazeera from Sydney on Tuesday that there was no real threat of war.
“Kim Jong-un is not stupid. He’s led his country for a number of years now, and he’s done well. There’s a lot of bluster and hyperbole,” he said. “On the part of the US, we have a president who is unschooled and unskilled in diplomacy. But he’s surrounded by people who are.”
He also said that the solution was direct talks without conditions between the US and North Korea.
“It’s been tried before and it needs to be tried again,” said Broinowski.
By Adam Fleming Petty
Global Research, November 09, 2016
The Intercept 12 September 2016
US officials: ‘Dirty’ Mideast intel partly to blame for CIA weapons landing in the wrong hands
By Lucas Tomlinson
Published June 27, 2016
Weapons supplied by the CIA for Syrian rebel training “routinely end up in the wrong hands,” partly because of corruption among those rebels but also due to corrupt Jordanian intelligence teams, multiple U.S. officials close to the CIA program told Fox News on Monday.
The officials said Jordanian intelligence services aim to use the Islamic State terror group to push back on growing Iranian influence in the region. “Every Middle Eastern intelligence service is dirty,” one official told Fox News.
“Jordan’s biggest enemy is anything Shia,” an official said.
The New York Times broke the story. A CIA spokesman reached by Fox News wouldn’t comment.
Iran’s population is 90-95 percent dominated by the Shia branch of Islam. Iran has been accused of funding Shia rebels across the Middle East, starting other flashpoints in the region outside Syria including Yemen, drawing a Sunni-led coalition led by Saudi Arabia to use military force to stop the rebels known as Houthis.
Iran and its proxy force in Lebanon, Hezbollah, have supported the Syrian government since the start of its civil war five years ago. Iran has helped move Shia groups from as far away as Afghanistan into Syria to help shore up the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Russia has also deployed military forces since late last year to help Assad’s military.
Despite pledges of support and backing from Jordan’s King Abdullah II, there was concern among officials in the Jordanian Armed Forces and their intelligence agency that lending too much outward support against ISIS could increase instability inside Jordan, as some inside the kingdom saw ISIS in a more sympathetic light, one U.S. official said. “There is a chance the more we push JAF [Jordan Armed Forces] into the fight, the more we could actually be undermining Jordan’s security.”
The official suggested that a recent Russian airstrike killing U.S.-backed rebels in southern Syria, near the border with Jordan, might have been tipped off by Jordanian intelligence, but lacked concrete proof.
“I think it is safe to say that there are JAF members that correspond with Da’esh [ISIS] and the attack on [U.S.-backed rebel base al-Tanf] is likely a warning for JAF to take a step back. Senior leaders most certainly know there are sympathizers in the ranks who will want to push or cancel any future missions against Da’esh,” he said.
Many in the region see ISIS, a Sunni group, as standing up against Shia influencers, the official summarized.
While neither official reached by Fox News could confirm that U.S.-supplied arms have wound up on the black market, one said that a “majority” of U.S.-supplied weapons was sold or gifted to other rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, including Islamist groups with questionable human rights records.
The New York Times reported that President Obama authorized the covert action against the Assad regime in April 2013, a fact not disputed by those close to the program. The aid to rebel groups by the CIA helped tip the scales in the favor of the rebel forces, which drew Russia to intervene in late September, according to officials.
The Pentagon runs a separate “train and equip” mission mostly out of Turkey that has been by all accounts a failure. The former head of U.S. Central Command told lawmakers in September that only “four of five” U.S.-trained rebels remained.
Adding to the problems establishing a fighting force to counter the Assad regime or ISIS, Russia has been accused of “deliberately” bombing U.S.-backed rebels since Russian jets and helicopter gunships arrived late last year.
Earlier this month, Russian Su-34 attack jets bombed Pentagon and CIA-backed rebels despite calls from the U.S. military to halt the bombing. Russia bombed the rebels in southern Syria twice, the second time after a call from the U.S. military to the Russians was ignored.
The U.S. military had sent jets to the area where the Russians were bombing, but left the area to refuel when the Russians returned to continue striking U.S.-backed forces, Fox News was told.
Barack Obama ended opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan in 2009, effectively green lighting Afghan opium production and the Afghan heroin trade. By 2010, all US efforts to eradicate Afghan opium ceased. It has been US policy to allow Afghan opium growing and the heroin trade since. US heroin deaths tripled from 3,036 in 2010 to 10,574 in 2014 as a result.
Vanda Felbab-Brown at the Brookings Institution. a liberal think tank that often writes reports supporting the Obama Administration, penned “No Easy Exit: Drugs and Counternarcotics Strategies in Afghanistan” in advance of the April 2016 UN Summit on Drugs (UNGASS). No way out for Uncle Sam is more like it. The report is notable for what it omits, which is any mention of the heroin epidemic, the deadliest illicit drug epidemic in history, or any of the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since Obama took office.
The Bush Administration had an Afghan opium eradication program in effect, carried out by DynCorp. Obama didn’t renew DynCorp’s eradication contracts, effectively ending all US efforts to eradicate opium. (Afghan government eradication efforts in 2014, resulted in 1.1% of the Afghan opium crop being eradicated. The NY Times reported that the Afghan government will no longer eradicate opium crops as of 2016.) Heroin is made from opium.
Ms. Felbab-Brown might as well have said “let them eat cake” to the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since 2009, the millions now hooked on heroin and the tens of millions living in terror because of loved ones now hooked on this deadly poison.
