Here is a hypothetical for you. Suppose the FBI were to receive intelligence from a foreign power that several members of an immigrant family were making terrorist noises. An FBI “confidential human source” is assigned to target the suspects. The value of the human source to his employers, and consequently his reimbursement, will lessen if the suspects turn out to be more talk than action. It is thus in his interest to nudge them from bluster toward bombs, at least until the plot is well enough advanced to support criminal charges.
Before this point is reached, however, something goes wrong. Perhaps the targets come to suspect that their oh-so-helpful new friend is an agent provocateur. Perhaps they just decide to keep things in the family. Maybe the original intent was to bomb New York but at the last minute they decided what the hell, there’s a marathon going on right in our back yard next Monday, let’s get this thing over with and we can be home in time for dinner. Whatever. In any event they decide to go ahead on their own.
Well, it’s all hypothetical. Still, the hypothesis might answer certain questions about who knew what about the plot and when did they know it that the FBI would very much prefer not to be asked.
Here’s your monthly reminder to go immediately to New York Magazine and read Frank Rich’s new column. An excerpt:
My own issues with Zero Dark Thirty (a slack second hour, a two-dimensional heroine) have nothing to do with its opaque position (if any) on the usefulness (or not) of torture in pursuing leads to bin Laden. Where the film really stands on that point may never be conclusively adjudicated. But its success does resolve the far more serious question of where most Americans stand on torture four years after George W. Bush disappeared into the witness-protection program: They don’t mind it.
The anguish Zero Dark Thirty has aroused on op-ed pages simply has not spread to the broader public. Moviegoers cheer bin Laden’s death (who wouldn’t?) without asking too many questions about how we got there. This is hardly the movie’s fault. The public reaction to Zero Dark Thirty is consistent with the quiet acquiescence of most Americans, Democrats included, to the Obama administration’s embrace of drone warfare (civilian casualties notwithstanding) and domestic surveillance…
The movie’s popularity offers confirmation, if any is needed, that, for the first time since the Vietnam War, it’s a Democratic president who is presiding over — and countenancing — a national shift to the right on national security.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
From the Christian Science Monitor:
“Thursday, March 12, 2009: I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”
For why this might not have been such a good idea, go here and scroll down to “Good News for Vegan Martyrs.”
Here’s David Barash, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
There’s a noteworthy trend among retired military and civilian officials who, in their professional capacity, held senior roles with regard to our nuclear weaponry: When they retire, they often see the error of their ways, denounce what they have done and apologize for how they “succeeded” in their careers…
For example, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s baleful influence went far beyond escalating the Vietnam War. More than anyone else, he was personally responsible for the immense escalation in the number of deployed U.S. warheads during the 1960s. After retiring from his Defense post and a stint heading up the World Bank, McNamara announced that much of what he had done during the Johnson Administration was quite literally a mistake.
In Errol Morris’s superb documentary, The Fog of War, in addition to admitting his colossal and murderous Vietnam blunders, McNamara commented as follows: “The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. Is it right and proper that today there are 7,500 offensive strategic nuclear warheads, of which 2,500 are on a 15-minute alert to be launched at the decision of one human being?” Clearly, his answer was No.
What a shame that he didn’t act on this realization when he had the authority to do so!
A politician’s first duty, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, is to get elected. This requires telling a frightened, ignorant and superstitious electorate what it wants to hear. A Reagan or a George W. Bush can do this with an untroubled heart, since what we want to hear is what he wants to say.
A rising bureaucrat may or may not be in agreement with those in a position to advance his career. If the latter, he must put his convictions in a blind trust for future use, once he reaches the top of his personal ladder. Then, he tells himself, he will be free at last do the right thing.
Nothing is left, then, but to write your memoirs and hope the next guy will learn from them. It’s no use blaming McNamara for this. If he had “acted on this realization” at the time, McGeorge Bundy or some other striver left over from the Kennedy White House would have become secretary of defense.
It would have been, as Lyndon Johnson used to say in his simple, homespun way, like pissing in a blue serge suit. The wearer gets a nice, warm feeling, and nobody else notices a thing.
McNamara couldn’t have have changed the course of history a bit by rebelling, any more than Obama could have called off our pointless and idiotic “War on Terror” in 2009. It’s what the boss ordered, and we ordered it because we are what we are.
From Jill Lepore’s chilling article on gun laws in this week’s New Yorker:
This issue has been delivering voters to the polls since 1970. Conservatives hope that it will continue to deliver them in 2012. Keene, in his lifetime, has witnessed a revolution. “It’s not just the conservative political victories, the capture of the Republican Party, the creation of a conservative intellectual élite,” he said, “but the whole change in the way Americans look at government.” No conservative victories will last longer than the rulings of this Supreme Court.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.
Very little indeed. George Carlin once wrote, “Living in the South was never an option — the main problem being they have too much respect for authority; they’re soldier-sniffers and cop-lovers.” And now, with a big boost from Osama bin Laden, the South has at last won the Civil War. Local police, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the military, the courts, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security (Heimat Sicherheit in the original German), the prison industry, Blackwater and its mercenary ilk, all have joined hands in the great work of penning us in for our own good. It’s going remarkably smoothly: turns out most of us welcome the barbed wire and feel safe inside it. Turns out we are a nation of bottoms.
Here’s Anwar al-Awlaki on page 1 of Saturday’s New York Times:
…the American-born cleric whose fiery sermons made him a larger-than-life figure in the shadowy world of jihad…
…the leader of external operations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula…
…taken “the lead role in planning and directing the efforts to murder innocent Americans…”
…inspired militants around the world and helped plan a number of terrorist plots, including the December 2009 attempt to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit…
…Internet lectures and sermons inspired would-be militants and led to more than a dozen terrorist investigations in the United States, Britain and Canada.
And here he is, tucked away on page 14 of Sunday’s New York Times where only news nerds go:
“…A dime-a-dozen cleric…”
“…I don’t think your average Middle Easterner knows who Anwar al-Awlaki is…”
“…It seems totally irrelevant to how Arabs view the world right now. They don’t care about Awlaki…”
…In a region transfixed by the drama of its revolts, Mr. Awlaki’s voice has had almost no resonance…
“…It seems totally irrelevant to how Arabs view the world right now. They don’t care about Awlaki…”
“…When the Obama administration and the U.S. media started focusing on him, that is when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula pushed him to the fore. They were taking advantage of the free publicity, if you will. And any stature he has now in the Arab world is because of that…”
“…The U.S. focus on Awlaki was a function of his language abilities and their understanding of his role as a recruiter and propagandist. If recent events can be said to further marginalize violent rejectionists such as Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, then there is very little room for a virtual unknown such as Awlaki to command any serious attention…”
…he is not unique in his role as the American voice of Al Qaeda recruiting. United States counterterrorism officials say there are as many as 100 English-language sites offering militant Islamic views.
Here’s Rick Raznikov’s answer:
“Freedom” was not attacked on September 11, 2001. It was two towers in New York and, apparently, the Pentagon. It had nothing whatever to do with freedom.
On the other hand, America’s freedom has been under attack ever since, mostly by the U.S. government.
One does not defend freedom by wiping out amendments to the Bill of Rights, kidnapping citizens and holding them without trial, torturing thousands and holding them in prisons without habeas corpus, and conducting warrantless wiretapping and unrestricted electronic surveillance of an entire citizenry. That is how one attacks freedom.
Just back on line following Hurricane Irene. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you’re suffering from Frank Rich separation anxiety, go here. Excerpt:
…The sanitizing of 9/11 and the falsification of its genesis to jump-start a second war ended up muddying and corrupting the memory of the event rather than giving hawks and the right’s p.c.-police the permanent “war on terror” they craved. The attack’s meaning was eviscerated by its linkage to the endless debacle in Iraq. The images of the day were so bowdlerized and so shrouded in euphemistic pieties that the viciousness of the slaughter was gradually muted.
When the World Trade Center site developer Larry Silverstein said this July that “ten years from today, I suspect very few people will remember it as ground zero,” he was speaking the truth. To some degree, that’s already the case. It’s not just color-coded terror alerts, Freedom fries, and Rudy Giuliani’s once-unimpeachable political standing that are gone with the wind.
It shows just how much 9/11 has been downsized in the American cosmography over a decade that when a conservative Republican senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, tried to derail a bill aiding those with 9/11-related illnesses last year, most of his own political cohort gave silent assent. The most vocal champions of the surviving 9/11 victims and their families were New York officials and celebrities like Jon Stewart, most of them liberal Democrats. The righteous anger of the right had moved on to the cause of taking down a president with the middle name Hussein…
From the New York Times:
Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new. In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director…
A spokeswoman for the C.I.A., Jennifer Youngblood, said, “The suggestion that the Central Intelligence Agency has requested redactions on this publication because it doesn’t like the content is ridiculous. The C.I.A.’s pre-publication review process looks solely at the issue of whether information is classified.”
She noted that under the law, “Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”
…and see how far it gets you:
[Dennis] Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al-Qaida, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations.
“It can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” he said.
The retired admiral also suggested cutting the cost of hunting terrorists by relying more on local forces in places like Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. is already working with indigenous forces in both countries, but also sustains a large and expensive offshore presence aboard a ship off the Yemeni coast, as well as flying armed and observation drones from Djibouti and other sites in the region.
He estimated that there are some 4,000 terrorists worldwide, and a budget of some $80 billion devoted to fighting them — a figure he said did not include the wars of Afghanistan or Iraq.
“That’s $20 million for each of these people ... Is that proportionate?” he asked. He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the U.S. by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.
“What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.
Blair, who was forced to resign by the Obama administration, says the White House undermined his authority as director of national intelligence by siding with the CIA, instead of telling it to listen to him.
“They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position,” Blair said.
Curse you, Red Menace, why did you walk off the floor and leave us dancing all alone? Osama stepped up and filled the gap for a while, but now folks are starting to wonder if the GWOT was really worth bankrupting the country for.
It’s getting scary here in the Pentagon. Maybe we should try pumping up that old Yellow Peril doll in the attic. If we’re lucky Congress won’t notice we’re already getting our bloated ass whipped with roadside bombs at a couple hundred bucks a copy.
From the Associated Press:
…Land-based drones are in wide use in the war in Afghanistan, but sea-based versions will take several more years to develop. Northrop Grumman conducted a first-ever test flight — still on land — earlier this year.
Van Buskirk didn’t mention China specifically, but military analysts agree the drones could offset some of China’s recent advances, notably its work on a “carrier-killer” missile.
“Chinese military modernization is the major long-term threat that the U.S. must prepare for in the Asia-Pacific region, and robotic vehicles — aerial and subsurface — are increasingly critical to countering that potential threat,” said Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst with the Washington-based Center for New American Security.
China is decades away from building a military as strong as America’s, but it is developing air, naval and missile capabilities that could challenge U.S. supremacy in the Pacific — and with it, America’s ability to protect important shipping lanes and allies such as Japan and South Korea…
Is John McCain coming to his senses at last? Is the old maverick risen from the grave? From Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, here’s an excerpt from a speech the senator gave today:
“With so much misinformation being fed into such an essential public debate as this one, I asked the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta, for the facts. And I received the following information:
“The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of Al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in Al-Qaeda.
“In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an Al-Qaeda facilitator — which was not true, as we now know. All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti through the use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias.
“I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in Al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden — was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’
“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement. It’s important that he do so because we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.”
I don’t often finding myself writing these words, but here goes: read Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. He doesn’t mention Israel because he’s Friedman and it’s the New York Times. Being neither I will point out, as I have once or twice before, that those three countries are the greatest actual threats to America’s actual national security.
“…Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi-Wahhabi ideological exports ... Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact. So the real battle has not been with Bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory.”
Ditto Pakistan. The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir. Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.
Schumer can be such an idiot, particularly when he spots a chance to get on TV:
New York (CNN) — In light of recent findings that al Qaeda was mulling targeting railroad lines to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a senator from New York is calling for tighter rail security.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer proposed an increase in rail security and an Amtrak version of the Secure Flight “no-fly” list…
Schumer proposed the creation of a “no-ride” list that would check passengers against a list of suspected terrorists to prevent would-be terrorists from boarding trains. The list would be used like the government “no-fly” list that screens air travelers.
“Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, but Amtrak, unlike our commuter rails or subways, does have a (manifest) of everyone that rides Amtrak,” he said. “They check your name as you walk down so it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.”
Even from the bottom of the sea, Osama bin Laden has no trouble getting the senator from Wall Street to take the cape, a concept explained here by former Pentagon official Chuck Spinney. As information from bin Laden’s computer files continues to be released, we will continue to play his game for years.
Did it ever occur to Al Qaeda, for instance, that access to many major bridges in the United States of Paranoia is already controlled by toll booths? Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, such as requiring all motorists to sign up for E-Z Pass so their names could be checked against a “no-ride” list, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.
And it would certainly give Osama a good giggle, between virgins.
In my morning email was this, from Merry: “I really want to read your take on the ‘killing Bin-Laden’ story.’” Naturally I was excited, since no one had previously given a rat’s fundamental orifice about my take on anything. So here:
I’m ashamed to say that my first reaction was to wonder what effect the assassination would have on the 2012 election. This was narrow, parochial, and in all respects unworthy, but I’m still counting the news cycles till the Republicans start asking the president what took him so long. Maybe because Obama rhymes with Osama? Hmm?
My second reaction was to wonder how much we will wind up paying Pakistan for selling Bin Laden to us. After all, the Saudi millionaire wasn’t hiding in some remote frontier wilderness where the writ of law runneth not. He was in Abbottabad, which turns out to be as far from Islamabad as Manassas is from the White House.
Furthermore, many of Abbottabad’s residents are army personnel and all of them must be blind. (For this and the following details, go here.) The elusive 6' 5" terrorist lived in a million-dollar mansion built five years ago, apparently to hide him. It had 18-foot high walls topped with barbed wire and was “roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area.” None of this seems to have come to the attention of all those army personnel, or of the Pakistan intelligence service.
A suspicious person might reach a tentative conclusion that Bin Laden had been held in a sort of country club jail until the price was right, and then ratted out to Pakistan’s hated enemy, the United States, for a price that will never be disclosed.
Once again we play the battered wife, submissive and forgiving. Our abusive husband this time is Pakistan. Next time it will be Israel or Saudi Arabia. We cannot bring ourselves to admit that it is these three countries which pose the greatest actual threats to America’s actual security. Unhappily this pathology is bipartisan. There it lies at the heart of our national security policy, unuttered and unutterable.
Just about four years ago the Grand Old Tea Party held a cattle call in South Carolina for its hapless crew of presidential hopefuls. A lot of the old gang are still around and still hopeful. One is Ron Paul, for whom I’ve had a soft spot ever since. Here’s why, from my post of May 16, 2007:
Sure enough, Pastor Mike Huckabee had the crowd in giggles right off the bat with this thigh-slapper: “We've done what Senator McCain has suggested. We've had a Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop.”
