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U.S. will pay a price for its hypocrisy on Egypt: Siddiqui August 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Egypt, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: Haroon Siddiqui is that rare journalist who continues to speak truth to power in the corporate mass media.  Canadian readers will appreciate his scathing references to Stephen Harper.

The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military.

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Mohsen Nabil / AP Photo

Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi capture an Egyptian security forces vehicle in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013, after Egyptian police in riot gear swept in to clear their protest camp.

 

 

 

There has always been a hierarchy to the value of life. Kings mattered more than peasants. Killing continental European colonialists in Africa or the British in India brought the wrath of the empire down on the natives, who were strapped to the cannons and blown to bits by the hundreds. The contemporary era, with its spread of democracy, globalization and greater egalitarianism, raised hopes that all human beings would have equal value.

But the murder of 2,977 innocents on Sept. 11, 2001, led to the killing of at least 100,000 Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. An Israeli life is deemed infinitely more valuable than that of a Palestinian. Our own government in Ottawa makes no bones about caring more about Christians in Egypt and Pakistan than Muslim victims of similar religious persecution there or in Myanmar. When the West does care about Muslims, it does so for the secular “good Muslim,” not the Islamist “bad Muslim.”

When Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s thrice-elected “Islamist” prime minister, ordered tear gas and water cannons on peaceful protesters in Istanbul, he was duly reviled. But the Egyptian army that has been firing live ammunition into peaceful “Islamist” protesters and killing them by the hundreds in the last month has only been told, politely, of our “concern.”

On July 11, Ottawa raised just such a pipsqueak “concern.” Stephen Harper’s government was more emphatic as it condemned the shooting death of a Coptic Christian priest near El Arish. “The targeting of religious leaders is unacceptable.” Following the second massacre, July 27, in which about 80 protesters were gunned down, Ottawa was “deeply concerned and appalled” — and fixated on its clarion call for respecting “religious minorities,” namely Coptic Christians.

Barack Obama was also mostly silent about the two massacres. So was David Cameron. So was much of Europe. They had refused to call the July 3 military coup a coup. In fact, John Kerry passed the perverse judgment that in toppling the elected president Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian army was “restoring democracy.” American annual aid of $1.3 billion was to continue.

It’s only now after Wednesday’s bloody massacre of pro-Morsi protesters that Obama stirred himself to shed crocodile tears. The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military as well of the Goebbelsian lies it has been peddling.

After each official atrocity, the army has under-reported the deaths and blamed the victims, accusing them of “inciting violence,” “hoarding weapons,” “torturing people in public squares,” “fomenting terrorism” and being “a threat to national security.” It has hurled a slew of charges against Morsi — murder, treason, espionage, conspiring with Hamas, attacking and insulting state institutions, etc. It has held him incommunicado, along with several top Brotherhood leaders. It has shut down a dozen pro-Morsi TV stations, with a nary a peep from free speech advocates in the West.

The U.S., the E.U and others have also been doing the Egyptian army’s bidding by calling on “all sides” to refrain from violence when, in fact, the violence has been almost always one-sided. Western governments and media have also accused Morsi of having been unduly partisan when, in fact, he was far less so than most ruling political parties in democracies. Proportionately, he appointed far fewer dummies than, say, Harper to the Senate, or the Republicans or Democrats named friends and funders to key posts.

Morsi was inept in the extreme. But he did reach out to his opponents who simply refused to accept their repeated defeats at the polls.

It has now been credibly reported that the secular anti-Morsi forces formed an unholy alliance with Egypt’s Deep State (the army, the intelligence, the security forces, the police, the interior ministry and its paid thugs, the judiciary and the bureaucracy), along with the beneficiaries of the Hosni Mubarak era (crony capitalists and corrupt politicians) to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood government. They collaborated in mounting mass protests, in a blaze of hateful anti-Brotherhood propaganda by both the state and privately-owned media, which heralded the unproven and unprovable claims that 20 million people had taken to the streets and 22 million had signed anti-Morsi petitions. Post-coup, acute shortages of gas and electricity miraculously disappeared overnight. Law-and-order situations improved in selective neighbourhoods.

Reportedly in on the plot were the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich Gulf states except Qatar. They hate the Brotherhood, not so much for its Islamic ideology but the democratic threat it poses to their monarchies. They rewarded the coup with $12 billion in aid.

The army conveniently claimed that the coup was only a response to the people’s will. In turn, it has been forgiven all its sins — including the virginity tests on women protesters, and the shooting of Coptic demonstrators and running them over with armoured vehicles.

What we’ve witnessed is “fascism under the false pretence of democracy and liberalism,” said Amr Hamzawy, an Egyptian political activist and former MP.

All this will not be lost on the Muslim masses in Egypt and elsewhere. There will be a price to pay — we don’t quite know when and where and how. But as American pollster Dalia Mogahed, who has surveyed Muslim societies worldwide, says, it is useful to remind ourselves that “Al Qaeda was conceived in the prisons of Egypt and, contrary to conventional wisdom, not the caves of Afghanistan.”

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

 

US Senator: I Support Drone Program That Has Killed 4,700 “Innocent People” February 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Let’s say, if you will excuse the expression, conservatively, that for each of the 4700 murdered, there will be 5 family and friends so outraged as to become serious life long enemies of the United States: that makes 23,500 converts to Al Qaeda.  Good work BushObama!
Published on Thursday, February 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Republican from South Carolina becomes first elected official to impart government’s estimate of civilians killed by US drones abroad

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Becoming the first elected government official to publicly state an estimated number of “innocent people” killed in US drone attacks overseas, Sen. Lindsey Graham told a local crowd in his home state of South Carolina that “We’ve killed 4,700.”

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Speaking to a group of Rotarians at a forum in Easley, South Carolina, Graham responded to a question about drones by saying, “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

His remarks, reported by the local Easley Patch, included a defense of the use of drones despite their propensity to kill innocent bystanders, including women and children.

“I didn’t want him to have a trial,” Graham stated, refering to a US citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was assassinated in Yemen by a missile from a US drone in 2011.

“We’re not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war,” Graham said. “I support the president’s ability to make a determination as to who an enemy combatant is. It’s never been done by judges before. I support the drone program.”

Graham’s remarks have since been picked up by national and international media due to the fact that he appears to be the first high-ranking US government official to put an exact number of the number civilians killed by the US practice.

As Al-Jazeera reports:

Several organizations have tried to calculate how many militants and civilians may have been killed in drone strikes since 2004 but have arrived at a wide range of numbers.

The figure cited by Graham matches the high end of a tally by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It says the number killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is between 3,072 and 4,756.

The Washington-based New America Foundation says there have been 350 US drone strikes since 2004, most of them during Barack Obama’s presidency. And the foundation estimates the death toll at between 1,963 and 3,293, with 261 to 305 civilians killed.

US intelligence agencies and the White House have refused to divulge details about the strikes, which are officially termed classified, but officials have suggested that few if any civilians have been killed inadvertently.

The comments by Graham set off speculation about whether or not the senator mistakenly cited official government estimates, and human rights advocates and civil liberty groups would be pleased to discover that such numbers actually exist given the Obama administration’s refusal to release any details about the program which was initiated under President Bush but escalated over the course of the current president.

Micah Zenko, credited by many for breaking the story of Graham’s comment at his CFR blog, said it’s notable that Graham’s publicly stated estimate “nearly matches” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s.

“Either Graham is a big fan of TBIJ’s work,” wrote Zenko, “or perhaps he inadvertently revealed the U.S. government’s body count for nonbattlefield targeted killings.”

And Anti-War‘s John Glaser adds:

It should be noted also that TBIJ, despite their rigorous methodology, was for a long time shunned by a mainstream media that refused to cite their casualty estimates, simply because it recorded the highest ones available. Newspapers and TV typically used the middle-of-the-road estimate, which was New America Foundation. Graham – with his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee – is almost certainly privy to some secret government numbers on drone war casualties. The fact that he might of let it slip here – and the fact that it’s way higher than virtually anybody in the mainstream reports – should be something of a lesson, I think.

Graham also noted in his comments that in addition to his support for the drone war overseas, he supported further use of the technology within the US.

“I don’t want to arm them, but we need drones along the border so we can really control illegal immigration,” Graham told his constituents.

 

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The ‘War on Terror’ – by Design – Can Never End January 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Friday, January 4, 2013 by The Guardian

 

As the Pentagon’s former top lawyer urges that the war be viewed as finite, the US moves in the opposite direction

by Glenn Greenwald

endless_war_on_terror

A U.S. Army soldier takes cover as a Black Hawk chopper takes off from a U.S. military base in Arghandab valley near Kandahar. (Photo: Reuters)

Last month, outgoing pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson gave a speech at the Oxford Union and said that the War on Terror must, at some point, come to an end:

“Now that efforts by the US military against al-Qaida are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: How will this conflict end? . . . . ‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’ Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives. . . .

“There will come a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, that al-Qaida will be effectively destroyed.”

On Thursday night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed Johnson, and before doing so, she opined as follows:

“When does this thing we are in now end? And if it does not have an end — and I’m not speaking as a lawyer here, I am just speaking as a citizen who feels morally accountable for my country’s actions — if it does not have an end, then morally speaking it does not seem like it is a war. And then, our country is killing people and locking them up outside the traditional judicial system in a way I think we maybe cannot be forgiven for.”

It is precisely the intrinsic endlessness of this so-called “war” that is its most corrupting and menacing attribute, for the reasons Maddow explained. But despite the happy talk from Johnson, it is not ending soon. By its very terms, it cannot. And all one has to do is look at the words and actions of the Obama administration to know this.

There’s no question that this “war” will continue indefinitely. There is no question that US actions are the cause of that, the gasoline that fuels the fire.

In October, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the administration was instituting a “disposition matrix” to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all based on this fact: “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.

Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.”

There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the “War on Terror” will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg this morning examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:

“Such insider attacks, by Afghan security forces on their Western allies, became ‘the signature violence of 2012′, in the words of one former American official. The surge in attacks has provided the clearest sign yet that Afghan resentment of foreigners is becoming unmanageable, and American officials have expressed worries about its disruptive effects on the training mission that is the core of the American withdrawal plan for 2014. . . .

“But behind it all, many senior coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding that after nearly 12 years of war, the view of foreigners held by many Afghans has come to mirror that of the Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred, and some will find a reason to act on those feelings.

“‘A great percentage of the insider attacks have the enemy narrative — the narrative that the infidels have to be driven out — somewhere inside of them, but they aren’t directed by the enemy,’ said a senior coalition officer, who asked not to be identified because of Afghan and American sensitivities about the attacks.”

In other words, more than a decade of occupying and brutalizing that country has turned large swaths of the population into the “Taliban”, to the extent that the “Taliban” means: Afghans willing to use violence to force the US and its allies out of their country. As always, the US – through the very policies of aggression and militarism justified in the name of terrorism – is creating the very “terrorists” those polices are supposedly designed to combat. It’s a pure and perfect system of self-perpetuation.

There is zero reason for US officials to want an end to the war on terror, and numerous and significant reasons why they would want it to continue.

Exactly the same thing is happening in Yemen, where nothing is more effective at driving Yemenis into the arms of al-Qaida than the rapidly escalated drone attacks under Obama. This morning, the Times reported that US air strikes in Yemen are carried out in close cooperation with the air force of Saudi Arabia, which will only exacerbate that problem. Indeed, virtually every person accused of plotting to target the US with terrorist attacks in last several years has expressly cited increasing US violence, aggression and militarism in the Muslim world as the cause.

There’s no question that this “war” will continue indefinitely. There is no question that US actions are the cause of that, the gasoline that fuels the fire. The only question – and it’s becoming less of a question for me all the time – is whether this endless war is the intended result of US actions or just an unwanted miscalculation.

It’s increasingly hard to make the case that it’s the latter. The US has long known, and its own studies have emphatically concluded, that “terrorism” is motivated not by a “hatred of our freedoms” but by US policy and aggression in the Muslim world. This causal connection is not news to the US government. Despite this – or, more accurately, because of it – they continue with these policies.

One of the most difficult endeavors is to divine the motives of other people (divining our own motives is difficult enough). That becomes even more difficult when attempting to discern the motives not of a single actor but a collection of individuals with different motives and interests (“the US government”).

But what one can say for certain is that there is zero reason for US officials to want an end to the war on terror, and numerous and significant reasons why they would want it to continue. It’s always been the case that the power of political officials is at its greatest, its most unrestrained, in a state of war. Cicero, two thousand years ago, warned that “In times of war, the law falls silent” (Inter arma enim silent leges). John Jay, in Federalist No. 4, warned that as a result of that truth, “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it . . . for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.”

