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I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On December 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Heather Linebaugh

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter: @hllinebaugh

Enough! Accounting and Remembering the Long War in Colombia July 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Drugs, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Latin America, War.
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US military interventions differ greatly from each other. Some, like the one currently contemplated in Syria or the invasions of Kosovo and Haiti, are publicly rationalized as humanitarian in purpose, while others, such as the long occupation of Afghanistan, are purportedly in self-defense, and still others supposedly fight drug trafficking, as in Colombia and Mexico. Some involve enormous commitments of US troops and treasure, as in Iraq and Vietnam, while others involve a relatively small number of US personnel, as in El Salvador or the Philippines.

 

(Photo: n.karim/ Flickr)

But a constant among all such interventions is the stated belief of those propagating them that they will have a positive impact in the invaded nation. This may be a cynical ploy for US and international support, but the most effective prevaricators are those who have convinced themselves of the lie they tell or the myths they perpetuate. An antidote to such myths is the historical memory of the victims of wars where the United States has played a part.

That is the starting point of Basta Ya! Colombia: Memories of War and Dignity, released last week, and compiled over five years by the Group for Historical Memory. The 420-page report is the culmination of 24 volumes that focused on emblematic atrocities and cross-cutting issues of the war in Colombia since 1958. Basta Ya! overwhelms with statistics: 220,000 killed in the conflict, 81.5% of them civilians; 25,007 people forcibly disappeared; at least 4.7 million people displaced from their homes by the violence – one in every ten Colombians; more than 27,023 people kidnapped; 10,189 injured or killed by landmines; as well as people victimized by military recruitment of children, and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Of nearly two thousand massacres documented in Colombia since 1980, 59% of them were committed by right-wing paramilitaries (often in alliance with the military and/or local political elites), 17% by guerrillas, 8% by the armed forces, and 15% couldn’t be determined.
But the experiences of victims and survivors are never far from these cold numbers: the absolute impotence of those who couldn’t stop the bloodletting, the silencing caused by the violence – which was one of its objectives, the collective fear after a massacre and the ways that selective killings took even more lives, the high levels of impunity for these crimes.

Last month, I sat with family members of a dozen people killed by army soldiers and police in Arauca, the oil-producing department near the Venezuelan border.  Most of the killings had occurred eight to ten years ago, but their cases are languishing in the criminal justice, with no movement at all. A reform to the military justice system this year increases the chances that these mothers and fathers will never see justice, and their dead children will continue to be stigmatized.

The United States has influenced the doctrine, weapons and operations of the Colombian military for decades, especially since Colombia fought alongside the U.S. in Korea. Washington dramatically escalated its involvement in the war between 1998 and 2002, just as it was generating its worst toll. The terrible synergy produced by the Bush administration’s brutal and cynical use of 9/11 with Colombia’s fatal reaction against failed peace talks created an alliance bent on war and militarization without end, while hypocritically certifying improvements in human rights. As paramilitary groups partially demobilized between 2003 and 2006, some of their perverse practices transferred back to the US-client Colombian Army, which adopted a “body count” strategy that became so mercenary that recruiters were paid to supply hundreds of men who were executed and counted as guerrillas killed in combat.

The authors of Basta Ya! clearly intended it for a Colombian audience. There is only a Spanish version, and comparisons made to show the scale of damage from the war are made to Colombian cities that most non-Colombians are unlikely to know. This could explain, at least in part, why the authors also give little attention to the role of the more than $8 billion in US assistance to the Colombian military and police, multinational corporations that have assisted paramilitary groups, or the international narcotics trade that also has financed much of the armed conflict. The focus is on national actors and relationships, many of them hidden and under-reported.

An accounting of what impact the United States has had on Colombia’s terrible suffering has yet to be made. Washington trumpets the success of its military assistance in Colombia, and is financing the exporting of Colombian military expertise to other nations in Latin America and around the world.

But the Pentagon and State Department are increasingly secretive about just what that assistance consists of. After the Fellowship of Reconciliation published a published a report in 2010 indicating that increased civilian killings were committed by US-aided Colombian Army units, the State Department pointedly classified its list of supported units. Similarly, after School of the Americas Watch began to more effectively use lists of Latin American graduates of the U.S. Army school to show how many had committed atrocities, the Pentagon began to systematically refuse disclosure of those names. With the United States spending $25 billion a year on foreign military and police aid, transparency about what units receive assistance is increasingly important for fiscal reasons, as well as a political and ethical imperative.