My, how they laughed! The folks wouldn’t have been more delighted if good old Mike had just gay-bashed Mark Foley or Ted Haggard or Ken Mehlman or Mary Cheney or Karl Rove’s beloved stepfather. Probably less delighted, actually.
But enough of that.
A few minutes later an odd thing happened. Some guy that nobody ever even heard of grabbed a mike and committed common sense, right up there on the stage with women and innocent children watching.
It came as a mild but not unpleasant shock, like pulling up the lid and finding a rose in the toilet …
The perpetrator was named Ron Paul, who turned out upon investigation to be an obstetrician with libertarian leanings, an Air Force vet and an obscure Texas congressman who once represented Tom DeLay’s old district. Here’s some of what he said:
We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes…
We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds…
There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years …
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
Q:Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
This is the first time I can remember that any candidate for the presidency, of either party, has taken seriously the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm? The misnamed “War on Terror” can only be won once we react to that question like grownups, not like Rudolph Giuliani and the fools who cheered him so wildly last night.
I’ve mentioned before that it’s never a good idea to take on people who would rather die than ______ (fill in blank). The latest evidence for this proposition just came in a few minutes ago from CNN News:
Five troops killed in a suicide bombing this weekend at a military base in eastern Afghanistan were members of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, a senior U.S. military official said Sunday…
On Saturday, a suicide bomber wearing an Afghan military uniform struck, killing the five, at a military base, Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan's Laghman Province. The attack came during a meeting between Afghan soldiers and their ISAF mentors…
Let’s start by all agreeing that terrorism is a bad thing, okay? But let’s also agree to the indisputable: that it will not and cannot destroy the United States. Here is a very partial list of states that have been visited by terrorism in recent memory: England, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua. On and on. All of them remain in existence. None has assumed the fetal position, whimpering in fear and laying down unaimed fire in every direction. This is to say that only in the United States have the terrorists won.
More on this point from Daniel Larison at Eunomia.
The latest round of interventionist foreign policy over the last ten to thirteen years has focused heavily, though not exclusively, on countering the threat from jihadist terrorism, and everyone would acknowledge that many of the major policy decisions of the last ten years were made politically viable by the 9/11 attacks. Arguments for all of the policies connected to the “war on terror” lean heavily on the idea that terrorism, and specifically jihadist terrorism, represents a major or even an “existential” threat. Any reasonable assessment of the threat shows this to be absurd, and along with those overblown claims goes a large part of the rationale for pretty much every “war on terror” policy.
It seems to me that non-interventionists and realists make blowback arguments to focus on the consequences of current policy, and to point out the flaw in a national security and warfare state that actively makes America less secure by creating enemies where none should exist and provoking attacks that need not happen. It is also a rhetorical move to appeal to public concerns about security without endorsing standard authoritarian and jingoist responses to threats.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but what non-interventionists and realists should be trying to do is to channel the public’s appropriate moral outrage over terrorist atrocities towards reforming the policies that create these unintended, avoidable consequences. To that end, there doesn’t need to be any exaggeration of the nature of the threat or the power of jihadism, but there should be a steady stream of arguments that the threat can be significantly reduced or possibly eliminated by reforming U.S. policies so that they actually minimize the risks to the nation rather than generate new dangers. The threat from terrorism isn’t all that great, but it could be greatly reduced. All that it will cost us is our undesirable pursuit of hegemony.
My late stepfather Ralph Ingersoll (founder of the New York daily PM) used to say, “If you’re up against people who literally ‘would rather die than—”, sooner or later they’re going to win.”
I thought of him just now, in reading Nicholas D. Kristof’’s report from Bahrain:
Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.
I thought of it in Poland, in Tiananmen Square, in Northern Ireland, in the Gaza Strip and of course in Tahrir Square. But I also thought of it in Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan. Every suicide bomber, everywhere, makes me think of it.
Anthony Piel, writing in the Lakeville Journal. Piel, a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization, concludes after the jump that “the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.”
If good police work is essential to nuclear security, how are we, the United States, actually doing? Here’s an example of the problem: Some years back in Paris, when I was “cooperating” with the International Criminal Police Organization (known as Interpol) tracking suspicious money flows, its chief administrator complained to me (as an American) that all too often when Interpol succeeded in nearly unraveling a network of illicit arms trafficking, they would find again and again the CIA (or MI-6 or Mossad or other intelligence agency) at the base of the illicit arms dealing network under investigation. That makes international police work dicey when facing the world’s greatest superpower and its satellites.
It also turned out, to Interpol’s dismay, that a number of powerful U.S. corporations, asset management firms, hedge funds, private equity firms and overseas tax-evasion subsidiaries were involved (and presumably are still involved) directly or indirectly in the financing, promotion and operation of the illegal international weapons trade.
These creations of deregulated, for-profit capitalism are thus contributing, knowingly or not, to the delivery of illicit weapons to strange places and actors, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Iranians, Yemenis, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations around the world…
Today, a hedge fund located in Greenwich, Conn., may be financing at least indirectly the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The profit motive underlying “free” global enterprise is one thing; but outright disloyalty to America and putting weapons of destruction in the hands of our enemies is something else — beyond excuse. Obviously, we Americans are not doing a proper job of policing ourselves, let alone policing others.
The same Interpol administrator also complained to me that although Interpol shared virtually all its information with U.S. police and intelligence agencies, the United States did not fully share its information with Interpol, and, he pointed out, U.S. agencies such as the CIA, FBI and NSA appeared to withhold critical information from each other.
The administrator’s comments were prophetic, as we soon found out when the United States failed to prevent the 9/11 surprise attack on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, in spite of the information that was available to individual U.S. agencies. This was a clear example of how a false concept of the need for proprietary “state secrets” can be used to undermine effective, cooperative intelligence and police action at home and abroad.
Fortunately, the Obama administration is making an all-out effort to collaborate with Interpol, in our own national interest, and to force the different elements of U.S. Homeland Security to communicate and work together. Also, for the first time in history, an American, Ronald Noble, has been made head of Interpol, an organization that helps coordinate the police work of nearly 200 countries.
Hopefully we shall make full benefit of this kind of international police cooperation. But we have to take care not to abuse the Interpol relationship for our own political ends.
The recent U.S. attempt to recruit Interpol to discredit WikiLeaks’ revelations about U.S. military misbehavior in Iraq and Afghanistan is not necessarily a step in the right direction. As they say in the medical field, the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.
Like Macbeth, we Americans are by now “in blood stepped in so far that … returning were as tedious as go o’er.” The two torturers named below are psychologists. Their equally responsible enablers, to pick a few out of millions, are John Ashcroft, John Yoo, George Tenet, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and now Eric Holder and Barack Obama.
Joining these moral cripples are the millions who think torture may be regrettable but is sometimes necessary, and after all, Daddy knows best. Besides, waterboarding isn’t really torture anyway. For these last, I refer you to the world’s greatest expert, Henri Alleg. Waterboarding was not the first torture to which French army sadists subjected him. It was the last and most terrible resort, after beating, testicle-burning and electric shocks had failed to break their victim.
WASHINGTON — The CIA agreed to cover at least $5 million in legal fees for two contractors who were the architects of the agency's interrogation program and personally conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions on terror detainees, former U.S. officials said.
The secret agreement means taxpayers are paying to defend the men in a federal investigation over an interrogation tactic the U.S. now says is torture. The deal is even more generous than the protections the agency typically provides its own officers, giving the two men access to more money to finance their defense…
Mitchell and Jessen were recorded interrogating Zubaydah and al-Nashiri and were eager to see those tapes destroyed, fearing their release would jeopardize their safety, former officials and others close to the matter said.
They often contacted senior CIA officials, urging them to destroy the tapes and asking what was taking so long, said a person familiar with the Durham investigation who insisted on anonymity because the case's details remain sensitive. Finally the CIA's top clandestine officer, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to destroy the tapes in November 2005.
Durham investigated whether that was a crime. He subpoenaed Mitchell, Jessen & Associates last year, looking for calendars, e-mails and phone records showing contact between the contractors and Rodriguez or his chief of staff, according to a federal subpoena. They were ordered to appear before a grand jury in northern Virginia in August 2009.
Last month, Durham closed the tapes destruction investigation without filing charges.
If this excerpt doesn’t get you to read the whole dispatch, nothing will. It’s by Ann Jones, a writer of a certain age (she submitted a scan of her Medicare card to the Army to prove she had the medical insurance required of embeds). Further reason to follow the link: “As Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple knows, people will say almost anything to an old lady they assume to be stupid…”
On the base, I heard incessant talk about COIN, the “new” doctrine resurrected from the disaster of Vietnam in the irrational hope that it will work this time. From my experience at the FOB, however, it’s clear enough that the hearts-and-minds part of COIN is already dead in the water, and one widespread practice in the military that’s gone unreported by other embedded journalists helps explain why.
So here’s a TomDispatch exclusive, courtesy of Afghan-American men serving as interpreters for the soldiers. They were embarrassed to the point of agony when mentioning this habit, but desperate to put a stop to it. COIN calls for the military to meet and make friends with village elders, drink tea, plan “development,” and captivate their hearts and minds. Several interpreters told me, however, that every meeting includes some young American soldiers whose locker-room-style male bonding features bouts of hilarious farting.
To Afghan men, nothing is more shameful. A fart is proof that a man cannot control any of his apparatus below the belt. The man who farts is thus not a man at all. He cannot be taken seriously, nor can any of his ideas or promises or plans.
Every person burdened with both honesty and intelligence already knows what follows, but seldom have I seen it expressed so clearly and unanswerably. Excerpted from an essay by Robert Higgs in The Beacon (h/t to Xymphora):
The announced goal is to identify terrorists and eliminate them or prevent them from carrying out their nefarious acts. This is simultaneously a small task and an impossible one. It is small because the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade — after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways.
The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)
So, the true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small — not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent. Yet, at the same time, the antiterrorism task is impossible because terrorism is a simple act available in some form to practically any determined adult with access to Americans and their property at home or abroad.
It is simply not possible to stop all acts of terrorism if potential terrorists have been given a sufficient grievance to motivate their wreaking some form of havoc against Americans. However, it is silly to make the prevention of all terrorist acts the goal. What can’t be done won’t be done, regardless of how many people and how much money one devotes to doing it. We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime.
The sheer idiocy of paying legions of twenty-something grads of Harvard and Yale — youngsters who cannot speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, or any of the other languages of the areas they purport to be analyzing and know practically nothing of the history, customs, folkways, and traditions of these places — indicates that no one seriously expects the promised payoff in intelligence to emerge from the effort.
The whole business is akin to sending a blind person to find a needle inside a maze buried somewhere in a hillside. That the massive effort is utterly uncoordinated and scarcely able to communicate one part’s “findings” to another only strengthens the conclusion that the goal is not stopping terrorism, but getting the taxpayers’ money and putting it into privileged pockets. Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it — and it certainly makes no sense to spend any money only pretending to prevent it.
I can remember, vividly, the first time that I learned of the curious psychological concept of “emotional contagion.” It was, for me, an “Aha Moment” that put the incomprehensible 1960s and ’70s, with which I was (not entirely successfully) trying to cope, into slightly better focus. For those who are unfamiliar with the term (but probably quite familiar with the social phenomenon, itself), emotional contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. It is emotional contagion that makes human group dynamics tick along a vast spectrum of emotions; from a crazed lynch mob to an anti-war peace march, emotional contagion plays a role in human group-think.
Faced with another incomprehensible American epoch, I’ve decided to dust off the old text books and look for some comfort, or at least some sense in the context of emotional contagion. The ability to transfer moods appears to be innate in humans; anyone who has raised a child knows all about this innate ability. That knowledge of human behavior has been used to great effect in “persuasion” of all kinds from advertising to political propaganda. Want someone to buy your ridiculously over-priced anti-aging cream? Share your fear of becoming pathetic human detritus as a result of wrinkling and age spots. Want someone to vote you into the Oval Office? Share your fear of a national security breakdown if you are not elected to keep us all safe. A daily barrage of similar appeals to emotion is a familiar fact of American life.
One fine point having to do with emotional contagion that escaped me in my youth, though, is particularly useful in trying to understand the crazy (and quite unattractive) fits that our country is going through in 2010. That point is this most excellent distinction, made by Erich Fromm, that a higher cognitive development, autonomy, is necessary for human empathy but not for emotional contagion and, as most of us can attest, there is a pronounced variable of empathic capacity among humans. As with so many of our human reactions there is a primal element underlying a higher-functioning, thinking element; clearly, we are not yet so highly evolved that the higher functions always prevail.
With all of that in mind, it is a quite interesting conundrum that our generals and politicians are grappling with at the moment and some of the solutions that are being signaled are undesirable to say the very least. I have to assume that, by today, 99% of Americans are at least somewhat familiar with last week’s events in the Big Apple…
During the course of a fairly humdrum day on Times Square, a Muslim immigrant (no less) street vendor alerted NYPD that a van was double-parked, idling and smoking up his turf. Investigating officers discovered that the vehicle, a van, contained an odd assortment of potentially incendiary devices (propane tanks for gas grills, fireworks in a can, along with a footlocker full of (non-volatile) fertilizer. Now before any patriots get their panties in a wad over my making light of the danger to Manhattanites — a number of whom might have been incinerated, had this been a real car-bomb — I would emphasize the fact that this was NOT a real car-bomb. It was an ass-hat collection of things that might look remotely like a car-bomb to uniformed beat cops, on initial inspection.
Immediate suspicion fell on a skinny, middle-aged white man caught on camera changing his shirt in Shubert Alley. When the vehicle’s VIN number was traced, however, authorities discovered that it had recently been purchased by a young man from Connecticut who was born in — OMG — Pakistan.
In a cinematic race-against-time, Faisal Shahzad was apprehended on a flight departing JFK for Dubai, which event kicked off a bout of political hysteria.
By the time the Sunday Talking Heads were “on air” there was talk of expanding to a ground war in Pakistan and “modifying” Miranda Rights for terrorism suspects. Sheeeeesh…
Attorney General Eric Holder met little to no resistance from Jake Tapper (standing in for George Stephanopoulos) on This Week, when Holder pronounced that:
“Well, we’ve now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”
It never occurred to Tapper to “get the story” on the evidence that led to Holder’s statement despite plenty of unclassified, well-publicized reports to the contrary. Like these:
Then, on 60 Minutes, we had Secretary of State Clinton banging the drum loudly and matter-of-factly reversing our diplomatic stance toward “our Pakistani allies”:
“We want more. We expect more. We’ve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”
Surely, Clinton’s words on Sunday night were a reprise of a message already delivered to “our Pakistani allies” who pledged their allegiance, on Sunday morning, by carrying out a helicopter gunship assault on insurgent hide-outs in the Orakzai tribal region, killing 23 militants, according to local officials.
So now we have to choose between the “emotional contagion” of: the “Pakistanis are training each other to blow up Times Square so let’s pound them into oblivion” appeal or a more measured (and sure to be dubbed “sissy”) approach of gathering evidence and facts so that we can understand what we’re truly dealing with.