Only outside compulsion, from citizens, can make an end to all of this possible.

If you were a US leader, or an official of the National Security State, or a beneficiary of the private military and surveillance industries, why would you possibly want the war on terror to end? That would be the worst thing that could happen. It’s that war that generates limitless power, impenetrable secrecy, an unquestioning citizenry, and massive profit.

Just this week, a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration need not respond to the New York Times and the ACLU’s mere request to disclose the government’s legal rationale for why the President believes he can target US citizens for assassination without due process. Even while recognizing how perverse her own ruling was – “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me” and it imposes “a veritable Catch-22″ – the federal judge nonetheless explained that federal courts have constructed such a protective shield around the US government in the name of terrorism that it amounts to an unfettered license to violate even the most basic rights: “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret” (emphasis added).

Why would anyone in the US government or its owners have any interest in putting an end to this sham bonanza of power and profit called “the war on terror”? Johnson is right that there must be an end to this war imminently, and Maddow is right that the failure to do so will render all the due-process-free and lawless killing and imprisoning and invading and bombing morally indefensible and historically unforgivable.

But the notion that the US government is even entertaining putting an end to any of this is a pipe dream, and the belief that they even want to is fantasy. They’re preparing for more endless war; their actions are fueling that war; and they continue to reap untold benefits from its continuation. Only outside compulsion, from citizens, can make an end to all of this possible.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

‘Tipping Point': Obama Lawyer Talks About Ending ‘Endless’ US War December 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Tom Engelhardt’s quote of the war on terror at the end of this article is an excellent summary of the bogus justification for the so-called global war on terror.  Note that I have appended readers’ comments to the article, which for the most part add greatly to an understanding of US foreign policy.  My own opinion is that the US is too heavily invested in military warfare to take the sane and reasonable approach to acts of terror, which is to treat them as a law enforcement issue.  Simply put, war is too profitable to those who weild the power behind the scenes (i.e. Obama’s puppet masters).  Just one example: drone missiles are a billion dollar industry, and the owners and producers of drone missiles are the same people who are the de facto owners of the president and the congress.  It will take either a catastrophic event or popular citizen uprising to put a halt to this madness.

Published on Friday, November 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Though he defends its worst worst practices and won’t declare when ‘tipping point’ might be reached, comments by Pentagon attorney could spark renewed debate about timeframe of war against al Qaeda

  – Common Dreams staff

If a global war declared by the world’s sole military and economic superpower against a shadowy, fragmented, franchisable, and loosely-grouped band of erstwhile ‘dangerous’ but also ‘ravaged’ and ‘largely dismantled’ terror group was over, how would you know it?

US defense department general counsel, Jeh Johnson, says responsibility for tackling al-Qaida should pass to the police and other law enforcement agencies when the ‘tipping point’ in pursuit of group is reached. (Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

You wouldn’t, of course, which is the reason that few ask and almost none, especially members of the US government or military, talk about anything that resembles the “official” end of what has long become known as the “global war on terrorism,” or GWOT.

Today, however, at a speech given at Oxford University, Jeh Johnson, a Pentagon lawyer and one of President Obama’s top legal advisors, spoke openly about what it might mean for the US government to declare an end to its seemingly endless war against—what critics have sharply pointed out is a “tactic”—”terrorism”.

In his presentation at Oxford, Johnson asked, “Now that efforts by the U.S. military against al Qaeda are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: how will this conflict end?”

Though Johnson is an official spokesperson for the Defense Department and an aggressive defender of the controversial policies ensconced within the US war against al Qaeda, he also said that these policies would not, and should not, continue indefinitely. He said:

I do believe that on the present course, there will come a tipping point – a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.

At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an “armed conflict” against al Qaeda and its associated forces; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al Qaeda, or are parts of groups unaffiliated with al Qaeda, for which the law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible, in cooperation with the international community – with our military assets available in reserve to address continuing and imminent terrorist threats.

At that point we will also need to face the question of what to do with any members of al Qaeda who still remain in U.S. military detention without a criminal conviction and sentence. In general, the military’s authority to detain ends with the “cessation of active hostilities.” For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.

As Reuters reports:

The U.S. government points to the existence of an armed conflict as the legal underpinning of practices such as indefinite detention of the global militant group’s members and allies.

Johnson’s remarks could ignite a global political debate with arguments from both the left and the right.

The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive because, it said, al Qaeda and its affiliates in Yemen and elsewhere remain a danger.

But Johnson tried to frame the discussion with what he called conventional legal principles rather than a new legal structure emerging from the September 11 attacks.

And The Guardian adds:

Washington’s pursuit of suspected al-Qaida terrorists has been controversial, such as the use of UAVs – or drones – to launch attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

The administration has been criticised by human rights groups and US academics who say the tactic enrages local populations and causes civilian deaths. It is also legally dubious, they argue.

A fortnight ago the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, claimed America had “decimated core al-Qaida” and that the group was “widely distributed, loosely knit and geographically dispersed”.

His remarks echoed those of Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, who is Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

She has been pilloried by Republicans for suggesting the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of US ambassador Christopher Stephen was spontaneous rather than planned.

Such characterisations will put Washington under greater pressure to review and justify the military campaign against al-Qaida, which has been virtually wiped out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now exists only in small, disorganised regional splinter groups.

Critics of the so-called ‘global war on terror’ have long held that the impulsive decision by the US government to respond to the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011 with military force—as opposed to treating it as a law enforcement issue—was the original sin of the post-9/11 era.  As Tom Engelhardt, editor of TomDispatch, wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9/11:

It was not a nuclear attack.  It was not apocalyptic.  The cloud of smoke where the towers stood was no mushroom cloud.  It was not potentially civilization ending.  It did not endanger the existence of our country — or even of New York City.  Spectacular as it looked and staggering as the casualty figures were, the operation was hardly more technologically advanced than the failed attack on a single tower of the World Trade Center in 1993 by Islamists using a rented Ryder truck packed with explosives.

A second irreality went with the first.  Almost immediately, key Republicans like Senator John McCain, followed by George W. Bush, top figures in his administration, and soon after, in a drumbeat of agreement, the mainstream media declared that we were “at war.” This was, Bush would say only three days after the attacks, “the first war of the twenty-first century.”  Only problem: it wasn’t.  Despite the screaming headlines, Ground Zero wasn’t Pearl Harbor.  Al-Qaeda wasn’t Japan, nor was it Nazi Germany.  It wasn’t the Soviet Union.  It had no army, nor finances to speak of, and possessed no state (though it had the minimalist protection of a hapless government in Afghanistan, one of the most backward, poverty-stricken lands on the planet).

And yet — another sign of where we were heading — anyone who suggested that this wasn’t war, that it was a criminal act and some sort of international police action was in order, was simply laughed (or derided or insulted) out of the American room.  And so the empire prepared to strike back (just as Osama bin Laden hoped it would) in an apocalyptic, planet-wide “war” for domination that masqueraded as a war for survival.

In the meantime, the populace was mustered through repetitive, nationwide 9/11 rites emphasizing that we Americans were the greatest victims, greatest survivors, and greatest dominators on planet Earth.  It was in this cause that the dead of 9/11 were turned into potent recruiting agents for a revitalized American way of war.

Read Jeh Johnson’s full prepared remarks here.

38 comments 26 reactions

  • Dem. Socialism

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • itsthethird

    Remember real power in Washington is not at the white house but at Fed. Reserve and beyond the game is rigged.  Now at all times the US economy is at risk  by capital manipulation minor or major ie fiscal mess and in turn the Presidency and the world.   The situation of too much in too few hands is in fact a security risk as great as WMD.  Thus, we are going over the same old fiscal bs.  The president needs to protect usa from financial sabatage both dimestic and foregn but can’t his risk to great.

  • Tom Carberry

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • LocalHero

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Paul Fretheim

    I agree. What rubbish!

    The worst act of terrorism in history was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The world has been intimidated by terror ever since and the U.S. is and has been the greatest purveyor of that terror. So terror continues to rule until the nukes are disarmed.

    Here is a brief live news report (32 seconds) from ABC 7 New York from the foot of the World Trade Center Towers. What is seen here directly contradicts the entire fantasy of planes crashing into the buildings caused them to fall down.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…

    Think about it. The entire course of history has been altered by an obviously false story.

  • Shantiananda

    Jet fuel is kerosene and kerosene cannot melt steel, let alone pulverize a 110 story building into fine dust particles. And of course, no one can explain WTC #7 that was not hit by a plane! 3000 of our fellow and innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood on 911, plus who knows how many, have died and will die in the future from the toxic dust. I do not know who was behind 911, but the entire governments con- conspiracy theory is a bogus lie.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    The obvious truth that the buildings were brought down by internal explosions can not be stated often enough. No steel frame skyscraper has ever collapsed completely because of fire alone.  There is plenty of other evidence, but that should be enough.

  • beaglebailey

    Please explain what you mean. I watched it but don’t understand what you mean. Thanks. Watched again. The guy said explosions and I could see them. Is that what you meant? Great vid.

  • Memory_Hole

    Yes, it was the “huge explosion(s)” that brought those towers down.  Not jet impacts and jet fuel fires.  This is physics 101.

  • beaglebailey

    Yeah, I have seen the vids where the supposed plane stops in mid air after blowing thru the buildings.It is just so amazing how so many people cannot see thru the bs of the false flag. And why no one ever questions the facts that the US military’s jets never scrambled even with 4 jets in the air for over an hour.

  • Memory_Hole

    I don’t know what vids you’re talking about.  The planes hit the buildings.  And yes, they were planes.  As far as the jets, they *did* scramble, but they scrambled way too slowly and then went at about half speed.

  • Bill_from_Saginaw1

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Memory_Hole

    Well, permanent war *has* been permitted to become the new norm in the U.S., regardless of what this fellow says about it.  Actually, I believe Dick Cheney said the GWOT would last generations, so he suggested at least 20 years or more.  So technically, we could say we are not in a state of permanent war, but when you reflect that this particular war was based on false flag terrorism, and you look at all the dictatorial powers that have been granted to the presidency since then, it is pretty clear that the US has been permanently changed.  It’s not as though there are any meaningful sunset provisions to the PATRIOT Act, or the NDAA.

  • dogpaddle

    If you listen to his spiel:  “A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president” kind of says it all. He nauseated me.

  • Siouxrose

    Thank you for that thorough, helpful analysis. You highlight the most significant possibilities.

  • Norton_Fort

    Even so, the speech needs to be put in context.  Earlier this year Johnson defended Obama’s drone strike policy in a speech at Yale Law School:  “The Obama administration’s top Pentagon lawyer . . . said that courts have no business questioning executive branch decisions about whom to target for extra-judicial executions in the war on terror, even if that target is an American citizen.”  http://news.antiwar.com/2012/0…. However, Johnson also said that the administration’s plans to continue airstrikes against Libya violated the War Powers Act. (So did the DOJ).  Obama rejected that advice and instead followed that of a White House counsel and Secretary of State lawyer Howard Koh.  Koh seems to be the Obama administration’s John Yoo, although he strongly denounced Bush’s Iraq policy.  Guess it depends on who’s paying your salary.

  • rtdrury

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

  • Thoughts_Into_Action

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

  • Memory_Hole

    I have to agree TIA.  I don’t think there’s much new here.  Whatever he may have *said* about it, the United States is *de facto* in a state of permanent war.  It is unconstitutional, unlawful, illegal, and as you say, Bush & Obama, with the willful complicity of a corrupt Congress, just making up the law as they go along.

  • Kokr_Spanielesko

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

  • Hello

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

  • Doug Latimer

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Memory_Hole

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

  • tutan_khamun

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

  • frigate

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

  • Anton van der Baan

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

  • GeorgeA

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

  • Memory_Hole

    Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

    I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

  • GeorgeA

    I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

    Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

  • Memory_Hole

    I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

    At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

    So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

    As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

  • Norton_Fort

    Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

  • New Afrikan ImageMakers

    its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

  • jimbojamesiv

    While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

    The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

  • lucitanian

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

  • timebiter

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

  • Laurence Schechtman

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30’s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

  • Paul_Klinkman_two

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

  • MidaFo

    Yet more Dubyaspeak.

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  • Avatar
    Dem. Socialism16 hours ago

    OUT NOW! Enough posturing, lying, concealing, and spinning. There is absolutely NO REASON except supporting Big Oil and the MIC to still be over there pissing off dollars that are needed at home.

