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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism

Obama Moves to Massively Expand Covert Military Abroad

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Via The New York Times, President Obama has just ordered a “broad expansion of clandestine military operations” in an attempt to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda”. The ‘covert operations’ will likely include anything from target assassinations, ‘drone’ attacks in Pakistan, secret bombing campaigns, money transfers to client states (a la Karzai and Maliki), and many things in-between. This is a significant move for a variety of reasons, not least of which stands the utter lack of public consultation for such a policy.

Mr. Greenwald has a timely essay on why Mr. Obama can undertake such extreme actions in the absence not only of opposition to his imperial policy, but indeed, any discussion whatsoever. Our major news outlets have reported the order in classic ‘objective’ style, assigning as little controversy to it as possible and treating it instead as a run-of-the-mill executive action. But it is interesting to examine why, in this year 2010, after nine continuous years of war, public opinion is such that a unilateral expansion of our secret military complex can occur with as little discussion as imaginable.

First, Mr. Greenwald notes, because this military expansion is taking place under a “Democratic” President, it creates the illusion of so-called ‘bipartisan support’. Back when President Bush was carrying out covert operations in Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., they were painted as the actions of an ‘extremist’ administration, one which regards the opposition with disdain and made a point of treating international law with utter contempt. However, after 18 months of military escalation, these wars are as much Mr. Obama’s (that is, “Democratic” wars), as they were Mr. Bush’s. As such, the number of “Democrats” willing to risk their political futures by opposing military action has dropped precipitously, as have the number of war-opposers in the general population. Specifically, the subset of people for whom Mr.Obama can do no wrong will automatically agree with his war policy – or if they disagree, put forth some excuse as to how Mr. Obama ‘has no choice’.

The biggest reason Mr. Greenwald identifies, however, is the complete lack of documented impact these wars have on our livelihood. It has been often mentioned that, unlike in Vietnam, very few Americans have had to go to war against their will. Our press is largely censored as to the true cost of our warfare not only on the beleaguered people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but even our own soldiers. Recall the recent dust-up when our Secretary of War, Robert Gates, “harshly condemned” the media’s display of a flag-draped coffin. And that was just one soldier, who had admittedly died in combat, but whose grisly death we had been totally shielded from.  As much as possible, we citizens are encouraged not to think about our military “commitments” abroad, and instead to simply carry on with our daily lives, a few dollars shorter than the day before, a little more ragged perhaps, but still inestimably “proud” of our “commitment” to “democracy in the Middle East”. One wonders just how far that pride would take us if more than 1% of the US population was involved in our military escapades, as the statistic stands now.

But beyond that, what Mr. Greenwald hints at but never explicitly states, is the psychology of powerlessness to which we citizens are routinely subjected. We literally have no say in what our government does abroad, and we have less and less of a say in even its domestic policies. In the 2008 elections, both candidates were unabashedly pro-war, Mr. Obama more so than even his most fervent supporters might have dreamt. For whom are we to vote if we wish to exit Iraq and Afghanistan immediately? Which Congressman, which Senator would even entertain such a possibility? To whom do we donate that we can be sure our paltry $50 will not be rendered irrelevant by the millions of dollars industry interests donate in order to keep these wars going? It is an implacable question, one made all the more urgent by President Obama’s dramatic escalation of our already over-stretched ‘commitments’.

The feeling of powerlessness can lead to apathy, but also to fear. When one recalls the brutality to which previous “anti-war protesters” have been subjected in the US, including savage beatings with nightsticks, water-cannons, ear-splitting sound emitters, tear gas and rubber bullets, it is not hard to imagine from whence this fear of dissent arises. Recall, also, that since the Homegrown Terrorism Act of 2007 passed, civil disobedience – the mere act of peaceful protest – has been defined as ‘terrorism’. And once you are accused of ‘terrorism’, citizen or no, you are immediately stripped of every right you think you have.