Certainly current events can be twisted to support the “Carpe Diem” approach that our politicians and military seem to favor. How fortuitous for the “Pakistan Problem” to rear its head just in time to deflect attention from our fool’s errand in Afghanistan, our tiresome hounding of Iran, or our loosening grip on global power and respect, generally.
Try, for a minute or two, to detach from the fear and loathing that might well prevent you from ever attending another Broadway show and let’s just look at the facts dispassionately…
Some of us may really, really want Faisal Shahzad to be taking orders from the Pakistani Taliban but most of the available evidence doesn’t support that scenario. Of course, if one has secret, inside information and isn’t pressed to produce any substantive facts, well … Bombs Away.
UPDATE: The New York Daily News published results of a poll of their readership, this morning, in answer to the question: Will the recent bomb-scare keep you away from Times Square in the future? The answers:
Good for you New York City!
Spencer Ackerman brings us this etymological note from Joint Task Force Guantánamo:
Interrogator #2 also described other techniques allowed for interrogators at Bagram that appeared abusive. ”We could play music, yes sir. … Loud music, yes.” A report about Khadr contemporaneous with Interrogator #2’s time in Bagram said Khadr was “sedated” during an interrogation. And Interrogator #2 chafed when Jackson asked if Bagram interrogators could use “stress positions,” replying that they were cleared to use something called “safety positions.”
“Well, first it was called stress positions, wasn’t it?” Jackson asked. “Yes, sir,” Interrogator #2 replied.
That raised Parrish’s interest: “Is there a difference?”
Interrogator #2 replied, “No, sir.”
Here in the Northeastern United States Spring has arrived, bringing with it the primal derangements and high spirits historically associated with the season — unmufflered motorcycles, chest-beating, spontaneous Tarzan cries and stuff like that there.
Evidently, roughly the same phenom is occurring in far-off Afghanistan, as well; witness the recent admission, by Gen. McChrystal, to the murder of “way too many” innocent civilians and President Karzai’s recent rant about “meddling foreigners” (I’m expecting another Karzai-Ahmadinejad pow-wow any moment now).
Karzai was most likely reacting to President Obama’s unexpected drop-in last week. Obama was “special-opped” into Bagram, in the dead of night, ostensibly to rally the troops for more murder and mayhem in Kandahar but also, according to reports, to deliver a good old American ass-chewing to “our man in Kabul.” Evidently, Obama is underwhelmed by Karzai’s efforts to clean up his corner of the world in preparation for its long awaited democracy transplant. As all good Americans know, Democracy cannot flourish in a corrupt environment — right?
Rationally, that would put Karzai on the line for one of the most epic turnarounds in human history, to include the public execution of many of his relatives and members of parliament. Karzai is 50, so chances are slim he’ll accomplish that mission in his lifetime; nevertheless, Obama would like to see him making more of an effort…
For his part, I expect that Karzai’s primary focus is on “stayin’ alive.” Since the beginning of his U.S. sponsorship, Karzai has been the subject of five newsworthy assassination attempts and probably numerous less spectacular attempts. Those attempts were not your lone sniper events, either; most involved rocket attacks, grenades and various other measures designed to take out a city block.
Karzai has always been reluctant to fly solo in his current position. When Obama stated his desire to get out of Afghanistan by 2011, Karzai countered that Obama’s timeline was off by about 15 years. Karzai knows better than anyone that if Coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban will re-establish their government tout de suite.
A year later (or closer to withdrawal, if you believe in that sort of thing), with that sword hanging over his head, Karzai has decided he better start talkin’ some trash against the U.S .or he’s going to wind up the subject of some serious insurgent fatwa. To that end, Karzai took to the airwaves, this week, to express his concern over foreign meddling — a popular topic among Middle East purists, these days.
Karzai accused the West and the United Nations of wanting a “puppet government” and of seeking to make him “psychologically smaller and smaller.”
“They want me to be an illegitimate president,” he announced. “And they want the parliament to be illegitimate.”
He also blamed others for election fraud that, by all accounts, was orchestrated by his regime: “No doubt there was massive fraud. That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that.”
In diplomatic circles this is known as ‘playing both sides against the middle.’ Whereas the U.S. should know better, by now, about the various pitfalls of installing and propping up such worthless puppets, Karzai, himself, might do well to read up on what happens when the puppet-masters lose patience. Or, better yet, what the local population is capable of doing to rid themselves of such buffoons.
Of course, Robert Gibbs sallied forth to express the administration’s “dismay” over Karzai’s accusations, calling Karzai’s words “genuinely troubling.” In addition, Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, quickly met with Karzai “to clarify what he meant by these remarks.” Could it be that the Obama Administration was caught off guard, here; and Obama, like Kennedy before him, is out of sync with national security state powers-that-be who are busily conducting their own “foreign policy?”
Right now, Karzai, (if he’s smart) will figure out a way to make his personal U.S. network ties indispensable to the Taliban, which will surely take back the government in Kabul at their earliest convenience. Upon their return, however, they will now receive US backing in return for their promise to shun al Qaeda — which explains the burgeoning local interest in capturing ex-pat Taliban members to ensure a place at the settlement table — à la Pakistan’s detention of Baradar and their refusal to extradite him to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Americans are swallowing their daily dose of foreign policy propaganda so that they don’t lose patience, too soon, with our latest experiment in regime change. Most Americans have already bought into the notion that Afghan governmental stability = enhanced U.S .National Security = victory over al Qaeda. As Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, so succinctly put it:
The uncomfortable truth is that without indefinite foreign protection, the Government of Afghanistan would probably fall to the Afghan Taliban. But Americans should not equate the fall of that regime with “losing” to al Qaeda. Violent, Islamist extremist groups indigenous to this region threaten the Afghan government, not the American government. Because these radical groups lack the ambition — let alone the capacity — to threaten the sovereignty or physical security of the United States, they do not merit the strategic obsession that they currently receive.
Washington’s continued fixation on groups that threaten Afghanistan, rather than America, presents a bigger threat to genuine American interests than those groups themselves can pose, especially since there is little assurance that 100,000 foreign troops can capture and kill more insurgents than their presence helps to recruit.
Rather than propping up a failed state, U.S. leaders should focus on countering the al Qaeda threat still clinging to life in this region. Technological advances over the past decade allow us to monitor places without having 100,000 boots on the ground. Furthermore, the blueprint for an effective counterterrorism approach is the initial U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when small Special Forces teams, working in conjunction with local militias, assembled quickly and struck effectively and cheaply at “real” enemies.
In short, Americans should reject the misguided belief that terrorists can only flourish in failed states like Afghanistan. After all, India, a major U.S. ally far more stable than Afghanistan, is fighting several internal insurgencies. Likewise, the very al Qaeda terrorists responsible for 9/11 not only found sanctuary in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, but also in politically free and economically prosperous countries like Germany, Spain, and the United States.
America has a long and tawdry history of justifying its foreign adventures with a full array of fairly irrational strategic, economic, and ideological considerations. Strategically, we must not allow geographically important regions from falling under the sway of regimes that are either anti-US, or simply entirely self-interested. Otherwise, a shift in the balance of global military power could jeopardize American security.
Economically, the US likes to maintain access to vital supplies of raw materials and keep markets open for American products and investments — the Free Market demands it. Finally, the United States must thwart
communist terrorist expansion in the Third World Middle East to ensure that America and its democratic allies do not become islands in a global sea of hostile, totalitarian Islamist dictatorships.
These arguments can be (and have been) easily dressed up in American jingoism to rubber stamp some very dubious U.S. foreign policy undertakings. Who hasn’t heard a particular regime described as a “keystone” or “force for stability” or “key to vital US strategic interests” in the region: think Shah of Iran in the Persian Gulf, Mobutu Sese Seko in Central Africa, and any number of South American despots. Reading the history, one would have to surmise that, actually, the entire globe (and parts of the Solar System) are of vital US strategic interest.
In actual fact, US “strategic interests” usually zero in on good sites for bases or forward staging areas for the American military. For example, the Reagan administration defended support of the Marcos dictatorship to protect its installations at Clark Field and Subic Bay, complicating the defense of other Far Eastern allies.
Do we really have strategic interests, vital or otherwise, in squalid little spots thousands of miles from the U.S? Does a firmly ensconced Karzai government in Kabul really somehow enhance our own security? How is it that we’ve come to believe that a handful of small, militarily insignificant nations — like Iraq and Afghanistan — governed by unpopular and unstable regimes, somehow keep Americans safe against the threat of terrorism.
Actually, it is more rational to believe that such foreign adventures seriously compromise our national security by draining U.S. financial resources, stretching defense forces dangerously thin and psychologically boosting recruitment to the very terrorist groups that we are fighting. Whatever — our approach might stink as foreign policy but it keeps the military-industrial business booming.
As Noam Chomsky pointed out in his article “Dictators R Us,” Thomas Jefferson was not fooled by Napoleon’s antics: “We believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations.”
Wonder what Jefferson would make of our current foreign policy …?
Pardon my cynicism, but does anyone else find President Obama’s weekend pep rally in Afghanistan a bit show-boat-y? Especially, coming as it did on the heels of a week-long spree of Presidential power-lifting? — health care reform, student loan help, underwater mortgage help and recess appointments.
And then, as we all know, nothing spells ‘presidential’ like parachuting into the front lines of America’s “War du Jour.” I could almost hear the Andrews Sisters singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” as back-up for Obama’s motivational moment with the troops before they start dying, in earnest, to make a point in Kandahar.
“The United States has made progress in the fight against al Qaeda and its allies. I know it’s not easy,” he said. “If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.
“The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something … We keep at it. We persevere. And together, with our partners, we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.”
When I look at that be-camouflaged audience, all I can think of is “Why?” Why would anyone put a single one of those lives in harm’s way for something as dubious and irrational as a foothold in Afghanistan. These soldiers aren’t laying their lives on the line to make anyone safer — their very presence in Afghanistan makes them, and us, considerably more unsafe.
Non-partisan experts from all corners of the earth and many diverse disciplines have told us that, in compelling terms, for years now, but it has become increasingly clear that neither reason, nor prudence, not even survival instinct will dissuade the “powers that be” from replacing the Cold War with the Long War.
Al Qaeda has very effectively become the 21st century version of ‘dirty, rotten Commies.’ “Better Dead than Red” has been replaced with a fatwa on Terrorism, ensuring decades and generations of defense contracts, weapons development, arms sales, special ops, espionage and war games aimed at “making the world safe for democracy…”
Whenever I want to get an update on the Long War, I look to Tom Hayden who has been screaming into the wind about it for ages now (and for you old Hippies, yeah – that Tom Hayden). Just yesterday Hayden wrote an article for the LA Times that is a short, good read that will catch you up on the “Long War” concept if it has escaped your attention.
Basically, the Long War is an undeclared, undebated, largely undisclosed 80-year (give or take) war plan cooked up by the Pentagon and its neo-con fellow travelers and think tanks. The theater for the Long War is primarily the Middle East and South Asia or wherever else our Soldiers of Fortune see fit to lead us.
As taxpayers, we needn’t worry our little heads about any of this because our representatives in Congress don’t really have a role to play, outside of approving any and all defense budgets, supplemental, emergency and otherwise. Since that signatory function has become a political measure of patriotism, it is unlikely that outspoken constituents can have any impact.
If you are scratching your head, at this point, and saying ‘what the hell is she going on about?’ you’re in the right place, as far as DoD is concerned. You see, the Long War is less a war and more a state of mind that is being fed to the American psyche by slow-drip intravenous.
Here’s Hayden’s timeline:
The term ‘Long War’ was first applied to America’s post-9/11 conflicts in 2004 by Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command, and by the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State, Gen. Richard B. Myers, in 2005.
According to David Kilcullen, a top counterinsurgency advisor to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and a proponent of the Long War doctrine, the concept was polished in “a series of windowless offices deep inside the Pentagon” by a small team that successfully lobbied to incorporate the term into the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the nation’s long-term military blueprint. President George W. Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union message that “our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.”
The concept has quietly gained credence. Washington Post reporter-turned-author Thomas E. Ricks used The Long War as the title for the epilogue of his 2009 book on Iraq, in which he predicted that the U.S. was only halfway through the combat phase there.
It has crept into legal language. Federal Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a darling of the American right, recently ruled in favor of holding detainees permanently because otherwise, “each successful campaign of a long war would trigger an obligation to release Taliban fighters captured in earlier clashes.”
Among defense analysts, Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran who teaches at Boston University, is the leading critic of the Long War doctrine, criticizing its origins among a “small, self-perpetuating, self-anointed group of specialists” who view public opinion “as something to manipulate” if they take it into consideration at all.
Lovely! Already we see how one war can segue into another: as troops are drawn down from Iraq, troops swell in Afghanistan. Some “troops,” that we prefer not to speak of, are already at work in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Avenging Angels are poised to strike Iran, if Ahmadinejad doesn’t behave. Even Turkey is currently misbehaving, not to mention Israel…
An amorphous (or imaginary) “enemy” calls for untraditional tactics and boatloads of money to completely refit our own enormous military, as well as the foreign militaries that we are re-purposing and creating in our own image and likeness. Unfortunately, so far, we really suck at it…
One of the more ludicrous goals that the US has set as a measure of success in Afghanistan is to leave the country in the hands of a well-trained National Police force that will provide the safety and security necessary for the flowering of a law-abiding Afghan society into a well-armed, fully compliant partner in US control of the Middle East.
Never mind that currently there are neither laws nor a judicial system in place to support police activities — all things in good time. When the laws are written and the courts established, prisons have been built and judges appointed, there will be a crack police force in place to enforce those laws. All Afghans will surely rejoice when their thousand years old de-centralized system of tribal justice is replaced with a top-down well-policed system. No doubt, tribal warlords will be happy to relinquish their local power for the sake of modernization.
The notion of the Afghan National Police program defies reason in so many well-documented ways that it boggles the mind that, eight years and $7 billion dollars later, sane people would countenance renewing contracts with Dumb and Dumber, Inc. (Xe aka Blackwater and/or DynCorp) for another $1 billion whack at this losing proposition. Unless, of course, the architects of the Long War find it expedient to create impossible goals to keep us interminably engaged in the region and supporting that military-industrial complex which is currently America’s only ‘booming business’ and major export.
I’m no military expert but I do know a thing or two about business management and I’m certain that, without an endless flow of taxpayer dollars, this dog of a project would have been written off ages ago by any self-respecting private or publicly-owned business.
A joint team of Defense and State Department Inspectors General wrote a lengthy (and fairly scathing) analysis of the situation in 2006. That investigation found that the contractors hired (DynCorp) were ill-equipped to do the job (some of the trainers’ police backgrounds were as campus security guards) and that the State Department was doing an epically bad job of managing the contracts. There were essentially no stated contract requirements and virtually no oversight – just blank checks and free rein.