    Our “leaders” have no idea why they are in D.C. None! Taking care of America’s people FIRST is their damned jobs. Where is the outrage?! Where are the crowds, like the Egyptians and Greeks, assaulting the capitol?! WHERE IS OUR COURAGE?!

  • Avatar
    Tom Carberry15 hours ago

    Remarkable words from someone in the Pentagon.  Will he keep his job?  Will it have any effect?  Will anyone but academics in England listen to him?  Will he have any influence on Obama, who seems to love war and killing and has personally directed killing of Muslims?

  • Avatar
    LocalHero14 hours ago

    Oh, that’s right. We’re supposed to all believe that some guy in a cave (who, incidentally, died in late 2001) engineered an ingenious plan to hijack several airliners with box-cutters and, in doing so, managed to outwit the planet’s most all-encompassing intelligence and policing agencies. Yeah, let’s all pretend we believe that.

  • Avatar
    Bill_from_Saginaw115 hours ago

    Jeh Johnson’s spech at Oxford Union is worth reading in its entirety by clicking on the link.  I particularly valued his remark to the effect that “War reverses the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war, parents bury their children.”  Johnson concludes that the concept of “endless war” should not be permitted to become the “new normal” for the United States nor the international community.
    It will be interesting to see what coverage or reaction in commentary there is in the mainstream US media in the near future.  There are several intriguing possible developments to watch.  Maybe only websites like CD, European-oriented media outlets like Reuters, and leftist British papers like the Guardian think there’s something newsworthy going on here.  But we shall see.

    First, in terms of the opaque, glacially slow bureaucratic shifts at the pinnacle of the Washington DC beltway power structure, it may be noteworthy that this is the Pentagon’s chief lawyer – the civilian legal counsel to the post-Robert Gates/Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense – who is speaking.  He’s not speaking at West Point.  He’s not even speaking on American soil. He’s delivering well-vetted remarks before a receptive assembly of academically minded listeners far away from the crosshairs of the partisan American political scene.

    But very much in the tradition of President Barack Obama’s style of dealing with national security-related issues, we have (miraculously) the military establishment taking the lead,  talking openly about bringing the global war on terror to a finite end, and restoring the concept that “lone wolf” or other scattered “terrorist groups” should be treated as criminals or as criminal conspiracies in the future – a law enforcement priority, not automatically enemy combatants.  On behalf of the troops, Jeh Johnson is cautiously voicing thoughts that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the rest of the so-called responsible, reality-based political community back stateside have not dared to utter publicly for over a decade.

    Second, again peering at what the Washington tea leaves may signify, reflect that (reportedly, according to the insiders) the current Attorney General, Secretary of State, and some other members of Obama’s cabinet are ready to exit out the revolving door to pursue other endeavors.  Jeh Johnson?  A distinguished jurist and Morehouse man, loyal to this president and none other (his words, during the course of this speech) may be toe testing some big waters from the other side of the Atlantic pond.

    If the soldiers and sailors and spies can get institutionally herded on board to declare victory in the global war on terror first, then perhaps there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  The GOP Senate leadership and the right wing media megaphone will no doubt shriek and react vehemently.  Let us see what we shall see.

    Good luck, Jeh.  This is a thoughtful first step on what may be a long and arduous trek back towards sanity from the bloody, dystopian post-9/11 quagmire.  The whole world is not breathlessly watching, but what happens next is well worth a peek for those who consider themselves part of the American peace movement.

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Avatar
    rtdrury14 hours ago

    9/11 exposed how very unintelligent and emotionally perverted das elites really are.  They have spent the time since frantically escalating the petro-opiate bread/circus assault on the people in an attempt to stave off popular revolt against the catastrophic turbulence created by their war on humanity.

     

  • Avatar
    Thoughts_Into_Action12 hours ago

    Well, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is simply making up the law as they go. What’s this concept of breaking the law for just a short while, coming from Obama’s legal advisor? That idea makes the law utterly meaningless. Right now, the law is whatever Obama says it is, and there seems to be no check at all on his illegally presumed powers, including his assumption of the power to assassinate anyone at will.

    Quite frankly, the United States under Bush/Bama has blatantly violated international and U.S. laws. They’ve invaded countries with troops to kill stateless individuals (50 al Quaida members), which is an act of war, rather than a police action. Guys with “plans” in Pakistan or Afghanistan do not represent an imminent threat to the United States.

    Worst of all, this lawyer has the nerve to talk about World War II. He says, “For this particular conflict, all I can say today is that we should look to conventional legal principles to supply the answer, and that both our Nations faced similar challenging questions after the cessation of hostilities in World War II, and our governments delayed the release of some Nazi German prisoners of war.” Well, under those principles, the United States remains as a gross violator of the law.

    I’m not sure why this guy is droning on about this issue. We know the Obama administration is continuing those illegal actions: torture, assassination, war without end.

  • Avatar
    Kokr_Spanielesko14 hours ago

    “The speech to the Oxford Union did not forecast when such a moment would arrive”

    It probably won’t.  What would the government, the military and the whole MICC do after all this time without war?  I just don’t believe it.  Chris Hedges wrote a book called ‘War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’.  That hasn’t changed.  And General Patton’s words still ring true: “Americans traditionally love to fight.”

  • Avatar
    Hello15 hours ago

    Well, it is clear to me that the world community is much more interconnected than it used to be.  It is as if war has lost its purpose:  It has lost its chivalry, in a sense.  Nowadays, nations go to war for the sake of the few to make some serious money while most people in the society foot the bill for it!  It no longer serves to benefit and preserve the national culture of a given people.  Going to war and financially paying for it on credit?  Borrowing money from foreign nations in order to finance a military excursion?  How absurd!  Of course, killing human beings simply for the sake of both commodities and currency that the majority of the society do not benefit from is just…wrong.  Aforementioned, to me, are immoral reasons to go to war!

  • Avatar
    Doug Latimer8 hours ago

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

    And given Engelhardt’s undeniably accurate portrayal of the GWOT ™ as a “‘war’ for domination”

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Avatar
    Memory_Hole12 hours ago

    Hard to know how to take Johnson’s comments.  The whole so-called “global war on terror” has been a big fraud from day one, and everything he says about Al Qaeda today could have been said about it in 2001. Somehow, I can draw no encouragement from them.  If he is someone with perhaps some remnant of conscience left who is trying to speak out and bring this madness of permanent war to an end, well, god be with him.

    My guess is we’ll hear nothing about his comments on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, Fox et al, nor will we read about them in the pages of the big city newspapers.  The comments will be discussed for a few days on remote corners of the Internet like this site, and then be forgotten about.

  • Avatar
    tutan_khamun13 hours ago

    It’ll never happen, there’s no profit in peace. And war has been the bread and butter of the American economy for 100 years. 50% of our budget goes to “defense” (war) so why is this counsel even considering the possibility of peace? Throwing crumbs to Obama’s base, perhaps.

  • Avatar
    frigate10 hours ago

    Lets cut the BS and prosecute the Bushites responsible for it all.

  • Avatar
    Anton van der Baan16 hours ago

    “the crimes that took place on September 11th, 2011″

    2011??? oops

  • Avatar
    GeorgeA12 hours ago

    Could this be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the long tunnel?

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

    1. It is very important that the ‘war’ on terror is going to be held to ‘conventional legal standards’.  It is important that the war has been acknowledged to even have an ‘end’, as much of what came out of the Bush Admin indicated that it would be a war ‘without end’.

    2. This could signal the long-term thinking of the Obama admin.  Having a pentagon lawyer sort of float the idea in a bit of a wonky backwater could be a good way to test the reaction to the idea that the GWOT might actually end.  Obama is cautious, and he should proceed with caution.  While ending wars quickly is certainly preferable to extending them, ending wars must be done carefully lest a ‘stab in the back’ type myth emerge a generation later and get us right back into the mess.

    3. Of course, there are those who will simply say Obama loves war/is a MIC puppet/doesn’t care/gets off on killing kids.  But then that raises the question, why send this guy out to say these things at all?  It’s not like he was talking off the record, these were prepared remarks.  If Obama wanted to keep blowing people up, he could simply have maintained the old line about ‘the long war’.

    4. It is very interesting that we first saw that Obama was trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.  Now he’s tentatively putting out the idea that once the GWOT is declared over, many of these operations will no longer have justification.  If Obama is clever (and I think that he is), he is trying to wind this war down in a way that will appear to the hawks as legitimate.  Again, trying to avoid the ‘stab-in-the-back’ problem.

    • Avatar
      Memory_Hole GeorgeA11 hours ago

      Your take on it is interesting.  It’s always good to try to be clear-eyed about these things, neither cynical nor credulous.  I didn’t know Obama had tried to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones?  Source?  You know, even though the man’s remarks were “prepared,” we can’t say for sure that they represent Obama.  They are *supposed* to represent his administration.  But it’s possible he included some unauthorized views as well, for reasons of conscience.

      I believe there are still some good people in govt., at all levels, including the Dept. of Defense, who know damn well the fraudulent basis of the “war on terror”–and it’s possible this Jeh Johnson is one of them.  There are others, who remain nameless, yet work to expose the lies.  I’m thinking of whoever it was in the Dept. of Justice who finally exposed the fact that the calls to Ted Olsen from his wife on Flight 77 never happened.  Clearly, that little leak was not part of the officially sanctioned script.  Unfortunately, almost no one knows about it, because the corporate media doesn’t report it, or reports it so briefly it’s as though it doesn’t register.

      • Avatar
        GeorgeA Memory_Hole10 hours ago

        I was referring to the ‘guidelines’ that the Obama administration is working on.  These would set up a framework under which drones strikes would be taken.  They were given priority status when it seemed possible for Romney to win, but are now not being rushed. http://www.commondreams.org/he…

        Still, it shows that Obama is thinking long-term.  Most important, it seems that Mr. Johnson is indicating that if the GWOT is declared over, the kill list becomes completely inoperative.  Obama, who has seemed like such a hawkish president thus far, may end up surprising everyone.

        • Avatar
          Memory_Hole GeorgeA9 hours ago

          I read the article you linked.  It says that Obama claims to want to “put a legal architecture in place…to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making” (vis a vis drone strikes).

          At the same time, the article doesn’t mention the fact that Obama has increased drone strikes several hundred fold over the prior administration.  Moreover, In court, fighting lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the administration has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          I find it bizarre that a president who claims to want a lawful process re: drones has in fact expanded what is a de facto process of extrajudicial assassination several hundredfold beyond that of George W. Bush.  I find it bizarre that his seeming democratic sensibilities are contradicted by his arguments in court, which refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan.

          So yes, I agree Obama is thinking long-term.  Long term, he wants to institutionalize the use of drones for these extrajudicial assassinations, which again, he has drastically increased over Bush.  And if we put that together with the NDAA which he signed, his war on whistleblowers and his continued signing on to the country being in a “state of emergency,” I don’t find anything to be reassured about here.

          As far as the GWOT being declared over, I can find nothing in Obama’s *actions* to indicate that he personally is looking toward that day at any time in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding Mr. Johnson’s remarks.

      • Avatar
        Norton_Fort Memory_Hole7 hours ago

        Please see my response to Bill from Saginaw, above, about some of Jeh Johnson’s history with the Obama administration.   And Obama is not trying to “limit the ability of future presidents to use drones.”  He’s trying to institutionalize his policy to bind future presidents.  Check out a series of articles on Obama’s attempts to extend these strikes into the future (for a minimum of 10 years, but probably longer) in the Washington Post.  I don’t have the link, because I read the articles in the paper version, but the author of the series is Greg Miller and it was published in the Post on October 24-26.  The caption of the Oct. 24 story (on p. 1) is “U.S. set to keep kill lists for years; ‘Disposition Matrix’ Secretly Crafted; Blueprint would guide hunt for terrorists.” “A senior White House official” gave the following quote:  “One of the things we are looking at very hard is how to institutionalize a process that will outlive this administration.”  I recommend the series.  It is among the best reporting I have seen in the Post, which, although it has lousy editorial policy, occasionally has excellent reporting.  But don’t take my word for it — read the series.  I’d be interested in what you think.

    • Avatar
      New Afrikan ImageMakers GeorgeA9 hours ago

      its a dangerous position, for Prez Obama and the rest of us, too, isn’t it…its eazy to level heavy criticism at presidents in general…but Obama’s behind is literally on the line–especially if he goes against the war machine.