US policy changed to permit opium growing and the heroin trade during Obama’s first year in office, as a way to minimize US troop casualties in Afghanistan. And to maximize US civilian casualties in the US from heroin.
The CIA defines blowback as the ‘consequences at home of operations overseas.’
Since ending eradication efforts, US heroin deaths shot up from 3,036 (2010) to 5,925 (2012) to 10,574 in 2014. The heroin death toll continues to shoot up as does the number of heroin users, from the 1,500,000 US heroin users in 2010 to 4,500,000 users in 2015. As heroin deaths under Obama tripled, so has heroin usage.
There were 7,600 hectares of Afghan opium poppies when the War in Afghanistan began in 2001. (1 hectare = 2.5 US acres.) In 2009, there were 123,000 hectares. By 2014, Afghan poppy fields spread to 224,000 hectares resulting in a bumper crop of 6,400 tons of opium, enough to make 640,000 kilograms of heroin, thanks to Obama. Opium yields far greater profit than foods like wheat or corn, so opium production will continue to rise without serious eradication efforts.
Afghanistan is by far the number one producer of opium and heroin. Total worldwide opium production was 7,554 tons in 2014, of which 85% came from Afghanistan. The remaining 1,154 tons are primarily from Myanmar, Laos, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.
Mexico produced 162 tons of opium in 2014, enough to make 16,200 kilograms of heroin. An average heroin addict takes 0.15 kg of heroin a year, meaning Mexican heroin could only supply 108,000 heroin addicts. Heroin from Mexico cannot supply even 10% of US heroin demand.
Yet the DEA claims most heroin in the US is from Mexico. I asked Barbara Carreno and Russell Baer at the DEA questions like how such a mathematical impossibility was told by the DEA. They dodged many questions, claiming only 4% of heroin is from Afghanistan and the rest is mostly from Mexico. Carreno and Baer acknowledged 90% of heroin in Canada is from Afghanistan, but wouldn’t acknowledge that the USA has a border with Canada, only with Mexico.
We’re getting hit with the largest ever illicit drug epidemic in American history and the DEA is asleep at the wheel.
USA’s now #1 for heroin use. US heroin demand is 415,000 kilograms a year. The whole world, except Afghanistan, could only produce 115,400 kilograms of heroin (2014), not enough for even a third of the mushrooming US demand. Most heroin in the US is coming from US-occupied Afghanistan, there is no other mathematical possibility. There is no other physical possibility.
Carreno and Baer stated “we are a small press office with many queries to answer, and your line of questioning is expanding. I’m sorry to have to say that we will not able to assist you further.” I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about what the DEA has been doing (if anything) about Afghan opium and heroin.
I also asked the DEA people if they know how bad the heroin epidemic’s gotten or have any sense of urgency about it, they dodged these questions too. An American now gets killed every 32 minutes by heroin. Carreno and Baer seemed like they couldn’t care less and they don’t feel like answering most questions asked.
Perhaps the DEA people would answer questions (or plead the 5th) at Congressional Hearings.
Basic math shows that Mexico cannot produce enough heroin for even 1/10th of US demand. Besides 4,500,000 American heroin users (2,500,000 addicts and 2,000,000 casual users) and 10,000+ US heroin deaths a year, are the tens of millions of loved ones and neighbors living through hell because of this biggest ever drug epidemic in history.
One New Yorker summed it up “with heroin addicts on every block now, it’s like a zombie invasion.” One small American town has 190 HIV+ people due to IV narcotics use. The War in Afghanistan is the longest ever war in US history and the “collateral damage” of Americans being killed by Afghan heroin is shooting up.
Afghanistan has been known as the Graveyard of the Empires since Alexander the Great. Afghan heroin may yet destroy the American Empire. Since Obama green lighted Afghan opium and heroin, crime’s been shooting up in many places like Baltimore, considered to be ground zero for the heroin epidemic and the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the nation.
False narratives have proliferated recently about the heroin epidemic. One such narrative is ‘the Mexicans did it.’ Mexico, producing enough opium for 16.2 tons of heroin (2014), has enough for only 4% of current US heroin demand. The Mexicans didn’t do the heroin epidemic. (Colombia produced 2 tons of heroin in 2014, not enough for even 1% of the US heroin market.)
Another false narrative, ‘the doctors did it’ alleges patients got hooked on painkillers then turned to heroin. Not true. Only 3.6% of patients taking narcotic painkillers go on to take heroin.
‘Myanmar did it.’ Myanmar, a distant 2nd for heroin production, produced enough opium for 67 tons of heroin (2014), not enough for even 1/4th of US demand. Plus, Myanmar’s heroin goes to Asia, Australia and Europe. Not US.
“Genetics did it” which says ‘10% of people are prone to addiction, so genetics is the reason for the heroin epidemic.’ Human genetics hasn’t changed much the past 15 years. What has changed is Afghan opium production shot up from 7,600 hectares (2001) to 224,000 hectares (2014), a 29-fold increase.
‘Treatment is the solution.’ Treatment is a few fingers in a dyke that has sprung millions of holes. As Afghan heroin floods in, heroin use shoots up.
In Afghanistan, where heroin’s been as readily available as Coca-Cola since 2009, 8% of the people are addicted to narcotics. Following the footsteps of US policy in Afghanistan would mean 8% of the US population, 25,500,000 Americans, becoming addicted, which would be more like a zombie victory than a zombie invasion and would solidify Obama’s legacy as Heroin Dealer In Chief.
