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“Jig Saw” – Google’s Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits




“Perhaps one of world’s most dangerous problems of ignorance and indoctrination can be solved in part by doing what Google does best:

Helping people find what they most need to see.

Google has built a half-trillion-dollar business out of divining what people want based on a few words they type into a search field. In the process, it’s stumbled on a powerful tool for getting inside the minds of some of the least understood and most dangerous people on the Internet: potential ISIS recruits. Now one subsidiary of Google is trying not just to understand those would-be jihadis’ intentions, but to change them.

Jigsaw, the Google-owned tech incubator and think tank—until recently known as Google Ideas—has been working over the past year to develop a new program it hopes can use a combination of Google’s search advertising algorithms and YouTube’s video platform to target aspiring ISIS recruits and ultimately dissuade them from joining the group’s cult of apocalyptic violence. The program, which Jigsaw calls the Redirect Method and plans to launch in a new phase this month, places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes can effectively undo ISIS’s brainwashing—clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group’s dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq.

“This came out of an observation that there’s a lot of online demand for ISIS material, but there are also a lot of credible organic voices online debunking their narratives,” says Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s head of research and development. “The Redirect Method is at its heart a targeted advertising campaign: Let’s take these individuals who are vulnerable to ISIS’ recruitment messaging and instead show them information that refutes it.”

The results, in a pilot project Jigsaw ran early this year, were surprisingly effective: Over the course of about two months, more than 300,000 people were drawn to the anti-ISIS YouTube channels. Searchers actually clicked on Jigsaw’s three or four times more often than a typical ad campaign. Those who clicked spent more than twice as long viewing the most effective playlists than the best estimates of how long people view YouTube as a whole. And this month, along with the London-based startup Moonshot Countering Violent Extremism and the US-based Gen Next Foundation, Jigsaw plans to relaunch the program in a second phase that will focus its method on North American extremists, applying the method to both potential ISIS recruits and violent white supremacists.

An Antidote to Extremism’s Infection

While tech firms have been struggling for years to find countermeasures to extremist content, ISIS’ digital propaganda machine has set a new standard for aggressive online recruitment. Twitter has banned hundreds of thousands of accounts only to see them arise again—manymigrating to the more private service Telegram—while other services like YouTube and Facebook have fought an endless war of content removal to keep the group’s vile beheading and immolation videos offline. But attempts to intercept the disaffected young Muslims attracted to that propaganda and offer them a counternarrative—actual protection against the group’s siren song—have mostly amounted to public service announcements. Those PSA series have included the U.S. State Department’s campaign called Think Again, Turn Away and the blunt messaging of the cartoon series Average Mohammed.

Those campaigns are likely only effective for dissuading the audience least indoctrinated by ISIS’s messages, argues Green, who’s interviewed jailed ISIS recruits in Britain and defectors in an Iraqi prison. “Further down the funnel are the people who are sympathetic, maybe ideologically committed, maybe even already in the caliphate,” says Green. “That’s Jigsaw’s focus.”

To capture the people already drawn into ISIS’ orbit, Jigsaw took a less direct approach. Rather than create anti-ISIS messages, the team curates them from YouTube. “We thought, what if the content exists already?” says Green. “We knew if it wasn’t created explicitly for this purpose, it would be more authentic and therefore more compelling.”

Testing the Theory

Jigsaw and two partners on the pilot project, Moonshot CVE and the Lebanese firm Quantum Communications, assembled two playlists of videos they found in both Arabic and English, ranging from moderate Muslim clerics pointing out ISIS’s hypocrisy to footage of long food lines in the ISIS’s Syrian stronghold Raqqa.

Another video in Jigsaw’s playlist shows an elderly woman excoriating members of ISIS and quoting the Koran to them:

Jigsaw chose more than 1,700 keywords that triggered ads leading to their anti-ISIS playlists. Green and her team focused on terms they believed the most committed ISIS recruits would search for: names of waypoints on travel routes to ISIS territory, phrases like “Fatwa [edict] for jihad in Syria” and names of extremist leaders who had preached ISIS recruitment. The actual text of the search ads, however, took a light-touch approach, with phrases like “Is ISIS Legitimate?” or “Want to Join ISIS?” rather than explicit anti-ISIS messages.

Measuring the actual effects of the campaign in dissuading ISIS recruits isn’t easy. But Jigsaw and its partners found that they at least captured searchers’ attention. The clickthrough rates on some of the ads were more than 9 percent, they say, compared with averages around 2 or 3 percent in the average Google keyword advertising campaign. They also discovered that the hundreds of thousands of searchers spent a total of half a million minutes watching the videos they collected, with the most effective videos getting as much as 8 minutes and 20 seconds average viewing time.

But Could It Work?

Jigsaw’s program is far from a comprehensive solution to ISIS’s online recruitment, says Humera Khan, the executive director of the Islamic deradicalization group Muflehun. She points out that both Google and Facebook have trained anti-extremism non-profits in the past on how to use their keyword advertising, though perhaps without the deep involvement in targeting, curating and promoting video Jigsaw is trying. More importantly, she argues, attracting ISIS sympathizers to a video playlist is only the first step. “If they can hook people in, can they keep them coming back with new and relevant content? That’ll be important,” says Khan. Eventually, any successful deradicalization effort also needs human interaction, too, and a supportive community backing up the person’s decision to turn away from extremism. “This sounds like a good piece of the solution. But it’s not all of it.”