    • Avatar
      jimbojamesiv GeorgeA6 hours ago

      While I disagree with a lot of what you say the thing about Obama “trying to limit the ability of future presidents to use drones,” is unequivocally false.

      The reason Obama rushed to codify the rules on drones was to cover his ass.

  • Avatar
    lucitanianan hour ago

    What absolute Hollywood virtual reality nonsense ; a terrorist state declares the end of a war against a myth they invented. What broody next, “aliens”? How gullible do the people who think this crap up believe their audience is?

    He guys, more people are killed by their household furniture than by terrorism and that is not because Ikea is doing a bad job while DHS is doing a good one. But, certainly a Global War on Falling Kitchen Cabinets would be a lot cheaper than DHS Annual budget, US$60.4 billion (FY 2012).

    You know what really is a security risk? Climate change, but for that they would actually have to “do” something rather than shovel money between friends and lobbies.

  • Avatar
    timebiter3 hours ago

    While they are at it why not end the drug war, overturn the patriot act revamp and disperse./end DHS. Oops! I forgot. To many corporations getting welfare from these programs and laws.

  • Avatar
    Laurence Schechtman6 hours ago

    You get about 3 times as many jobs hiring teachers as you do supporting the military.  Obama and many capitalists know that an economic collapse is coming, and that converting “Defense” spending to the civilian economy MAY be the only way to head it off, without pre-Reagan taxes on the rich, which they are not going to do.  So MAYBE, ending “permanent war” is the only way Obama can see to avoid a 30’s style depression, which would wreck his “legacy” forever.  MAYBE.  We can only hope.

  • Avatar
    Paul_Klinkman_two11 hours ago

    American:  Hi, we’ve come to give you democracy.

    Afghani: The local warlord has ordered me to grow opium for him.  I’ll be shot if I don’t follow his directions.  When will I get this democracy and be free?

    American:  The heck I know.  Maybe we’re really here to give ourselves the democracy.

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

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    Obama: A GOP President Should Have Rules Limiting the Kill List November 27, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Pakistan, War, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Roger’s note: No one says it better than Glenn Greenwald.

    Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

    The president’s flattering view of himself reflects the political sentiments in his party and the citizenry generally

      by  Glenn Greenwald

    For the last four years, Barack Obama has not only asserted, but aggressively exercised, the power to target for execution anyone he wants, including US citizens, anywhere in the world. He has vigorously resisted not only legal limits on this assassination power, but even efforts to bring some minimal transparency to the execution orders he issues.

    Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during the second US presidential debate. (Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters)

    This claimed power has resulted in four straight years of air bombings in multiple Muslim countries in which no war has been declared – using drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs – ending the lives of more than 2,500 people, almost always far away from any actual battlefield. They are typically targeted while riding in cars, at work, at home, and while even rescuing or attending funerals for others whom Obama has targeted. A substantial portion of those whom he has killed – at the very least – have been civilians, including dozens of children.

    Worse still, his administration has worked to ensure that this power is subject to the fewest constraints possible. This was accomplished first by advocating the vague, sweeping Bush/Cheney interpretation of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – whereby the President can target not only the groups which perpetrated the 9/11 attack (as the AUMF provides) but also those he claims are “associated” which such groups, and can target not only members of such groups (as the AUMF states) but also individuals he claims provide “substantial support” to those groups. Obama then entrenched these broad theories by signing into law the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which permanently codified those Bush/Cheney interpretation of these war powers.

    From the start, Obama officials have also ensured that these powers have no physical limits, as they unequivocally embraced what was once the core and highly controversial precept of Bush/Cheney radicalism: that the US is fighting a “global war” in which the “whole world is a battlefield”, which means there are no geographical constraints to the president’s war powers. In sum, we have had four straight years of a president who has wielded what is literally the most extreme and tyrannical power a government can claim – to execute anyone the leader wants, even his own citizens, in total secrecy and without a whiff of due process – and who has resisted all efforts to impose a framework of limits or even transparency.

    But finally, according to a new article on Sunday by The New York Times’ Scott Shane, President Obama was recently convinced that some limits and a real legal framework might be needed to govern the exercise of this assassination power. What was it that prompted Obama finally to reach this conclusion? It was the fear that he might lose the election, which meant that a Big, Bad Republican would wield these powers, rather than a benevolent, trustworthy, noble Democrat – i.e., himself [emphasis added]:

    “Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials. . . .

    “The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But . . . Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory. . . .

    For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.

    “But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.

    “Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes. . . .

    “The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling ‘kill lists’ and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.

    “‘There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,’ said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an ‘amorphous’ program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.”

    Now that Obama rather than Romney won, such rules will be developed “at a more leisurely pace”. Despite Obama’s suggestion that it might be good if even he had some legal framework in which to operate, he’s been in no rush to subject himself to any such rules in four full years of killing thousands of people. This makes it safe to assume that by “a more leisurely pace”, this anonymous Obama official means: “never”.

    There are many important points raised by this report: Kevin Gosztola and Marcy Wheeler, among others, have done their typically excellent job of discussing some of them, while this Guardian article from Sunday reports on the reaction of the ACLU and others to the typical Obama manipulation of secrecy powers on display here (as usual, these matters are too secret to permit any FOIA disclosure or judicial scrutiny, but Obama officials are free to selectively leak what they want us to know to the front page of the New York Times). I want to focus on one key point highlighted by all of this:

    Democratic Party benevolence

    The hubris and self-regard driving this is stunning – but also quite typical of Democratic thinking generally in the Obama era. The premise here is as self-evident as it is repellent:

    I’m a Good Democrat and a benevolent leader; therefore, no limits, oversight, checks and balances, legal or Constitutional constraints, transparency or due process are necessary for me to exercise even the most awesome powers, such as ordering people executed. Because of my inherent Goodness and proven progressive wisdom, I can be trusted to wield these unlimited powers unilaterally and in the dark.

    Things like checks, oversight and due process are desperately needed only for Republicans, because – unlike me – those people are malevolent and therefore might abuse these powers and thus shouldn’t be trusted with absolute, unchecked authority. They – but not I – urgently need restrictions on their powers.

    This mentality is not only the animating belief of President Obama, but also the sizable portion of American Democrats which adores him.

    There are many reasons why so many self-identified progressives in the US have so radically changed their posture on these issues when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush. Those include (a) the subordination of all ostensible beliefs to their hunger for partisan power; (b) they never actually believed these claimed principles in the first place but only advocated them for partisan opportunism, i.e., as a way to discredit the GOP President; and (c) they are now convinced that these abuses will only be used against Muslims and, consumed by self-interest, they concluded that these abuses are not worth caring about because it only affects Others (this is the non-Muslim privilege enjoyed by most US progressives, which shields them from ever being targeted, so they simply do not care; the more honest ones of this type even admit this motivation).

    But the primary reason for this fundamental change in posture is that they genuinely share the self-glorifying worldview driving Obama here. The core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the Democratic Party; the side of Evil is the GOP. All political truths are ascertainable through this Manichean prism.

    This is the simplistic, self-flattering morality narrative that gets reinforced for them over and over as they sit for hours every day having their assumptions flattered and validated (and never questioned or challenged) by watching MSNBC, reading pro-Obama blogs that regularly churn out paeans to his greatness, and drinking up the hundreds of millions of dollars of expertly crafted election-year propaganda from the Party that peddles this Justice League cartoon.

    The result is that, for so many, it is genuinely inconceivable that a leader as noble, kind and wise as Barack Obama would abuse his assassination and detention powers. It isn’t just rank partisan opportunism or privilege that leads them not to object to Obama’s embrace of these radical powers and the dangerous theories that shield those powers from checks or scrutiny. It’s that they sincerely admire him as a leader and a man so much that they believe in their heart (like Obama himself obviously believes) that due process, checks and transparency are not necessary when he wields these powers. Unlike when a GOP villain is empowered, Obama’s Goodness and his wisdom are the only safeguards we need.

    Thus, when Obama orders someone killed, no due process is necessary and we don’t need to see any evidence of their guilt; we can (and do) just assume that the targeted person is a Terrorist and deserves death because Obama has decreed this to be so. When Obama orders a person to remain indefinitely in a cage without any charges or any opportunity to contest the validity of the imprisonment, that’s unobjectionable because the person must be a Terrorist or otherwise dangerous – or else Obama wouldn’t order him imprisoned. We don’t need proof, or disclosed evidence, or due process to determine the validity of these accusations; that it is Obama making these decisions is all the assurance we need because we trust him.

    Similar sentiments shaping the Bush era

    This mindset is so recognizable because it is also what drove Bush followers for years as they defended his seizures of unchecked authority and secrecy powers. Those who spent years arguing against the Bush/Cheney seizure of extremist powers always confronted this mentality at bottom, once the pseudo-intellectual justifications were debunked: George Bush is a Good man and a noble leader who can be trusted to exercise these powers in secret and with no checks, because he only wants to keep us safe and will only target the Terrorists.

    Molded by exactly the same species of drooling presidential hagiography now so prevalent in progressive circles – compare this from the Bush era to things like this and this – conservatives believed that Bush was a good man and a great leader and thus needed no safeguards or transparency. If Bush wanted to eavesdrop on someone, or wanted to imprison someone, then – solely by virtue of his decree – we could and should assume the person was a Terrorist, or at least there was ample evidence to believe he was.

    We were graced with a leader we could trust to exercise unlimited war powers in the dark. This is precisely the same mentality applied by Democrats (and by Obama himself) to the current President, except it not only justifies due-process-free eavesdropping and detention but also execution.

    Faith v. reason and evidence

    It is, for several reasons, extraordinary that so many citizens have been successfully trained to so venerate their Party’s leaders that they literally believe no checks or transparency are necessary, even as those leaders wield the most extremist powers: executing people, bombing multiple countries, imprisoning people with no charges, mass monitoring and surveilling of entire communities.

    For one, there is ample evidence that virtually every leader of both major parties over the last century systematically abused these powers because they were able to exercise them in the dark. It was this discovery by the Church Committee that led to the reforms of the mid-1970s – reforms grounded in the premise that virtually all leaders, by virtue of human nature, will inevitably abuse these powers, exercise them for ignoble ends, if they operate without serious restraints and oversight. One has to ignore all of this historic evidence in order to place trust in any particular leader to exercise these powers without checks.

    Then there is all the specific evidence of all the post-9/11 abuses. Over the last decade, the US government – under both parties – has repeatedly accused people of being Terrorists and punished them as Terrorists who were nothing of the sort. Whether due to gross error or more corrupt motives, the Executive Branch and its various intelligence and military agencies have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that their mere accusation that someone is a Terrorist – unproven with evidence and untested by any independent tribunal – is definitively unreliable.

    Even beyond that, it is well-documented that the US government, under Obama, often targets people for death when they don’t even know the identity of the person they’re trying to kill. From the Sunday New York Times article:

    “Then there is the matter of strikes against people whose identities are unknown. In an online video chat in January, Mr. Obama spoke of the strikes in Pakistan as ‘a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.’ But for several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to ‘personality strikes’ against named terrorists, the CIA and the military have carried out ‘signature strikes’ against groups of suspected, unknown militants.

    “Originally that term was used to suggest the specific ‘signature’ of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the ‘signature’ of militants in general – for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.”

    It is truly staggering to watch citizens assert that their government is killing “Terrorists” when those citizens have no clue who is being killed. But that becomes even more astounding when one realizes that not even the US government knows who they’re killing: they’re just killing anyone whose behavior they think generally tracks the profile of a Terrorist (“young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups”). And, of course, the Obama administration has re-defined “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone” – reflecting their propagandistic sloganeering that they are killing Terrorists even when they, in fact, have no idea who they are killing.

    In light of all this evidence, to continue to blindly assume that unproven government accusations of “Terrorist” are tantamount to proof of those accusations is to embrace the type of faith-based trust that lies at the core of religious allegiance and faith in a god, not rational citizenship. Yet over and over, one encounters some form of this dialogue whenever this issue arises:

    ARGUMENT: The US government shouldn’t imprison/kill/surveil people without providing evidence of their guilt.

    GOVERNMENT-DEFENDING RESPONSE: But these are Terrorists, and they have to be stopped.

    OBVIOUS QUESTION: How do you know they’re Terrorists if no evidence of their guilt has been presented and no due process accorded?

    Ultimately, the only possible answer to that question – the only explanation for why this definitively authoritarian mentality persists – is because people have been so indoctrinated with the core Goodness of their particular party leader that they disregard all empirical evidence, and their own rational faculties, in order to place their blind faith in the leader they have grown to love and admire (if my leader says someone is a Terrorist, then I believe they are, and I don’t need to see evidence of that).