‘Decriminalize’ and “marijuana is like heroin” are additional narratives, about marijuana legalization in some places and Portugal’s decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs in 2001. Heroin’s not marijuana and trafficking tons of heroin is not personal possession. Apples and oranges.
Heroin is physically addictive within 30 days of daily use. Heroin kills 40x more than cocaine does and over 100x more than marijuana. Just as there are vast differences between swallowing a pint-size OJ, a Heineken or 3 liters of rum, so too there are vast differences between drugs. Decriminalizing personal possession of drugs is not comparable to decriminalizing trafficking tons of heroin.
Heroin traffickers no doubt want decriminalization instead of life imprisonment just as the makers of the world’s #1 narco state, Afghanistan, want people confused and distracted away from what they did.
The latest DEA narratives: ‘W-18 did it’ and ‘heroin deaths are over-reported’. Synthetics like W-18 are a drop in the overflowing heroin epidemic bucket. Heroin breaks down to morphine in the body within hours, gets recorded by American coroners as morphine (prescription drug) overdoses, resulting in under-reporting of heroin deaths by as much as 100%. The real US heroin death count in 2014 was closer to 20,000 than to 10,574.
It’s as if the recent media flurry of false narratives and distracting narratives have been to try to confuse and distract people away from the most lethal ever illicit drug epidemic (the heroin epidemic 2009-present), Afghanistan (source of 85% of all heroin) and how the heroin is getting to US. It appears as if certain elements within the US government are afraid of the epidemic of Afghan heroin being discussed and Congressional Hearings, sanctions (or worse) for what they did in making Afghanistan into the deadliest narco state ever in human history.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until Fall 2001. In mid-2000, the Taliban outlawed opium, within a year it was all but gone, from 91,000 hectares (1999) to 7,600 hectares (2001). Since the Taliban effectively outlawed opium within a year, then why hasn’t the latest US-supported Afghan regime and US Administration done the same?
If serious efforts are not made to eradicate heroin at it’s source, then the heroin epidemic will get worse.
Besides prioritizing eradication first, which will take a year if done in earnest, there are additional solutions.
Second, outlaw precursor chemicals, like acetic anhydride, needed to make heroin from opium. The chemicals to make methaqualone were outlawed in the 1980s. Methaqualone overdoses then stopped.
Third, US government and government-chartered planes can be searched.
Fourth, buying opium for medical morphine in the meantime, until eradication is complete, will alleviate this surge of heroin shocking and awing America.
Fifth, millions of addicts need treatment. There aren’t enough inpatient beds or outpatient seats for even 1/8th of the surge in narcotic users. $25 billion constructs 100,000 inpatient treatment beds and $10 billion annually provides another million seats in outpatient treatment. So far, Obama has ponied up less than 1% of the money needed for treatment, only $0.116 billion, for the heroin disaster he made. Day late, dollar short.
Sixth, decriminalizing personal possession in order to focus on big heroin traffickers would result in lower overall prison costs and fewer non-violent drug users serving expensive lengthy sentences.
US government agencies and departments involved in Afghanistan, 2000 to present, can come clean and tell all about Afghan opium and heroin.
One giant step forward would be Congressional Hearings to determine facts:
1)how did Afghan opium surge from 7,600 hectares to 224,000 hectares, 2) why did annual heroin deaths surge from 1,779 to 10,574 on up,
3)how did the Taliban effectively eradicate Afghan opium within a year, 4) why hasn’t the current Administration done likewise,
5)what exactly have the DEA, CIA and DoD been doing about Afghan opium and heroin, and
6) why did Obama green light the Afghan opium trade and heroin trade leading to the most lethal illicit drug epidemic ever.
The UN has been given the power to hold inquiries focusing on getting honest answers to honest questions and voting on censure or sanctions against the US government and current Afghanistan regime until opium is eradicated as it was under the Taliban in 2001.
Obama green lighted the end of US eradication efforts against Afghan opium in 2009, which green lighted the Afghan opium and heroin trade, which green lighted the deadliest illicit drug epidemic ever. The 10,000+ Americans getting killed every year by heroin, that’s just “collateral damage” to “the little people” from the lingering War in Afghanistan, Mr. President?
Eradicate the Afghan opium crops, stat, the way the Taliban eradicated the Afghan opium crops, within a year. No need to re-invent the wheel on this one.
In the 13 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the country’s opium production has doubled, now accounting for about 90 percent of the world’s supply. To learn more, we are joined by Matthieu Aikins, a Kabul-based journalist whose latest report for Rolling Stone magazine explores Afghanistan’s heroin boom. “What has happened in Afghanistan over the last 13 years has been the flourishing of a narco-state that is really without any parallel in history,” Aikins says. “This is something that is extraordinary, that is catastrophic, that has grave danger for the future and yet there has been virtually no discussion of in recent years.”
AMY GOODMAN: As the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan officially concluded its combat mission Sunday, 13 years after it started in 2001, ending the longest war in U.S. history, we continue speaking with Matt Aikins, a journalist usually based in Kabul. He’s speaking to us by Democracy Now! video stream from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. His recent article for Rolling Stone magazine is headlined “Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State.” Why don’t you lay out for us what has happened in Afghanistan around the growing of heroin, Matt Aikins?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Sure. Well, today Afghanistan produces twice as much opium as it did in the year 2000. And this spring I traveled to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to witness what would be the largest harvest of opium in Afghanistan’s history. It’s a record year. And all over the south, east, west and north of the country, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in this labor-intensive opium harvest. So, what has happened in Afghanistan over the last 13 years has been the flourishing of a narco-state that really is without any parallel in history. It accounts for 15 percent of the GDP, which is more than double what cocaine accounted for at the height of Escobar-era Colombia. So, this is something that’s extraordinary, that’s catastrophic, that has grave danger for the future, and yet there’s been virtually no discussion of in recent years.