This latest move towards military hegemony is particularly insidious, and I suppose it follows that Mr. Obama merely announced his policy, in true decree style, with little or no discussion. With one stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama has resserved the right to carry out military operations anywhere around the globe, from “surgical strikes”, bombing campaigns, ground incursions, assassinations, or, indeed, anything his enigmatic mind may wish. It is worth remembering at this point that Mr. Obama also reserves the right to assassinate US citizens in their beds (that is, far from a battlefield), and ‘render’ accused terrorists to a global prison complex where no defense attorney dares enter. There, they can be beaten, tortured, or even murdered, far from the watchful eye of the Red Cross.

It is easy to imagine this latest move on the part of Mr. Obama is merely a continuation of Mr.  Bush’s odious policies. It is that, of course, but its implications go far deeper. Mr. Bush’s covert actions were largely piecemeal: an assassination here, a few ‘drone’ attacks there, maybe some ‘cash assistance’ to some friendly dictator or another for spice. In contrast, Mr. Obama’s new ‘national security strategy‘ systematizes these covert acts of aggression, and sets up, in essence, a new governmental body, with no congressional or popular oversight, to carry out his murderous will around the globe. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this ‘overhaul’, yet it is even more difficult to convince anyone of that significance.

Mr. Hitler once coined the term for the Germans as a ‘sleep-walking people’, but the same could easily be said of Americans (or, for that matter, anyone else). We face, in our generation, a confluence of crises of which we are only just beginning to see the magnitude, and unfortunately the first step to solving a crisis is to realize it exists, something for which, at least with regards to our present constitutional crisis, we still have quite some ways to go.

Written by pavanvan

May 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm

New “Enemy Belligerent” Act Allows for Indefinite Detention of US Citizens

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Lilliana Segura of Alternet reports:

The bill is only 12 pages long, but that is plenty of room to grant the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone — including a U.S. citizen — indefinitely, on the sole suspicion that he or she is affiliated with terrorism, and on the president’s sole authority as commander in chief.

A subsequent section, titled “Detention Without Trial of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,” states that suspects “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” In a press conference introducing the bill earlier this month, Sen. Joe Lieberman said, “I know that will be — that may be — a long time, but that’s the nature of this war.”

I’ve never seen a piece of legislation so baldly committed to subverting the rule of law. Remember, former Chief of Defense Staff has explicitly stated that the War on Terror (‘hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners’) could last 50 years. Or forever! No one knows!

Thankfully we still have a half-way independent judiciary which has repeatedly struck down similar legislation; so the odds are that this bill, if passed, will eventually be found unconstitutional (which, of course it is). But until then, anyone caught up in the drag-net of police state action this bill recommends will find themselves very lonely indeed, while they wait for the ‘war on terror’ to end.

And can we drop all this nonsense about “well, if you’re not a terrorist, you don’t need to worry”? Tell that to the 90% of inmates at Guantanamo Bay who are totally innocent. Tell that to the taxicab drivers, bakers and welders who were sold for bounties and found themselves held and tortured for years at the various US “black sites” around the globe. This bill isn’t so much an “anti-terrorism” bill as it is an “anti-Muslim” bill.

Seeing that the guy who flew his plane into a Texas IRS building (the very definition of Terrorism) was labeled a “tax protester” by our government and media, and our own Homeland Security department is on record saying that Timothy McVeigh (who bombed an Oklahoma government building, killing 168 people, including children) “wasn’t a terrorist“, it should be clear who that epithet refers to.

And if there’s any doubt still remaining, just check Newsweek‘s “handy guide” as to who is and is not a “terrorist”:

Lone wolfish American attacker who sees gov’t as threat to personal freedom: bomber, tax protester, survivalist, separatist

Group of Americans bombing/kidnapping to protest U.S. policies on war/poverty/personal freedom/ – radical left-wing movement, right-wing separatists

All foreign groups or foreign individuals bombing/shooting to protest American gov’t: terrorists

So it should be clear that this bill is specifically designed to more easily arrest “foreigners” (even those who happen to be US citizens), hold them indefinitely without trial, and – what the hell, why not – torture them. White people cannot, by definition, be terrorists. Only brown people can.