    One can reasonably debate the extent to which democracy requires that some degree of trust be vested in the capabilities and judgment of whichever political leaders one supports. But however far that trust should extend, surely it must stop well before the vesting of the power to imprison and kill in total secrecy, far from any battlefield and without any checks or due process.

    Core principles disregarded in lieu of leader-love

    The Times article describes the view of Obama that some “drone rules” would be needed to be developed in light of the possibility of Romney’s victory. But at least some such rules already exist: they’re found in these things called “the Constitution” and “the Bill of Rights”, the Fifth Amendment to which provides:

    “No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”

    Yet all of that has been tossed aside in lieu of a deeply disturbing and unhealthy faith-based belief that our leader can make these determinations without the need for any such bothersome impediments.

    To me, this comment, left in response to a Gawker post from Sunday on the new NYT article, perfectly conveys the sentiment I heard for years in right-wing circles to justify everything Bush did in secret, and is now just as miserably common in progressive circles to justify Obama’s wielding of the same and even greater powers:

    “The fact of the matter is that the complexities of security and war go far beyond what those interested in appearing morally superior are willing to concede. It just so happens that a lot of liberals are most interested in the appearance of moral superiority. . . .

    “I used to be the exact same way, but then I actually genuinely considered how I would feel if I held the weight of the presidency and these decisions. I have no doubt that most liberals, when presented with that, would act just as Obama has. . . .

    “I’m liberal, I’m no fan of war, I’m no fan of Republican fanaticism and thumping America-is-the-best nonsense across the globe. But I can understand why drone strikes might be the most expedient option in a war. Or, perhaps more precisely, can understand just how incapable I am of understanding. And instead of supposing myself worthy of understanding the complexity and therefore offering criticism, I trust those more intelligent than myself. But a lot of my fellow liberals don’t believe there are people more intelligent than themselves. I have no self-loathing of liberals. Its just like a moderate Republican finding the right wing of their party crazy even if they believe in most of the same stuff.”

    That’s the Platonic form of authoritarian leader-faith:

    I don’t need to know anything; my leader doesn’t need to prove the truth of his accusations; he should punish whomever he wants in total secrecy and without safeguards, and I will assume that he is right to do so (as long as I and others like me are not the ones targeted) because he is superior to me and I place my faith in Him.

    Anyone who thinks the leader (when he’s of my party) should have to show proof before killing someone, or allow them due process, is being a childish purist. I used to be like that – until Obama got in office, and now I see how vital it is to trust him and not bother him with all this “due process” fanaticism. That’s what being an adult citizen means: trusting one’s leader the way children trust their parent.

    This is the only sentiment that can explain the comfort with allowing Obama (and, before him, Bush) to exercise these extreme powers without checks or transparency. This is exactly the sentiment any Obama critic confronts constantly, even if expressed a bit more subtly and with a bit more dignity.

    Ultimately, what is most extraordinary about all of this – most confounding to me – is how violently contrary this mentality is to the ethos with which all Americans are instilled: namely, that the first and most inviolable rule of government is that leaders must not be trusted to exercise powers without constant restraints – without what we’re all taught in elementary school are called “checks and balances”. Here is how Thomas Jefferson expressed this warning in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:

    “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

    And here is what John Adams said in his 1772 Journal:

    “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty”.

    It is literally impossible to conceive of any mindset more at odds with these basic principles than the one that urges that Barack Obama – unlike George Bush or Mitt Romney or whoever the scary GOP villain of the day is – can be trusted to unilaterally and secretly kill or imprison or surveil anyone he wants because he is a Good man and a trustworthy leader and therefore his unproven accusations should be assumed true. But this is, overwhelmingly, the warped and authoritarian sentiment that now prevails in the bulk of the Democratic Party and its self-identified “progressive” faction, just as it did in the GOP and its conservative wing for eight years.

    Ultimately, this unhealthy and dangerous trust in one’s own leader – beyond just the normal human desire to follow – is the by-product of over-identifying with the brand-marketed personality of politicians. Many East and West Coast progressives (which is overwhelmingly what Democratic Party opinion leaders are) have been trained to see themselves and the personality traits to which they aspire in Obama (the urbane, sophisticated, erudite Harvard-educated lawyer and devoted father and husband), just as religious conservatives and other types of Republicans were trained to see Bush in that way (the devout evangelical Christian, the brush-clearing, patriotic swaggering cowboy, and devoted father and husband).

    Politicians are thus perceived like contestants in a reality TV show: viewers decide who they like personally and who they dislike – but the difference is that these images are bolstered with hundreds of millions of dollars of relentless, sophisticated, highly manipulative propaganda campaigns (there’s a reason the Obama 2008 campaign won multiple branding awards from the advertising and marketing industry). When one is taught to relate to a politician based on a fictitious personal relationship, one comes to place excessive trust in those with whom one identifies (the way one comes to trust, say, a close family member or loved one), and to harbor excessive contempt for those one is trained to see as the villain character. In sum, citizens are being trained to view politicians exactly the way Jefferson warned was so dangerous: “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man.”

    There’s one final irony worth noting in all of this. Political leaders and political movements convinced of their own Goodness are usually those who need greater, not fewer, constraints in the exercise of power. That’s because – like religious True Believers – those who are convinced of their inherent moral superiority can find all manner to justify even the most corrupted acts on the ground that they are justified by the noble ends to which they are put, or are cleansed by the nobility of those perpetrating those acts.

    Political factions driven by self-flattering convictions of their own moral superiority – along with their leaders – are the ones most likely to abuse power. Anyone who ever listened to Bush era conservatives knows that this conviction drove them at their core (“you are with us or with the Terrorists”), and it is just as true of Obama-era progressives who genuinely see the political landscape as an overarching battle between forces of Good (Democrats: i.e., themselves) and forces of Evil (Republicans).

    Thus should it be completely unsurprising that Obama (and his most ardent followers) genuinely believe that rules are urgently necessary to constrain Republicans from killing whoever they want, but that such urgency ceases to exist when that power rests in the hands of the current benevolent leader. Such a dangerous and perverse mindset is incredibly pervasive in the citizenry, and goes a long way toward explaining why and how the US government has been able to seize the powers it has wielded over the last decade with so little resistance, and with no end in sight.

    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

    <!–

    –>

    Glenn Greenwald

    Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon.  His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

    In Midnight Signing Ceremony, Obama Promises at Least Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan May 2, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    add a comment
    Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 by Common Dreams

     

    One thing crystal clear in secretive US-Afghan ‘strategic partnership agreement': War not even close to ending

    - Common Dreams staff

    President Obama’s secret trip to Afghanistan, shrouded in secrecy for security reasons, culminated in a midnight meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the signing of a ‘strategic partnership agreement’, the full details of which have not been made available to either the American or Afghan public.

     US President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan late Tuesday on a surprise visit and signed a ‘strategic partnership agreement’ with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a midnight ceremony. (AFP)

     “If ever there was an image to convey the limits of the UK-US success in Afghanistan, it was the way that Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the liberating, Taliban-scattering forces was forced to skulk into Kabul last night under the cover of darkness,” writes the Telegraph‘s Peter Foster. “After landing at Bagram Airbase just after 10pm local time, there was a low-level, cover-of-darkness of helicopter insertion to the Presidential Palace where the ten-page deal (which contains no specifics on funding or troop levels) was signed around midnight.”

    The agreement, broadly understood, codifies the ongoing conditions under which the US government agrees to operate in Afghanistan and will guide policies on the management of military bases, authority over detainees, the execution of night raids and other security operations, and will set conditions for troop levels and residual US forces that will remain in Afghanistan even after a ‘withdrawal’ commences in 2014. The agreement also deals with ongoing financial support for the Afghan government and military into the future.

    Though Obama spoke optimistically of ‘light of a new day’ in Afghanistan and many media reports heralded the agreement as a ‘signal to the end of war’, more sober analysts arrived at more troubling conclusions.

    “Interestingly,” writes Jason Ditz at Anti-war.com, “with the ink now drying on the document and the US officially committed to the occupation of Afghanistan for another decade, officials are continuing to tout 2014 as the “end” of the war. This speaks to how the 2024 date, though openly discussed by the Karzai government in Afghanistan and privately acknowledged as part of the secret pact, has not been publicly presented to the American public. When they will officially spring it on us remains unclear.”

    “While the world may accept that the US and Afghan governments have some ‘state’ or ‘noble’ considerations for not revealing the contents of the US/Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, how about the democratic consideration of involving Afghans in their own future?” asked Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who is currently on a peace walk from Madison, Wisc. to Chicago, where she will arrive in time for the upcoming NATO Summit.

    “The SPA is likely to prolong fighting in the region,” Kelly added, “because the Taliban and neighboring countries have clearly stated that they won’t accept US foreign troop presence. Also, many Afghans wonder if the US and NATO want to protect construction of the TAPI [Trans-Afghanistan] pipeline, which the 2010 NATO summit approved of and the New Silk Road which Hilary Clinton has promised the US will construct.”President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    US veteran Sgt. Jacob George, who served in Afghanistan but now speaks out against the war, argued the agreement speaks to the futility of US military efforts in Afghanistan that began with the US invasion in 2001. “The agreement actually allows for sustaining a ‘post-conflict’ force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops for a continued training of indigenous forces. They are pretending this is something new, but it’s not. That’s what I was doing in 2001 — and 2002, 2003 and 2004. This is just disastrous, for ten years, with the greatest military the world has ever seen, we’ve been unable to defeat people with RPGs. And a year after Bin Laden was killed, we’re still planning to keep tens of thousands of troops there.”

    Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, speaking to the Telegraph newspaper ahead of the agreement, revealed concern for the long-term impacts of a sustained US military presence. “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.”

    “Does anyone think our staying until 2024 is going to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan?” ask Kevin Martin and Michael Eisenscher in an op-ed today on Common Dreams. “We’ve already been there for eleven years – the longest war in our country’s history. What do we really have to show for it? We’ve spent almost $523 billion. Almost 2000 Americans have been killed and another 15,300 wounded. 1000 NATO troops have lost their lives.” Eisenscher is National Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War and Martin is the executive director of Peace Action.Dec. 19, 2001 — Marine Lt. Ronald Reed of Virginia waits inside his fighting position on the perimeter of the bombed-out airport in Kandahar. More than eleven years later, an end to the disaster that is the US war in Afghanistan is nowhere in sight. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)

    They continue: “Staying through 2024 will be a hard sell to the majority of Americans. According to last week’s Pew Research public opinion poll, only about a third of those polled think U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan ‘until the situation there is stabilized’ (whatever that means). About two-thirds of Obama supporters, and almost as many swing voters (who make up nearly a quarter of the electorate), want a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, while Mitt Romney supporters are split just about evenly.”

    Today also marks the one year anniversary of the US killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Martin and Eisensche conclude: “It’s not clear what the year since the killing of Bin Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan security. It’s even less clear what staying for another dozen years will do for either country. The time to bring U.S. forces home is now, not 2014, and certainly not 2024.”

    And Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy, asks in his analysis at Common Dreams, ‘What Did We Get for 381 US Dead Since the Death of bin Laden?‘ and writes:

    In his speech, President Obama said, “As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline.” I’m delighted that President Obama supports the principle of a firm timeline. But it’s far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline,” and if we do, exactly what it is. Certainly there is no timeline for when all U.S. troops will be withdrawn. President Obama did seem to imply that we can be sure that there will be no U.S. troops involved in “combat” in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014. But they may be involved in “counterterrorism,” which presumably is combat, and “training,” and if you ask the military what “training” is, they will say it includes embedding with Afghanistan troops who are engaged in combat. So “training” is also combat. And therefore it is far from obvious that we actually have a “firm timeline” for anything. [...]

    In his speech, President Obama said: “we are pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my Administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws. “

    Isn’t this essentially the same policy that Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was proposing in October 2006 when he said that the Afghan Taliban couldn’t be defeated militarily and that the U.S. should bring “people who call themselves Taliban” into the Afghan government? Why have we waited almost six years to adopt this policy? Are we really going to get a much better deal now than we could have had six years ago? If so, will the difference be sufficient to justify the additional sacrifice of the last six years?

    If we stopped the killing now, how sure are we that the political deal that would result would be much worse for us than the deal that will result if we keep killing? Shouldn’t someone have to answer that? What if we tried having an offensive cease-fire for 30 days, just as an experiment, to see if it facilitated peace talks? What exactly would be the downside of giving that experiment a try?

