The War in Iraq is Finally Over….. Unless You Are One of the 50,000 U.S. Troops Staying in Iraq! WTF???
I’m not even counting the number of private troops that are in Iraq. Where are these people that really believe the war in Iraq is over? The government and media wouldn’t sell it as such if people didn’t buy into the ridiculous propaganda.
The US government has decided to hype its “official” end to the Iraq War today, and a number of media outlets are dutifully responding, praising the ostensible end to the Iraq War and showing footage of the “last brigade” leaving from Iraq.
The “last brigade,” of course, except for all of the brigades which make up roughly 50,000 US combat troops, that didn’t leave. Those troops’ jobs won’t change, combat will continue, but they were redefined as “transition troops” for the sake of being able to claim that the president withdrew “all combat forces.”
Praising the “end of the war,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley praised the “declining violence” in Iraq, while neglecting to mention that violence has actually been increasing for several months, and that July was the deadliest month in the nation in over two years.
The administration that brought us the “government-in-a-box” fiasco in Marjah is now bringing us the “victory-in-a-box” TV spot, with all the pomp and self-congratulatory shamelessness of the LeBron James Free Agent Signing Special. Its a wonder the administration didn’t book a musical guest, perhaps putting some former American Idol winner at the Kuwaiti border waiting for the troops to arrive.
And at the end of a live journey with embedded reporters, the war “ends”and the “last troops” come home. Except that all the fighting is still going on and the bulk of the troops are still there, and not leaving for months or even years.
From The New York Times
WASHINGTON — At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.
But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.
The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.
The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.
The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.
While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.
Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.
Instead of “the hammer,” in the words of John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, America will rely on the “scalpel.” In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a “multigenerational” campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.
Yet such wars come with many risks: the potential for botched operations that fuel anti-American rage; a blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies that could put troops at risk of being denied Geneva Convention protections; a weakening of the Congressional oversight system put in place to prevent abuses by America’s secret operatives; and a reliance on authoritarian foreign leaders and surrogates with sometimes murky loyalties.
The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.
The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.
For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.
And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.
A Proving Ground
Yemen is a testing ground for the “scalpel” approach Mr. Brennan endorses. Administration officials warn of the growing strength of Al Qaeda’s affiliate there, citing as evidence its attempt on Dec. 25 to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner using a young Nigerian operative. Some American officials believe that militants in Yemen could now pose an even greater threat than Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.
The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.
“Where we want to get is to much more small scale, preferably locally driven operations,” said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, who serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.
“For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us,” Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. “And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war.”
Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.
And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.
In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.
Still, it has astonished some old hands of the military and intelligence establishment. Jack Devine, a former top C.I.A. clandestine officer who helped run the covert war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said his record showed that he was “not exactly a cream puff” when it came to advocating secret operations.
But he warned that the safeguards introduced after Congressional investigations into clandestine wars of the past — from C.I.A. assassination attempts to the Iran-contra affair, in which money from secret arms dealings with Iran was funneled to right-wing rebels in Nicaragua known as the contras — were beginning to be weakened. “We got the covert action programs under well-defined rules after we had made mistakes and learned from them,” he said. “Now, we’re coming up with a new model, and I’m concerned there are not clear rules.”
Cooperation and Control
The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.
The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.
The accounts of the American strikes in Yemen, which include many details that have not previously been reported, are based on interviews with American and Yemeni officials who requested anonymity because the military campaign in Yemen is classified, as well as documents from Yemeni investigators.
As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.
“Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you,” the Qaeda operative, standing amid angry Yemenis, declared. “There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!”
A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.
An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.
American officials cited strained resources for decisions about some of the Yemen strikes. With the C.I.A.’s armed drones tied up with the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the officials said, cruise missiles were all that was available at the time. Drones are favored by the White House for clandestine strikes because they can linger over targets for hours or days before unleashing Hellfire missiles, reducing the risk that women, children or other noncombatants will fall victim.