From a national security perspective, Jigsaw’s work raises another glaring question: Why not target would-be ISIS recruits for surveillance and even arrest instead? After all, intercepting ISIS sympathizers could not only rescue those recruits themselves, but the future victims of their violence in terrorist attacks or genocidal massacres in ISIS’s bloody sphere of influence. On that question, Jigsaw’s Green answers carefully that “social media platforms including YouTube have a responsibility to cooperate [with] the governments’ lawful requests, and there are processes in place to do that.” Translation? Google likely already helps get some of these people arrested. The company, after all, handed over some data in 64 percent of the more than 40,000 government requests for its users’ data in the second half of last year.

But Green says that the Redirect Method, beyond guiding ISIS admirers to its videos, doesn’t seek to track them further or identify them, and isn’t designed to lead to arrests or surveillance, so much as education.  “These are people making decisions based on partial, bad information,” says Green. “We can affect the problem of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State by arming individuals with more and better information.” She describes the campaign’s work as a kind of extension of Google’s core mission “to make the world’s information accessible and useful.”

Google’s Clever Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits



Feds Unlock Phones Chasing Drugs Not Terrorism


Image: Ocregister.com


“As of last count, fully 89 percent of wiretap orders in the US were used in drug cases.

Of the total of 41 cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime that caused the Department of Justice to demand access to a device, 17 were related to drugs, compared to just one known case of terrorism: the San Bernardino case.

Until the FBI  backed down from its battle with Apple over accessing the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, it seemed the agency had chosen a near-perfect case on which to make its stand against encryption. By refusing to write software to help law enforcement crack Farook’s phone, Apple was made to look like it was defending an indefensible terrorist.

But as the public learns more about the other investigations in which the feds have demanded Apple or Google help crack their phones’ security, it now looks like the government has made those decryption demands far more often while fighting a more pedestrian sort of crime: drugs.

On Tuesday the ACLU released the results of its digging through court records, seeking information about any cases in which the feds had used the All Writs Act to ask that Apple or Google assist in accessing data on locked phones or tablets. It found that since 2008, there have been at least 63 of those cases across the country, showing that Apple’s standoff with the FBI was about more than “one iPhone,” as FBI director Jim Comey had argued.

And in the two-thirds of those cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime being investigated, the group tells WIRED that 41 percent were related to drugs, far more than any other category of crime. “The narrative was that they would only do this in cases where the crimes were particularly severe and a serious threat to national security, and that seems to be disproven,” says Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “I’m certainly displeased to find that so many of these cases in which the government has forced companies to unlock phones have been drug cases. But I’m not surprised.”

In fact, those 17 cases by far outnumbered the 10 financial crime cases, eight child pornography cases, and three counterfeiting cases, the next most common crimes on the ACLU’s list. (The ACLU explains that in the third of cases where the ACLU couldn’t identify the crime being investigated, the government hadn’t revealed the docket number of the related court filing that reveals the charges, or because the cases were sealed.)

It’s not yet clear how Apple and Google responded to those 63 demands to help law enforcement agencies access device data. Apple didn’t reply to WIRED’s request for comment on the ACLU’s release. Google wrote in a statement only that it has “never received an All Writs Act order like the one Apple recently fought that demands we build new tools that actively compromise our products’ security,” and that it would “strongly object to such an order.” A Department spokesperson responded to ACLU’s release with its own statement: “The fact that federal law enforcement uses court process to obtain critical evidence in criminal investigations should not be surprising nor newsworthy,” it reads. “The government has made clear on multiple occasions in court that judges across the country have issued prior All Writs Act orders to Apple, and counsel for Apple has noted in court that it received All Writs Act orders with frequency.”

The ACLU’s numbers contrast slightly withstatistics released by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in March, which showed that of 205 locked iPhones the Manhattan DA’s lab had attempted and failed to access without Apple’s assistance, 25 percent were related to drug cases. It lumped larceny, cybercrime, forgery, and ID theft into another category of cases that accounted for 35 percent of the locked iPhones.

Even so, it should come as little surprise that drug cases would outnumber all others in federal investigations that sought to access locked devices’ data. As of last count, fully89 percent of wiretap orders in the US were used in drug cases. That percentage has climbed dramatically since 1989, when only 62 percent of wiretaps were focused on drugs.

The ACLU’s Edwards argues that Apple’s encryption battle with the FBI is just another instance of the government asking for surveillance powers in the name of national security, but then applying those powers to the Drug War. He points to the “sneak and peek” searches that were made legal under the Patriot Act in 2001. Drug cases now account for 84 percent of the cases in which those searches are used, Edwards says. “These technologies [and techniques] are often sold by the government as essential tools to protect national security that will be used in careful, discriminating ways,” he says. “Over and over again, that’s been untrue.”