As human rights, peace, and solidarity activists work against reflexive US military adventures, the victims of wars where the United States takes part deserve the truth about how the U.S. impacted the conflict. This task of constructing and reconstructing memory will require work not just by projects in the affected countries, like Colombia’s Group for Historical Memory, but by researchers, activists, advocates, legislators, whistleblowers, and ordinary people in the United States as well. It is a necessary prerequisite to the United States’ own transformation.

John Lindsay-Poland is research director and southwestern regional coordinator of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama.

King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone. January 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, War.
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Roger’s note: Shortly after he received it, I started a petition demanding that Obama return his Nobel Peace Prize.  Few were willing to sign.  Well, let’s not be too hard on Obama.  On this side of the revolution, no one will ever ascend to the American presidency who will not act as lap-dog to the military-industrial complex.  The US president is not, as often advertised, the leader of the free world, but rather the leader of the rapacious and bloody US Empire.  What is so pernicious about President Obama is his hypocritical pose  as a democrat and man of peace.
Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 by Common Dreams
by Norman Solomon

A simple twist of fate has set President Obama’s second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago — but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said “I have a dream.”

After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate advocate for peace.

After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued policies that epitomize King’s grim warning in 1967: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”

But Obama has not ignored King’s anti-war legacy. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it.

In his eleventh month as president — while escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, a process that tripled the American troop levels there — Obama traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech, he cast aspersions on the peace advocacy of another Nobel Peace laureate: Martin Luther King Jr.

The president struck a respectful tone as he whetted the rhetorical knife before twisting. “I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naive — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King,” he said, just before swiftly implying that those two advocates of nonviolent direct action were, in fact, passive and naive. “I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people,” Obama added.

Moments later, he was straining to justify American warfare: past, present, future. “To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason,” Obama said. “I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.”

Then came the jingo pitch: “Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”

Crowing about the moral virtues of making war while accepting a peace prize might seem a bit odd, but Obama’s rhetoric was in sync with a key dictum from Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

Laboring to denigrate King’s anti-war past while boasting about Uncle Sam’s past (albeit acknowledging “mistakes,” a classic retrospective euphemism for carnage from the vantage point of perpetrators), Obama marshaled his oratory to foreshadow and justify the killing yet to come under his authority.

Two weeks before the start of Obama’s second term, the British daily The Guardian noted that “U.S. use of drones has soared during Obama’s time in office, with the White House authorizing attacks in at least four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It is estimated that the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people.”

The newspaper reported that a former member of Obama’s “counter-terrorism group” during the 2008 campaign, Michael Boyle, says the White House is now understating the number of civilian deaths due to the drone strikes, with loosened standards for when and where to attack: “The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands.”

Although Obama criticized the Bush-era “war on terror” several years ago, Boyle points out, President Obama “has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor.”

Boyle’s assessment — consistent with the conclusions of many other policy analysts — found the Obama administration’s use of drones is “encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent.”

In recent weeks, more than 50,000 Americans have signed a petition to Ban Weaponized Drones from the World. The petition says that “weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs or chemical weapons.” It calls for President Obama “to abandon the use of weaponized drones, and to abandon his ‘kill list’ program regardless of the technology employed.”

Count on lofty rhetoric from the Inaugural podium. The spirit of Dr. King will be elsewhere.

Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. He co-chairs the national Healthcare Not Warfare campaign organized by Progressive Democrats of America. His books includeWar Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State“.

‘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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    Terrorism

    Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 09:28 ET

     

    The Washington Post today has the latest leak-based boasting about how the U.S. is on the verge of “defeating” Al Qaeda, yet — lest you think this can allow a reduction of the National Security State and posture of Endless War on which it feeds — the article warns that “al­-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen is now seen as a greater counterterrorism challenge than the organization’s traditional base” and that this new threat, as Sen. Saxby Chambliss puts it, “is nowhere near defeat.”  Predictably, the Post‘s warnings about the danger from Yemen feature the U.S. Government’s due-process-free attempts to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, widely believed to be in Yemen and now routinely (and absurdly) depicted as The New Osama bin Laden.

    The Post says Awlaki is “known for his fiery sermons” (undoubtedly the prime — and blatantly unconstitutional — motive for his being targeted for killing).  But what is so bizarre about Awlaki’s now being cast in this role is that, for years, he was deemed by the very same U.S. Government to be the face of moderate Islam.  Indeed, shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon invited Awlaki to a “luncheon [] meant to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans.” But even more striking was something I accidentally found today while searching for something else.  In November, 2001, the very same Washington Post hosted one of those benign, non-controversial online chats about religion that it likes to organize; this one was intended to discuss “the meaning of Ramadan”. It was hosted by none other than . . . “Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.”