The Yemen operation has raised a broader question: who should be running the shadow war? White House officials are debating whether the C.I.A. should take over the Yemen campaign as a “covert action,” which would allow the United States to carry out operations even without the approval of Yemen’s government. By law, covert action programs require presidential authorization and formal notification to the Congressional intelligence committees. No such requirements apply to the military’s so-called Special Access Programs, like the Yemen strikes.
Obama administration officials defend their efforts in Yemen. The strikes have been “conducted very methodically,” and claims of innocent civilians being killed are “very much exaggerated,” said a senior counterterrorism official. He added that comparing the nascent Yemen campaign with American drone strikes in Pakistan was unfair, since the United States has had a decade to build an intelligence network in Pakistan that feeds the drone program.
In Yemen, officials said, there is a dearth of solid intelligence about Qaeda operations. “It will take time to develop and grow that capability,” the senior official said.
On Dec. 24, another cruise missile struck in a remote valley called Rafadh, about 400 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital and two hours from the nearest paved road. The Yemeni authorities said the strike killed dozens of Qaeda operatives, including the leader of the Qaeda branch in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his Saudi deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri. But officials later acknowledged that neither man was hit, and local witnesses say the missile killed five low-level Qaeda members.
The next known American strike, on March 14, was more successful, killing a Qaeda operative named Jamil al-Anbari and possibly another militant. Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch acknowledged Mr. Anbari’s death. On June 19, the group retaliated with a lethal attack on a government security compound in Aden that left 11 people dead and said the “brigade of the martyr Jamil al-Anbari” carried it out.
In part, the spotty record of the Yemen airstrikes may derive from another unavoidable risk of the new shadow war: the need to depend on local proxies who may be unreliable or corrupt, or whose agendas differ from that of the United States.
American officials have a troubled history with Mr. Saleh, a wily political survivor who cultivates radical clerics at election time and has a history of making deals with jihadists. Until recently, taking on Al Qaeda had not been a priority for his government, which has been fighting an intermittent armed rebellion since 2004.
And for all Mr. Saleh’s power — his portraits hang everywhere in the Yemeni capital — his government is deeply unpopular in the remote provinces where the militants have sought sanctuary. The tribes there tend to regularly switch sides, making it difficult to depend on them for information about Al Qaeda. “My state is anyone who fills my pocket with money,” goes one old tribal motto.
The Yemeni security services are similarly unreliable and have collaborated with jihadists at times. The United States has trained elite counterterrorism teams there in recent years, but the military still suffers from corruption and poor discipline.
It is still not clear why Mr. Shabwani, the Marib deputy governor, was killed. The day he died, he was planning to meet members of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch in Wadi Abeeda, a remote, lawless plain dotted with orange groves east of Yemen’s capital. The most widely accepted explanation is that Yemeni and American officials failed to fully communicate before the attack.
Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said the civilian deaths in the first strike and the killing of the deputy governor in May “had a devastating impact.” The mishaps, he said, “embarrassed the government and gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists,” he said, referring to adherents of the form of Islam embraced by militants.
American officials said President Saleh was angry about the strike in May, but not so angry as to call for a halt to the clandestine American operations. “At the end of the day, it’s not like he said, ‘No more,’ ” said one Obama administration official. “He didn’t kick us out of the country.”
Despite the airstrike campaign, the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula survives, and there is little sign the group is much weaker.
Attacks by Qaeda militants in Yemen have picked up again, with several deadly assaults on Yemeni army convoys in recent weeks. Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has managed to put out its first English-language online magazine, Inspire, complete with bomb-making instructions. Intelligence officials believe that Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American who arrived from North Carolina last year, played a major role in producing the slick publication.
As a test case, the strikes have raised the classic trade-off of the post-Sept. 11 era: Do the selective hits make the United States safer by eliminating terrorists? Or do they help the terrorist network frame its violence as a heroic religious struggle against American aggression, recruiting new operatives for the enemy?
Al Qaeda has worked tirelessly to exploit the strikes, and in Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, the group has perhaps the most sophisticated ideological opponent the United States has faced since 2001.
“If George W. Bush is remembered by getting America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen,” the cleric said in a March Internet address that was almost gleeful about the American campaign.