In fact, federal law enforcement has been so focused on drug cases for the last 30 years that they’ve often been the first domestic cases used to pioneer new surveillance techniques, from thermal imaging cameras to GPS tracking to drones. Even the NSA’s bulk metadata collection that scandalized the public when it was revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden was first used by the Drug Enforcement Administration. And in 2014 the FBI went so far as to subpoena security researchers at Carnegie Mellon for a technique that could crack the anonymity software Tor’s protections for hidden websites, which was then used to take down the Silk Road 2 drug market and dozens of other dark web sites.

That growing use of domestic surveillance for drug investigations, argues the ACLU’s Edwards, is simply a reflection of law enforcement’s resources, which have increasingly been devoted to the War on Drugs. “All of these technologies are inherently wrapped up in the types of activities [law enforcement] is focused on,” he says. “That’s fighting drugs, not terrorism…as part of a law enforcement effort that has been an utter, trillion-dollar failure.”


The Unintended Consequences of Containing ISIS




bellarmineforum.org under-the-rubble1

Image: Bellarmineforum.org


“Restraint may be the better course of action.

American attempts to reorganize the politics of other countries by the sword have foundered on nationalist resistance to outsiders, unreliable local allies, deeply embedded cultural practices, and the inherent crudeness of the military instrument.

ISIS’s attack in Paris has prompted calls for a reassessment of the strategy the United States and its allies have pursued in the past 14 months to, in Obama’s words, “degrade and ultimately destroy” this vicious group. If that strategy is succeeding, how could such an attack occur? GOP presidential candidates have hastened to recommend alternatives, including an escalated air campaign with higher tolerance for civilian casualties, or even the deployment of thousands of ground troops to Iraq and Syria.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught Americans to think twice about the understandable but impulsive pursuit of quick and decisive victories in response to murderous outrages.

These chronic problems commend the more restrained strategy that the president has employed, which is essentially a containment strategy. Americans might like to be told that they are taking direct action that will eliminate threats once and for all. Containment is a tougher sell, because it requires patience and resilience, and does not promise a quick and easy victory. Hillary Clinton took the politically easy path when she declared at the Democratic debate on Saturday that ISIS “cannot be contained; it must be defeated.”

But no strategy bears a likelier chance of long-term success than containment, even if the exact mechanisms must be reconsidered in the wake of the Paris attacks. It is, for example, hard to see how Western ground forces can liberate the areas of Iraq and Syria currently held by ISIS, and sit on that territory for as long as it takes to ensure that ISIS is no more and that yet another terrorist organization does not rise from its ashes, with fewer numbers and less bloodshed than the original invasion and subsequent counterinsurgency in Iraq entailed. And there is no guarantee that it would work. The seeds of ISISwere planted in Iraq when its parent organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq, though battered, survived “the surge” of U.S. ground forces into the country beginning in 2007—the final and tactically most successful phase of the counterinsurgency campaign, which at its peak involved some 170,000 U.S.troops. Al-Qaeda in Iraq itself was born from the American occupation; a new occupation would produce the same kind of resistance, which ISIS or some other group could exploit.

Meanwhile, there’s evidence that containment is already working. In the military campaign against ISIS, the chief purpose of containment has been to prevent the group from gaining more territory, while weakening its hold over the territory it has seized and reducing its ability to extract resources. This has meant helping those on ISIS’s frontiers—including Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, the Iraqi central government, and Jordan—to better defend themselves. Perhaps because this strategy has been effective, ISIS now seems intent on conducting brutal and theatrical attacks abroad, and those in its gun sights must respond to the shift. The next task is to build or reinforce barriers between ISIS and its targets. American and European intelligence organizations must intensify surveillance at home and abroad; the United States and its Western allies must press regional powers bordering the territories controlled by ISIS to do more to interdict the transit of volunteers and resources and to counter the poisonous ideology that brings new followers to the ISIS banner.

Check out the separate Defense One commentary series on Containment, here.

At the outset of its bloody history, ISIS seemed more committed to organizing a state in the Middle East than it did to conducting terrorism abroad. A strategy that focused on military containment was a necessary antidote to its early successes. Of late, ISIS has been thwarted in its efforts to expand, and has even suffered reverses in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria, where it has tried to establish itself among non-Arab, namely Kurdish, populations. In central Iraq, Shiite militias have curbedISIS attempts to gain a foothold in predominantly Shiite areas. When ISIS tries to fight as a conventional military, it now fails more often than it succeeds. Targeting ISIS’s oil business, an effort the United States has stepped up in the wake of the Paris attacks, has not yet dried up this source of money, but one suspects that ISIS’s revenues will suffer more over time.

The anti-ISIS coalition has clearly been less successful in two other dimensions of the strategy:  putting intelligence and surveillance barriers between ISIS’s territorial holdings and civilian targets abroad, and undercutting ISIS’s ideological appeal. These are harder problems than military containment. The free movement of people and information is a defining feature of globalization. It does not take many people to conduct an attack of the kind that occurred in Paris. Those people do have to be highly motivated, however, and reducing the political commitment that comes from the spread of very poisonous ideas to small numbers of young men is a hard problem.