AMY GOODMAN: Who’s growing it? Who’s profiting?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Everyone is growing it. Everyone is profiting. It touches all levels of Afghan society, both sides of the conflict, the Taliban and the government. The Taliban is definitely involved. They profit by taxing the trade, by taxing growers in their areas. But the government is even more involved. Government-linked officials are believed to earn an even higher piece of revenue from the opium trade.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk more about the involvement of the Afghanistan government. Again, quite an amazing fact that Afghanistan provides 90 percent of the opium in the world.
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Well, what’s important to remember is the history here. So, after 2001, the U.S., in its quest for vengeance against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, partnered with the very warlords whose criminality and human rights abuses had created the conditions that led to the rise of the Taliban in the first place. And in many cases, these are the same individuals who were responsible for bringing large-scale opium cultivation to Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets. When they were backed by the CIA and Pakistan’s military, they became involved in heroin trafficking and opium production.
So, for example, in Helmand, which is the most—the largest opium-producing province in Afghanistan, they brought back a member of the Akhundzada family. Karzai appointed him as governor. He was a key ally of the U.S. special forces there. And this is the same guy who had been responsible for bringing opium production to Afghanistan. So, the reason that opium has flourished in Afghanistan is because we have brought in, supported, tolerated figures who are involved in very grave criminality and in human rights abuses and in torture. And we’ve done this because it’s been deemed militarily expedient. The generals and diplomats have decided that to pursue these, you know, narrow goals of defeating the Taliban, we needed some—to support these criminals.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Marjah more. Talk about its going from poppy-free to what it is today.
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yes. Well, you probably remember Marjah was the site of one of the largest battles of the war, the Battle of Marjah, where the Marines air-assaulted into this stretch of irrigated canal land, that had actually, in a rather ironic twist of history, been built by a USAID-funded project in the 1950s and ’60s as part of the Cold War rivalry with the Soviets. They built this huge canal-irrigated zone west of Helmand that brought, you know, agriculture to the desert. And that was eventually turned into a center for poppy cultivation and a bastion of the Taliban, you know, by the mid-2000s.
So the Marines air-assaulted in. There was this very televised battle. They threw the Taliban out. And for a few years, the area was indeed poppy-free. But since then, as the Marines have left, as the Afghan government has become very distracted by the elections, farmers there had taken to poppy cultivation again. It was part of a general trend across the country that what small gains had been made in reducing poppy cultivation were being reversed, because they had largely been driven by short-term incentives.
And so, I went to Marjah and hung out with these farmers and saw their opium harvest, and it was really remarkable, because, you know, I was sitting in a living room with this guy, and he brings out a basketball-sized lump of opium. And I asked him how much he was thinking he was going to sell this for. He said, you know, he hoped to sell it for $600. And I asked him, you know, “Do you know how much this will be worth on the streets of Europe?” And he said he didn’t. So I did a quick calculation in my head, and it worked out to over $100,000, if it was converted into heroin and sold by the gram. So, you know, $100,000 sitting on the floor of a guy without plumbing or electricity really gives you a sense of how Afghanistan, in fact, is just at one end of this vast global economy that is the international drug trade.
AMY GOODMAN: You also write about the history of U.S. involvement and CIA involvement with drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Can you talk about that?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yeah, well, you know, the CIA’s dirty wars that it fought in Afghanistan involved patronizing mujahideen commanders who in many cases were directly involved in the narcotics trade, people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was responsible for the flourishing heroin laboratory seen in Pakistani tribal areas in the 1980s; Mullah Nasim Akhundzada, who was—I already mentioned—a major drug baron in southwestern Afghanistan. These are all people who’d receive U.S.-supplied weaponry and funding.
AMY GOODMAN: And you note that the U.N. has estimated the Taliban makes hundreds of millions of dollars from taxing opium and other illicit activities. But in the summer of 2000, the country’s fundamentalist leaders actually announced a total ban on opium cultivation. What changed?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Well, you know, the Taliban’s decision to ban poppy cultivation in 2000, which was actually remarkably successful—the only poppy that was really cultivated in the country that year was in the corner of the country still controlled by the Northern Alliance, who later became our allies. So, there’s still a lot of debate as to why the Taliban made that decision. Probably it was just a rash one based on ideological beliefs—they were against opium as an intoxicant, being forbidden in Islam—one that where they were seeking to break their international isolation and get some desperately needed development aid. But in any case, since the invasion, you know, since the war, the Taliban has found it expedient to become involved in not just drug trafficking but all sorts of illicit activities—marble and timber smuggling, contraband goods. And so, yes, the Taliban and other militant groups are definitely involved in the drug trade, and that is another reason why it’s so cancerous for the region. It funds all sorts of militant groups. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is something that is as much at the doorstep of the Afghan government as is the Taliban.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about Hajji Lal Jan?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yeah, Hajji Lal Jan is an interesting case that really highlights the limitations of the approach that we’ve tried to take to opium there. We had been—the U.S. had been supporting the specialized counternarcotics unit within the Ministry of the Interior in the hopes that this would provide the seed for Afghan efforts to go after drug trafficking, because there was sort of a decision made at the interagency level not to directly prosecute corrupt Afghan officials, because that would be too harmful to our war effort. So, the hope was the Afghans would do it themselves.