Most Yemenis have little sympathy for Al Qaeda and have observed the American strikes with “passive indignation,” Mr. Eryani said. But, he added, “I think the strikes over all have been counterproductive.”
Edmund J. Hull, the United States ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004, cautioned that American policy must not be limited to using force against Al Qaeda.
“I think it’s both understandable and defensible for the Obama administration to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations,” Mr. Hull said. But he added: “I’m concerned that counterterrorism is defined as an intelligence and military program. To be successful in the long run, we have to take a far broader approach that emphasizes political, social and economic forces.”
Obama administration officials say that is exactly what they are doing — sharply increasing the foreign aid budget for Yemen and offering both money and advice to address the country’s crippling problems. They emphasized that the core of the American effort was not the strikes but training for elite Yemeni units, providing equipment and sharing intelligence to support Yemeni sweeps against Al Qaeda.
Still, the historical track record of limited military efforts like the Yemen strikes is not encouraging. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines in a forthcoming book what he has labeled “discrete military operations” from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war in 1991. He found that these operations seldom achieve either their military or political objectives.
But he said that over the years, military force had proved to be a seductive tool that tended to dominate “all the discussions and planning” and push more subtle solutions to the side.
When terrorists threaten Americans, Mr. Zenko said, “there is tremendous pressure from the National Security Council and the Congressional committees to, quote, ‘do something.’ ”
That is apparent to visitors at the American Embassy in Sana, who have noticed that it is increasingly crowded with military personnel and intelligence operatives. For now, the shadow warriors are taking the lead.
Muhammad al-Ahmadi contributed reporting from Yemen.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 14, 2010
An earlier version of this article misstated that Micah Zenko was still at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Mr. Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is no longer at the Kennedy School.
By Glenn Greenwald
(updated below – Update II)
The only real reason I thought Robert Gibbs’ comments yesterday merited a response is not because of the ephemeral melodrama it created — the White House said Fox-copying, mean things about the Left – but because of the “substantive” claim he made that comparisons of Bush and Obama were so blatantly insane that they merited “drug testing.” That Obama has vigorously embraced and at times even exceeded some of Bush’s most controversial and radical policies is simply indisputable. I’d request that anyone doubting that just review the very partial list I compiled in Update II yesterday. In that list, I neglected to mention numerous other compelling examples (recall Tim Dickinson’s recent revelation that Interior employees call their Department under Ken Salazar’s corporate-serving rule “the third Bush term”). Among my most prominent omissions was the Obama administration’s Bush-copying use of military commissions rather than real courts to try “War on Terror” detainees.
Military commissions were one of those Bush/Cheney policies which provoked virtually universal outrage among progressives and Democrats back in the day when executive power abuses and rule of law transgressions were a concern. The Obama administration’s claim that the commissions are now improved to the point that they provide a forum of real justice is being put to the test — and blatantly failing — with the first such commission to be held under Obama: that of Omar Khadr, accused of throwing a grenade in 2002 which killed an American solider in Afghanistan, when Khadr was 15 years old. This is the first trial of a child soldier held since World War II, explained a U.N. official who condemned these proceedings. The commission has already ruled that confessions made by Khadr which were clearly obtained through coercion, abuse and torture will be admitted as evidence against him. Prior to the commencement of Khadr’s ”trial,” the commission ruled in another case that the sentence imposed on a Sudanese detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi — convicted as part of a plea bargain of the dastardly crime of being Osama bin Laden’s ”cook” — will be kept secret until he is released. What kind of country has secret sentences?
Jennifer Turner is with the ACLU’s Human Rights Project and is observing these proceedings at Guantanamo. Read what she wrote and decide for yourself if “drug testing” is needed more for those who draw comparisons between Bush and Obama, or for those who angrily insist such comparisons are outrageous:
Yesterday was a stark reminder that instead of closing the book on the Bush-era military commissions, President Obama is adding another sad chapter to that history. Although President Obama promised transparency and sharp limits on the use of tortured and coerced statements against the accused, at Guantánamo today one military judge ordered that a sentence be kept secret from the public and another military judge allowed statements obtained by abuse and coercion of a 15-year-old to be used at trial.