The United States has been quite energetic on the intelligence and surveillance front, but others closer to the fight have not done enough. Coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 revealed that the French security services simply had inadequate resources to track possible threats. This kind of shortfall probably exists across much of Europe. Moreover, the problem confronted by European security and intelligence organizations is greater than that confronted by the United States. European countries are closer to the Middle East; it is simply easier for ISIS terrorists to get there. There are large, sometimes poorly integrated Arab communities in Europe that, through no fault of their own, can provide a kind of camouflage for small numbers of conspirators. Sadly, some disgruntled members of these communities are susceptible to radical appeals, and sign up or offer succor.

Finally, Europe suffers from a simple tension: Europeans have organized their social and economic life as if the European Union were one country, but European states’ political and security life is organized as if each was still a separate, sovereign country. Terrorists (and criminals) can wander at will across a vast expanse of land and people; as they do so they move from the purview of one national-security organization to the next. European security organizations do cooperate, but there will inevitably be gaps that clever bad guys can exploit. There is no obvious answer to these three problems. That said, more resources would help, and the Europeans must invest more in the internal security aspect of the fight. And, unfortunately, the European Union may have to take a step backwards on social and economic integration, and a step forward on security integration, working more strenuously for cooperation among national police and intelligence organizations.

Turkey poses a delicate political-military problem in the fight against ISIS. It has been a consistent refrain that Turkey has not done everything that it could to monitor, much less control the transit of, volunteers to and from the Syrian Civil War—many of whom are Europeans of Arab descent. These volunteers are traveling to join any one of the many groups fighting the Assad regime, some of which Turkey supports. But, judging from published figures, thousands have joined ISIS, and some of them have subsequently returned to their home countries, trained and ready to participate in terrorist actions. The U.S. air effort against ISIS has profited from the recent opening of Turkish air bases, which facilitate strikes against the group’s holdings in northeastern Syria. So it is a delicate diplomatic matter to criticize Turkish surveillance policy. Nevertheless, without more Turkish cooperation to control the transit of potential terrorists, Western Europe will remain vulnerable, and ISIS will replenish its ranks with foreign volunteers. This issue must be confronted forthrightly.

The most intractable problem facing the anti-ISIS effort is countering its insidious ideology, which brings it new followers.ISIS styles itself an orthodox Islamist group. It is also a cult of violence. The combination draws significant numbers of people to its banner. Western secular governments cannot conceivably rebutISIS’s religious message, since they have no religious credibility themselves. Independent Muslim theologians, regardless of their eloquence, are unlikely to be an effective counter toISIS’s concentrated, persistent, and hateful online preaching. But one Arab state has enormous influence on the interpretation of Islam worldwide: Saudi Arabia. The country spends vast sums supporting the building of mosques and Islamic educational institutions around the world. These institutions spread an orthodox version of Islam that scholars have observed is not very far removed from the version that ISIS claims for itself. In disputes in the Middle East today, Saudi Arabia seems much more interested in attacking any trace of Iranian political influence than it is in counteringISIS. It is past time to shine a light on Saudi Arabia’s deficiency as an ally and pressure the country to use its considerable clout and resources to counter ISIS’s poisonous message. This matter should become a regular feature of public and private diplomacy.

The ISIS brand also attracts other terrorist organizations in the region to recast themselves as franchises, and to cooperate with its machinations. It’s important to remember, however, that most of these organizations predate ISIS, and owe their origins to local disputes. The greater Middle East is a riven and unsettled region; ISIS creates some of its own energy, but not all. The ISIS franchise in Egypt, which claimed credit for the downing of a Russian jetliner over the Sinai peninsula in late October, is a group that fought the Egyptian government prior to pledging its allegiance to the Islamic State, and owes its recent recruitment success in part to the ruthless repression of Islamist political organizations, militant or not, organized by the current authoritarian regime, led by President (and former general) Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. (Note that this kind of mass repression is not the same as the kind of effective, targeted internal security procedures needed to counter the group without facilitating its recruitment.) The ISISfranchise in Libya seems to have arisen from the anarchy introduced in that country by NATO’s destruction of the Qaddafi regime and the utter failure to plan for its replacement. Because these and similar groups are so deeply embedded in local struggles, destruction of ISIS “central”—that is, the pseudo-state led by the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that currently governs parts of Syria and Iraq—cannot eliminate them. The reverse might be helpful, however. For example, if President Sisi were to pursue more moderate policies in Egypt, he might create a less supportive political environment for ISIS.

These responses can yield only incremental improvements. The slow and steady accretion of defensive measures and offensive successes will weaken ISIS’s capabilities and can limit its appeal. At some point, the scales will tip, and ISIS will find itself more and more vulnerable to its local enemies. This strategy takes patience and resilience in the face of the occasional, but shocking, successes that ISIS may enjoy along the way. Democratic polities prefer quick and definitive solutions to security problems. ISIS’s bloody theatricals seem tailor-made to incite Western escalation. We should not oblige them.”



Islamic State Meets the Laws of Economics


The Gold Dinar


“The caliphate faces an enemy more deadly than the bombs being dropped upon it.

It has not been able to construct a viable economy to provide all of the necessities that a society requires and people will not wait forever to fill their stomachs or for the lights to work.