Unfortunately, this program is not only a fiasco; it can be argued that it is actually colossally counterproductive to the US mission in Afghanistan (if there is such a thing). As Pratap Chatterjee reported on TomDispatch.com:
The Obama administration is in a fix: it believes that, if it can’t put at least 100,000 trained police officers on Afghan streets and into the scattered hamlets that make up the bulk of the country, it won’t be able to begin a draw-down of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by the middle of next year.”
The Obama administration’s strategy for the Afghan police is to increase numbers, enlarge the ‘train and equip’ program, and engage the police in the fight against the Taliban, says Robert Perito, an expert on police training at the United States Institute of Peace and the author of a new book, The Police in War. “This approach has not worked in the past, and doing more of the same will not achieve success.”
When it comes to police training, the use of private contractors is not unusual — and neither is failure. North Carolina-based Xe has, in fact, been training the Afghan border police for more than two years, and Virginia-based DynCorp has been doing the same for the Afghan uniformed police for more than seven years now. Nonetheless, the mismanagement of the $7 billion spent on police training over the last eight years, partly attributed to lax U.S. State Department oversight, has left the country of 33 million people with a strikingly ineffective and remarkably corrupt police force. Its terrible habits and reputation have led the inhabitants of many Afghan communities to turn to the Taliban for security.
“There are some parts of Afghanistan where the last thing people want to see is the police showing up,” Brigadier General Gary O’Brien, former deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, told the Canadian Press news agency in March 2007. “They are part of the problem. They do not provide security for the people — they are the robbers of the people.”
Seven years and $7 billion of taxpayers’ money later, at a June 2008 discussion at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Congressman John Tierney summed up findings on the 433 Afghan National Police units of that moment this way: “Zero are fully capable, three percent are capable with coalition support, four percent are only partially capable, 77 percent are not capable at all, and 68 percent are not formed or not reporting.”
That dismal result did not come flying unexpectedly out of the blue, either. As Chatterjee reports:
“A prevalent view, even among some international police, is that Afghanistan is unready for civilian policing and holds that the police must remain a military force while insecurity lasts,” writes Tonita Murray, a former director general of the Canadian Police College, who worked as an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Interior in 2005. “If such a view were to prevail, only military solutions for security sector reform would be considered, and Afghanistan would be caught in a vicious circle of using force against force without employing other approaches to secure stability and peace…”
Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, head of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, admitted that police training has been a train wreck since the toppling of the Taliban almost nine years ago. “We weren’t doing it right. The most important thing is to recruit and then train police [before deployment]. It is still beyond my comprehension that we weren’t doing that.”
The realization that giving illiterate, drug-prone young men a uniform, badge, and gun (as well as very little money and no training) was a recipe for corruption and disaster is certainly a first step. But how to withdraw the 95% of the Afghan police force that is still incapable of basic policing for months of desperately needed training in a country with no prior history of such things? That turns out to be a conundrum, even for President Obama.
If the Pentagon does not dramatically alter the current training scheme, it doesn’t look good for either governance or peace in Afghanistan. Yet the likelihood remains low indeed that Pentagon officials will take the advice of a chorus of police experts offering critical commentary on the mess that is the police training program there.
Instead, it’s likely to be more of the same, which means more private contracting of police training and further disaster. Bizarrely enough, the Pentagon has given the Space and Missile Defense Command Contracting Office in Huntsville, Alabama, the task of deciding between DynCorp and Xe for that new billion-dollar training contract. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French say: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Rumors about collateral damage are no longer solely the province of “bleeding heart liberals,” anonymous sources or anti-war politicians. ‘Straight from the horse’s mouth’ we have this incredible admission from Gen. McChrystal to no less than The New York Times (where some neocon gatekeeper was clearly out to lunch):
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” [my emphasis] said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties.
Failure to reduce checkpoint and convoy shootings, known in the military as “escalation of force” episodes, has emerged as a major frustration for military commanders who believe that civilian casualties deeply undermine the American and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.
Well, General, if you think that’s frustrating, imagine the “frustration” of the dying and maimed innocents and their families and loved ones. To make the point McChrystal-clear, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall (the senior NATO enlisted man in Afghanistan and a trainer in the same session) added that “Many of the detainees at the military prison at Bagram Air Base joined the insurgency after the shootings of people they knew. There are stories after stories about how these people are turned into insurgents. Every time there is an escalation of force we are finding that innocents are being killed.”
And then, of course, there are the recent inconvenient revelations of one Jerome Starkey, an Afghanistan-based reporter and an eyewitness to atrocities committed by Coalition forces, followed by a fairly bungling campaign to deny and discredit Starkey’s report.
Over the past few months, Starkey exposed two incidents where NATO initially claimed to have engaged and killed insurgents, when they’d in fact killed civilians, including school children and pregnant women. In both cases, when confronted with eye-witness accounts obtained by Starkey that clearly rebutted NATO’s initial claims, NATO resisted publicly recanting.
In the first case, NATO officials told him they no longer believed that the raid would have been justified if they’d known what they now know, but no official would consent to direct attribution for this admission.
In the second case, NATO went so far as to attempt to damage Starkey’s credibility by telling other Kabul-based journalists that they had proof he’d misquoted ISAF spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith. When Starkey demanded a copy of the recording, NATO initially ignored him and eventually admitted that no recording existed. NATO only admitted their story was false in a retraction buried several paragraphs deep in a press release that led with an attack on Starkey’s credibility.
Get used to it, though, 80 years of Long War can’t be conducted without casualties and since the “enemy” is such a shape-shifter, well … mistakes happen. On the bright side, evidently, it’s now OK to shoot an “amazing number of people” who don’t pose a threat, if you’re convinced they are Taliban, or al Qaeda or something like that…
Well, frumps, I’ve been at this for a year now, and I must admit that writing the Frump Gazette has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my long and varied life. It has forced me to focus on the world around me in new and different ways; it has opened my eyes, ears and heart to things that slid right on by during my hustle and bustle years of working and parenting.
Best of all, I have met some truly remarkable people that I might not have otherwise met. Despite being drawn to troubling subjects, the intelligent, thought-provoking commentary and good humor of my readers have continually reassured me that all is far from lost. I have met with some modest blogging success and have expanded my audience with spots on Alternet’s “Speakeasy,” Salon.com’s Open Salon and Jerome Doolittle’s Bad Attitudes.
For a while now, I have planned to take an “anniversary” week off so that my granddaughter can teach me how to play, again. But before I do that, I would like to leave you with something to chew on that has the potential to put an end to the freewheeling forum that has become known as the Blogosphere as well as any other venue where dissent and activism currently flourish.
On March 4, 2010, Sen. John McCain introduced new legislation that he has written called the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Leiberman making it “bipartisan” — after a fashion…
Assessing McCain’s bill in an article for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald noted that:
“It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act. It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil. The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they ‘may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,’ which everyone expects to last decades, at least. It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges.”
For those of you who may not be familiar with Glenn Greenwald, he is a constitutional expert, a lawyer, a columnist, a blogger, and author. He worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator prior to becoming a contributor to Salon.com, where he focuses on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other major newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times.
His commentaries “on surveillance issues and separation of powers” have been cited in The New York Times, in The Washington Post, in United States Senate floor debates, and in House “official … reports on executive power abuses.”
In short, when Glenn Greenwald is alarmed, we should all be paying attention.
If you would like to read the bill for yourself, you’ll find it here. It’s a short read (12 pages); Republicans seem to have become great fans of brevity in their legislative endeavors lately.
Basically, the bill would establish a policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are suspected of hostilities against the United States. Such detainees would be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value by High Value Intelligence Teams and pointedly would not be provided with a Miranda warning.
Here’s a relevant bit taken directly from the bill:
“The bill asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate. The President must submit the regulations and guidance to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than 60 days after enactment.”
“To the extent possible, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must make a preliminary determination whether the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent within 48 hours of taking detainee into custody.”
“The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must submit its determination to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General make a final determination and report the determination to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination.”
Things that “go bump in the night” about these passages:
* We are no longer referring to these “targets” as “aliens;” American citizens like you and I (and José Padilla) could now be (officially) pulled off the street and detained indefinitely
* The bill calls for the President to decide what behavior will label a person a “high-value detainee.” The bill then makes suggestions about possible criteria but ends with “or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” I have to wonder what a President Cheney or a President Palin might consider appropriate criteria for “detainment.” Perhaps anyone who might have called for the indictment of Bush/Cheney, on war crimes, would suddenly become a “high value detainee”?
* Once the criteria have been set, the Kangaroo Court is in session and the Orwellian-sounding High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team have “48 hours” to deliver a verdict. So — based on 48 hours of extra-judicial deliberation by a group who make their living being part of an “interrogation team” you, or someone you know, could be “disappeared” for quite a long time. Period.
* That “interrogation team” verdict is handed over to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General who make the Final Determination and hand it over to the President (who DOES NOT have a say in that determination unless DoD and DoJ bring in a split decision).
Furthermore, per the bill, such detainees can be held until the end of terrorist hostilities against the US and its Coalition allies – which, as we all know, could be a very, very long time. And wouldn’t this act be a great tool for anyone with a feverish imagination and an “enemies list”? In our overheated national security environment it shouldn’t be too awfully hard to make, say – any regular subway commuter into a terrorist suspect.
Let Me Count the Ways…
This is not one of those hair-splitting constitutional debates that go on in some rarefied legal ether. This bill is a down and dirty assault on the Constitution that has so much glaringly wrong with it that any American high-schooler could shoot it full of holes in five minutes. Here are some of its major constitutional transgressions:
Fourth Amendment 4 — Search and Seizure:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fifth Amendment 5 — Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.
Sixth Amendment — Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Eighth Amendment — Cruel and Unusual Punishment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Fourteenth Amendment — Citizenship Rights:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Keeping in mind that this bill was written by a United States Senator, who is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and co-sponsored by ten others (see list of co-sponsors below) – it is little wonder that the American public is thoroughly disgusted with Congress’s performance of late (approval rating is consistently around 20%). If this bill had been introduced on April 1st, I would have known what to make of it. As it stands, I have to assume that Sen. McCain’s loss of the Presidential election, the imminent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and, now, the very real threat to even holding on to his Senate seat, has completely unhinged the man.
Here is the promised list of Co-Sponsors of the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010:
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]
These are, of course, many of the usual subjects; but I find it especially chilling to find Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on that list.
Now, it’s only fair to let McCain speak for himself and, to that end, here’s a link to his official letter introducing his bill to the President. Unfortunately, McCain’s rambling, finger-pointing screed doesn’t go very far in elucidating good motives for establishing a police state.
There are a number of political ways to look at this development — it could be simply a Republican effort to introduce legislation that provides an opportunity for the administration to appear wimpy by shooting it down. Who’s paying attention? Sen. McCain is just being a stand-up, ex-military patriot trying to make Americans safer but the radical Obama administration shots down anything that smacks of traditional values — right?
McCain, whose Senate seat seems to be imperiled in November, may believe that his bill will appeal to a gun-toting, xenophobic, kick-ass contingent of Arizona voters (centrism sure doesn’t seem to be working).
It could be that he believes the McClatchy-Ipsos poll, from January 2010, that found that 51 percent of Americans agree with this statement: ”it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”
It could be part of the GOP’s general accretion of scary material that keeps Americans wary and the defense dollars flowing until the Republican Party rises from the ashes and saves us from ourselves, once again.
Or it could just be what we’re coming to — a corporatist, militarist global concern that needs to sweep stodgy American values out of its way. The precedent for using US military inside the US occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has run exercises called “Vigilant Shield” to prepare, prevent and respond to any number of national crises that would call for the use of the military inside the United States. Vigilant Shield 2008 builds a scenario of a domestic disaster in the US (terrorist attack or natural disaster). It posits the domestic use of the US military including a special role for the US Air Force.
In case anyone out there is comforted that President Obama would never sign that bill, don’t be sure. Here’s a clip from Rachel Maddow last spring that puts the lie to that false security:
I’m sure that Sen. McCain, like Liz Cheney, is just obsessed with Keeping America Safe … so why do I feel so very afraid?
Our unending state of stress-out is al-Qaeda’s greatest victory against the United States. As the AP reports today, al-Qaeda got one big message from the Underwear Bomber’s failure: “the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and has prided itself on its ideological purism seems to be eyeing a more pragmatic and arguably more dangerous shift in tactics. The emerging message appears to be: Big successes are great, but sometimes simply trying can be just as good.”
Yeah, it seems like the simple cave dwellers have figured out big, complex, allegedly bad-ass America: we’re just a bunch of sticky fat kids crying because our ice cream fell off the cone. That wedgie-bait, Adam Gadahn (née “Pearlman”), an American in al-Qaeda, taunted, “Even apparently unsuccessful attacks on Western mass transportation systems can bring major cities to a halt, cost the enemy billions and send his corporations into bankruptcy.” He may be a traitorous asshole who can’t grow a decent beard, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Ask anyone who was at Newark Airport in January, where security imprisoned thousands of innocent people for six hours because some idiot took a shortcut…
Indeed, the right has so successfully torqued the country into what our enemies believe it is, it’s almost as if the GOP is a subversive arm of al-Qaeda. They have nearly bankrupted us, thus making any great social advances impossible; they have turned mild dissent into sedition; and they have turned the Constitution into a loophole-ridden contract, filled with more fine print than a subprime mortgage. They did most of that shit when they were in power. Now, out of power, the right is seeking, as it did in the Clinton years, but even more insidiously, to undermine the very functioning of government…
Just this one more little cigarette and then I promise I’ll quit for good….
From the New York Times:
…But it seems there has been a genuine shift in Somali policy, too, and the Americans have absorbed a Somali truth that eluded them for nearly 20 years: If Somalia is going to be stabilized, it is going to take Somalis.
“This is not an American offensive,” said Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa. “The U.S. military is not on the ground in Somalia. Full stop.”
He added, “There are limits to outside engagement, and there has to be an enormous amount of local buy-in for this work.”
Most of the American military assistance to the Somali government has been focused on training, or has been channeled through African Union peacekeepers. But that could change. An American official in Washington, who said he was not authorized to speak publicly, predicted that American covert forces would get involved if the offensive, which could begin in a few weeks, dislodged Qaeda terrorists.
“What you’re likely to see is airstrikes and Special Ops moving in, hitting and getting out,” the official said.
From a review in The Guardian of McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers, by Misha Glenny:
Glenny correctly identifies the contradiction of the Wars on Drugs and Terror, in which the illicit trade created by the former sustains the enemy in the latter. ‘If the UN is right and drugs account for 70 per cent of organised criminal activity,’ argues Glenny, ‘then the legalisation of drugs would administer by far the deadliest blow possible against transnational organised criminal networks.’
…and left i on the news explains the difference:
Today, a man with a “cache” of weapons is all over the national news. His cache consisted primarily of two rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Aside from the RPG, no doubt a “cache” which is exceeded in size by hundreds of thousands, if not indeed millions or even tens of millions, of Americans. Oh, but he had one more thing in his “cache” which most of them don’t, which is why he’s in the national news — “a Middle Eastern red and white colored traditional headdress.”