Written by pavanvan

March 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

The Times, Habeas Corpus, and those Bad Ol’ Terrorists

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The Times continues its faux-reporting over the “controversy” that has erupted over whether we should act like tyrants and keep “terror suspects” in cages indefinitely without trial, or act like decent adults and follow the rule of law. Previously, The Times came out in support of the former option, happily announcing that “Detainees will be Held, but not Tried” – but as the political winds shift, so do does the leading newspaper, which now plumps for the worst aspects of both, much like President Obama. They even invoked the mysterious “experts”, who, apparently, do not include the Supreme Court.

As Jane Mayer expertly analyzed in a recent New Yorker, the Justice Department is now in a state of civil war. One one side, Attorney General Eric Holder, who advocates that “terror suspects” be vetted in a court of law to determine what, if anything, they’re guilty of. He is joined by a majority of our Supreme Court, human-rights activists, and other so-called sympathizers of terrorism. Opposing him stands Rahm Emanuel, the President’s chief of staff, who contends these “enemy combatants” deserve no quarter and should be tried, without evidence, before a “military tribunal” after being held indefinitely (after an interrogation by torture). Joining Mr. Emanual, ironically, is the Tea Party faction, along with “Republicans” in general, all of whom claim that allowing suspects of terrorism a fair trial stands tantamount to treason.

President Obama, as is his wont, has opted for a “middle path”, as The Times reports today. Some detainees, specifically those whom he is sure to convict, will be publicly tried, and the rest will just be held indefinitely because it’s impossible to convict anyone you’ve tortured a confession out of without looking like a butcher.

Granting civilian trials to some “terrorists” and secretly sentencing the others creates a multi-tiered justice system wherein only the suspects for whom conviction is assured will be allowed to go to trial. This is pre-judgment and worse.  It it is a system that does away with even the pretense of caring whether or not these detainees are actually guilty. The government clearly seeks a few nefarious-looking Terrorists to be convicted by a civilian jury – thus proving that “the system works” – and then machinery to convict the rest of the suspects who could not be tried by jury because they were interrogated by torture and their cases would be thrown out (as, indeed, many have already).

It’s worth remembering that a vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were guilty of nothing more than bad luck. An ex-Bush official is on record saying that most of the people we held there were totally innocent.

But beyond this, The Times completely neglects to mention that these military commissions are illegal. The Supreme court has ruled, in numerous landmark cases, that the whole military commissions process is unconstitutional.  Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively nullifies the necessary sections of the Military Commissions Act, and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld restored Habeas Corpus and Sixth Amendment rights (the right to a speedy trial) to detainees.

In fact, the majority opinion of Hamdan states that all detainees be given a “regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples“, and clearly states that the commissions system set up in Guantanamo does not fit that requirement.

Any article discussing discussing military commissions has the duty to mention these cases, but since they’re  inconvenient to the prevailing narrative, they become “non-newsworthy”. I’m sure the “experts” they quote (nearly all Bush flunkies) know better.

One hears often from opponents of civil liberties that it’s “borderline criminal” to read a terrorism suspect his rights, that such actions provide “comfort to the enemy”, or as Ms. Palin thundered in her memorable Tea Party speech, that we’re allowing Terrorists who “hate our freedoms” to “lawyer up”. As Scott Brown, Massachusetts Senator and Tea Party darling once remarked: “Some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us. I disagree.”

But of course it is not for this charlatan to decide, but for the Supreme Court, who, unfortunately for Mr. Brown, has consistently ruled in favor of detainee rights. And for the record, the Constitution prescribes the relevant clauses to protect the rights of people who have been accused of a crime but not yet found guilty, much like these so-called “terrorists”. Until convicted in a court of law, these people are, by definition, guilty of nothing.