A film released at the end of August by the Islamic State heralds the coming of a new gold Dinar currency. Najeh Ibrahim, a former member of the Islamist Gamaa Islamiyah, says that this tells the world that the Islamic State is a sovereign state and tells Muslims that their dignity and economic power is being restored.

In November of 2014, the idea of the gold Dinar was first announced. There was a debate within the leading circles of the Islamic State if it was a sound economic plan. In spite of doubts by some, the accumulation of gold and silver for the coins was undertaken, but little more was said of the new currency until the film Rise of the Caliphate: The Return of the Gold Dinar presented the issue as a part of the strategy of the Islamic State to destroy the United States and the West and to create an independent caliphate economy.

Return of the Gold Dinar continues the IS practice of tying every action to the Abbasid Caliphate that ruled much of the Middle Eastern region from 750 to the middle of the thirteenth century, which was an Islamic empire not much different from the Persian and Egyptian empires and minted its own coinage. The new coins are to display religious symbols like those on the original coins. Baghdadi would like his followers to imagine that they are a continuation of the long ago caliphate with only a mere 750-year disruption.

The idea is not new. The proposal to create a gold Dinar was advocated in 2002 when Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia presented it at the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The problems in the economies of Muslim societies were attributed to foreign domination and a gold currency was to be the means of escaping dollar domination by creating a Muslim economic community.

Daesh’s monetary problem is not domination by the USD. Rather, it is that the erasing of the borders between Iraq and Syria did not change the line drawn by two separate economies using two different currencies.

If Daesh intends to create a single economy, it must create a common currency that will enable buyers and sellers to agree upon a price for goods and services without having to first decide upon an exchange rate.

The obvious solution is for Daesh to create its own currency that will circulate throughout the caliphate; but getting the public to accept the new colored pieces of paper from a government that may not exist in a few years makes conversion a near impossibility. The other choice is for people to conduct business in a currency that can be trusted, such as the USD or the Euro. The Turkish Lira is preferred in many cases over the local currencies, but using foreign currencies requires people to have access to them.  How can people acquire sufficient foreign funds to finance their daily needs when the economy is isolated from the surrounding countries?

What commerce does occur is of a criminal nature. How much the caliphate acquires from the export of historical treasures or human organs or oil is all a guess. Contributions from wealthy supporters in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States or ransom money from kidnap victims provides only a few drops in a desert that is consuming vast amounts of money to finance an ongoing war.

Much of the wealth of the caliphate comes from taxation of its citizens and sale of grain or petroleum that are kept as caliphate monopolies. Exploiting these resources, though, is finite. Farmers will not plant if they cannot expect a reasonable price for their crops and factories will not manufacture if the owner cannot acquire fuel or materials that he can afford or gain a profit that makes the effort worthwhile.

Getting fresh investment is a near impossibility and the economy is in decline which is making the acquisition of a new medium of exchange a serious issue that cannot be delayed too much longer.  Before the rise of the Islamic State, 11 of Iraq’s 35 million people were engaged in agriculture. They farmed twelve million acres of land. In spite of this domestic production, Iraq imported five billion dollars in foodstuffs, much of which was used to provide food packages to the impoverished Sunni in the provinces now under Daesh control.

Since the seizure of large areas of Iraq by the Islamic State, the amount of acreage under cultivation has been cut in half with no possibility of supplementing the loss foodstuffs with imports, while Syria is in even worse condition. Half of the population of 22 million has been displaced and no longer contributes to the economy. If the caliphate cannot provide food and essential services to the people under its control, it faces an insurrection.

The solution chosen by the caliphate is to turn to the gold Dinar that has as much symbolic value as is does as a means of financing the society. While gold speaks of wealth and security in the minds of most people, there is a hazard in adopting a gold currency. The value of the gold coins comes from the quality of gold metal and not from the quality of the issuer. Anyone doubting the longevity of the caliphate will be inclined to horde the coins under a rock somewhere or smuggle the coins outside. The loss of money from the economy will translate into an overall deflation as the scarcity of money raises its value; and that is likely to depress the economy even further.

Return of the Gold Dinar is a declaration of economic warfare upon the United States for reneging upon its pledge to preserve the gold standard and imposing the dollar standard upon the world. The caliphate assures its believers that it will exact its revenge by breaking the dollar and by bringing back the use of gold to finance world commerce.

Egyptian Finance Minister Fayyad Abdel Money, a former professor of economics, points out that there is not enough gold in the world to finance the more than 75 trillion dollar global economy. The U.S. represents a quarter of the total, a power somewhat beyond that of the caliphate.

After all of its talk about the mystical powers of gold, it is their own economy that is a serious weakness in the survival of the caliphate. The caliphate is consuming itself and needs a fresh infusion of wealth.

That means acquiring a commodity that can be marketed outside of the caliphate. The caliphate is targeting for that purpose opium from Afghanistan that produces 90 percent of the world supply and has the extra advantage of being the largest grower of cannabis. It is focusing on The Badakhshan Province, which saw a 77 percent increase in opium production during 2014 and has a minor Taliban presence. The mountainous province extends into Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Xinjiang Province of China. The Russian Federal Drug Control Service estimates that the opium trade is worth a billion dollars.