    # # #

     

     

     

     
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    • Shantiananda 3 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

      I am sure that the war profiteers and defense contractors are just delighted that they have another ten years of war profits to look forward to.

       

       
    • galen066 2 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

      In ten years, the US troops will have been abandoned to the Afghans tender mercies, and the US economy will look like Russia’s on a bad day.

       

       
    • raydelcamino 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      Eternal occupations and wars equal an eternal revenue stream for the military industrial complex (MIC).

      Ever larger domestic program cuts branded as austerity will be required to fund the MIC’s ever larger corporate welfare programs.

       

       
    • elmysterio, I know nothing and everything simultaneously 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      Ok. a Couple things here…

      Everytime we read about the “cost” of the war, it’s always in Amerocentric terms: We’ve spent almost $523 billion. Almost 2000 Americans have been killed and another 15,300 wounded. 1000 NATO troops have lost their lives. NO mention of how much the war has cost the Afghans. Shows that even so-called “progressives” hold this racist view.

      Martin and Eisensche conclude: “It’s not clear what the year since the killing of Bin Laden has done to improve U.S. or Afghan security.

      It’s very clear actually… it’s done NOTHING to “improve” Afghan security for sure. This is because the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan had very little to do with Osama BIn Laden and far more to do with geo-political strategies.

      As far as “improving” American security? Americans are pretty much secure from “foreign terrorists”… The idea that there’s a Jihadi hiding behind every rock waiting to murder helpless Americans is retarded. The ONLY threat to American Security is American in origin.

      Regarding US Military “security” in Afghanistan. The ONLY security they will ever have is when they LEAVE the country. Afghans will not accept a foreign occupation, no matter how it’s packaged. Period. End of story. An Occupation army does NOT deserve security.

       

       
    • PlantTrees 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      ‘President McCain’s secret trip to Afghanistan, shrouded in secrecy for security reasons, culminated in a midnight meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the signing of a ‘strategic partnership agreement’, the full details of which have not been made available to either the American or Afghan public.’

      …’Though McCain spoke optimistically of ‘light of a new day’ in Afghanistan and many media reports heralded the agreement as a ‘signal to the end of war’, more sober analysts arrived at more troubling conclusions.’

      Asked again: How would you react if McCain did and said the things Obama has?

      Asked again: Is there anything Obama could do that would finally make you say, “Enough … I can support you no more.”?

       

       
    • Texxtyn 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      Why would you PREplan the length or a war. That’s sick and Obama is a threat to humanity. The two parties of the genocidal elite must be gotten rid of for the sake of humanity. This is beyond horrible. Obama sells his soul again Not that he had one

       

       
    • Hue_sir_name 3 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

      Obviously the pipeline is behind schedule.

       

       
    • wankler 2 comments collapsed CollapseExpand

      Not only the pipeline, but also the largest deposit of Lithium outside of China.

      And guess where it is located exactly….the Swat Valley.

       

    • galen066 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      The ‘mother lode’ of Afghan lithium is so thinly dispersed it will take moving hundreds of tons of rock to obtain a pound of lithium, and cost more money than it will be worth.

      This idea of Afghan lithium was shot down by the market more than a year ago.

       
    • galen066 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

      “Obama Promises Ten More Years of War in Afghanistan.”

      Finally.

      A political campaign promise everybody knows Obama will keep.

       

     

    The Drone-Happy President: Obama Escalates in Yemen – Again April 26, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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    Published on Thursday, April 26, 2012 by Salon.com

    The Drone-Happy President: Obama Escalates in Yemen – Again

    Ten days ago, I wrote about a request made by CIA Director David Petraeus to expand the drone war in Yemen in accordance with the following, as expressed by the first paragraph of The Washington Post article reporting it:

    At the time, I wrote that “it’s unclear whether Obama will approve Petraeus’ request for the use of ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen,” though that was true only in the most technical sense. It was virtually impossible to imagine that a request from David Petraeus, of all people, to Barack Obama, of all people, for authority to target even more people in Yemen for death, now without even knowing who they are, would be anything but quickly and eagerly approved. And that is exactly what has now happened, as the Post‘s Greg Miller reports today:

    The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year. . . .

    Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits. . .

    Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, has questioned . . . the wisdom of the expanded drone operations. . . . ”I would argue that U.S. missile strike[s] are actually one of the major — not the only, but a major — factor in AQAP’s growing strength.”

    So here’s yet another war that Obama is escalating, now ordering people’s death with greater degrees of recklessness, now without even bothering to know who is being targeted. Although Miller doesn’t bother to mention the likelihood of more deaths of innocent Yemenis, this is the same policy that has caused large numbers of civilian deaths in Pakistan (just read this heart-wrenching and amazing account of a 16-year-old Pakistani boy, Tariq Aziz, oh-so-coincidentally killed by an American drone, along with his 12-year-old cousin, just days after he attended a meeting to protest civilian deaths by drones). Anonymous officials claim that greater caution will be exercised in Yemen than in Pakistan, a claim Miller uncritically prints, but these types of nameless strikes are certain to kill far more civilians. Indeed, the oh-so-coincidental killing of Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son in Yemen a mere two weeks after his father was killed proves how easily civilians were already being killed. The problem will only worsen now. As Johnsen pointed out, “in Yemen, just because it has a beard, carries a gun, and talks about Islamic law doesn’t mean its al-Qaeda,” but no matter: that’s who will now be extinguished by Obama’s drone campaign.(Credit: Salon)

    Read the full article at Salon.com

    © 2012 Salon.com

    <!–

    –>

    Glenn Greenwald

    Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy. His just-released book is titled “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.” He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

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    Obama Justice Department indicts ex-CIA agent for exposing torture April 8, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Torture, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    , www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012

    Thursday’s indictment of John Kiriakou for exposing CIA torture of  detainees confirms yet again that the Obama administration is continuing and deepening the crimes carried out by the Bush White House. Kiriakou, a CIA agent for 14 years, is being prosecuted for speaking to two  journalists about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.

    In December  2007, he appeared in an ABC News interview, becoming the first CIA  official to confirm the use of waterboarding of so-called “enemy  combatants” and to describe the practice as torture. It is now known  that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in the space of one month while  being held in a series of CIA “black sites” from Thailand to Poland to  Diego Garcia.

    Zubaydah, severely wounded when he was captured by  US and Pakistani intelligence agents, had already been suffering the  effects of a shrapnel wound to the head he received during the  CIA-backed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under US control, he was  beaten, placed in extreme temperatures, and subjected to music played at debilitating volumes, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation.

    His interrogators also locked him for protracted periods in a small box,  where he was forced to crouch in complete darkness, while the stressful  position caused his wounds to open up and bleed.

    At some point during this ordeal, the CIA removed Zubaydah’s left eye.

    Zubaydah’s torture was overseen in detail by the top officials of the US government, from President George W. Bush and Vice  President Dick Cheney on down.

    Bush publicly described Zubaydah  as Al Qaeda’s chief of operations, in charge of “plotting and planning  death and destruction on the United States.” He was charged not only  with planning 9/11, but with involvement in virtually every other crime  attributed to Al Qaeda.

    In September of last year, in response to habeas corpus filings by Zubaydah’s attorneys demanding justification  for his continued imprisonment at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay,  Cuba, the government formally recanted these charges. It acknowledged  that Zubaydah had no “direct role in or advance knowledge of the  terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and had not been a “member” of Al Qaeda or even “formally” identified with the organization.

    Yet, after a decade of imprisonment and torture, the government refuses to  either try or release him. He is one of those designated by the Obama  administration to be detained indefinitely without charges.

    The  reasons are clear. There appears to be no evidence against him, and his  case raises a whole range of crimes by government officials, including  torture and the CIA’s destruction of videotapes recording his  interrogation sessions, carried out in defiance of court demands that  they be produced.

    Nor have any of those responsible for the  torture of Zubaydah and countless others been brought to justice. This  includes not just the CIA torturers, but Bush, Cheney, former CIA  Director George Tenet, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza  Rice, and ex-Justice Department officials like Jay Bybee, and John Yoo,  who drafted the memos arguing that torture was legal.

    The Obama  administration has protected all of these individuals, repeatedly  intervening in court and invoking “state secrets” to quash cases brought by torture victims.

    While refusing to either try or release the  victim of torture, Zubaydah, or to prosecute those responsible for the  crimes committed against him, the Obama administration is prosecuting  Kiriakou for daring to publicly expose these crimes, threatening him  with up to 45 years in prison.

    It is not an accident that the  indictment of Kiriakou comes just a day after the Pentagon’s formal  presentation of capital charges against Khalid Sheik  Mohammed — waterboarded 183 times — and four others alleged to be part of  the 9/11 conspiracy. It is a means of intimidating the attorneys of the  defendants. The government wants to preclude any disruption of its  rigged military commission at Guantanamo with charges of torture.

    More fundamentally, the prosecution of Kiriakou is part of a policy of state secrecy and repression that pervades the US government under Obama, who came into office promising “the most transparent administration in  history.” This marks the sixth government whistleblower to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, twice as many such  prosecutions as have been brought by all preceding administrations  combined. Prominent among them is Private Bradley Manning, who is  alleged to have leaked documents exposing US war crimes to WikiLeaks. He has been held under conditions tantamount to torture and faces a  possible death penalty.

    In all of these cases, the World War  I-era Espionage Act is being used to punish not spying on behalf of a  foreign government, but exposing the US government’s own crimes to the  American people. The utter lawlessness of US foreign policy goes hand-in-hand with the collapse of democracy at home.

    These cases make  clear that it is the American working people whom the government views  as its most dangerous enemy. It is determined to keep them in the dark  as it systematically erects the framework for a police-state  dictatorship.

    Over the last few months, Obama has signed into law legislation granting himself the power to condemn alleged enemies of  the state to indefinite military detention without charges or trials,  and his attorney general, Eric Holder, has publicly asserted the “right” of the president to order the assassination of American citizens  alleged to be involved in “hostilities” towards the US government.

    After more than three years in office, it is abundantly clear that the Obama  administration has substantially escalated the crimes carried out by its predecessor, both in terms of militarism abroad and state repression at home. These crimes were not the outcome of some specific right-wing  ideology of the Bush White House, but rather the response of the US  ruling elite to the decline in the global position of American  capitalism and the growth of social inequality at home, which has  increasingly rendered democratic methods of rule untenable.

    The  repressive measures being implemented by the government are targeted  first and foremost at an anticipated eruption of mass popular struggles  against the policies of the ruling class and the conditions being  created by the crisis of the capitalist system

    Attorney General Holder defends execution without charges March 6, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
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    Roger’s note: declare “war” on something, war on terror, for example, and you then have the absolute right to kill the “enemy” no questions asked.  Prior to the so-called war on terror, there had been acts of terrorism for centuries.  They were always dealt with via intelligence gathering and other policing techniques, and alleged terrorists prosecuted through he judicial system (albeit with notable examples of abuse, e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti).  This made sense.  The ultimate purpose of the war on terror today is to militarize civilian authority.  Declare war and you have every right to kill whomever you say is the enemy, be it a citizen or a foreigner.  The world is a battlefield.  By this logic, the president and the CIA should be able to execute anyone they deem active in the phony “war on drugs.”  I am surprised that they haven’t … yet.  When they declare war on left-wing political comedians, look out Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

    Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012 4:50 AM 20:09:43 EST, www.salon.com

    A new speech by Eric Holder cements Obama’s legacy as the president who pioneered secretive, charge-less executions

    By Glenn Greenwald
    Barack Obama and Eric Holder

    Barack Obama and Eric Holder    (Credit: Reuters)

    In a speech at Northwestern University yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder provided the most detailed explanation yet for why the Obama administration believes it has the authority to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution by the CIA without even charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusations, or affording them an opportunity to respond, instead condemning them to death without a shred of transparency or judicial oversight. The administration continues to conceal the legal memorandum it obtained to justify these killings, and, as The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage noted, Holder’s “speech contained no footnotes or specific legal citations, and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo.” But the crux of Holder’s argument as set forth in yesterday’s speech is this:

    Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

    When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence. The “process” used by the Obama administration to target Americans for execution-by-CIA is, as reported last October by Reuters, as follows:

    American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

    As Leon Panetta recently confirmed, the President makes the ultimate decision as to whether the American will be killed: “[The] President of the United States obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification, and in the end says, go or no go.”