Monday was Day One of the sentencing hearing in the case of Sudanese detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi. Al-Qosi was the first detainee to be convicted under President Obama, in a plea deal entered this June in which he admitted to being an al Qaeda cook and occasional driver. . . . But in an unprecedented move, military judge Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul ordered today that al-Qosi’s true sentence will be kept secret until he’s released. The judge said the government requested that the sentence be kept secret.
A fellow observer of the military commissions here, former Marine judge and law of war expert Gary Solis, here to monitor the commissions for the National Institute for Military Justice, says he has presided over 700 courts-martial and has never heard of a secret sentence. . . .
A final pretrial hearing also took place Monday in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr, who will start trial today as the first test trial of the military commissions under President Obama. In a summary decision of only a few words, and with no explanation, the military judge in Omar Khadr’s case, Col. Patrick Parrish, denied defense motions to exclude self-incriminating statements Khadr made to interrogators because of torture and other abuse. The judge will issue a written decision, certainly after the trial begins and possibly after it’s ended, but for now he’s offered no explanation.
It boggles the mind that the military judge could find that Khadr was not coerced and gave these statements to interrogators voluntarily. Khadr, then 15 years old, was taken to Bagram near death, after being shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. He was interrogated within hours, while sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn’t cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for detainee abuse leading to the death of a detainee. During his subsequent eight-year (so far) detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.
In closing arguments before the judge’s ruling, Khadr’s sole defense lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, told the judge, “Sir, be a voice today. Tell the world that we actually stand for what we say we stand for.”
Though President Obama promised that coerced evidence would not be used against detainees in the military commissions, today’s ruling suggests that as a country, we stand for abusing a 15-year-old teenager into confessing, and using those confessions against him in an illegitimate proceeding.
I hope that makes all of us very proud. And then there is the issue of the restrictions imposed on reporters covering these travesties. The Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg — probably the single most knowledgeable and relentless journalist covering Guantanamo — was banned in May, along with three Canadian journalists, from attending any further proceedings, a ban that was then reversed as arbitrarily as it was imposed. Last month, she gave a speech to the National Press Club about how arbitrary and oppressive these restrictions are, and adapted that speech into this superb article published by McClatchy. Last night, Rachel Maddow discussed those press restrictions with Newsweek‘s Mike Isikoff, who is covering the Khadr trial from Guantanamo; it’s worth watching this 5-minute segment:
As I’ve written before about the Khadr case (as well as the very similar case of child soldier Mohamed Jawad), what is most striking to me about this case is this: how can it possibly be that the U.S. invades a foreign country, and then when people in that country — such as Khadr — fight back against the invading army, by attacking purely military targets via a purely military act (throwing a grenade at a solider, who was part of a unit ironically using an abandoned Soviet runway as its outpost), they become “war criminals,” or even Terrorists, who must be shipped halfway around the world, systematically abused, repeatedly declared to be one of “the worst of the worst,” and then held in a cage for almost a full decade (one third of his life and counting)? It’s hard to imagine anything which more compellingly underscores the completely elastic and manipulated “meaning” of “Terrorist” than this case: in essence, the U.S. is free to do whatever it wants, and anyone who fights back, even against our invading armies and soldiers (rather than civilians), is a war criminal and a Terrorist.
* * * * *
Regarding the Obama administration’s efforts to have the scope of National Security Letters expanded to include your email and Internet “transactional” records, Harper‘s Scott Horton examines how abusive a power that is by looking at one case that recently became public (see an excellent Democracy Now interview from this morning with the true hero of that story, Nick Merrill). Relatedly, I have an essay in Cato Unbound on the ongoing explosion of the unaccountable Surveillance State. Really, though, it’d be best if you look over there at John Boehner, become sufficiently scared, express gratitude that Obama isn’t Sarah Palin, and then keep your mouth shut about all of these matters and just dutifully get to work to elect Democrats. That’s what any good citizen would do.