The move of the Islamic State into Afghanistan is bringing it into conflict with the Taliban, which also relies upon opium as a source of revenue. As its forces strengthen in the north, Islamic State is likely to spread deeper into the Taliban’s territory as both organizations battle to control the illegal drug trade in a Poppy War.”


Defense Secretary Says Iraq Raid Isn’t Combat, Then Says It Is




“An American soldier has died in Iraq as a result of the U.S.intervention to support Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic State.

It’s the first loss of an American service member since the fight against ISIS began, and the first combat death in Iraq since 2011.

U.S. special operations forces operating in Iraq in what Pentagon officials say was a supporting role took part in an Iraqi operation to free Iraqi hostages, including members of the Iraqi Security Forces. After more than 70 hostages were freed, 39-year-old Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a veteran of 14 official combat deployments and doubtless several other less-official trips into danger, died of his gunshot wound.

His death has raised the question of how an American could have died in combat when America, at least according to President Barack Obama and his national security leaders, is not at war.

“We have this capability. It is a great American strength,” Carter said Friday at the Pentagon of special operations raids like the one this week. But he insisted those raids are not the same as the U.S.military “assuming a combat role.”

Americans are flying combat missions, thousands of combat missions, over Syria and Iraqi territory. There are Americans involved in training and advising Iraqi security forces around the country. We do not have combat formations there the way we had once upon a time in Iraq, or the way we have had in years past in Afghanistan,” Carter said.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook had been blunter on Thursday: “Our mission in Iraq is the train, advise and assist mission. This was a unique circumstance…This was a support mission in which they were providing support to the Kurdistan Regional Government. U.S. forces are not in an active combat mission in Iraq.”

But before Carter left the podium on Friday, he offered this explanation for why he couldn’t reveal more details of Wheeler’s actions: “This is combat. Things are complicated.”


The rules of the official advise-and-assist mission meant the Americans were to “stay behind the last covered and concealed position,” but when the Peshmerga fighters they were supporting began taking fire and casualties they stepped in and acted. As spokesman Col. Steve Warren noted from Baghdad, “In the chaos of combat, when you see your friends being hit, I would submit to you that you’re under somewhat of a moral obligation.” Again, combat.

Thursday’s events have thrust have into the public spotlight the rather plastic definitions of war and combat in which Americans have been operating now for a while. We may not by name or distinction be a nation at war, and we may not be a nation whose troops are part of full-scale, on-the-ground combat operations. But the men and women serving in those countries are indeed in a war zone and serving their nation in combat. They are at war whether or not we are as a nation.

Officially, combat operations ended in Afghanistan in December 2014. In May, Obama noted that “for many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end. Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.”

And yet three months later America could count four losses of life on the battlegrounds of Afghanistan. As of today America has sustained 14 casualties, including four deaths the Pentagon labels as “killed in action.” Even if the official mission is to support Afghan forces, American lives are on the line and in combat theaters.

American forces serving in Afghanistan are eligible to earn the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and anyone in Iraq qualifies for combat pay.

American forces are in combat. Not saying it out loud allows us—and perhaps our leaders in Washington—to feel we are not a nation at war, even if some of us are serving in battle.”




Master Sergeant Johshua Wheeler


U.S. ISIL Campaign Tops $3 Billion


Photo Credit: Air Force


“A year into the conflict, U.S. military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have cost the Defense Department more than $3.2 billion, according to the Pentagon.

Christopher Harmer, a defense analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, described the air campaign as “tactically spectacular” but having limited “strategic impact” because the group still controls major areas and population centers, maintains the ability to launch offensive operations, and is able to communicate with and recruit foreign fighters and sympathizers.

The bulk of the cost has been borne by the Air Force, which is leading the bombing campaign against the militants. The service has spent more than $2.1 billion on the air war, including munitions and mission support functions. The Navy, which has been launching strike and reconnaissance platforms from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, has spent about $500 million. The war effort has cost the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command approximately $350 million and $250 million, respectively.

The U.S. began bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq in August 2014, and the effort expanded to Syria the following month. U.S. Central Command has launched more than 5,000 airstrikes against the militants and destroyed more than 7,000 enemy targets, including tanks, Humvees, buildings, oil infrastructure, staging areas and fighting positions, U.S. officials said. In addition, approximately 3,500 American troops are in Iraq performing a train, advise and assist mission.

Although anti-Islamic State forces on the ground — backed by U.S. airpower — have pushed the jihadists out of places like the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the Syrian town of Kobane, the group continues to hold key terrain and remains a potent adversary, U.S. officials and defense experts have noted.

Some observers have criticized the restrictions that President Barack Obama has placed on the U.S. military effort, including prohibiting special operators from joining the front lines to call in airstrikes in support of friendly forces.

“It’s very difficult for a pilot flying at 30,000 feet to accurately target those guys, especially when they are so intermingled with the civilians,” Harmer said.

When it comes to allied forces on the ground, U.S. officials have expressed disappointment with the pace of training of anti-Islamic State Syrian rebels. The Iraqi security forces’ competence and willingness to fight have also been called into question.