    So that is the “process” which Eric Holder yesterday argued constitutes “due process” as required by the Fifth Amendment before the government can deprive of someone of their life: the President and his underlings are your accuser, your judge, your jury and your executioner all wrapped up in one, acting in total secrecy and without your even knowing that he’s accused you and sentenced you to death, and you have no opportunity even to know about, let alone confront and address, his accusations; is that not enough due process for you? At Esquire, Charles Pierce, writing about Holder’s speech, described this best: “a monumental pile of crap that should embarrass every Democrat who ever said an unkind word about John Yoo.”

    * * * * *

    I’ve obviously written about the Obama assassination program many times before but there are several points worth examining in light of Holder’s speech and the reaction to it:

    (1) The willingness of Democrats to embrace and defend this power is especially reprehensible because of how completely, glaringly and obviously at odds it is with everything they loudly claimed to believe during the Bush years. Recall two of the most significant “scandals” of the Bush War on Terror: his asserted power merely to eavesdrop on and detain accused Terrorists without judicial review of any kind. Remember all that? Progressives endlessly accused Bush of Assaulting Our Values and “shredding the Constitution” simply because Bush officials wanted to listen in on and detain suspected Terrorists — not kill them, just eavesdrop on and detain them — without first going to a court and proving they did anything wrong. Yet here is a Democratic administration asserting not merely the right to surveil or detain citizens without charges or judicial review, but to kill them without any of that: a far more extreme, permanent and irreversible act. Yet, with some righteous exceptions, the silence is deafening, or worse.

    How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’s executions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground.

    That the same Party and political faction that endlessly shrieked about Bush’s eavesdropping and detention programs now tolerate Obama’s execution program is one of the most extreme and craven acts of dishonesty we’ve seen in quite some time. By stark contrast, right-wing leaders, pundits and bloggers are being commendably consistent: they cheered for Bush’s due-process-free eavesdropping and detention programs and, based on exactly the same reasoning, they now lavishly praise President Obama for extending that mentality to assassinations.

     

    (2) It isn’t merely the Democratic Party generally and its hordes of adherents who have performed a complete reversal on these issues as of January 20, 2009. It’s also true of Barack Obama and Eric Holder themselves.

    Throughout the Bush years, then-Sen. Obama often spoke out so very eloquently about the Vital Importance of Due Process even for accused Terrorists. As but one example, he stood up on the Senate floor and denounced Bush’s Guantanamo detentions on the ground that a “perfectly innocent individual could be held and could not rebut the Government’s case and has no way of proving his innocence.” He spoke of “the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” He mocked the right-wing claim “that judicial inquiry is an antique, trivial and dispensable luxury.” He acknowledged that the Government will unavoidably sometimes make mistakes in accusing innocent people of being Terrorists, but then provided the obvious solution: “what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes.” How moving is all that? What a stirring tribute to the urgency of allowing accused Terrorists a day in court before punishing them.

    Then we have Eric Holder, who in 2008 gave a speech to the American Constitution Society denouncing Bush’s executive power radicalism and calling for a “public reckoning.” He specifically addressed the right-wing claim that Presidents should be allowed to eavesdrop on accused Terrorists without judicial review in order to Keep Us Safe. In light of what the Attorney General said and justified yesterday, just marvel at what he said back then, a mere three years ago:

    To those in the Executive branch who say “just trust us” when it comes to secret and warrantless surveillance of domestic communications I say remember your history. In my lifetime, federal government officials wiretapped, harassed and blackmailed Martin Luther King and other civil rights leader in the name of national security. One of America’s greatest heroes whom today we honor with a national holiday, countless streets, schools and soon a monument in his name, was treated like a criminal by those in our federal government possessed of too much discretion and a warped sense of patriotism. Watergate revealed similar abuses during the Nixon administration.

    To recap Barack Obama’s view: it is a form of “terror” for someone to be detained “without even getting one chance to prove their innocence,” but it is good and noble for them to be executed under the same circumstances. To recap Eric Holder’s view: we must not accept when the Bush administration says “just trust us” when it comes to spying on the communications of accused Terrorists, but we must accept when the Obama administration says “just trust us” when it comes to targeting our fellow citizens for execution. As it turns out, it’s not 9/11/01 that Changed Everything. It’s 1/20/09.

     

    (3) The ACLU said yesterday that Holder’s speech “is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny.” The ACLU then added:

    Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact.

    Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.

    This is notable for three reasons. First, the ACLU isn’t merely saying this is a bad policy; they are instead pointing out the obvious: that there are “few things as dangerous” as having your own Government assert the right to target citizens for death with no judicial process, yet that’s exactly what the Obama administration is doing with little backlash. Second, the ACLU is challenging progressive defenders of the President to do what none will ever do: explain why they would trust not only Barack Obama, but also Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or Michele Bachmann, with the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination in secret and with no judicial oversight. Third, that the ACLU is condemning an Obama policy as “as dangerous to American liberty” as a policy can be — also known as: a supreme hallmark of tyranny — demonstrates the huge gulf that has arisen under the Obama presidency between the Democratic Party and the ACLU (a group universally praised by Democrats when a Republican President is in office), though this gulf has been obvious for quite some time.

     

    (4) What’s so striking is how identical Obama officials and their defenders sound when compared to the right-wing legal theorists who justified Bush’s most controversial programs. Even the core justifying slogans are the same: we are at War; the Battlefield is everywhere; Presidents have the right to spy on, detain and kill combatants without court permission; the Executive Branch is the sole organ for war and no courts can interfere in the President’s decisions, etc. I spent years writing about and refuting those legal theories and they are identical to what we hear now. Just consider how similar the two factions sound to one another.

    When it came to their War on Terror controversies, Bush officials constantly said back then exactly what Obama officials and defenders say now: we’re only using these powers against Terrorists — The Bad People — not against regular, normal, Good Americans; so if you’re not a Terrorist, you have nothing to worry about. Here’s White House spokesman Trent Duffy in December, 2005, defending Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program:

    This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches.

    Similarly, when George Bush went before the cameras in December, 2005, to proudly admit and defend his warrantless spying program, he assured the nation that this was all justified because it was only aimed at “the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.”

    Find a defender of Obama’s assassination program and all you’ll hear is exactly the same thing: this is only being directed at The Terrorists like Awlaki, so we don’t need any court review or due process. Here was Holder yesterday: “it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks,” and assassination orders are only issued once “the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”

    This is nothing more than an exercise of supremely circular reasoning and question-begging: whether someone is actually a Terrorist can be determined only when the evidence of their guilt is presented and they have an opportunity to respond, just as Holder and Obama said during the Bush years. Government assurances that they’re only targeting Terrorists — whether those assurances issue from Bush or Obama — should reassure nobody: this is always what those who abuse power claim, and it’s precisely why we don’t trust government officials to punish people based on unproven accusations. Here’s what Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, said in order to assuage growing fears of new government eavesdropping powers, as reported by this July 25, 1969 article from Time Magazine:

    Mitchell refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far lower than most people might think. “Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity,” he added, “has nothing to fear whatsoever.”

    We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

    Here’s a critique I wrote in January, 2006, of the Bush DOJ’s 42-page whitepaper justifying its warrantless eavesdropping on accused Terrorists. Just read that and you’ll see: the essence of the Bush view of the world was that when it comes to war, it is the President who has sole responsibility and power and courts may not review or interfere with what he decides about who is a Terrorist and what should be done to them. The President is the “sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs,” declared the Bush DOJ, and ”among the President’s most basic constitutional duties is the duty to protect the Nation from armed attack” and thus, “the Constitution gives him all necessary authority to fulfill that responsibility.” Or, as Holder put it yesterday: “The conduct and management of national security operations are core functions of the Executive Branch, as courts have recognized throughout our history” and therefore “the president is [not] required to get permission from a federal court.” One cannot reject the Bush legal worldview invoked to justify those programs while embracing the Obama worldview expressed here — at least not with an iota of intellectual coherence or dignity.

     

    (5) The dubious or outright deceitful legal claims made by Holder are too numerous to chronicle all of them, but there are a couple worth highlighting. He said, for instance, that “the Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.” That part is true: in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that it could detain American citizens accused of Terrorism without any process for them to contest the accusations against them, though the Court held that something less than a full-scale trial could satisfy the Due Process clause. But as Marcy Wheeler points out, the Court imposed “due process” requirements that are the exact opposite of what the Obama administration is doing with its assassinations. Said the Court (emphasis added):

    It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad. . . .

    We therefore hold that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker. . . .

    In sum, while the full protections that accompany challenges to detentions in other settings may prove unworkable and inappropriate in the enemy-combatant setting, the threats to military operations posed by a basic system of independent review are not so weighty as to trump a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the Government’s case and to be heard by an impartial adjudicator.

    How can Eric Holder possibly cite the Supreme Court’s Due Process holdings in the War on Terror context when the Court has held that citizens — merely to be detained, let alone killed — are entitled to exactly that which the Obama administration refuses to provide: “a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker” and “a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the Government’s case and to be heard by an impartial adjudicator”? It’s precisely because Obama refuses to fulfill those Court-imposed obligations before ordering citizens executed that this behavior is so objectionable.

    If, as Holder argues, the Due Process Clause allows a citizen to be killed based on accusations by the President that are made in total secrecy and which he has no opportunity even to hear, let alone refute, then that core Constitutional safeguard is completely meaningless. And the Supreme Court in the very ruling Holder references leaves no doubt about that, as it required an adversarial hearing before a neutral arbiter even for someone accused of being an “enemy combatant” at the height of the War on Terror.

    Then there is Holder’s reliance on the old neocon trick: cite what Lincoln did in the Civil War or what FDR did in World War II — as though those are comparable to the War on Terror — to justify what is being done now. Thus we hear this from Holder: “during World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto — the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board.” This argument has been hauled out before by administration officials when responding to my critiques of Obama’s assassination program.

    Even leaving aside the vast difference between wars posing an existential threat (the Civil War, WW2) and the so-called War on Terror, the difference between the Yamamoto killing and Obama’s citizen assassinations is self-evident. There was no doubt that Adm. Yamamoto was in fact a commander of an enemy army at war with the U.S.: he wore that army’s uniform and identified himself as such. By contrast, there is substantial doubt whether Anwar Awlaki or other accused Al Qaeda members are in fact guilty of plotting Terrorist attacks on the U.S. That’s true for exactly the reason that Holder, in another part of his speech, explained: Al Qaeda members “do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack.”

    That’s why applying traditional war doctrine to accused Terrorists (who are not found on a battlefield but in their cars, their homes, at work, etc.) is so inappropriate, and why judicial review is so urgent: because the risk of false accusations is so much higher than it is when capturing uniformed soldiers on an actual battlefield. Just recall how dubious so many government accusations of Terrorism turned out to be once federal courts began scrutinizing those accusations for evidentiary support. Indeed, Yemen experts such as Gregory Johnsen have repeatedly pointed out in response to claims that Awlaki plotted Terrorist attacks: “we know very little, precious little when it comes to his operational role” andwe just don’t know this, we suspect it but don’t know it.” Given this shameful record in the War on Terror, what rational person would “trust” the Government to make determinations about who is and is not a Terrorist in the dark, with no limits or checks on what they can do?

     

    (6) Holder’s attempt to justify these assassinations on the ground that “capture is not feasible” achieves nothing. For one, the U.S. never even bothered to indict Awlaki so that he could voluntarily turn himself in or answer the charges (though at one point, long after they first ordered him killed, they “considered” indicting him); instead, they simply killed him without demonstrating there was any evidence to support these accusations. What justifies that? Additionally, the fact that the Government is unable to apprehend and try a criminal does not justify his murder; absent some violent resistance upon capture, the government is not free to simply go around murdering fugitives who have been convicted of nothing. Moreover, that Awlaki could not have been captured in a country where the government is little more than an American client is dubious at best; if the U.S. could locate and enter the home of Osama bin Laden without the cooperation of the Pakistani government, why could it not do the same for Awlaki in Yemen?

    But the most important point is that Holder is not confining this assassination power to circumstances where “capture is not feasible.” To the contrary, he specifically said that killing “would be lawful at least in the following circumstances”: meaning that the President’s asserted power is not confined to those conditions. As Charlie Savage wrote: “Significantly, Mr. Holder did not say that such a situation is the only kind in which it would be lawful to kill a citizen. Rather, he said it would be lawful ‘at least’ under those conditions.” We have no idea how far the Obama administration believes its assassination power extends because it refuses to release the legal memorandum justifying it; there is no legal framework governing it; and there is no transparency or accountability for the President’s execution orders.