And in 2012, this major drug kingpin—he had been designated as a foreign narcotics kingpin by President Obama, but he had been living openly in Kandahar for many years, allegedly under the protection of President Karzai’s powerful half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. So he was actually arrested by this Afghan commando unit, with international advisers. He allegedly, you know, according to court documents and prosecutors that I spoke to, he managed to escape when the raid was happening, went nearby, placed a call to Kandahar’s governor, Toryalai Wesa, on the phone. Wesa, again, allegedly, according to the wiretaps, told him that—just to sit tight, and he would call President Karzai and see what was happening. They did—then, based on that phone call, they tracked him to a second location, got him. He was taken to Kabul and put in a special counternarcotics court, where he was successfully prosecuted, convicted. It went to the appeals court. He was given 20 years in prison.
And then a sort of chain of events occurred that, for many people, highlighted just how deeply the narcotics industry reaches, you know, the highest levels of the executive and judicial branches. At the Supreme Court, his sentence was reduced to 15 years in prison. He was then transferred, after an order from the presidential palace, back to Kandahar to serve his time there. In Kandahar prison, a local court, based on an outdated provision in the Afghan criminal code that allowed for release for good behavior after nine months for sentences that were 15 years or less, ordered him to be released on parole. He immediately fled across the border to Pakistan. So, it certainly seemed to many observers like an orchestrated conspiracy to free a notorious and powerful drug trafficker who, again, allegedly was making payments both to the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to facilitate his heroin business.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see the opium economy changing with the U.S.’s changing role, though it certainly hasn’t pulled out entirely?
MATTHIEU AIKINS: Unfortunately, it seems like it’s just increasing year after year. And at this point, you know, given how catastrophically things have gone—I mean, you know, of course opium was a deeply entrenched problem in Afghanistan in the year 2001, but for it to have gotten twice as bad would require some remarkable failures in policy over the last 13 years. So, given that we’ve gotten to that point, any gains, any reductions in poppy cultivation will be incremental and long-term.
It should be remembered that, one, Afghanistan—Afghan farmers only touch 1 percent of the value of the global opium trade. This is a world problem. This has to do with the fact that the world desires, people desire, millions of people desire to consume illegal drugs. We’ve made that illegal and waged a war against it, so there will always be narco-states like Afghanistan under such a system. And, two, there are huge segments of the Afghan population whose human security is dependent on poppy. You know, these are impoverished farmers in many cases. And if we pursue some brutal campaign of eradication against them, it’s going to immiserate the rural population.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Matt, I want to thank you for being with us, George Polk Award-winning journalist, usually based in Kabul, joining us now from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. We’ll link to your recent piece in Rolling Stone, “Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State.”
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by a New York police officer. He says the hundreds of officers who turned their back on Mayor de Blasio as he gave his eulogy at the funeral of a slain police officer don’t represent most police officers here in New York. Stay with us.
Indira Gandhi Had Reckoned To Attack Pakistan Nuclear Facilities: CIA
The move was being made when the US was in an advanced stage of providing F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, says the Central Intelligence Agency document. The document was titled ‘India’s Reaction to Nuclear Developments in Pakistan’.
BY TEHELKA WEB DESK
In 1980, former PM Indira Gandhi had reckoned a military strike on nuclear installations in Pakistan to make it incapable of acquiring weapons capabilities, claimed a declassified CIA document.
The move was being made when the US was in an advanced stage of providing F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, says the Central Intelligence Agency document. The document was titled ‘India’s Reaction to Nuclear Developments in Pakistan’. ‘
A revised version of the 12-page document was posted on the CIA website in June 2015. As per the document, India, in 1981, was concerned about the progress made by Pakistan on its nuclear weapons programme, and believed that it was steps away from acquiring nuclear capability. The US had made a similar assessment.
“If Indian concerns increase over the next few months, we believe the conditions could ripen for a military confrontation between India and Pakistan thereby providing a framework for destroying the latter’s nuclear facilities. But India had not taken such a decision so far. Since Pakistan was in an advanced stage of producing plutonium and uranium, Indira Gandhi responded to the threat by authorising Indian nuclear test preparations,” added the report.
“In February 1981, excavations began in the Thar desert to permit an underground explosion of an Indian test device,” the CIA said. In May, preparations were completed by India for a 40-kiloton nuclear test.
“Our best estimate, however, is that India will follow a wait and see strategy,” said the CIA report. According to it, a vital factor in estimating what Indira Gandhi would do was her attitude toward exercising India’s own nuclear weapons option.
“If the Indians were opposed to developing their own nuclear weapons, they probably would try to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facilities before a significant stockpile of nuclear material could be produced,” the report said.
“If the Indians decide to set up their own nuclear capability against China, destroying Pakistan’s nuclear facilities would be not attractive . From the Indian perspective, it would have the serious drawback of inviting Chinese intervention,” felt the CIA.
“We have noted that Indira Gandhi has some interest in this viewpoint. But we don’t know whether she favours that course and haven’t observed any activity by the Indian military that would suggest authorisation for a nuclear weapons programme,” said the CIA document.