    More extraordinary than the fact that the Post hosted The New Osama bin Laden in such a banal role a mere ten years ago was what Imam Awlaki said during the Q-and-A exchange with readers.  He repudiated the 9/11 attackers.  He denounced the Taliban for putting women in burqas, explaining that the practice has no precedent in Islam and that “education is mandatory on every Muslim male and female.”  He chatted about the “inter-faith services held in our mosque and around the greater DC area and in all over the country” and proclaimed: “We definitely need more mutual understanding.” While explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, he proudly invoked what he thought (mistakenly, as it turns out) was his right of free speech as an American:  “Even though this is a dissenting view nowadays[,] as an American I do have the right to have a contrary opinion.”  And he announced that “the greatest sin in Islam after associating other gods besides Allah is killing an innocent soul.”

    Does that sound like the New Osama bin Laden to you?  One could call him the opposite of bin Laden.  And yet, a mere nine years later, there was Awlaki, in an Al Jazeera interview, pronouncing his opinion that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a civilian jet over Detroit was justified (while saying “it would have been better if the plane was a military one or if it was a US military target”), and urging “revenge for all Muslims across the globe” against the U.S.  What changed over the last decade that caused such a profound transformation in Awlaki? Does that question even need to be asked?  Awlaki unwittingly provided the answer ten years ago when explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan in his 2001 Post chat:

    Also our government could have dealt with the terrorist attacks as a crime against America rather than a war against America. So the guilty would be tried and only them would be punished rather than bombing an already destroyed country. I do not restrict myself to US media. I check out Aljazeerah and European media such as the BBC. I am seeing something that you are not seeing because of the one-sidedness of the US media. I see the carnage of Afghanistan. I see the innocent civilian deaths. That is why my opinion is different.

    Keep in mind that I have no sympathy for whoever committed the crimes of Sep 11th. But that doesn’t mean that I would approve the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

     

    And in his Al Jazeera interview nine years later, he explained why he now endorses violence against Americans, especially American military targets:

    I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in my tribe too, US missiles have killed 17 women and 23 children, so do not ask me if al-Qaeda has killed or blown up a US civil jet after all this. The 300 Americans are nothing comparing to the thousands of Muslims who have been killed.

     

    A full decade of literally constant (and still-escalating) American killing of civilians in multiple Muslim countries has radically transformed Awlaki — and countless other Muslims — from a voice of pro-American moderation into supporters of violence against the U.S. and, in Awlaki’s case, the prime pretext for the continuation of the War on Terror.  As this blogger put it in response to my noting the 2001 Awlaki chat: “it’s interesting to think about how many other people followed that same path, that we don’t know about it.”  In other words, the very U.S. policies justified in name of combating Terrorism have done more to spawn — and continue to spawn — anti-American Terrorism than anything bin Laden could have ever conceived.  The transformation of Awlaki, and many others like him, provides vivid insight into how that occurs.

    * * * * *
    It’s equally instructive to note that if the Post were to give Awlaki a venue to express his opinions now — or if the Pentagon were to invite him to a luncheon — those institutions would likely be guilty of the felony of providing material support to Terrorism as applied by the Obama DOJ and upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Did You Hear the Joke About the Predator Drone That Bombed? May 5, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
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    (Roger’s Note: Obama joking about  unmanned missiles that kill innocent civilians.  This is the man who only two short years ago was the symbol of hope for those who called themselves liberal or progressive, who were desperate for change one “could believe in.”  Those who continue to support Obama have their heads in the sand.)
    AlterNet / By Medea Benjamin and Nancy Moncias

    Obama’s ‘joke’ at the White House correspondents’ dinner was no laughing matter to the relatives of the hundreds of people killed in Pakistan by drones.

    May 5, 2010  |  
     At the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner, President Bush joked about searching for WMDs under Oval Office furniture. The joke backfired when parents who had lost their children fighting in Iraq said they found the joke offensive and tasteless. Senator John Kerry said Bush displayed a “stunningly cavalier” attitude toward the war and those serving in Iraq.

    So it’s odd that President Obama would make a crude joke about deaths that he is responsible for. But that’s just what he did at the May 1 White House Correspondents Dinner. “Jonas Brothers are here, they’re out there somewhere,” President Obama quipped as he looked out at the packed room. Then he furrowed his brow, pretending to send a stern message to the pop band. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You’ll never see it coming.”