UPDATE: Yesterday, the always-smart Rep. Keith Ellison called on Gibbs to resign, and earlier today, Alan Grayson had some extremely harsh words for Gibbs, saying, among other things: ”I don’t want him to resign; he should be fired;” he ”belongs on Fox, not as the White House spokesman”; and “I’d like to see him show some anger over 15 million unemployed.”
I was on MSNBC earlier today, with Dylan Ratigan and Jane Hamsher, and tried to highlight what I think are the substantive issues (as opposed to the petty “hurt-feelings” reactions) which this episode raises. The video of that segment is below, and below that is Grayson’s appearance on MSNBC, where he echoes some of those points:
UPDATE II: Maher Arar — the Canadian citizen who was abducted by the Bush administration, sent to Syria for 9 months to be tortured, and then denied any justice in American courts even once it was clear that he was completely innocent — has a superb piece at Huffington Post, entitled: ”Why Is Canadian Child Soldier Omar Khadr Being Tried by a Military Court?” The whole thing should be read, but this is how it ends:
The final question is: Why is Omar Khadr being tried by a military court if the government is certain he was the one who threw the grenade? Don’t they have trust in civilian courts? I think we all know the answer: these military courts are made to convict. After all, the government, as is usually the case, is throwing multiple charges at him in the hope that one of them sticks.
This farce trial is already showing us its ugly face: his military judge has just ruled that Khadr’s confession can be used in trial.
If anyone can recognize the horror and tyranny of America’s “War on Terror” abuses, it’s Arar. And he clearly recognizes it here.
Featured on a panel at the University of California, Riverside, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio calmly and confidently debunks the accusations against Iran. This video gives excerpts of his comments. You want to watch this video, I promise.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quick to condemn an announcement today from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in which Assange said the group was preparing to release the 15,000 remaining Afghan War documents.
But a furious Geoff Morrell declared that the “only responsible” course of action was for WikiLeaks to delete all of its classified documents, including those that had already been released. Needless to say, the whistleblower group does not plan do this.
Though WikiLeaks has yet to identify the new documents, the Pentagon says it believes it knows what they are, and that they are “potentially explosive.” The previous document leaks have caused no small level of embarrassment to the military, but they have had to concede that they have no evidence to back up their claims that WikiLeaks has “blood on its hands.”
Assange, fearing US retribution, has gone into even deeper hiding, and is reported to have dyed his white hair brown. His last known location was London, but when he “attended” a London conference via Skype he declined to comment on where he is now.
The Obama Administration remains committed to spinning its redefinition of combat troops as “transitional forces” as the end of the combat mission, even though there is no doubt that combat will continue past this date.
But while the “drawdown” is of political expedience at the moment, reports suggest that there is little stomach for actually ending the war among US officials, and perhaps even more problematic, no Iraqi government in place (beyond a powerless caretaker government) with any vested interest in ensuring the 2011 pullout happens.
In fact the Iraqi Army’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari today warned that, while the level of violence is already rising precipitously it will be even worse after 2011, if the US leaves. He is calling instead for the US to commit to the occupation fo Iraq through at least 2020, which is when, in his estimate, the Iraqi military might be ready to take over.
Though one might be tempted to dismiss Zebari’s comments as those of a single Iraqi soldier, they seem to jibe closely with the sentiment of the US State Department, which over the past few months has been openly trying to create a Second US Army, answerable to the State Department, which would continue the occupation of Iraq for years after, or perhaps at this point it should be couched as if, the current US Army leaves.
By Ron Paul
Last week the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report on the effect of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq that confirmed what critics of our foreign policy had been saying for years. The killing of civilians, although unintentional, angers other civilians and prompts them to seek revenge. This should be self-evident. The Central Intelligence Agency has long acknowledged and analyzed the concept blowback in our foreign policy.
It still amazes me that so many think that attacks against our soldiers occupying hostile foreign lands are motivated by hatred toward our system of government at home, or by the religion of the attackers. In fact, most of the anger toward us is rooted in reactions towards seeing their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved ones, being killed by a foreign army. No matter our intention, the violence of our militarism in foreign lands causes those residents to seek revenge if innocents are killed. One does not have to be a Muslim to react this way – just human.