Let’s remind ourselves of other caches of weapons that were not newsworthy, caches which received no national attention whatsoever. Just last November, a man was caught with 35 pipe bombs, an assortment of firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition; outside of a brief AP article, his case went totally unmentioned by the national press. He was a right-winger.
But he doesn’t even begin to compare to two other cases. Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were caught with dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition, and did spend a year in prison. In the New York Times they warranted two one-paragraph stories, one the day they were convicted, the other the day they were released from prison.
And even surpassing Alvarez and Mitat was Robert Ferro, a man whose name did not once make the national or even regional media; only the local paper has covered his case. Why is that so astonishing? Because Ferro had a cache consisting of 1,600 firearms, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers and two short-barreled rifles, along with a hand grenade, military rocket-launcher tube, and grenade parts, not to mention 89,000 rounds of ammunition, the largest private cache of weapons ever seized in the United States!
Alvarez, Mitat, and Ferro all had one thing in common besides for having their caches of weapons ignored by the media. All three were anti-Cuban terrorists, planning to use their weapons against citizens of Cuba. You know, “acceptable” terrorism.
Teresa at Making Light says:
I think about this every time I see a news story about the DHS/NTSA developing elaborate systems that test travelers for trace amounts of chemicals used in explosives.
How do you beat that? By seeding the travel environment with the target chemicals. For instance, you could sprinkle them into the upholstery and/or carpeting of buses, trains, and airport taxis. Travelers who came into contact with them would pick up trace amounts, which would set off the airport chemical detectors. A system that’s swamped with false positives is as blind as one that can’t detect what it’s looking for, and it’s a hell of a lot more nervous.
The beauty part about doing this is that it’s so easy. You don’t have to build a working bomb, learn to fly a plane, target a specific flight, buy a plane ticket, or pass through airport security. All you have to do is sit back and keep pressing the DHS/NTSA’s panic buttons.
Chemicals aren’t terrorism. Terrorism isn’t air travel. Terror is an effect. I don’t know anyone who was made more fearful by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab setting fire to his crotch. I know a lot of people who are afraid to travel because they’ve heard reports of abusive behavior by security personnel at borders and airports.
Next: figuring out how to put miniature cap pistols into coin-operated toy vending machines at highway rest areas near border checkpoints.
Thanks to Common Dreams and Sara Robinson who reminds us about fascism and how a country arrives there and where we are on that road and what to do about it :
We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.
Woody reminds of of an earlier time. And goads us into moving in the direction of light and sunshine. But will we before it’s too late?
Ma, that’s not where we want to go.
Anyone who follows the news with moderate regularity and an open mind is already well aware that the real force behind jihad and 9/11 was and is our great and good friend, Saudi Arabia.
Anyone else should read the article by Johann Hari of Independent UK from which this is excerpted:
…And so Usama begins to tell me his story. He arrived in Tottenham in North London in the mid-1970s, when he was five years old. His Pakistani father was sent here by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs, which aims to spread its puritan desert strain of Islam to every nation. His family led a locked-down life, trying to adhere to Saudi principles in a semi-detached house in the English suburbs. “We weren’t allowed music or TV or any contact with the opposite sex,” he says. “We were very sheltered. I didn’t go out a great deal.” By the age of 10, he had memorised every word of the Koran in its original Arabic…
He started to recruit other students, as he had done so many times before. But it was harder. “Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 — until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster…”
But once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community — they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 — from Guantanamo to Iraq — made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think — anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”
Britain’s foreign policy also helped tug them towards Islamism in another way. Once these teenagers decided to go looking for a harder, tougher Islamist identity, they found a well-oiled state machine waiting to feed it. Usman Raja says: “Saudi literature is everywhere in Britain, and it’s free. When I started exploring my Muslim identity, when I was looking for something more, all the books were Saudi. In the bookshops, in the libraries. All of them. Back when I was fighting, I could go and get a car, open the boot up, and get it filled up with free literature from the Saudis, saying exactly what I believed. Who can compete with that?”
As you sit stupefied before Cheney preening his soiled and broken feathers on every talk show he can find, relieve the monotony with this thought from Steve Benen:
What Obama really ought to do, according to Dick Cheney, is seek out the former vice president’s advice and follow it. After all, Cheney believes he’s proven himself on the issue.
I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there’s something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.
After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn’t ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.
I am curious about something, though. Terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, early on in President Clinton’s first year in office. Six people were killed, hundreds more were injured. The Clinton administration caught those responsible, subjected them to the U.S. criminal justice system, and foreign terrorists did not strike again on U.S. soil during Clinton’s terms in office.
So, at any point in 2001, did the Bush White House turn to Bill Clinton and Al Gore and ask, “How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?”
You will have read about the CIA’s guidelines for torturing prisoners. But for the full horror of the thing, go here. Every American should be at first ashamed and then furious to see 79 pages of this filth under the letterhead of the United States Department of Justice, signed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury. Most Americans will not give a damn, however, which is what makes the rest of us fear for the Republic.
Nephew Will Doolittle’s column in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star:
The point of social institutions, especially legal institutions, is to impose uniformity and objectivity on social interactions that would otherwise be personal and unpredictable.
When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, and debating the death penalty, which he opposed, he would propose a scenario where a member of his own family was killed during a robbery, making the criminal eligible for a first-degree murder charge.
Would he want that murderer executed? Would he want to kill him with his own hands?
Yes, Cuomo would say, but, for the good of all, the legal system would not allow him a personal revenge.
Victims are prohibited from punishing their victimizers, except through the offices of the state. That’s how order is maintained.
When I have criticized Bush-era officials for engaging in torture, the most consistent response from readers has been, “What if your child were in danger?”
Let’s say my child were kidnapped and, by some fantastic set of circumstances, one of the kidnappers was sitting in my kitchen and I believed that, by torturing him, I could save my child — would I do it?
I probably would, which is no justification for legalizing torture.
It is our capacity for violence that makes laws forbidding it necessary, unless, of course, you think torture is fine.
If torture is fine, then, as Jesse Ventura asked recently, why didn’t we torture Timothy McVeigh to find out who helped him in the Oklahoma City attack? Why not torture murderers for the names of their accomplices? Why not torture prisoners of war for information about our enemies?
If, as Dick Cheney asserts, the end of squeezing information out of suspected al-Qaida terrorists justified the means of torturing them, then, surely, torture is worth doing in other circumstances where American lives are threatened.
We should have tortured prisoners we captured during the Vietnam War, for example, to find out what they knew about our enemy’s plans.
We should have tortured Squeaky Fromme after she tried to shoot Gerald Ford, to find out if any other members of the Manson family were planning to attack the president (one of them was).
We should torture teens caught plotting Columbine-style attacks to make sure no co-conspirators are left at large.
The question is not whether torture works. Let’s say it does. The question is whether the costs of employing torture outweigh the benefits of any information you glean. I think they do.
…you guys have got a lot to talk about. For instance, does this sound familiar?
[Rev. Robert G.] Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him. They said American prisoners weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention.
“They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war,” Certain says. “Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."
Once again Noam Chomsky brings us back to reality in this essay. I’m posting this minutes before President Obama’s address on closing our prison at Guantánamo Bay. We will see what we will see.
None of this is to say that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al. did not introduce important innovations. In ordinary American practice, torture was largely farmed out to subsidiaries, not carried out by Americans directly in their own government-established torture chambers.
As Allan Nairn, who has carried out some of the most revealing and courageous investigations of torture, points out: “What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system’s torture, which is done by foreigners under U.S. patronage. Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.”
Obama did not shut down the practice of torture, Nairn observes, but “merely repositioned it,” restoring it to the American norm, a matter of indifference to the victims. “[H]is is a return to the status quo ante,” writes Nairn, “the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more U.S.-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years…”
An argument can be made that implementation of the CIA’s “torture paradigm” never violated the 1984 Torture Convention, at least as Washington interpreted it. McCoy points out that the highly sophisticated CIA paradigm developed at enormous cost in the 1950s and 1960s, based on the “KGB’s most devastating torture technique,” kept primarily to mental torture, not crude physical torture, which was considered less effective in turning people into pliant vegetables.
McCoy writes that the Reagan administration then carefully revised the International Torture Convention “with four detailed diplomatic ‘reservations’ focused on just one word in the convention’s 26-printed pages,” the word “mental.” He continues: “These intricately-constructed diplomatic reservations re-defined torture, as interpreted by the United States, to exclude sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain — the very techniques the CIA had refined at such great cost.”
Every day in every way, the manufactured debate about closing Guantánamo gets sillier and sillier. Here’s a specimen from Texas laying out the logic:
“No good purpose is served by allowing known terrorists, who trained at terrorist training camps, to come to the U.S. and live among us,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the committee. “Guantanamo Bay was never meant to be an Ellis Island.”There must be something in the water down in Texas that turns grown men into sniveling, whining, terrified little cowards. For an X-rated examination of this syndrome, see The Rude Pundit.
The picture below shows the GOP firebrand himself in a rare non-whimpering moment. A Vietnam non-vet, he fulfilled his military obligation by attending the Texas Military Institute, an Episcopal prep school in San Antonio.
For the rest of the story:
In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death…
“Abed Hamed Mowhoush [was] a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death,” Human Rights First writes. “In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, [Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer] received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.”
The Rude Pundit is shocked, shocked— You can tell because he got through an entire paragraph without potty-mouthing.
But what doesn’t come through immediately is the answer to a simple question: why? Why did the Bush administration commit and allow (and encourage, if not force others to commit) what are, seemingly without a doubt, treaty-busting crimes? Because, see, you read something like footnote 10 on page 2 and you come across this line: “According to Gonzales, the ‘positive’ consequences of setting aside the Third Geneva Convention include ‘preserving flexibility’ and ‘substantially reduc[ing] the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,’” and you realize that, whatever the motivation of the people involved, they didn’t care. And they didn’t care for a simple reason to answer that simple question: the Bush administration thought it was the beginning of an ascendant Republican reign and that they’d never be investigated.
We now know that CIA torturers waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed precisely 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times. That comes to 266 times in all. To get a full sense of what lies behind this number then, you must multiply what you will read below by 266.
I posted it on September 14, 2006, and repost it now to remind us of the exact nature of the crimes committed by Bush, Cheney, Addington, Libby, Tenet, Bybee, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Yoo and the many others in a chain of command that stretched directly from the Oval Office to the secret overseas torture chambers of the CIA. None of these criminals will ever be punished, because our part of the world doesn’t work that way. This isn’t Chile or Germany or Cambodia, after all.
Being of unsound stomach, I tuned out TV’s Monday wallow in the guilty pleasures of 9/11 and only just now came across Matt Lauer’s disturbing interview of Bush, a president.
The president’s body language comes straight from the barroom. He stands too close — into Lauer’s space, almost in his face. Since Bush is on TV, he can’t engage in the usual shoving ritual of the perpetually adolescent male. His jabbing finger, never quite making contact, has to do the job for him. Lauer stands his ground but does not jab back. It would cost him his job, as both men well know.
Lauer can use his words, though. And so he brings up the matter of waterboarding, a form of torture which Bush uses on suspected terrorists. But Bush, as both men also well know, can’t admit to that on TV. So the president, of course, lies. But then — twice, in the same prepared words — he goes on to tell us why he does the thing he doesn’t do:
I’m not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don’t want the enemy to adjust …
I’m not going to tell you specifically what’s done because I don’t want the enemy to adjust.”
Adjust? How can the enemy adjust? Grow gills?
Since the torturer Bush won’t tell us specifically what he has done, let’s turn to somebody to whom it was done half a century ago. This is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including having his testicles burned. The worst was yet to come:
A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”
L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”
I lay down on the plank. L—, with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…
Together they picked up he plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”
With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”
And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.
But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,
“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.
The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.
“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”
This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.
I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.
The last time, I lost consciousness.
M. Alleg, shown below in a 2004 photo, never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.
…and the Honorable Jay S. Bybee is perhaps up around the gills somewhere, behind such moral vacuums as George Tenet, Richard Cheney and, at the very tippy-top where the hook ought to go but won’t, George W. Bush.
Following his spell as a torture enabler at the Justice Department the Honorable Bybee was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the enthusiastic support of Senator Harry Reid and Senator Charles Schumer. I think we should all know more about the Honorable Bybee, and I will supply it later. Meanwhile, from The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum…
Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said…
The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation…
Brady Bonk asks, as should we all:
If “just following orders” is now in force, should the courts-martial of Lynndie England, Ivan Frederick, Charles Graner, Javal Davis, Megan Ambuhl, Sabrina Harman, Jeremy Sivits not be reconsidered?
In the 1970s and 1980s the tiny country of Uruguay was a military dictatorship ruled by sadists and murderers. Dissenters were tortured for years in military jails. Those who survived were next sent to a nightmare of a prison called Libertad, or Liberty.
The name was not a joke. Liberty Prison was a lab experiment in which words might mean their opposite, clocks kept different and constantly changing time, calendars were inaccurate, lights were manipulated so that days would shorten or lengthen unaccountably, meals would arrive at odd intervals or not at all, and behavior that was punished on Tuesday would be rewarded on Wednesday. If indeed it had been a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
This house of mirrors had been designed by behavioral psychologists, and was carried out under their direction. And the meaninglessness had meaning. From Lawrence Wechsler’s 1998 book, A Miracle, a Universe:
Major A. Maciel, who was a director of Libertad, observed at one point, regarding the prisoners under his charge, “We didn’t get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we’ll have to let them go, so we’ll have to take advantage of the time we have left to drive them mad.”
No matter what creatures like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Addington may say or even believe, the goal of torture is only incidentally to elicit information. What, then were the masters of Uruguay really after with their physical and psychological tortures? Lawrence Wechsler, again, writing in the New Yorker 20 years ago:
Eduardo Galeano, the noted Uruguayan writer, provided me with a characteristically terse, aphoristic reply: “In Uruguay, people were in prison so prices could be free.”
Several other people I spoke with in Montevideo concurred, explaining that one of the main reasons for the military’s repression was to enable the generals to hand the country’s economy over to their “Chicago boys” — neoliberal economic technocrats, many of them trained at the University of Chicago under the monetarist influence of Milton Friedman, who prescribe an unfettered marketplace, with a minimum of government interference, as the cure for most of the world’s economic ills.
These economists generally oppose protective tariffs, social entitlements, minimum-wage standards, government safety-and-health regulations — the kind of things on behalf of which unions, for example, might be expected to struggle.
So what were our own torturers and psychologists in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib really after? Are there parallels? Divergences? What economic philosophy has been forced on Iraq, with what results? What is the point of “mosaic intelligence” as opposed to “actionable intelligence” of the Jack Bauer variety?
Contrast and compare.
This from my nephew Will Doolittle, columnist for the Glens Falls PostStar.
Usually, I reject the proposition that “times have changed,” especially when the speaker means “for the worse.” The good old days were very bad, in some ways.