    For people in Pakistan, where most of the drones are being used, the joke lost something in translation. According to Pakistani journalist Khawar Rizvi, few Pakistanis have ever heard of the Jonas Brothers or understood the reference to the President’s daughters. “But one thing we do know: There’s nothing funny about predator drones,” said Rizvi. “They’ve killed hundreds of civilians and caused so much suffering in Pakistan. And that’s no laughing matter.”

    The point of using attack drones, which are piloted from 6,000 miles away in the Nevada desert, is to guarantee no U.S. casualties. But the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles has led to an increase in the killing and maiming of innocents, often while they are sleeping in their beds.

    You won’t get much of a chuckle by reading The New America Foundation’s 2009 report “Revenge of the Drones.” It shows that Obama, far from curtailing the drone program he inherited from President Bush, dramatically increased the number of U.S. drone strikes.

    The report says that roughly 252 to 315 Pakistani civilians were killed by Predator and Reaper drone strikes between 2006 and 2009. Other reports place the figure much higher. Pakistani authorities released statistics indicating that over 700 civilians were killed by drones in 2009 alone, the year Obama took office. The running tally on the website PakistanBodyCount.Org is even more shocking: 1,226 civilians killed and 427 injured as of March 2010!

    Equally shocking is the ratio of civilians to militants killed, which Middle East scholar Daniel Byman estimates at ten to one. It is a cruel joke indeed for the people of Pakistan that the U.S. military finds it acceptable to murder 10 innocent people for every Al Qaeda or Taliban operative killed.

    The use of the drones has also expanded in Afghanistan. Every day, the Air Force now flies at least 20 Predator drones — twice as many as a year ago. They are mostly used for surveillance, but have also carried out more than 200 strikes over the last year. “Since the start of 2009, the Predators and their larger cousins, the Reapers, have fired at least 184 missiles and 66 laser-guided bombs at militant suspects in Afghanistan,” reported Christopher Drew of the New York Times.

    Afghan Civilian Deaths Are Rising, Government Says May 2, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    (Roger’s note: as Obama’s and McChrystal’s high-tech pawns continue slaughtering Afghani men, women and children, let’s review the question of why the US forces of death are in Afghanistan in the first place.   The rationale was unjustified and a violation of international law, but at least there was a rationale.  It was that The Taliban, in power at the time in Afghanistan, were protecting Osama bin Laden, presumed author of 9/11.  So the US attacked, invaded, defeated the Taliban, put in place a puppet government; and bin Laden and the rest of the al qaeda contingent fled presumably to Pakistan.  End of whatever rationale there was in the first place.  So why is the US military still there, wreaking havoc?  Oh, I forgot, the US is bringing democracy and stability to the country.  Killing innocent civilians is a new and creative strategy designed to achieve this end.  There is no doubt that it will succeed.)

    Published on Sunday, May 2, 2010 by the Associated Pressby Rahim Faiez

    KABUL – Civilian casualties are rising in Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO reinforcements stream into the country as part of a military buildup to combat the resurgent Taliban, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

    [Relatives push a hospital bed with an Afghan boy wounded when international troops opened fire on a civilian bus for treatment at a local hospital in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, April 12, 2010.  (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan) ]
    Relatives push a hospital bed with an Afghan boy wounded when international troops opened fire on a civilian bus for treatment at a local hospital in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, April 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

    There have been 173 civilian deaths in violence in Afghanistan from March 21 to April 21, marking a 33 percent increase over the same time period last year, the ministry said. A recent quarterly report by the U.S. office overseeing Afghanistan’s rebuilding confirmed an increase in civilian deaths. 

    The ministry did not provide a breakdown of who was responsible for the fatalities.

    Civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. and other international forces are highly sensitive in Afghanistan, although the U.N. says the Taliban are responsible for most civilian casualties. Still, the backlash could undermine U.S. strategy ahead of a summer military operation in Kandahar, a key southern city that is the spiritual home of the Taliban.

    The goal of the U.S.-led operation is to flood in troops, rout the militants and rush in new governance and development projects to win the loyalty of Kandahar’s half-million residents.

    Public outrage over civilian deaths prompted the top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year to tighten the rules on the use of airstrikes and other weaponry if civilians are at risk.

    There are fears the problem could get worse with 30,000 U.S. and NATO reinforcements heading to Afghanistan as part of a military buildup to take on the Taliban in the south.

    Several recent operations have sparked protests in Afghanistan.

    On Thursday, the French military said its troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians and seriously injured one during a clash with insurgents east of Kabul on April 6. On April 20, NATO troops fired on a vehicle that approached their convoy in eastern Afghanistan, killing four unarmed Afghan civilians.

    “Preventing Afghan casualties remains our goal despite recent setbacks,” said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a NATO spokesman in Kabul. He added that military operations have increased this year, with many taking place in population centers.