Our battle in Afghanistan resembles the battle against the many-headed Hydra monster in Greek mythology. According to former General Stanley McChrystal’s so-called insurgent math, for every insurgent killed, ten more insurgents are created by the collateral damage to civilians. Every coalition attack leads to six retaliatory attacks against our troops within the following six weeks, according to the NBER report. These retaliatory attacks must then be acted on by our troops, leading to still more attacks, and so it goes. Violence begets more violence. Eventually more and more Afghanis will view American troops with hostility and seek revenge for the deaths of a loved one. Meanwhile we are bleeding ourselves dry militarily and economically.
Some say if we leave, the Taliban will be strengthened. However, those who make that claim ignore the numerous ways our interventionist foreign policy has strengthened groups like the Taliban over the years. I have already pointed out how we serve as excellent recruiters for them by killing civilians. Last week I pointed out how our foreign aid to Pakistan specifically makes it into the Taliban’s coffers. And of course we provided the Taliban with aid and resources in the 1980s when they were our strategic allies against the Soviet Union.
For example, our CIA supplied them with stinger missiles to use against the Soviets, which are strikingly similar to the ones now allegedly used against us on the same battlefield according to the Wikileaks documents. As usual, our friends have a funny way of turning against us. Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein are also prime examples. Yet Congress never seems to acknowledge the blowback that results from our interventionism of the past.
Our war against the Taliban is going about as well as our War on Drugs or our War on Poverty, or any of our government’s wars. They all tend to create more of the thing they purport to eradicate, thereby dodging any excuse to draw down and come to an end. It is hard to image even winning anything this way. We have done enough damage in Afghanistan, both to the Afghan people and to ourselves. It’s time to reevaluate the situation. It’s time to come home.
U.S. Secretary Robert Gates has stated that WikiLeaks has “moral culpability” for potentially deadly repercussions in Afghanistan and presumably Iraq. Gates said, “The Taliban can glean a lot about U.S. tactics and sources from the documents.”
I’m delighted that Gates has brought up the topic of morality. He, son of the Midwest, an Eagle Scout, a trusted CIA operative, and … oops. I should have stopped at Boy Scout.
We easily recognize corruption and immorality in our elected officials – we lap up stories of seat haggling by glossy-haired pols in Chicago, we thrill at the sexcapades of prosecutors and presidents. We marvel at the sheer criminality of Congressional members and their staffs, even as we shudder fearfully at its mighty collective lawlessness.
As constituents, we can look at their crimes early and often. We can check to see if they vote with or against the Constitution, be it state or federal. We can contact them and even speak to them about what we care about, and when that has no effect, we can campaign against them, put in a different criminal, or step away from electoral politics altogether. But we will not be confused as to what is lacking in our elected representatives. They have a law to follow – the Constitutions of various states and of the federal government – and these public documents guide them regardless of creed or party. With rare exceptions, elected officials will fail to follow the basic rules they swore to uphold. We are informed, and entertained.
On the other hand, civil servants, particularly at the federal level, have been given a full pass in the ethics and morality department. We have been told basically that a professional government workforce was created from the void and that it is very good. We hear this even of the CIA, an organization with which Gates is quite familiar. We hear it of the Pentagon, Gates’ current area of responsibility.
Since its inception, much has been written on the extra-legal activities of the CIA. This history exists – and is ongoing, as the more recent role of the CIA in rendition and torture is public knowledge. I’m sorry. Rendition is kidnapping people, including Americans, and holding them for years without charges, without evidence, and without legal representation – and lying about it. Torture, as you may have heard, is something the United States government does not do, even as its agents systematically drug, deprive, waterboard, psychologically abuse, physically rough up, maim, wound, rape, threaten and lie to those we have rendered.