But the part of me that wants to say, “When I was a kid ...” flares up when I read stories like the one in Wednesday’s paper about the two 16-year-olds from Cambridge charged with felonies. They were charged when someone called the State Police after spotting a plastic sled the teens had placed by the road, near the house where one of them lives.
On the sled were a soccer ball wrapped in foil, some wire and a battery pack. Also on the sled was a note that said: “If you touch this, you will be shot.”
They had put this hodgepodge by the road Sunday night because another friend, with whom they often play war games, was supposed to be riding his bike down the road that night to join them. But the friend didn’t show up, and the teens didn’t collect their creation right away Monday. Someone else saw it and was scared by it.
I spoke recently with Anthony Jancek, the father of Nicholas, who was charged. Nick had never even had detention before this happened, Mr. Jancek said. Anthony Jancek doesn’t blame anyone but his son, whom he has grounded, he said, “until the court date, at the very least.”
And Nick, on his own, is writing letters of apology to the person who got scared, and to the troopers who had to spend time dealing with a soccer ball on a sled.
Nick’s good manners and his maturity — when the troopers showed up, he told them exactly what happened, Mr. Jancek said — are encouraging. And Mr. Jancek’s good parenting, insisting that Nick take responsibility, is great.
But, as an uninvolved party, you can’t help thinking, “What the heck?”
And right after that thought come the memories of the things you did when you were a kid, and the times you got caught, and the punishments. What you probably don’t remember are the felony charges you faced.
Because, despite all the understandable precautions officials must take, it is crazy to be charging kids with serious crimes for goofing around with each other. We used to understand, but don’t any longer, that kids need some latitude, so they can learn lessons without collecting big black marks on their records.
But times have changed, and for the worse.
…were never at Guantanamo Bay. They were in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the White House:
Recent interviews with troops from the early days at Guantanamo confirm that the “worst of the worst” charge was suspect from the very first encounters with the detainees. There wasn’t any reliable vetting. Although the first troops on the ground at Guantanamo were led to believe that they would be receiving the “worst of the worst,” the detainees themselves seemed from the start to be far from the dangerous men they had expected — symbolically, individuals who, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, were capable of chewing through hydraulic cables on board the transport planes but who it turned out arrived with rotting teeth and weakened physiques.
Overall, the U.S. military was blindsided by who they received at Gitmo and by the condition in which the detainees arrived. Arriving dehydrated, and startlingly thin, the detainees were mostly not only small and weak, but did not even speak the languages which the troops on the ground had been told to expect. Many came from countries outside of the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. Some did not even seem capable of any dire acts.
Among the earliest arrivals, one was apparently an octogenarian; another was over ninety. One was a diagnosed schizophrenic. However possible the danger quotient of these first arrivals, the inclusion of these cases made the team at Gitmo suspect that the vetting process had been haphazard at best.
Later investigations have shown that most of the detainees were not captured directly by U.S. troops. Instead, the U.S. paid bounties to, or otherwise received the prisoners from, Pakistani boarder guards and Northern Alliance troops. There was no single profile for the detainees; instead they seemed like a ragtag and miscellaneous group. Nor did they arrive with information.
The pocket litter that detainees were carrying when captured – materials that trained police would have carefully preserved and labeled for use during interrogation – came stuffed randomly into bags but was often not separated per individual. Doubts about the identities of the detainees were registered by visiting Congresspersons and by members of the Bush Administration, but these doubts never seemed to go anywhere.
Thus began the story of defending a mission that seemed in part fraudulent from the start. As the general in charge has noted in retrospect, it took a petty officer to put a detainee on the plane to Guantanamo and an order signed by the President of the United States to get him out.
And speaking of Howard Dean, as I was last night, here’s a clue to why he was frozen out (as if the identity of the incoming White House chief of staff wasn’t enough). It’s by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, writing in the London Review of Books:
Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.
When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers … are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning — without much evidence — that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’
This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.
Martha Raddatz of ABC interviews George W. Bush:
GWB: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take...
MR: But not until after the U.S. invaded.
GWB: Yeah, that's right. So what?
So what? I’ll tell you what, you— Ah, forget it.
Good news, if true. It would seem to rule out an October (or November) Surprise from that particular set of evildoers anyway. Now all we have to worry about is the ones in the White House — Bush coming to the last-minute aid of a desperate McCain.
But what more can the little fellow do along those lines? He’s already plunged us into two more wars with his illegal attacks on Pakistan and Syria and the voters didn’t even notice.
DUBAI (Reuters) — An al Qaeda leader has called for President George W. Bush and the Republicans to be “humiliated,” without endorsing any party in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, according to a video posted on the Internet.
“O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him,” Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of a sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.
Libi, one of the top al Qaeda commanders believed to be living in Afghanistan or Pakistan, called for God’s wrath to be brought against Bush equating him with past tyrants in history
Has it occurred to anybody that we’re already at war with a nuclear power? No? We’re not? Suppose a country — let’s say Japan — began to bombard American territory — let’s say Hawaii — with guided missiles. Would we get all upset and claim it was an act of war?
US air strikes have killed at least 20 people including suspected foreign militants close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, reports say. Missiles were launched in attacks on villages in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, Pakistani intelligence officers said, speaking anonymously.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Around 3,000 Pakistani tribesmen Friday chanted "Allahu Akbar and death to America" in protest at a raid by Afghanistan-based US-led troops that saw at least 15 people killed. One of their elders warned US authorities to prepare for assaults on their bases in Afghanistan if they do not stop attacks on Pakistan's northwest border area, according to local residents and officials.
A week ago, U.S. helicopters reportedly landed near Angoor Ada, a border village in nearby South Waziristan, but returned toward Afghanistan after troops fired warning shots. A Pakistani military spokesman said last week that troops had orders to open fire in case of another cross-border raid by foreign troops.
And many more:
Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have in the past month carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.
I expected the military commission in Guantanamo Bay to roll over for Cheney/Addington/Bush (listed in order of importance) and sentence Bin Laden’s driver to a half-dozen life sentences, to be served consecutively.
But the commission wisely sentenced him to 5-1/2 years, which means that with time served he could be free in five months. Government lawyers, including the military JAGs and excluding such suck-ups as the despicable John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, have been standing up surprisingly well to the constitutional assaults coming from C/A/B.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.
As a boy I was a great reader of the English adventure writer Percival Christopher Wren. He is remembered today only as the author of the book on which the movie Beau Geste was based, but he wrote many more books about the French Foreign Legion.
Life was hard in Wren’s Foreign Legion. Mess up and you spent the day with a rock-filled pack on your back, double-timing around the parade ground in the North African sun.
Really mess up and the sergeants put you in a stress position called the crapaudine, or locked you inside a box no bigger than a refrigerator where you would stay until you went mad.
I was terrified and yet fascinated. Could people be so cruel to one another? Did such evil really exist outside of books? Later I learned that it once had — in the chain gangs of our own South, where it was called the “hot box.” Imagine a citizenry so primitive, so low, so depraved, so ignorant, so devoid of humanity, as to permit such things!
The chain gangs were history by then, although fairly recent history. But before long, as fear of various Others made us not brave and strong but small and mean, the chain gangs came back. The cancer of prisons spread and metastasized. The land of the scared was becoming the home of a vast corporate gulag.
All the while we sat by and cheered, fat and ignorant and frightened, until now now we have at last what Jimmy Carter in his innocence once promised us — a government as good as the American people themselves.
Now we have our very own hot boxes in our very own colonies and most of us must be just fine with that. After all, none of this is the fault of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, those nasty amoral morons who rule in our name. If our vote could be won by compassion, humility, the rule of law and a preference for peace, they would hide their disgust and try to deliver. No, the draft-dodging duo is the effect, not the cause.
The cause is those nasty amoral morons who put our two warhogs in the White House, and who then, after taking a good, long, four-year look at the results, chose to leave them there.
We built those boxes, and if there were a God in heaven we would be in them ourselves.
Apparently the rumors that SecDef Gates is angling for a spot in an Obama administration are not without foundation.
“The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies,” the [DoD] report says.
“For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves,” it says.
This from Bob Gates?
The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates “was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and [as the CIA’s Deputy Director of Intelligence] was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…”
The issue was whether the Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered…
In 1984, as deputy director of CIA, Gates advocated that the U.S. initiate a bombing campaign against Nicaragua and that the U.S. do everything in its power short of direct military invasion of the country to remove the Sandinista government…
Gates has been a member of the board of trustees of Fidelity Investments, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc., Parker Drilling Company, Science Applications International Corporation, and VoteHere, a technology company which sought to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry.
Recruited by the CIA in college, and hoping to provide cryptography for elections. Somehow that makes me uneasy. Fortunately he’s a past president of the National Eagle Scout Association.
I meant to put this up a couple of weeks ago but hey, what’s the rush? If you haven’t read it yet, it’s still news to you.
The link takes you to McClatchy Newspapers’ magnificent week-long series on the open running sore that Bush has created at Guantanamo Bay.
A lot of criticism from both sides of the blogosphere is directed at the press, much of it deserved. When newspapers are bad, they are indeed horrid. But when they are good they are very, good.
I have worked for five of them, from a California weekly to the Washington Post and I’m no more sentimental about the business than my brother Bill is. Which is not sentimental at all, as you may know from his occasional posts on the subject.
But still, but still…
You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. Someday somebody somewhere may come up with an internet business model that makes it possible for two reporters to spend eight months in 11 countries interviewing scores of Bush’s victims (a shocking percentage of them plainly innocent), their lawyers, their jailers, their neighbors, and their families. For now, though, the MSM is all we’ve got.
The McLatchy team will win Pulitzers for this job of reporting, if there is a God in heaven. Which there probably isn’t, or creatures like Bush and Cheney wouldn’t be allowed to run loose all over the planet.
Sadly, the “worst of the worst” are not at Guantanamo Bay.
From McClatchy Newspapers:
WASHINGTON — U.S. border agents are copying and seizing the contents of laptops, cell phones and digital cameras from U.S. and foreign travelers entering the United States, witnesses told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday.
The extent of this practice is unknown despite requests to the Department of Homeland Security from the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and several nonprofit agencies.
The department also declined to send a representative to the hearing. Subcommittee Chairman Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said Homeland Security had told him that its “preferred” witness was unavailable Wednesday…
(Ed. note: Wednesday was his day in the reading room.)
HONOLULU — The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.
Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is “being processed for separation” from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified “non-judicial punishment.”
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A military judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.
Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha…
Of eight Marines originally charged in the case, only one is still facing prosecution in the biggest U.S. criminal prosecution involving Iraqi deaths to come out of the war.
Headline from McClatchy Newspapers:
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Mullahs and communists, and it seemed everything in between, came out in Pakistan Friday in a massive rally against President Pervez Musharraf, seeking to force the government to restore the judges fired by the U.S.-backed president.
In a huge challenge to Musharraf, and also to the newly elected government, tens of thousands of ordinary Pakistanis confounded all expectations by coming out in noisy, excited support of an independent judiciary…
“Musharraf’s bluster, backed by the American administration, that caused this situation to continue in a stalemate,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, the charismatic leader of the lawyers’ movement, in an interview on top of his campaign truck, as it crawled through the streets of Rawalpindi. “I think that stalemate has now been broken.”
Something to think about later today, perhaps during services when you get tired of wondering why the guy in front of you didn’t shave his neck—
Martha Bridegam passes on this link, which will take you to a spot on Amazon where you may or may not lay out $50.18 for the last remaining Playmobil Security Checkpoint. Just a little something for that four- to seven-year-old in your life. Or, if a boy, he may prefer the Kid’s Pimp Suit Costume ($39.99).
Comment on the Security Checkpoint would be superfluous; 48 other revolted citizens have already done the job, and very ably. So don’t fail to click on the customer reviews.
I’ve seen bits and piece of this before, but Christopher Ketcham has gathered them all under one roof in Radar magazine. Here are a few teasers from his long article; do read the whole thing.
It’s scary stuff, and the Department of Homeland Security is a scary outfit. Joe Lieberman’s brainchild, this product of multiple bureaucratic miscegenation has become the gold standard for incompetence, carelessness, callous indifference, and paranoia posing as prudence.
Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary…
In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish “temporary detention and processing capabilities” for the Department of Homeland Security…
According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year…
If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people…
If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—”so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security…
It’s Memorial Day, so remember this:
Today, at the end of his deployment in Diyala province, Col. Lehr, the commander of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said he still believed in that strong-armed, high-explosive approach.
It “sends a significant message,” he said in a conference call this morning. “It’s just like if we started shooting artillery rounds into your neighborhood... It would quickly get your attention.”
The brigade fired over 11,500 artillery rounds during their nearly 14-month deployment. Col. Lehr credits the strikes with helping to bring down violence in their area, Diyala province, by nearly 70 percent.
Do you suppose that Colonel Lehr’s 70 percent reduction in violence includes the violence unleashed on random Iraqis by 11,500 artillery rounds? Do you suppose that pigs fly?
If you suppose either thing, you are probably capable of believing that only or even mostly “insurgents” were killed by those bombardments. Long distance killing is by its nature random. Even if bombs and artillery shells were really “smart,” they are not aimed by people smart enough to know which targeted structures contain “insurgents” and which contain innocent bystanders.
Nor does it matter, as Colonel Lehr seems to understand all too well. The point of raining explosives on cities and towns is to create terror among civilians by killing them. And of course it works. It worked on 9/11 when Bin Laden did it to us, and it works when the colonel does it in Diyala province. As both men employ terror, both are terrorists. However harsh this sounds, proper understanding can only proceed from proper naming.
Proper arithmetic helps, too. Here’s some:
Iraqis and Americans both being human beings, one dead American does not = 100 dead Iraqis. The correct equation is: One dead human being = one dead human being.
Keeping this equivalency in mind, let’s examine an equation that Bush used to justify his invasion of a country that only threatened us in the nightmares of neocon fools.
Bush’s argument: leaving Saddam in power would allow a brutal dictator to kill X Iraqis over the next five years. Sanity’s argument: Overthrowing him would result in the deaths of Y Iraqis over the same period.
Is Y larger than X? By how many magnitudes?
If you have trouble solving this equation, ask an Iraqi.
I ran across this while paging through an old copy of Flashbacks: Twenty-five Years of Doonesbury, published in the aftermath of Desert Storm.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service, as it used to be called, was previously the lead standard for dysfunctional government agencies. By comparison even the FBI was efficient.
Then came the Homeland Security Act of 2002, legislation of a stupidity so stunning that even George W. Bush, in a rare divgation into common sense, at first opposed the measure.
But Senator Joe Lieberman (Likud-CT) shepherded this bureaucratic camelope into law. The old INS disappeared into the bowels of the new Department of Homeland Security, where part of it was reborn as a miscarriage called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This new monstrosity, created from the conflation of racism and xenophobia with the paranoia of Bush’s “war on terror,” appears to be even more cruel, more indifferent, more sluggish, less accountable and more of a cause for national shame than its unfeeling predecessor.