The Obama administration’s stated goal is to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State. But Harmer questioned whether the coalition could achieve that end with the current policies in place.

“If nothing else changes fundamentally, what we’ve got set up right now is a stalemate fight. … We’re throwing enough airpower at it to make it difficult for ISIS to expand [but] we’re not throwing enough airpower at it to make it impossible for ISIS to expand. And we’re not throwing anywhere near enough assets at it to destroy ISIS,” he said.

For fiscal year 2016, the Obama administration requested $5.3 billion in overseas contingency operations funds for the counter-Islamic State campaign, including $1.3 billion to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, Kurdish peshmerga and “moderate” Syrian rebels that are fighting to regain territory from the militants.

U.S. officials expect the fight to last several years or more.

“This is a long-term campaign,” Obama said at a Pentagon press conference in July.”


Lessons from Vietnam for the U.S. and ISIL




johnkerryvietnam1971 - Copy

                                              Veteran John Kerry Testifying Against Vietnam War in 1971


“Obsessed with communism, America intervened in Vietnam’s civil war and took the place of the French colonialists.

Obsessed with jihadists and 9/11, are we now doing the bidding of Iran and Syria in Iraq? Is jihadist to Sunni nationalism what communism was to Vietnamese nationalism: a fearsome ideological movement that triggers emotional reactions in the West — reinforced with videotaped beheadings — but that masks a deeper underlying nationalist movement that is to some degree legitimate and popular in its context?

&MaxW=640&imageVersion=default&AR-140919971 - Copy                             John Kerry Flying into Iraq on ISIL State Department Mission 2014

“The key reason we failed in Vietnam was that the communists managed to harness the Vietnamese nationalist narrative much more effectively than our South Vietnamese allies, who were too often seen as corrupt or illegitimate.

Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis embraced or resigned themselves to the Islamic State because they were systematically abused by the pro-Shiite, pro-Iranian governments of Bashar Assad in Syria and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq — and because they see ISIL as a vehicle to revive Sunni nationalism and end Shiite oppression.

Why did the Islamic State behead two U.S. journalists? Because it is a coalition of foreign jihadis, local Sunni tribes and former Iraqi Baath Party military officers.

I suspect the jihadis in charge want to draw the U.S. into another “crusade” against Muslims — just like Osama bin Laden — to energize and attract Muslims from across the world and to overcome their main weakness, namely that most Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis are attracted to the Islamic State simply as a vehicle of their sectarian resurgence, not because they want puritanical/jihadist Islam.

There is no better way to get secular Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis to fuse with the Islamic State than have America bomb them all.”


Can America Win A War? ANSWER: “He Who Ignores History Is Doomed to Repeat It”


20150501cover600-x-800NOTE:  This piece is the best read we have seen in recent years on the issue of ongoing US involvement in the Middle East and what ancient history and our own experience should tell us about such ventures.  The full article is well worth the time to carefully analyze and consider. Below is an extract and a link to the full text.


“The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, nine years after the birth of Christ, in what is now northwestern Germany. It has been called “the battle that changed the course of history,” because it marked forever the limits of the Roman Empire.

Nearly 2,000 years later, America crossed its own Rhine of sorts, in Vietnam. Like the Romans, the U.S. military seemed virtually unbeatable, until it ventured into Southeast Asia.

While the top tiers of Osama bin Laden’s group were decimated—and the leader himself eliminated in 2011—others took their places while the organization metastasized. Al-Qaeda and its ISIS rivals now compete for followers from Libya to Afghanistan. This cannot be considered a “win.”

Talk to the men and women who have to fight these wars, and they all say the same thing: We can keep killing people, but to what end? In this forever war, the best the United States can hope for is the effective management of threats.

“These are problems that the people in the region are going to have to figure out how to solve,” says Andrew Bacevich.[a former Army colonel and Vietnam veteran who lost a son in Iraq] “And they’re not going to do it quickly; they’re not going to do it easily; they are probably not going to do it without considerable bloodshed. But at the end of the day, they will have a better chance of solving their own problems than we will have a chance of imposing a solution on them.”

Such was the lesson Rome eventually learned from its defeat in the Teutoburg Forest. Rome’s legions took several more beatings east of the Rhine before their leaders decided the best way to reduce the threat of the Germanic tribes was to leave them to themselves. As the Roman historian Tacitus wrote, according to an analysis by the Dutch scholar Jona Lendering: “The Germanic tribes, left alone, would become divided again and cease to be dangerous.”

That might well be the hard lesson America has to learn.”




Image: oocities.org

As the U.S. continues into a second decade of the war on terror, our citizens and our volunteer military are growing disinterested and weary respectively.

The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) continues to make grand strides in technology, spending billions on new air craft and naval vessels, cyber warfare tools and sensors, while we downsize the combat soldiers to stand in the job line or wait for admission to veterans’ hospitals.



“Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion. Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned.

“At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.”

In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world.

When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.”

The Tragedy of the American Military 


Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice.


“Cost-plus contracts have long been criticized by government watchdogs like the Project On Government Oversight and waste-conscious lawmakers. Most recently, incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) bluntly stated that these contracts are “disgraceful” and should be banned.” Your Tax Dollars Defrauded  



“There are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate. Many say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan taught them that the American military cannot fix what is fundamentally a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders. Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving Mr. Obama the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.