Bob Gates, as a career government civil servant knows all of this, and far, far more. He shares responsibility for the evolution of the CIA even as he escaped the heaviest stench of Iran-Contra. A senior CIA official as the Cold War ended and a new mission needed to be found, under George Herbert Walker Bush, Gates was an indispensable servant. The demonization and manipulation of former CIA asset and Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein fit the bill, and it simply boggles the mind the decisions and actions that Bob Gates was knowledgeable of and involved in between 1986 and 1993. The Iran-Contra Independent Counsel, with a little help from grand Jury secrecy rules, predictably found that prosecution of Gates was not warranted. His role in creating storylines to sell the first Persian Gulf War, in hiding or adjusting evidence to play the world, and in managing state secrets is undeniable, and largely unexamined. He was the ultimate trusted agent – the first CIA career civil servant to ever rise to Director.
There is a heavily promoted myth that professional civil servants, whether in uniform or in dress suits, are somehow more bound to the constitution and law and ethics than are politicians, and insultingly, more ethical than the average doctor, lawyer or car mechanic. But of course, they are not. Practically speaking, why would they be? Civil servants are extraordinarily hard to get rid of. Poor performance, lack of ethics, incompetence, immorality – none of these will generally get a civil servant fired, and often, these behaviors produce promotions. Now, these tolerated behaviors may be used to remove a civil servant – but only as needed to make a point of loyalty, as in the case of Rumsfeld’s persecution of Air Force Lt General Fiscus, who had the audacity to suggest that the law must limit Rumsfeld’s desires to detain and torture.
Civil servants – including members of the military – are part of a loyalty-based crime family, led largely by the executive level and his appointees, controlled by executive sponsors, backers and funders, and loyalty is demanded no less seriously than it is demanded by the dons of any crime syndicate. In this environment, just following orders is not only an acceptable excuse, it is all that the bosses ever wish to hear.
Professional civil servants and military members know this. They embrace doublespeak, as Orwell defined it:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.
The small minority of civil servants and military who cannot take the doublespeak, or over time, find that it is becoming harder to take, self-eliminate. Sometimes they do so by finding another job where the doublespeak is less offensive, and sometimes they leave the institution entirely. Sometimes they self-medicate, or morally or functionally degenerate to the point where the institution is forced to isolate or expel them. Sometimes they talk it out, debate, argue and actually try to change things from within the institution. As the great Daniel Ellsberg discovered, and many before and after him, introducing ethics and honesty in a system that runs on carefully constructed lies is quite a challenge. In spite of the fact that this will predictably destroy your career, possibly your ability to get a job anywhere, and subject you to scurrilous attacks and storytelling, the only honest and workable thing to do is to try and expose the lies to the light of day.
Creating this light of day is the mission of WikiLeaks, and the basic goal of independent media everywhere. But as Daniel Ellsberg experienced, and as whistleblowers in the 21st century from Sibel Edmonds, to Joe Darby, Jim Massey, and Sam Provance, from Joe Wilson and many more who sacrificed careers to speak morally and honestly have all found that the institution is like an angry grizzly, insulted that one man or one woman has the audacity to be sane. How dare they?
The institutionalized barbarism we see in the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” was made possible because a 22-year-old soldier could not lie. He was unable to effectively doublethink, and for some reason of upbringing, character, intelligence or basic goodness, could not bear the evilness he saw all around him – in American military behavior, in the institution’s lawlessness, in the immorality of war.
For his innocence and lack of ethical “sophistication,” Brad Manning is held in isolation, under a 24-hour suicide watch. For providing a ray of hot light on the carefully constructed lies of our government, those associated with WikiLeaks are being monitored and harassed, and even threatened by various agents of the federal government, and its allies. Bob Gates suggests that Brad Manning is a traitor and that WikiLeaks is morally culpable in sharing information with Afghans that they can use against us.
As made clear by Julian Assange and others, the Afghans – while certainly victims of Washington, DC imperialism – are not victims of our institutional doublethink. They see what we do, how we do it, and they have relatively accurate theories as to why we are doing it. And unlike our generals, Afghans and their neighbors and friends, have developed and are developing a wide variety of effective strategies to get us to go away.