    * * * * *

    In sum, Holder’s attempt to make this all seem normal and common should insult anyone with the most basic understanding of American law. As The New York Times put it when first confirming the assassination program in April, 2010: ” The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen. . . . It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.” To date, not a single such citizen has been identified.

    As always, the most important point to note for this entire debate is how perverse and warped it is that we’re even having this “debate” at all. It should be self-negating — self-marginalizing — to assert that the President, acting with no checks or transparency, can order American citizens executed far from any battlefield and without any opportunity even to know about, let alone rebut, the accusations. That this policy is being implemented and defended by the very same political party that spent the last decade so vocally and opportunistically objecting to far less extreme powers makes it all the more repellent. That fact also makes it all the more dangerous, because — as one can see — the fact that it is a Democratic President doing it, and Democratic Party officials justifying it, means that it’s much easier to normalize: very few of the Party’s followers, especially in an election year, are willing to make much of a fuss about it at all.

    And thus will presidential assassination powers be entrenched as bipartisan consensus for at least a generation. That will undoubtedly be one of the most significant aspects of the Obama legacy. Let no Democrat who is now supportive or even silent be heard to object when the next Republican President exercises this power in ways that they dislike.

    ACLU sues Obama administration over assassination secrecy February 2, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, War on Terror.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far

    Roger’s note: Here is a breath of fresh air for Tricky Dick Nixon as he boils in Hell .  His infamous “if the president does it it’s legal,” thanks to Bush and Obama, is now the law of the land.

    The President boasts in public about his executions, then hides behind secrecy claims to shield it from the law

    By Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com, February 2, 2012

    Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)  (Credit: AP)

    (updated below)

    The ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit against various agencies of the Obama administration — the Justice and Defense Departments and the CIA — over their refusal to disclose any information about the assassination of American citizens. In October, the ACLU filed a FOIA request demanding disclosure of the most basic information about the CIA’s killing of 3 American citizens in Yemen: Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, killed by missiles fired by a U.S. drone in September, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, killed by another drone attack two weeks later.

    The ACLU’s FOIA request sought merely to learn the legal and factual basis for these killings — meaning: tell us what legal theories you’ve adopted to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution, and what factual basis did you have to launch these specific strikes? The DOJ and CIA responded not only by refusing to provide any of this information, but refused even to confirm if any of the requested documents exist; in other words, as the ACLU put it yesterday, “these agencies are saying the targeted killing program is so secret that they can’t even acknowledge that it exists.” That refusal is what prompted yesterday’s lawsuit (in December, the New York Times also sued the Obama administration after it failed to produce DOJ legal memoranda “justifying” the assassination program in response to a FOIA request from reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, but the ACLU’s lawsuit seeks disclosure of both the legal and factual bases for these executions).

    From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?

    But there’s one abuse that deserves special attention here: namely, the way in which the Obama administration manipulates and exploits its secrecy powers. Here is what the DOJ said to the ACLU about why it will not merely withhold all records, but will refuse even to confirm or deny whether any such records exist:

    So the Most Transparent Administration Ever™ refuses even to confirm or deny if there is an assassination program, or if it played any role in the execution of these three Americans, because even that most elementary information is classified.

    What makes this assertion so inexcusable — beyond its inherently and self-evidently anti-democratic nature — is that the Obama administration constantly boasts in public about this very same program when doing so is politically beneficial for the President. The day Awlaki was killed, the President himself began a White House ceremony by announcing Awlaki’s death, trumpeting it as “a major blow to al Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate,” boasting that “the death of al-Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliate,” and then patting himself on the back one last time: “this success is a tribute to our intelligence community.” Here’s how Obama hailed himself for the Awlaki killing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

    THE PRESIDENT: But al Qaeda is weaker than anytime in recent memory. We have taken out their top leadership position. That’s been a big accomplishment.

    (Applause.)

    JAY LENO: Can I ask you about taking out their top leadership, al-Awlaki, this guy, American-born terrorist? How important was he to al Qaeda?

    THE PRESIDENT: Do you — what happened was we put so much pressure on al Qaeda in the Afghan/Pakistan region –

    JAY LENO: Right.

    THE PRESIDENT: — that their affiliates were actually becoming more of a threat to the United States. So Awlaki was their head of external operations. This is the guy that inspired and helped to facilitate the Christmas Day bomber. This is a guy who was actively planning a whole range of operations here in the homeland and was focused on the homeland. And so this was probably the most important al Qaeda threat that was out there after Bin Laden was taken out, and it was important that working with the enemies, we were able to remove him from the field.

    (Applause.)

    Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went on 60 Minutes and described the process by which U.S. citizens are targeted for assassination: “the President of the United States has to sign off and he should.” Obama officials have repeatedly gone to the media anonymously to make claims about Awlaki’s guilt and to justify their assassination program. Here is one “senior administration lawyer” — cowardly hiding behind anonymity — responding to my criticisms and justifying the assassination program to Benjamin Wittes (who naturally protected him from being identified). When I spoke at an NYU Law School event in 2010 and criticized what was then the Awlaki assassination attempt while sitting next to FBI Counter-Terrorism official Niall Brennan, NPR’s national security reporter, Dina Temple-Raston, stood up and revealed that Obama officials had secretly shown her snippets of evidence to demonstrate that Awlaki was involved in actual Terrorist plots.

    So Obama can go on TV shows and trigger applause for himself by boasting of the Awlaki killing. He can publicly accuse Awlaki of all sorts of crimes for which there has been no evidence presented. He can dispatch his aides to anonymously brag in newspapers about all the secret evidence showing Awlaki’s guilt and showing how resolute and tough the President is for ordering him executed. Justice Department and Pentagon officials scamper around in the dark flashing snippets of evidence about Awlaki to reporters like Temple-Raston so that they dutifully march forward to defend the government’s assassination program. Obama officials will anonymously insist in public that they have legal authority to target citizens for killing without trial.

    But when it comes time to account in a court or under the law for the legal authority and factual basis for what they have done — in other words, when it comes time to demonstrate that they are actually acting legally when doing it — then, suddenly, everything changes. When they face the rule of law, then the program is so profoundly classified that it cannot be spoken of at all — indeed, the administration cannot even confirm or deny that it exists — and it therefore cannot be scrutinized by courts at all.

    Worse, they not only invoke these secrecy claims to avoid the ACLU and NYT‘s FOIA requests, but they also invoked it when Awlaki’s father sued them and asked a court to prevent President Obama from executing his son without a trial. When forced to justify their assassination program in court, the Obama DOJ insisted that the program was so secretive that it could not even safely confirm that it existed — it’s a state secret – and thus no court could or should review its legality (see p.43 of the DOJ’s brief and Panetta’s Affidavit in the Awlaki lawsuit). As the ACLU said yesterday:

    The government’s self-serving attitude toward transparency and disclosure is unacceptable. Officials cannot be allowed to release bits of information about the targeted killing program when they think it will bolster their position, but refuse even to confirm the existence of a targeted killing program when organizations like the ACLU or journalists file FOIA requests in the service of real transparency and accountability.

    This selective, manipulative abuse of secrecy reveals its true purpose. It has nothing to do with protecting national security; that’s proven by the Obama administration’s eagerness to boast about the program publicly and to glorify it when it helps the President politically. The secrecy instead has everything to do with (1) preventing facts that would be politically harmful from being revealed to the American public, and (2) shielding the President’s conduct from judicial review. And this cynical abuse of secrecy powers extends far beyond the Awlaki case; as the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer wrote in an excellent LA Times Op-Ed last year: “where the state’s ostensible secrets are concerned, it has become common for government officials to tell courts one thing — nothing — and reporters another.”

    This is the wretched game that both the Bush and Obama administrations have long been playing: boasting in public about their conduct but then invoking secrecy claims to shield it from true accountability or legal adjudication. Jaffer described the template this way:

    After the New York Times disclosed the existence of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, the Bush administration officially acknowledged the program, described and defended it publicly, and made available to the press a 40-page report detailing the program’s supposed legal basis. Five months later, the administration sought to quash a constitutional challenge by arguing that the government couldn’t defend the program in court without disclosing information that was simply too sensitive to disclose.

    This is exactly the same model used by both the Bush and Obama DOJs to shield warrantless eavesdropping, rendition, torture, drones, civilian killings and a whole host of other crimes from judicial review, i.e., from the rule of law. Everyone knows that the U.S. Government is doing these things. They are discussed openly all over the world. The damage they do and the victims they leave behind make it impossible to conceal them. Often, they are the subject of judicial proceedings in other countries. Typically, U.S. officials will speak about them and justify and even glorify them to American media outlets anonymously.

    There’s only one place in the world where these programs cannot be discussed: in American courts. That’s because, when it comes time to have real disclosure and adversarial checks — rather than one-sided, selective, unverifiable disclosure — and when it comes time to determine if government officials are breaking the law, the administration ludicrously claims that it is too dangerous even to confirm if such a program exists (and disgracefully deferential federal courts in the post-9/11 era typically acquiesce to those claims). So here we have the nauseating spectacle of the Obama administration secretly targeting its own citizens for assassination, boasting in public about it in order to show how Tough and Strong the President is, but then hiding behind broad secrecy claims to shield their conduct from meaningful transparency, public debate, and legal review, all while pretending that they are motivated by lofty National Security Concerns when wielding these secrecy weapons. The only thing worse than the U.S. Government’s conduct of most affairs behind a wall of secrecy is how cynical, manipulative and self-protective is its invocation of these secrecy powers.

    * * * * *

    Next week, from February 6-11, I’ll be speaking at numerous events around the country regarding the state of civil liberties. I’ll be in New York, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and — to deliver the keynote address to the ACLU in Idaho’s annual dinner — in Boise, Idaho. All events are open to the public. Event information is here.

    * * * * *

    Whenever these issues are discussed, people often ask what can be done about them. There are no easy answers to that question, but supporting the ACLU is definitely one important act (as I noted many times, I previously consulted with the ACLU but have not done so for a couple of years). There are several excellent civil liberties groups in the U.S. worthy of support (CCR is one example), but the ACLU is constantly at the forefront in imposing at least some substantial barriers to the government’s always-escalating abuse of its powers, and, unlike most advocacy groups in the U.S., it defends its values and imposes checks without the slightest regard for which party controls the government (recall the 2010 statement of its Executive Director, Anthony Romero, about President Obama’s civil liberties record). One can become a member of the ACLU or otherwise support its genuinely vital work here.

     

    UPDATE: A very similar game is being played with regard to the U.S.’s use of drones generally. For years, Obama officials have refused even to acknowledge that there is such a thing as a CIA drone program even though everyone knows there is. But this week, the President was asked during an Internet forum about his drone attacks and he made very specific claims about it in order to glorify and justify it. Nonetheless, as this Washington Post article notes, the administration still refuses to answer any questions about the drone program — or even acknowledge its existence — based on the claim that its very existence (which the President just discussed in public) is classified.

    Illustrating the absurdity of the administration’s exploitation of secrecy powers, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked yesterday whether President Obama broke the law by disclosing information about the classified drone program, and this is what Carney said:

    White House spokesman Jay Carney rebuffed questions Tuesday about whether President Obama had violated intelligence restrictions on the secret U.S. drone program in Pakistan when he openly discussed the subject the day before. . . .  Asked if the president had made a mistake, Carney said he was “not going to discuss . . . supposedly covert programs.”

    He suggested that nothing Obama had said could be a security violation: “He’s the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States. He’s the president of the United States.”

    In other words, if the President discloses classified information, then it’s inherently legal, even if he does not declassify the information (a slight variation on President Nixon’s infamous if-the-President-does-it-then-it’s-legal decree). But this is exactly the opposite of what President Obama said when he publicly decreed Bradley Manning guilty: “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law.” Clearly, that’s exactly what President Obama did when he discussed drones this week — and what he did before that by boasting of the classified Awlaki killing on The Tonight Show – but that’s the point: secrecy powers (like the law generally) is merely a weapon to protect and advance the interests of government officials. That’s why President Obama feels free to make whatever claims he wants about these programs to justify himself, but then turn around and tell courts that he cannot even acknowledge if they exist: that way, courts cannot examine their legality, and the public cannot learn anything about the programs that would enable them to verify the President’s assertions about them.

    Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of two New York Times Bestselling books on the Bush administration’s executive power and foreign policy abuses. His just-released book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, is an indictment of America’s two-tiered system of justice, which vests political and financial elites with immunity even for egregious crimes while subjecting ordinary Americans to the world’s largest and most merciless penal state. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.

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