“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving in Congress have emerged as some of the most important voices in the debate over whether to give President Obama a broad authorization for a military campaign against the Islamic State or something much more limiting.” Veterans in Congress Bring Rare Perspective



“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”  The Tragedy of the American Military


Foreign aid in the billions continues to the Middle East.  US weapons export sales have reached a crescendo, increasing by 31% to 94 countries. with the Middle East receiving the line share. US Arms Exports Increase 31% A single Weapon, the 1.4 Trillion dollar F-35 will soon account for 12% of our total national debt. The 1.4 $Trillion F-35 Aircraft


“The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state.”  At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said. “The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint.” Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. 

Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.” What’s Eric Prince Been Up To?

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER: Did not the Roman Empire run into these issues when they outsourced their wars and went to the baths?


Image: Photolibra

What makes us believe this worldwide war of attrition can continue indefinitely and that our younger generations are going to be willing to enlist and/or pay the bills? Can we insist our government representatives consider these factors and plan ahead? Future generations, their wealth, health and treasure will depend on our answers.

Veterans in Congress Bring Rare Perspective to Authorizing War













Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, served in Iraq as a Marine.

“New York Times”

“There are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate.

Many say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan taught them that the American military cannot fix what is fundamentally a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders.

Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving Mr. Obama the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.

“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving in Congress have emerged as some of the most important voices in the debate over whether to give President Obama a broad authorization for a military campaign against the Islamic State or something much more limiting.

In other conflicts, Congress shaped military policy with a certain remove from the battlefield. But as lawmakers deliberate whether to give authority for a military operation to a president for the first time since 2002, there are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate, according to the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. To them, this fight is not a distant foreign conflict. They have an intimate understanding of battling the same kinds of deadly extremists.

“One of the reasons I ran for Congress was to make sure we didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, of going into war without a clear strategy,” said Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii and an Iraq war veteran.

As a member of a National Guard medical unit who was responsible for reviewing the previous day’s casualty list, she said, she wondered whether “the leaders of our country and those in positions of making these decisions really understand what the impacts of their decisions were.”

While Ms. Gabbard and other veterans agree that Congress should exercise its constitutional prerogative to authorize the commander in chief to engage in military action, their conflicting views on the scope of that authority reflect the larger complexities of the debate and the difficulty the House and Senate face in any effort to draft a compromise resolution.

Republicans, by and large, want to pass a broad resolution that would contain few if any limitations on the president’s ability to send forces wherever and whenever he believes he needs them. Democrats tend to support a more restricted resolution that would not open the door to another lengthy, sprawling conflict.

With the death or retirement of World War II veterans, the number of men and women in Congress who served in the military has been steadily declining. In the 1970s, roughly 70 percent of the Senate had military service, according to Donald A. Ritchie, the Senate historian. At the beginning of the current Congress, 101 members — or 19 percent — had served or were serving in the military, according to the Congressional Research Service. There is not a single member who served in World War II.

But the number of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — and their influence — has been rising.

Three Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, all veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq — were elected in November and now sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. More than a dozen House lawmakers who are veterans of those conflicts, both Democrat and Republican, sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

“They understand it’s easy to go to war and it’s tough to end it, and they understand the long-term effects in a very different way,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “It’s especially important when the president himself is not a combat veteran.”

The veterans are raising questions that the Obama administration will have to answer about its military commitments abroad, from the precise role that ground troops should play to whether the three-year time frame that Mr. Obama has proposed for fighting the Islamic State is correct.

“If we just go in and solve their military problem, propping up the Iraqi military, I guarantee we’ll be back there solving it again three or four years down the road,” said Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, who served in the Marines in Iraq. A “diplomatic surge,” he added, would be a better strategy than sending in combat forces.

Representative Martha E. McSally, Republican of Arizona and a retired Air Force colonel, calls the fight against the Islamic State a “generational struggle” that will not be easily solved. But her concerns have led her to a different conclusion. She said she was likely to support the president’s request, as long as his authority would not be too limited.

“If you think we’re going to declare victory over Islamic extremism in three years, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Ms. McSally said. “I’m not advocating that we start deploying large battalions over the Middle East, but we do want to make sure that the military can use all elements in any domain in order to meet our military objectives.”

Indeed, many Republicans with military service expressed their greatest anxiety about the language in the war authorization that would prohibit the use of “enduring offensive ground forces.”

“When we go to war, we want to give our troops every advantage on the battlefield,” said Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican of Montana and a retired commander at SEAL Team Six. “We don’t want to have another Benghazi, where you call and all of a sudden no one is answering on the other line.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, served two tours in Iraq. An Air Force pilot who is currently in the Air National Guard Reserve, he said, “We have to ask ourselves what’s worse — the presence of American ground troops or the presence of ISIS.”

Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona and a member of the Marine Reserve, was deployed to Iraq in 2005. He said his experience clearing insurgents from cities — only to have them return once his unit had moved on — had made him reluctant to send ground troops, because he worries about the United States again being forced to “clean up messes.”