Instead of keeping us safe, prosperous and free, our government demands that we stay uninformed and obedient, and keeps its professional servants in a strict and constant state of doublethink. Gates and Obama and Petraeus are nervous, with their curious doublespeaking mantra that “The leaks are deadly dangerous, but not all that serious.” Perhaps they know an open secret: Regular Americans – newly aware, sharply analytical, financially pragmatic and deeply moral – are nearing their potential to become the most fearsome enemy of American empire on the planet.
How would you feel towards a country if their military “accidentally” murdered your family and friends on a daily basis? Gandhi said it best: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
From The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO officials acknowledged preliminary reports that four to a dozen or more civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike Thursday in Nangarhar Province. Afghan accounts put the civilian deaths as high as 32.
A statement from the international forces confirmed that they had mounted an operation with Afghan forces in the area to search for a Taliban commander, and killed 2 senior Taliban leaders as well as 15 to 20 other insurgents. As the forces left they were fired on from several locations and called in an airstrike to cover their withdrawal, they said.
“Coalition forces deeply regret that our joint operation appears to have resulted in civilian loss of life and we express our sincerest condolences to the families,” Rear Adm. Greg Smith, the international force’s director of communication, said in a statement.
At the scene, in the village of Hashim Khail Wadi in the Khogyani district, a reporter for The New York Times counted 12 fresh graves. Residents said that they had just buried civilian victims of the bombing and that a total of 32 people had been killed there and in another village nearby, Nakrro Khail, in the Sherzad district.
The victims were said to be in a house in Nakrro Khail and at a ford in Hashim Khail Wadi, where vehicles were blocked by a flood and the drivers had parked, waiting to cross, when the vehicles were rocketed by planes. The attack took place about 4 a.m., the residents said.
President Hamid Karzai ordered an inquiry. Tolo TV in Kabul quoted local officials putting the civilian death toll at 12.
Hajji Zaman Khairy, a prominent tribal elder in the Khogyani district and a candidate for Parliament, also said 12 civilians were killed, but added that coalition forces captured seven people and killed 14 Afghan and foreign Taliban fighters.
A statement from the international forces said that 10 rocket-propelled grenades and multiple automatic weapons had been found at the scene.
In another case of civilian casualties, Afghan and coalition officials continued to dispute what happened in the Sangin district of Helmand Province on July 26, when United States Marines fired a missile at a house from which they had received gunfire.
A senior intelligence official for the international forces, speaking on condition of anonymity as a matter of policy because of his position, said that about 6 civilians were killed, as well as Taliban fighters, for a total of 14 deaths. The civilians were killed when the Marines fired a shoulder-mounted Javelin rocket at a house where Taliban had taken up positions on the roof, while keeping civilians trapped inside.
“The Marines were unbelievable in the length of the time they waited to return fire,” the official said, adding that they took fire from the house for more than four hours before the decision to fire the rocket was made.
Afghan officials had put the death toll at 52 civilians, while officials from the international force denied at first that civilians had been killed.
President Karzai sent provincial and local officials to investigate and announced after meeting with them on Wednesday that 39 civilians were killed by the rocket strike on the house, where people had taken refuge from the fighting. The announcement noted, however, that the Taliban had been fighting from the house.
Asked to explain the divergence in accounts, the international force official said, “In Helmand, there are significant political challenges going on, to put it mildly.” In addition, coalition forces were unable to visit the scene because the Taliban controlled the area, the official said.
The announcement from Mr. Karzai’s office said that the president “once again insisted that under any conditions civilian casualties are not acceptable to him.”
Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Thursday, a suicide bomber struck an American and Afghan convoy, killing 11 police officers and wounding seven civilians in northern Kunduz Province, Afghan officials said. None of the Americans were hurt.
The convoy was on a patrol in the Pul-e-Khesti area, in the Imam Sahib district, when the car bomb exploded near the patrol at 7:30 a.m., said Mohammad Ayub Haqyar, the district governor. He said an American armored vehicle was slightly damaged, but no one inside was hurt.
In Helmand Province, a roadside bomb struck a civilian vehicle on Thursday, killing nine civilians, pilgrims preparing for the hajj to Saudi Arabia.