The Washington Post has exposed the mess to daylight in a shocking series of articles by reporters Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein. This is the kind of thing that newspapers can still do better than any other institution we have. Here’s a good place to start, and I hope you will.
Nothing new, but the Washington Post has assembled in one spot the ludicrous bungles which are the crown jewels of Bush’s domestic “war on terror.” For pathetic results like this we have let our constitution be gutted and our civil rights be trashed.
In the excerpt below, notice the practiced ease with which the FBI suggests to its befuddled suspect a scheme that would position the Bureau as terror’s number one enemy — something for Congress to think about, come budget time. Actually a terrorist with the brains of a zucchini would be smart enough put the hopelessly incompetent FBI at the top of his list of places not to bomb.
Batiste confided, somewhat fantastically, that he wanted to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, which would then fall into a nearby prison, freeing Muslim prisoners who would become the core of his Moorish army. With them, he would establish his own country.
The FBI informant, under bureau guidance, refocused Batiste on what he said was bin Laden's plot — to bomb FBI offices in several U.S. cities.
John Adams (in Thoughts on Government, April, 1776) gets it all wrong:
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.
I offer up for what it’s worth, and you’ll notice I’m not charging for it, my candidate for the bottom half of the McCain ticket. He is shown at the United Nations, holding up a vial which does not contain anthrax so that the world would tremble at the thought of how many people could be killed by a little vial like that if it did in fact hold anthrax. Remember Anthrax and how much fun we all had with it? What ever happened to old Anthrax anyway?
Mark Danner is an exceptionally useful citizen who teaches journalism at Bard College and the University of California at Berkeley. What follows are excerpts from a long piece that I hope you’ll be tempted to read in full. Professor Danner has given an explanation as intelligent and convincing as any I’ve seen of why we were dragged into Bush’s Folly in the first place. As to a plan of escape, he has none. No “peace with honor” is by now possible, any more than it was in Kennedy’s, Johnson’s and Nixon’s Folly.
Again, a remarkable statement, as many commentators were quick to point out; for declaring war on “terrorism” — a technique of war, not an identifiable group or target — was simply unprecedented, and, indeed, bewildering in its implications. As one counterinsurgency specialist remarked to me, “Declaring war on terrorism is like declaring war on air power.…”
That broader story comes down to a matter of two strategies and two generals: General Osama bin Laden and General George W. Bush. General bin Laden, from the start, has been waging a campaign of indirection and provocation: that is, bin Laden’s ultimate targets are the so-called apostate regimes of the Muslim world — foremost among them, the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the House of Saud on the Arabian peninsula — which he hopes to overthrow and supplant with a New Caliphate.
For bin Laden, these are the “near enemies,” which rely for their existence on the vital support of the “far enemy,” the United States. By attacking this far enemy, beginning in the mid-1990s, bin Laden hoped both to lead vast numbers of new Muslim recruits to join Al Qaeda and to weaken U.S. support for the Mubarak and Saud regimes. He hoped to succeed, through indirection, in “cutting the strings of the puppets,” eventually leading to the collapse of those regimes…
The latter perception — that terrorism as it struck the United States arose from political factors and that it could only be confronted and defeated with a political response — strikes me as incontestable. The problem the administration faced, or rather didn’t want to face, was that the calcified order that lay at the root of the problem was the very order that, for nearly six decades, had been shaped, shepherded, and sustained by the United States.
We see an explicit acknowledgment of this in the “Bletchley II” report drafted after 9/11 at Defense Department urging by a number of intellectuals close to the administration: “The general analysis,” one of its authors told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, “was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, were the key, but the problems there are intractable. Iran is more important ... But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with. But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable ...”
The United States has made possible the rise to power in Iraq of a Shiite government which is allied with its major geopolitical antagonist in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the United States has been fighting with great persistence and distinctly mixed results a Sunni insurgency which is allied with the Saudis, the Jordanians, and its other longtime friends among the traditional Sunni autocracies of the Gulf…
At this moment, the Iraq War is at a stalemate. Confronted with a growing threat from those “enemies allied with its friends in the region,” the Sunni insurgents, the Bush administration has adopted a practical and typically American strategy: it has bought them. The Americans have purchased the insurgency, hiring its foot soldiers at the rate of $300 per month. The Sunni fighters, once called insurgents, we now refer to as “tribesmen” or “concerned citizens.”
General David Petraeus blames Iran for yesterday’s mortaring of our occupation headquarters in the Green Zone. Maybe, but maybe also we should keep in mind the legal principle of cui bono.
Suppose you are the public face of a “surge” which you claim has greatly reduced violence by al-Qaeda in the country your troops occupy. And suppose your own headquarters has just come under heavy bombardment.
Then suppose you run right out and tell the press that al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. No, indeed. Instead, by one of those happy coincidences to which we have become so accustomed since 9/11, it was outside agitators. What’s more they were from Iran which — what are the odds? — your own commander-in-chief happens to be desperate to invade. What a fortunate confluence of God’s own truth and your own self-interest that would be!
And there was more to come, of a surprising nature:
In response to the news that 4,000 US military personnel have now been killed in Iraq, [Petraeus] said it showed how much the mission had cost but added that Americans were realistic about it.
He also said a great deal of progress had been made because of the “flipping” of communities — the decision by Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaeda militants. The extent of this had surprised even the US military, he said.
Before we let it surprise us, however, we might want to read the full article in Rolling Stone from which this excerpt comes. The author speaks Arabic, which turns out to be handy once you leave the Green Zone. Apparently everybody out there talks funny except the ones who report to General Petraeus.
Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government…
In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems,” as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it “balancing competing armed interest groups…”
“Before the war, it was just one party,” Arkan tells me. “Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good.” He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. “In Saddam’s time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite,” he says.
The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.
What follows is my transcription of New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman explaining his flat world on The Charlie Rose Show. I don’t think I’ve heard this much concentrated stupidity since listening to Ambassador G. McMurtrie Godley III at country team meetings in wartime Laos.
The transcription below contains the money shot, as they call it in the frankly pornographic rather than the political side of show biz. But if you have time to watch the whole interview you’ll see that Friedman’s performance was well-rehearsed and at least partially memorized. Thus the last three appalling paragraphs were not misspoken, but intentional.
Particularly unattractive, like Bush’s fake Texas accent, are Friedman’s tone-deaf attempts to sound like an ex-Marine Corps pogue tough-talking at the Legion Hall late at night. (Suck on this, Friedman, okay?)
And what we learned on 9/11, in a gut way, was that [the terrorist] bubble was a fundamental threat to our open society because there is no wall high enough, no INS agent smart enough, no metal detector efficient enough, to protect an open society from people motivated by that bubble and what we needed to do was to go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over here basically and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble.
And there was only one way to do it because part of that bubble said, “We’ve got you. This bubble is actually going to level the balance of power between we and you because we don’t care about it. We’re ready to sacrifice and all you care about is your stock options and your Hummers.”
And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this, okay?”
That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of the bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Baghdad because we could.
Still mongering fear after all these years of plummeting polls, America’s protector spake thus this week to his troops at the Department of Homeland Security:
We're in a battle with evil men — I call them evil because if you murder the innocent to achieve a political objective, you're evil.
The events of September the 11th, 2001 demonstrated the threats of a new era. I say "new" because we found that oceans which separate us from separate — different continents no longer separate us from danger. We saw the cruelty of the terrorists and extremists, and we glimpsed the future they intend for us. In other words, there's some serious lessons on September the 11th that it's important for all Americans to remember.
Two years ago, Osama bin Laden warned the American people: "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished." All of us, particularly those charged with protecting the American people, need to take the words of this enemy very seriously. And I know you do.
At this moment, somewhere in the world, a terrorist is planning an attack on us. I know that's an inconvenient thought for some, but it is the truth. And the people in this hall understand that truth. We have no greater responsibility, no greater charge, than to stop our enemies and to protect our fellow citizens.
The wonder of it all is that the nation doesn’t collapse in laughter or shame or both when Bush trots out this evildoer stuff. Let us start by understanding that most fights are not between a good guy and a bad guy. Most fights are between two bad guys. The good guys aren’t hanging around bars looking for trouble; they’re home playing with the kids or watching other people fight on TV.
So, in the interest of reason and common sense, let’s drop all this crap about what a rotten swine Saddam was. Of course he was. He deserved to die a thousand times over.
Let’s put him at ten on the evil meter, okay? And let’s assume that leaving this butcher in power over the last five years would have resulted in the murders of 100,000 innocent Iraqis.
Now let’s do the math, our unit of measurement being Iraqi corpses. According to every calculation of Iraqi casualties, even the Pentagon’s, George W. Bush outscores Saddam on the evil meter by at least five to one and probably closer to ten to one.
Set against that pile of corpses Bush’s good intentions will count for nothing when his personal End Time comes. St. Peter knows what the road to hell is paved with; if Bush actually believes in a Judgment Day, he’d better hope he’s wrong.
Susan Sontag, who read books and learned from them and was in many other ways a suspicious person, wrote the following a few days after 9/11. Fools and warhogs, always in the majority, promptly called her a despicable traitor to all that America holds dear. Time has told.
The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.
Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?
And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards…
Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
Things aren’t as bad as you thought. Once again, they’re worse. This excerpt is from James Fallows’s look back at the Hart-Rudman Commission which, as few now alive remember, predicted in early 2001 that terrorism would be our greatest national security problem.
The commission was wrong, of course. Our greatest national security problem lurked in the West Wing of the White House — and also, it turns out, back in the vice-presidential mansion at Number One Observatory Circle.
At the first meeting, one Republican woman on the commission said that the overwhelming threat was from China. Sooner or later the U.S. would end up in a military showdown with the Chinese Communists. There was no avoiding it, and we would only make ourselves weaker by waiting. No one else spoke up in support.
The same thing happened at the second meeting — discussion from other commissioners about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, anarchy of failed states, etc, and then this one woman warning about the looming Chinese menace. And the third meeting too. Perhaps more.
Finally, in frustration, this woman left the commission.
“Her name was Lynne Cheney,” Hart said. “I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.” Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China’s back!)
There has been a remarkable consistency among George W. Bush’s attorneys general in one respect. All three of them have openly argued for breaking the law and have proceeded to do so on a daily basis.
Here is Michael Mukasey, currently taking his turn as our nation’s chief law-breaking officer:
Also Thursday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told lawmakers he will not open a criminal investigation into the CIA’s use of waterboarding on terror suspects.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asked Mukasey bluntly whether he was starting a criminal investigation since Hayden confirmed the use of waterboarding.
“No, I am not, for this reason: Whatever was done as part of a CIA program at the time that it was done was the subject of a Department of Justice opinion through the Office of Legal Counsel and was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then,” he said.
Mukasey said opening an investigation would send a message that Justice Department opinions are subject to change.
“Essentially it would tell people, ‘You rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigations ... if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or indeed the political winds change,’” he said. “And that’s not something that I think would be appropriate and it’s not something I will do.”
This last paragraph might sound reasonable to someone unfamiliar with the law: Gee, officer, the Justice Department said it was okay. Go give them the ticket.
But under the law it is not okay at all. Mukasey’s own Justice Department will ship you off to jail if that’s the best excuse you can offer for committing a felony. And they do it every day.
Wayne Uff explained the process for us several months ago, as former attorney general John Ashcroft’s was doing his best to let our largest telecomunications companies off the hook for the illegal wiretapping they did at George W. Bush’s request.
Uff, a retired federal prosecutor himself, makes an argument that may seem counterintuitive to the layman. It is, however, the law, and the law is what Torture Boys Ashcroft, Gonzales and Mukasey swore an oath to uphold.
In this article former Attorney General John Ashcroft defends immunity for the telephone companies who turned over wiretap information without warrants in reliance on the government’s say-so that it was legal. Ashcroft argues that:
Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong.
Small problem: he’s wrong on the law. Companies that deal with the government in fact are not entitled to rely on promises made by government officials, and it is common for companies to lose major legal cases despite the fact that they relied on what they believed to be valid advice from government officials.
What Ashcroft wrote probably sounds like a reasonable rule to the average person: it’s not fair for a company to be penalized for doing something the government told it to do. The real rule, at least as reasonable as Ashcroft’s, is exactly the opposite. That rule is described, elaborated, and relied on in hundreds of cases, mostly government contract cases. Contrary to Ashcroft’s teaching, the rule is that businesses who deal with the government are not entitled to rely on a government official’s promises that their behavior is legal. A government official cannot make an act legal simply by erroneously telling a citizen the act is okay. The problem that these cases address is that government officials are human, and can make mistakes in interpreting laws. Or, officials can even be corrupt, or otherwise purposefully misinterpret the laws. A mistaken or corrupt government official does not have the power to make an illegal act legal.
A company that deals with the government is required to make its own, independent analysis of whether or not the actions proposed by the government are legal, and where a government official gave wrong legal advice, the company can lose the lawsuit.
There are hundreds if not thousands of these cases out there. And, it is very common for the citizen who relies on an erroneous representation by a government official to get to get the shaft, high and hard. Here’s just one that I found in a minute on Google:
As to “actual authority,” the Supreme Court has recognized that any private party entering into a contract with the government assumes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the government does in fact act within the bounds of his authority. Fed. Crop Ins. Corp. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380, 384 (1947); accord CACI, Inc. v. Sec’y of the Army, 990 F.2d 1233, 1236 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (“A contractor who enters into an arrangement with an agent of the government bears the risk that the agent is acting outside the bounds of his authority, even when the agent himself was unaware of the limitations on his authority.”). ....
But even if the Secretary of the Air Force himself had said to the recruiters that they could and should promise free lifetime medical care to aid in recruitment, those promises would be a nullity because, as shown below, the pertinent regulation provided to the contrary.
And, even on fairness, the rule that the letter of the law governs – and not the flawed interpretation of a government official – has much to recommend it. One of the rationales for this rule is that “The People” passed the laws, and it is the people’s law that governs, not the imperfect officials who may mistakenly interpret the law. It is not fair to force the people to abide by the perhaps twisted and erroneous interpretation of their laws by the imperfect individuals who hold office temporarily. It is not the people’s fault that their laws were misinterpreted by an official, and it is not fair to penalize the people for the mistakes of public servants. Remember the old saw about ours being a government of laws, not men? This is exactly what is meant: actions aren’t made lawful by the president’s saying they are lawful; actions are lawful if they are within the law.
One corollary to this legal rule: anyone who is shafted by relying on the mistaken legal interpretation of a government official usually cannot sue the government for relief because the sovereign is immune from suit, but such an injured citizen may have a legal recourse: a suit against the personal assets of the government official who made the mistake.
Day by day Bush and Cheney drag our nation’s honor — and our own — further down into their sewer:
OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada’s foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday…
The document — part of a training course on torture awareness given to diplomats — mentions the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held…
“The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.
As a former spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Laos, I offer this spokeswoman my sympathy and this advice: quit while you still know you’re lying; I did, and it didn’t hurt at all.