Jihad, the Failed ‘Surge,’ and the Abandonment of Iraq’s Non-Muslim Minorities
Don’t just blame Obama’s Iraq withdrawal. Even post-“Surge,” support for the slaughter of “infidels” was as strong as ever.
by Andrew G. Bostom
May 29, 2015 – 8:18 am
General Daniel P. Bolger’s Why We Lost — A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars is a sobering read. Bolger went from a one- to a three-star general in Iraq and then Afghanistan, and once commanded 20,000 troops in Baghdad. He served eight years in these war zones, between 2005 to 2013. Bolger characterized (on p. 256) the much ballyhooed 2007 Iraq “surge,” at its tactical conclusion, thusly:
The casualty and hostile attack rates went down in the fall of 2007, never again to rise to their previous heights, at least during the remaining years of the American campaign. But the fighting never stopped either. It lingered, a third of the previous rate, but that was no comfort to those who fell, killed or wounded, or to their families. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, unrepentant Sunni rejectionists, surly Sadrists [Shiite followers of Muqtada al-Sadr], and Iranian handlers all kept their pieces on the board. As long as the occupiers remained, there would be attacks. As long as Iraq was Iraq, violence remained part of the picture.
Gen. Bolger elaborated on these sentiments in a November 2014 op-ed, while exploding the standard mythical trope about how the alleged “decisively victorious” troop surge — with irony, repeatedly dubbed “fragile and reversible” by its putative architect, General Petraeus — was “squandered” by the Obama administration’s policies:
Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.
The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate. Like a handful of aspirin gobbled by a fevered patient, the surge cooled the symptoms. But the underlying disease didn’t go away. The remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents we battled for more than eight years simply re-emerged this year as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
With sad predictability, one never sees General Bolger on Fox News, nor is it likely he will be advising any of the burgeoning group of Republican contestants for the 2016 presidential nomination. But there are a litany of even more important topics for discussion regarding the ongoing sectarian Iraq morass that are never broached by either Fox News or the Republican presidential hopefuls.
When President George W. Bush announced the “surge” in 2007, he maintained the overall objectives for this great expenditure of precious U.S. blood and treasure were to establish a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.”
Any rational post-mortem indicates none of those goals were achieved, from either an Iraqi or U.S. perspective, even in the near term, let alone chronically. Before the surge wound down in June 2008 — but at the height of its alleged “success” — a March 2008 poll from Iraq found that 42% of Iraqis labeled attacks on U.S. forces acceptable, and only 4% believed that U.S. forces were responsible for the transient decline in violence.
The poll also indicated that 63% (total) maintained that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq was actually worsening (26%), or had not improved (37%) the security situation.
In July 2008, both Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq Al-Rubaie sought a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. As Gen. Bolger’s lucid account reminds us, the November 17, 2008 Bush administration “Agreement Between the United States and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities During Their Temporary Presence in Iraq” made requisite the full U.S. withdrawal by December 31, 2011, and an interim removal of American units from city and village localities by June 20, 2009.
Furthermore, this same Bush administration-negotiated SOFA (status of forces agreement) with our “Iraqi allies,” per Article 27, paragraph 4 (“Iraqi land, sea and air shall not be used as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries.”) prohibited the U.S. from attacking, for example, Iranian nuclear production facilities or improvised explosive device factories from Iraqi bases and airspace.
A cursory, incomplete tally of murderous sectarian Sunni-Shiite car bombings in Iraq for the four years after the surge — June 2008 through June 2012 – reveals at least 65 attacks leaving 2000 dead and two- to threefold that number injured, many seriously. More importantly, then Iraqi President Talabani attended an Orwellian counter-terrorism conference in Tehran (June 25–26, 2011), just six months before the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Our Iraqi “ally” failed to object to the conference agitprop of their Iranian hosts “defining” the United States and Israel as the primary sources of global terrorism. Further:
In his meeting with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, [Iran’s Supreme Theocrat Leader] Khamenei said that U.S. power in the Middle East had declined, and that this fact should be taken advantage of against the U.S. Talabani replied that the Iraqis were united in their opposition to the ongoing U.S. presence in their country, and likewise asked for Iranian assistance.
On August 14, 2007, when the surging U.S. had 166,000 troops on the ground in Iraq — not the mere one-fifth (or one-tenth) residual numbers pined for by those who insist the failure to secure a 2011 status of forces agreement with the al-Maliki regime sealed the undoing of Iraq’s “stability” — 796 Yazidis were slaughtered and another 1562 wounded in one day during four gruesomely synchronized jihadist bombings. (See here and here, and here for U.S. Army confirmation of the death toll.) Veteran Middle East journalist Tom Gross provided this characterization of the events:
[T]wo tons of explosives detonated in four coordinated explosions in the northern Iraqi villages of Qahtaniya and Jazeera on August 14, 2007, the target was Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic and religious minority. 796 people died and over 1,500 were wounded as a fireball led to the collapse of mud and stone buildings on families trapped inside; many were then burned alive.
The endless critiques of Obama administration policy failures in Iraq last summer (see Krauthammer on Fox News; Hegseth in National Review Online) revealed a glaring lacuna in honest, self-critical discourse by omitting all discussion of the “mid-surge” Yazidi catastrophe. Such warped analyses were pathognomonic of a broader, much more disturbing ethical and intellectual travesty: ongoing attempts by mainstream conservatives to rationalize their uninformed, witless adherence to the utopian “(Bernard) Lewis doctrine”-inspired “Islamic democracy” fiasco in Iraq.
The successful post-World War II paradigm of neutralizing Japan’s bellicose, religio-political creed of Shintoism has been turned on its head with regard to Islam and the theocratic Islamic legal code Sharia, which is imbued with jihad and completely antithetical to modern human rights constructs.