The reasoning employed by the Palin-Brown faction makes the dangerous assumption that anyone the government accuses of terrorism magically becomes a terrorist. In the warped mind of a Tea Partier, suspicion is proof. This works fine for most people, so long as it’s only brown Arabs with weird squiggly writing whom we lock up in cages with no trial, but the danger of promoting totalitarian practices is that you never quite know against whom they’ll be used next.

Postscript:

It’s also worth mentioning that every other country that has had problems with terrorism – India, Greece, Spain, etc. – have all found ways to deal with it within their already existing legal structures. They saw no need to create new levels of “justice” wherein some suspects get trials and others simply go to jail forever.

Obama Extends Patriot Act

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Say it ain’t so, Barack!

And, of course, the US media can’t be bothered to give this story any more than a couple perfunctory paragraphs. The Times and The Post fail to mention it whatsoever, Reuters gives it a lukewarm 300-word summary, and no one else even tried.

Let’s not forget the serious evidence of systemic abuses within the Patriot Act’s framework. The act has no mechanisms for oversight and no way for anyone to know what the FBI is doing with the massive information to which they now have access.

So in short, President Obama believes in:

Wiretapping any and all American telephones for any reason or no reason at all.

Depriving habeas corpus to anyone he deems a “terrorist”, effectively allowing for indefinite detention, interrogation by torture, and “rendition” to any part of the globe. Also, they don’t get to see a lawyer.

State – sanctioned assassinations (read: murder) of any US citizen he deems to be a “terrorist”.

Suspension of the 4th Amendment, allowing for unlimited searches and seizures without a warrant, including credit records, medical history – pretty much anything they want

Deporting any legal immigrant or citizens accused of “supporting terrorism”.

Ordering FBI surveillance based on how you exercise your First Amendment Rights.

Seizing the Assets of anyone engaging in civil disobedience.

Fabulous.

Maliki Giving Away US Arms to Win Election

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Here’s a story the US mainstream wouldn’t dare report. Luckily we have The Guardian! It’s election season in Iraq once again, and these guys buy their votes a little differently than our politicians do. Instead of simply buying votes with cash or misleading advertisements, or via “political action committees”, US-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has decided to just do away with the middleman and directly hand out US arms to his citizens in exchange for votes. I have the feeling these tactics would have done much to ingratiate President Obama with the “tea party” faction in American politics.

As The Guardian says:

A senior Iraqi spy has accused the prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, of handing out thousands of guns to tribal leaders in a bid to win votes. The claim was made by Iraqi National Intelligence Service former spokesman, Saad al-Alusi, a week before Iraq’s general election, in which allegations of vote buying and exorbitant handouts have become widespread

“He has given at least hundreds of them to tribal leaders in Amara, Nasireya, Diwaniya and many other provinces, Sayedi said. “They are American-made and arrived by the middle of 2009. It is a cheap way to buy votes. Saddam used to do the same. Maliki said he gave the guns out so that tribal leaders could protect themselves. So he wants to protect them and yet judges and lawyers die every day. What is the role of the Iraqi army and police? I hope the tribes will see through this.”

How charming. Our efforts at “building Democracy” in Iraq are certainly paying off! I hasten to remind my readers that if Maliki were an “unfriendly” dictator, the US media would be howling against this latest transgression against democracy, this blatant attempt at vote-rigging, and the severe danger that comes from giving away free guns to volatile tribes in Iraq. We’d be screaming about how Maliki is “supporting terror”, blatantly arming the “worst elements” within his polity. As it is, our press is utterly silent on this issue.

Written by pavanvan

March 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

The New Jihad

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India better watch out, if this excellent Tehelka piece is any indication:

FEEL THE déjà vu. India’s nightmare in the Kashmir Valley may well return to haunt again. “jihad is the only solution to free Kashmir from the Indian yoke,” thundered one separatist after another last week, to boisterous sloganeering by armed cadres. “Kashmir cannot be resolved through dialogue.” The venue: Muzaffarabad, the picturesque capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The date: February 4, 2010. The assembly: men most wanted by New Delhi for waging a terrorist war against India for two decades, belonging to a clutch of a dozen terror outfits that go by the name of United jihad Council (UJC).