Another rough beast slouches towards Washington to be born. Rendition, it seems, is turning into a two-way street.
The complete essay from which this comes is by Anthony Piel, former counsel of the World Health Organization. It is from The Lakeville Journal. (If asked to log in, feel free to use remnant as userid, with the password jeromehd.)
A Kent resident friend who is a reader of The Lakeville Journal has put forward the following interesting and unexpected question: Does the United States have the right to kidnap U.S. or foreign citizens abroad with a view to “rendering” them to the United States for trial in U.S. courts? …
Although perhaps desirable, bounty hunting was not yet in vogue for corporate fraud or tax evasion, as the SEC, FTC and IRS had not yet been invented. Nor had the terms “homeland security,” “unlawful enemy combatant” or “extraordinary rendition” yet been coined. Those are a more recent U.S. invention. The question is, is this kind of “cowboy” style justice still the law of the land?
All right, enough of this Yuletide stuff. Let’s get back to the anti-Santa, George W. Bush. Thanks to Avedon Carol at The Sideshow for this link to Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. Sullivan, as you probably know, is about as liberal as I am conservative. Does this lend a certain gravitas to his attacks on Bush? I report; you decide.
What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?
What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?
What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.
Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have — without any bias — would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.
While I’ve got you on the line, isn’t it about time that some really skillful Photoshopper or caricaturist came up with the image of Bush waterboarding a suspect? Ideas or leads welcome.
From a fascinating and discouraging Newsweek piece (see note below) about how mindless fear trumps reason in the human brain:
In the final days of the race, most polls showed Kerry leading Bush by about 2 percentage points nationally and edging ahead in such key states as Ohio (50-46), Florida (49-45) and Iowa (48-47, according to the CNN/Gallup poll).
On the Friday before voters went to the polls, however, the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera broadcast excerpts from a videotape of Osama bin Laden speaking into the camera to Americans, proudly taking responsibility for September 11 and patronizingly explaining "the best way to avoid another Manhattan."
Clips of the diatribe were broadcast repeatedly on American stations over the weekend and described in newspapers. Four days later, the president won re-election. Ohio, Florida and Iowa put him over the top.
Giving Osama bin Laden an instrument like George W.Bush to play is like handing Jascha Heifetz a Stradivarius.
Bin Laden has got from Bush virtually everything he wanted: U.S. troops are out of Saudi Arabia, his enemy Saddam is dead, the Al Qaeda franchise has gone international, his hideout in Pakistan is safer than ever, the Taliban is resurgent, the Great Satan is globally hated and isolated, and Bush has done, praise be to Allah, effectively nothing to end the conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Sweet!
The only tiny cloud on the horizon is the possibility of a Democratic president in 2009. Whichever warhog winds up with the GOP nomination, can anyone doubt that we’ll be hearing from Bin Laden again, in late October or early November of 2008?
(Note I: Maddeningly enough, the URL above takes you to Newsweek’s index page, with no visible link to the story. To access it, you have to do a site search for “Roots of Fear.”)
(Note II: Modulator adds this valid point:)
The way things have played out Bush has gotten from Osama virtually everything that he wanted: a huge popularity hit in his first term, a mission accomplished photo op, a 2nd term in office, billions in oil profit windfalls for his cronies around the world, the war on terror, the shredding of the bill of rights and so on ad infinitum.
It is not at all clear who is pulling the strings.
Perhaps they are each other’s sock puppet and, if so, perhaps they are partners.
Are you pro-“War on Terror” or anti-?
That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? All the Republicans except Paul are pro-, in fact they’re for all wars, as long as we’re attacking enemies we know are too weak to resist us on the battlefield (thus 4GW). Clinton and Obama have both made it clear that they think the GWOT is a real thing, and that we face a threat from an Islamic Mussolini. To me that makes them excellent examples of the old Chomsky saw that you can’t reach a position of power in our government unless you believe that the US is unique in history in acting purely from altruistic motives. If there’s any conflict that we’re involved in — and there is, always, because it’s the only thing we excel at — we’re the aggrieved party. We may have been the invaders, and we may have invaded for no reason, indeed for less than no reason; but our inherent goodness and altruism prove that if we torture it’s because torture was required, and those who were tortured understand that.
Personally I agree with John Edwards that the GWOT is nothing more than a bumper sticker, a slogan used to concentrate wealth and eliminate civil liberties. Only the foolish and the power-hungry take it seriously. And the oil companies.
Which doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as terrorism. What is a B-2 if not a terror weapon? Bombing Iraqi cities has only one purpose, to terrorize. A case can be made that bombing German cities during World War II was an attempt to destroy the industrial base, thus shortening the war. I don’t personally buy it, but there’s a real argument to be made there. But flattening Fallujah, a war crime by any definition, had nothing to do with removing the insurgency’s industrial base; it was simply an attempt to terrify the population. That’s terrorism, and if we wanted it to stop we could stop doing it.
So am I saying that the US is the leading terrorist country in the world? Yes. Followed by Israel, much of whose terrorism the US funds.
The Bush administration’s double standards are as glaring as meteor impacts. When, in the summer of 2006, Israel used the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah to unleash a pre-programmed devastating war on Lebanon, destroying great swathes of the country, the Bush administration immediately gave the Israelis the green light. When 12 Turkish soldiers are killed and eight captured by PKK guerrillas based in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration urges Ankara to take it easy.
The “war on terror” is definitely not an equal-opportunity business.
It is a business, though. The current problem for the terrorism industry is the incompetence, indeed the idiocy, of its MBA CEO and his board. Their inability to understand the complexities of the world drives them to shrink the problem to the point where their little minds can wrap around it, the issue being that such grotesque simplification removes their ability to predict the outcome of their actions.
A reasonable view of the world allows its holder to predict results with a non-zero chance of being right. Unfortunately, a view of the world that is one hundred percent wrong can sometimes produce the same results. For instance, if someone doesn’t hate you, but you believe he does, you’ll act hatefully toward him, thus generating in him a strong distaste for you, which you will then interpret as confirmation of what you always thought, thus increasing your confidance in your misapprehension, and eventually changing it to a truism.
An oversimplified view of the world, on the other hand, regularly produces unexpected results.
US plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching back to that 1990 Israeli-devised Turkish plan, are in jeopardy. And once again all because of the enemy within.
Washington played the ethnic card in Afghanistan, pitting Tajiks against Pashtuns; the result, apart from a never-ending war in Afghanistan, was that Pashtuns on both sides of the border united and are now destabilizing even further the US ally, Pakistan.
Washington played the Kurd card to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and as a beachhead for its control of the country after the invasion. Not only Iraq turned into a quagmire, Washington helped to plunge Kurdistan into the line of (Turkish) fire.
From Andy Worthington at Counterpunch:
The grim story of the Guantánamo suicides — the deaths of three men, Ali al-Salami, Mani al-Utaybi and Yasser al-Zahrani in June 2006, and another, Abdul Rahman al-Amri, in May this year — took another turn last week, when, in the absence of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's long-awaited report into the deaths, Navy Capt. Patrick McCarthy, the senior lawyer on Guantánamo's management team, spoke out in an interview, declaring that all four men had killed themselves with "craftily fashioned nooses…"
As the NCIS has, inexplicably, yet to conclude its investigation, it's impossible to know at this point what the official conclusion will be. Clearly, the military has stepped back from its initial response, when the prison's commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, attracted worldwide condemnation for claiming that the men's deaths were "an act of asymmetric warfare."
The Pentagon has been the mother lode of euphemism since the War Department became the Department of Defense in 1947. The meaning was clear. The finest fighting men this universe or any other had ever known were about go on the Offense, where they have remained to this day.
The Pentagon’s sensible doctrine, unarticulated until Colin Powell gave his name to it, was never pick on somebody your own size. And yet not only did the little pipsqueaks dare to fight back, all too often they somehow managed to, as you might say, actually win.
Stronger euphemisms were called for, and Admiral Harris was ready with — drumroll —Asymmetric Warfare! Or, as the simple folk say, worms turn.
National security affairs blogger Larry Johnson interviews a woman who was one of his classmates at CIA boot camp — Valerie Plame. Interesting stuff.
Condi hasn’t asked me, but in case she actually wants to do something about these murder academies, here’s a tip: Next time you’re in the area drop in on President Musharraf and tell him we’re cutting off our military assistance to Pakistan so we can shift it to India.
FRANKFURT, Sept. 9 — The accused conspirators in a bombing plot disrupted last week in Germany were part of what the authorities say is a small, but growing, flow of militants from Germany and other Western countries who are receiving terrorism training at camps in Pakistan.
Beginning early last year, at least five of the suspects traveled to the tribal regions of Waziristan, where they learned to prepare chemical explosives and military-grade detonators that they intended to use to build three car bombs, according to German officials and a confidential German intelligence document that details the allegations.
In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.
This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:
The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”
All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.
The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that has a badly botched occupation.
The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)
The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.
But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.
This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.
Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.
Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.
And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.
We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.
Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.
Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.
Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.
In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?
Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans they didn’t think so. But that, of course, was then.
More good news from Afghanistan!
Opium cultivation in Afghanistan rose 59 percent this year to 6,100 tons — enough to make 610 tons of heroin, nearly a third more than is consumed by the world’s drug users, according to the report. The harvest provided more than 90 percent of the world’s opium supply, the report said.
As you may have noticed, Bush has now killed more Americans in “Operation Enduring Freedom” than Osama did on 9/11. And the beat goes on.
But at least we freed Iraq from that torturing, murdering pig, Saddam Hussein. You’ve got to give the warhogs in the White House credit for that, right? A nation turns its grateful eyes to you, George, except for those unfortunates whose eyes have been gouged out:
BAGHDAD, Sept. 20 — A United Nations report released Wednesday says that 5,106 people in Baghdad died violent deaths during July and August, a number far higher than reports that have relied on figures from the city’s morgue …
Bodies found in Baghdad, the report added, often show signs of torture that include “acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.”
I tried to figure out how to make fun of this. But as George Carlin said when Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize, irony is dead. Comedy is no longer as funny or as weird as real life.
You remember those wackos in Miami that Gonzales was so proud of catching, the guys who thought that jihadists wear uniforms, and asked their FBI informant for boots? Turns out they got more than equipment from the FBI: they got their most convictable ideas as well.
Not only did government informants provide money and a meeting place for Batiste and his followers, but they also gave them video cameras for conducting surveillance, as well as cellphones, and suggested that their first target be a Miami FBI office, court records show.
At the hearing, Batiste’s attorney, John Wylie, showed that the FBI’s investigation found no evidence that his client had met with any real terrorist, received e-mails or wire transfers from the Middle East, possessed any al-Qaeda literature, or had even a picture of bin Laden.
Asked for a response, a Justice Department spokesman referred a reporter to Gonzales’s remarks about the case.
One of the informants had been arrested for assault and marijuana possession; he got $10,500 for his work plus $8,815 for expenses. The other got $17,000 plus approval of his petition for political asylum in the US. So, real reliable guys, no reason for them to lie, cheat, or provoke terrorist thoughts. Nevertheless, they seem to have done so.
Acting on instructions from the FBI, CW2 [the second informant] told the group that his al-Qaeda bosses were planning to attack FBI buildings in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. He asked that Batiste and his group assist by providing video of the Miami FBI building, “which would be sent back to al Qaeda overseas,” according to court papers. He also gave Batiste a video camera.
In late March, driving a van provided by the informant, Batiste and two associates videotaped and photographed the FBI building, as CW2 had requested. They also taped the federal courthouse and detention center, and the Miami police headquarters.
Batiste fought for control of his group, and lost most of it to a guy who calls himself Sultan Khan Bey (he calls his wife Queen Zakiyaah). These guys were trying to set up an independent nation inside the borders of the US.
Three days before Christmas, Batiste and CW2 met again, and Batiste talked for the first time about destroying Chicago’s Sears Tower, a landmark in a city where he once worked as a FedEx delivery driver and still had associates. Batiste said he would take advantage of the ensuing chaos to liberate Muslims from a nearby jail. They would form an army powerful enough to force the U.S. government to recognize the “Sovereign Moors” — an offshoot of a religious group, the Moorish Science Temple, to which Batiste claimed allegiance — as an independent nation.
A week later, when he met with CW2 again, Batiste asked for more firearms, radios, binoculars, bulletproof vests, SUVs and $50,000 in cash. He also invited the informant to join him on a trip to Chicago to meet his “two top generals” and look at the Sears Tower. But the trip never took place.
By the beginning of January, CW2 had offered Batiste a rent-free warehouse large enough for training. In reality, the FBI wanted a new meeting spot because it could not carry out surveillance at the [Moorish] “embassy,” which was located in a high-crime area where agents would be easily spotted. At the same time, however, Batiste began to mistrust CW2 because of his numerous questions and ended direct contact with him for a while.
Yeah, that declaring a sovereign nation within the borders of the US worked real well last time. As I remember, those guys had boots and uniforms, and they still lost.
Anyway, now that the FBI’s hooked the fish, they can reel him in at a time of their choosing. If the fish fights back a bit, they throw in some more bait.
When Batiste grew impatient for money early in March, CW2 placated him by formally swearing him into al-Qaeda. In a ceremony recorded by the FBI, the informant read an English translation of the al-Qaeda loyalty oath, “welcomed Batiste to al Qaeda and declared that al Qaeda and the Moors were officially united,” according to court papers. The informant and Batiste also selected a two-story warehouse as their new headquarters and training site.
On March 15, the FBI wired the warehouse for sound and video. The next night, before a secret camera, CW2 administered an English translation of the al-Qaeda oath to six members of Batiste’s group, four of whom called themselves “prince” and two who were addressed as “brother.”
The men also face charges of conspiring to aid a terrorist group.
Of course, that terrorist group consisted entirely of FBI agents, who seem to have provided the ideas, the direction, the false contacts with terrorist organizations, the equipment — indeed, everything but the warm bodies. It seems likely that there are hundreds of groups of angry idiots around. I don’t think we should arrest people simply for that. There has to be some of kind of reason to think they’re dangerous. These guys couldn’t have robbed a McDonald’s, a fact which seems to be clear to everyone.
At a July 5 detention hearing, Nathan Clark, an attorney for one member of the group, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ted E. Bandstra that the ceremony at which the defendants took the al-Qaeda oath was “induced by the government themselves in an effort to set these people up.”
“What we see is this entire organization, by the government’s own admission, falling apart … Nobody really believes that these people are capable of doing anything,” he said.
In the end, Bandstra ruled that the seven would have to remain in jail because the allegations were “disturbing.” But he added that “the plans appear to be beyond the present ability of these defendants” and said he expected their attorneys to argue the government’s actions at trial.
Is it normal for the judge to suggest a strategy to the defense team? Maybe it’s just so obvious that he can’t be said to be giving anything away. But if the story is really like it sounds in that Pincus article, these guys will walk. They didn’t actually do anything illegal, and the stuff that comes closest was suggested to them by the FBI, who provided the equipment as well as the ideas. Who are the terrorists here?