Despite the proven, concrete success of the post-World War II reforms in Japan, past intellectual honesty on Shinto was replaced by craven, politically correct ignorance on Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, as championed by a callow American pseudo-scholastic apologist for Islam’s Sharia, who evangelized for “Islamic Democracy,” Sharia-compliant Iraqi and Afghan constitutions were crafted (and of course extolled by this same “scholar,” here and here).
Born of willful ignorance about living Islamic doctrine and history, this deficient mindset begot a corollary dangerous absurdity: embrace of the Petraeus “COIN” theory, a see-no-jihad, see-no-Islam military strategy designed, perversely, to somehow “defeat” the ancient-cum-modern forces of global Islamic jihadism.
Jeb Bush Re-Writes the History of the Iraq War
1 day ago | Updated 1 day ago
Joseph A. Palermo Professor, historian, author
Nothing illustrates better the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican war hawks who call themselves presidential candidates than their attempts to whitewash the history of how this nation went to war in Iraq.
John Ellis “Jeb” Bush stood by his brother’s side while he demolished a nation of 28 million people in the heart of the Arab world he knew nothing about. Out on the stump, Jeb and other GOP candidates try to shift responsibility for the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War from George W. to President Barack Obama.
Jeb and Co. claim that everything was fine in Iraq until Obama failed to keep George W.’s ill-conceived war of aggression running on full throttle. They pretend the 2007 “surge” in Iraq of about 10,000 American soldiers had all but “won” the war and the rise of ISIL/ISIS is Obama’s fault. They skip over the pesky fact that it was George W. who negotiated the U.S. troop withdrawal with the Nouri al Maliki regime. (Bush announced the deal at a memorable press conference with Maliki when an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at the Leader of the Free World.)
Jeb and Co. also love pointing out that Hillary Rodham Clinton and other big name Democrats voted in favor of the congressional resolution granting W. carte blanche to go to war. But they leave out the fact that just about everybody on the left in America had denounced the war before it began, and that 133 Democrats in the House and 23 Democrats in the Senate voted against Bush’s war.
They also airbrush out of the historical record that one of their conservative heroes, Pope John Paul II (the Polish Pope who stood up to the Communists) emphatically opposed Bush’s war, as did the Arab League, the Islamic Conference, the U.S.’s Sunni allies in the region (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia), the Organization of African Unity, Germany, France, Russia, China, the United Nations, and 15 million people who marched worldwide on February 15, 2003.
They omit these facts because they don’t support the idea that “everybody got it wrong.”
Although it has been dropped down a memory hole, the Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002 pretty much confirms that the Bush administration deliberately lied the nation into war. The top secret minutes of a summer meeting of the highest-ranking intelligence officials in British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government shows that George W. had already decided to go to war using whatever garbage about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” his administration could manufacture. One paragraph stands out:
“C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” [Italics added]
The sentence — “there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action” — has turned out to be one of the biggest understatements in the history of American military interventions.
Then there was the Valerie Plame/Joseph Wilson scandal whereby Karl Rove and Dick Cheney decided to out Ambassador Wilson’s wife as a secret CIA operative working on international nuclear issues.
This cynical ploy was retribution for Wilson’s op-ed in the New York Times, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” that exposed the Bush administration’s lies about the Iraqi government seeking “yellow cake” uranium from Niger.
The exotic sounding “yellow cake” line was the scariest part of President Bush’s doom-laden State of the Union Address of January 2003, which he later blamed on “bad intelligence.”
Then there was the aluminum tubes fiasco whereby the Bush administration, with an assist from the ever-eager Judith Miller of the New York Times, hyped a shipment of tubes going to Iraq as only suitable for nuclear applications.
It took United Nations weapons experts about 30 seconds to determine that the tubes were not machine tooled for any nuclear program but were for some kind of mortar or simpler use (the tubes were nowhere near the calibrations needed in nuclear research).
Yet the Bush people pumped up the volume on the aluminum tube story. President Bush conjured up terrifying images of “mushroom clouds” and Saddam’s “nuclear mujahideen.”
And that might be the worst aspect of the whole sordid story: A U.S. president cynically exploited the American people’s genuine fear and trepidation of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington to launch an illegal and ill-conceived war of aggression.
In a speech in Cincinnati Ohio on October 7, 2002, while aggressively campaigning for Republican Congressional candidates as the Commander-in-Chief, Bush elaborated on the Iraqi “nuclear threat”:
“The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his ‘nuclear mujahedeen’ — his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”
When the fantastic “aluminum tube” story was juxtaposed with the false report of “yellow cake” from Niger, it enabled Condi Rice, Bush and other like-minded souls to scare the hell out of the American people (and the Congress) with the vivid image of “a smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
In reality, over 20 years earlier, the Israelis had eliminated any potential Iraqi nuclear threat when they blew to bits the French built Osirak nuclear reactor, the only one Iraq ever had. And during the 1991 Gulf War, the United States finished the job when it pulverized Iraq’s infrastructure.
Throughout the 1990s, the United States and Great Britain imposed no-fly zones on the northern and southern parts of Iraq where bombing Iraq became “routine,” along with crippling economic sanctions that killed an estimated half million Iraqi children. Secretary of State Madeliene Albright famously said that the loss of innocent life due to the harsh sanctions imposed on Iraq was “worth it.”
President Bush even went so far as to tell the world that the Iraqis might position “floating platforms” off the coast of the United States where they could station Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) capable of spraying chemical or biological agents on U.S. cities on the East Coast. This preposterous claim was in response to the questions that arose after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 5, 2003 U.N. presentation (which he has since renounced) where he made a big deal out of UAVs in Iraq that might emit chemical or biological agents.