Most terror satraps were back together last week, openly defying the bans on their activities, irreverent of the fact that both the US and India have demanded the scalps of most of these men. What’s the new message from these groups? Should India worry? Yes, says General Mirza Aslam Beg, who headed Pakistan’s all-powerful army from 1988 to 1991. “It will be another Vietnam,” Beg told TEHELKA bluntly on the phone from Pakistan, suggesting that Kashmir would turn out for India what Vietnam was for the US 40 years ago: a messy military defeat. Shockingly, General Beg discloses that the Mujahideen who fought the USled forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are headed to Kashmir. With US President Barack Obama committed to a timetable to pull out of both countries, General Beg asks: “Where do you think they [Mujahideen] will go? They will go to Kashmir: that is certain. Their direction is clear and they are moving [to it] gradually.”

I’ve always thought that India was being played by the US in supporting American “intervention” in Pakistan, and this article indicates those fears aren’t far from the mark. India seems to be making the age-old calculation that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, but this often turns out not to be the case. In the current situation, India is happy to let America do most of the heavy-lifting, with their marvelous ‘predator drones’ attacking the Pakistani Islamic movement, and, India hopes, diverting Pakistan’s attention toward the Afghan border and away from Kashmir.

But recent developments suggest this may not be happening. One recalls the massive protests that occurred in Srinagar two weeks ago, which, after a period of calm, should have reminded the Indian establishment that this issue is far from over. In fact, there is reason to believe that American involvement in Pakistan has had an exacerbating effect on India’s Kashmir worries. Hiding behind American forces hasn’t done anything for India.

India’s acquiescence to American aid to Pakistan is also perplexing. For nearly a decade, India has sat by and watched America give tens of billions of dollars to one corrupt Pakistani government after another. This money has been repeatedly demonstrated to have gone to Pakistan terror groups, particularly the Lakshar-e-Taiba, the very group who carried out the horrific 26/11 Mumbai attack. It’s difficult to imagine what India was thinking. Not only did they not object to this US sponsorship of terror, they actually tried to intensify their friendship with America, signing a major trade agreement only a year later.

It should be clear to Indian “strategists” (that’s stretching the definition a bit, given their behavior) that the sum effect of US strategy has been to push the Islamic movement eastward. First they were in Afghanistan, then they bled into Pakistan, and now, if recent reports are any indication, they’re moving even farther east. Needless to say this would be disastrous for India, and its totally baffling to me why nobody in India is protesting against this.

For now, I think India should make it clear to America that its actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are making it demonstrably less safe. Then it should demand the US repeal its Kerry-Luger aid bill to Pakistan, and show America evidence, which at this point should be ample, that Pakistan is using US aid to fund terrorism in India.

It’s also time to solve this Kashmir dispute once and for all. This isn’t the spot to go into the intricacies of the affair, but India promised Kashmir a plebiscite in 1947 to see whether it would become part of India or Pakistan or become an independent state. That plebiscite never occurred. India should abide by UN Resolution 47 and allow the Kashmiris to decide their fate. This petty squabbling has gone on long enough.

Written by pavanvan

February 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Zardari Regularly Sacrifices Goats

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Our man in Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, the bumbling ex-con who now has his finger on the nuclear button, regularly sacrifices goats to “ward off the evil eye”

“It has been an old practice of Mr Zardari to offer Sadqa (animal sacrifice). He has been doing this for a long time,” spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn on Tuesday.


One thing is certain: Hundreds of black goats have been sacrificed since Mr Zardari moved into the President’s House in September 2008. His trusted personal servant Bai Khan buys goats from Saidpur village. The animal is touched by Mr Zardari before it is sent to his private house in F-8/2 to be sacrificed.

Man, US policy planners sure can pick ’em.

Written by pavanvan

February 4, 2010 at 10:57 am