The only problem was that the range for these fearsome UAVs was not even close to being a “threat” to the United States. Foreign journalists asked Bush: How can these Iraqi UAVs attack the United States when their range was measured in hundreds of kilometers? You can see Bush’s “floating platform” answer in the superb documentary Leading to War (2008).
Somehow, like something out of a Rambo movie, those cunning Iraqis were going to figure out a way to evade the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and then outmaneuver the Air Force and U.S. air defenses to deploy UAVs to spray Americans with chemical and biological agents as they walked to Starbucks in Manhattan.
Remember, the Bush people, including White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (who became a commentator for corporate media), Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (now a Jeb Bush adviser), and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were not saying they believed there “was a chance” there “might be” WMDs in Iraq. They were spoon-feeding the public exact figures: numbers of barrels of chemical agent, numbers of potential chemical and biological warheads, numbers of caches of prohibited weapons.
Dick Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August 2002, “There is no doubt” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This assertion led the U.N.’s top weapons inspector, Hans Blix, to ask publicly how they could have 100 percent certainty that the WMDs exist, yet zero percent knowledge of where the weapons were located?
In the fall of 2002, Judith Miller’s stenographic reportage for the New York Times gave plausibility to the bogus claim that the location of Iraq’s WMD stockpile could be discovered using anonymous sources connected to the Bush administration (including the Iranian spy Ahmed Chalabi and the self-promoting flim-flam artist Ibn al Sheikh al-Libi who had the suitable nickname: “curve ball”). A self-perpetuating media loop was created whereby Dick Cheney on the Sunday talk shows cited the New York Times after Miller anonymously published bullshit from Cheney’s own bogus sources.
The Big Lie that effortlessly leaves the lips of all the 2016 Republican presidential candidates is that the war was the result of an “intelligence failure.” But if George W. felt burned by bad intelligence that cost the country so dearly, why would he give CIA Director George “slam dunk” Tenet the Medal of Freedom?
The fact that Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio can say with a straight face that W. and Cheney and Rummy and Condi were innocent dupes of an “intelligence failure,” and that the corporate media will blandly repeat these lies, points to a deeper failure in our political discourse.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress that came to power in 2009 failed to give the country any in-depth investigation into all aspects of the Iraq War. In the U.K., although it might not have amounted to much, at least Tony Blair and Foreign Minister Jack Snow were forced to squirm a little bit in front of a committee investigating their role in lying the British people into war; they had to testify before some independent body at least. On this side of the pond nothing happened but P.R. and spin and amnesia that is setting us up for the next disaster.
In 2002, the arch-terrorist leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was an unknown Jordanian jihadist wannabe who came on the scene too late to see any real action in Afghanistan. Few militants in Iraq or anywhere else ever heard of Zarqawi until Secretary of State Colin Powell built him up into a big shot during his February 5, 2003 indictment of the Iraqi government at the U.N.
As the Italian terrorism expert, Loretta Napoleoni, reported in her 2005 book, Insurgent Iraq: Al Zarqawi and the New Generation, by mentioning Zarqawi by name as a “threat” in his most important address to the world Secretary Powell bestowed upon him a street credibility among jihadists he never had before. President Bush’s famous “Bring ’em on!” line was in response to those who claimed the U.S. military had become bogged down in Iraq and the war had turned the country into a magnet for jihadists to fight the Americans.
The 2016 Republican presidential candidates never tire of telling us how terrible Saddam Hussein was. Yes, Saddam was a despot but at least his regime was secular and had arisen from the organic ethnic and sectarian politics of Iraq. There was no sectarian war going on in Iraq until the U.S. invasion and occupation created the social, economic, and political conditions for it.
Lest we forget, in the 1980s, the U.S. allied itself with the Sunni Baathists in Iraq in their war against Iran. And some of America’s closest allies in the region, such as the theocracy in Saudi Arabia, Egypt under Mubarak, and Bahrain (where the U.S. Navy has the Fifth Fleet), all have abysmal human rights records.
There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq until the U.S. invaded and sparked an insurgency. The rise of ISIL/ISIS was a direct consequence of the U.S. toppling the government and disfranchising the traditional Sunni technocratic class. The Sunnis in Anbar Province and elsewhere in Iraq will never accept Shia rule in Baghdad. And the Shia majority in Iraq and the Iranians are equally determined never to lose power.
This broiling civil and sectarian conflict has the potential to go on for decades and unleash a wider war. At this sad juncture, it looks like Iraq’s disfranchised Sunnis (in a tactical alliance with ISIL/ISIS) will continue to carve out territory until they can shoot their way back into power. (If that day ever comes.) The most likely scenario in Iraq going forward is a multi-sided civil and sectarian war similar to those in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, which is unlikely to be extinguished before it unleashes an even bigger conflagration.
In 2016, given the ongoing U.S.-created catastrophe in Iraq, it’s unbelievable that anyone named “Bush” could be seen as a viable presidential contender. While people in Iraq suffer as a result of misguided and criminal U.S. policies, the American people, facing a $5 billion election in 2016, are hearing presidential candidates put forth the most pathetic apologetics, spin, and lies as they try to whitewash the whole thing.
For 70 years, historians have tried to figure out how World War II-era leaders, diplomats, business and foreign policy elites could allow that kind of carnage to be unleashed upon the world. Today we might be closer to answering that question.