    Also Sunday, a British service member died after an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defense announced.

    On Saturday, NATO said another service member was killed after an “indirect-fire attack” in eastern Afghanistan. The victim’s nationality was not immediately released.

    © 2010 Associated Press

    NATO Airstrike Kills 27 Civilians in Afghanistan February 22, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    (Roger’s note: more innocent civilian blood on Obama’s hands.  Anyone remember: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”)
    Published on Monday, February 22, 2010 by TimesOnline/UKby Jerome Starkey in Kabul and Philippe Naughton

    NATO forces in southern Afghanistan bombed a civilian convoy, killing 27 people including women and children and injuring many more, Afghan officials said.

    [Afghans walks behind US Marines during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province  Photo: REUTERS  ]
    Afghans walks behind US Marines during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province Photo: REUTERS

     

    The airstrike in a remote part of Oruzgan province yesterday capped a bloody week for Afghan civilians that has seen some 60 innocent people killed by NATO weapons.

     

    Afghanistan’s cabinet called the attack “unjustifiable” and condemned the raid “in the strongest terms possible”.

    Officials said three vehicles were bombed, killing at least 27 people, including four women and one child, while at least 12 others were injured. The death toll had earlier been put at 33.

    The cars were traveling between Kandahar and Daikundi, in Afghanistan’s central highlands, when NATO and Afghan forces mistook them for insurgents.

    NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said troops on the ground thought the civilians were militants “en route to attack a joint Afghan-Isaf unit” but they later confirmed that there were women and children at the scene and launched an investigation.

    The local governor and the interior minister said all of the victims were civilians.

    US General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said he was “extremely saddened”.

    “I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people, and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission,” he said in a statement yesterday. “We will re-double our efforts to regain that trust.”

    NATO has been criticized in the past for relying on shoddy intelligence and calling in airstrikes when there is no immediate need.

    General McChrystal has urged troops to refrain from using heavy weapons, by showing what he calls “courageous restraint”. On Saturday President Karzai repeated calls for the coalition to eliminate civilian casualties.

    “We need to reach the point where there are no civilian casualties,” Mr Karzai said. “Our effort and our criticism will continue until we reach that goal.”

    But the last seven days have been anything but peaceful. Last Sunday at least nine civilians were killed when troops involved in Helmand hit a compound with a volley of rockets, during Operation Moshtarak.

    On Monday NATO and Afghan forces mistakenly killed five men and injured two others in Kandahar province after deciding that they had been planting a roadside bomb. “The joint patrol called for an airstrike,” Isaf said in a statement. “Following the strike, the Afghan-ISAF patrol approached the scene and determined the individuals had not been emplacing an IED.”

    On Thursday, an airstrike in northern Kunduz province missed insurgents and killed seven policemen while on Friday a man carrying a box was shot and killed in Nad-e Ali. “The man dropped the box, turned and ran away from the patrol, and then for an unknown reason turned and ran toward the patrol at which time they shot and killed him,” NATO said in a statement. “After a search of the individual it was determined the box, which appeared to be filled with IED-making materials, was not an IED.”

    In December NATO was accused of killing 10 civilians, including eight schoolchildren, in Narang district in Kunar. NATO claimed they were part of a bomb-making cell.

    Yesterday’s civilian deaths come as a further blow to the Western effort in Afghanistan after the Dutch Prime Minister conceded that he could not prevent his forces being pulled out this year due to the collapse of his Government.

    Jan Peter Balkenende lost the argument over extending the deployment at a 16-hour Cabinet session, in the first big reversal for the recently appointed NATO leader, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had publicly requested a continued Dutch commitment.

    “Our task as the lead nation [in Uruzgan province] ends in August,” Mr Balkenende said. After a three-month draw-down, the Dutch will be completely out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

    There are concerns that other countries where public opinion is turning against the Afghan campaign could follow, notably Canada, which has had the biggest proportional casualty rate and is committed to withdrawing its 2,800 troops by the end of next year.

    Another concern is the continued presence of 1,000 Australian troops. The Canberra Government has repeatedly refused to take over the lead role in Uruzgan if Holland leaves, demanding that a big NATO power provide the main share of troop numbers.

    Just as important is the impression that European countries are struggling to find their share of the 10,000 extra troops requested by General McChrystal to join 30,000 extra US troops in Afghanistan, with France ruling out more forces and a fierce debate in Germany.

    The Times understands that the Dutch forces in Uruzgan will be replaced by US troops, diverting them from the surge operation against the Taliban.

    © 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

    The Marjah Offensive – What are The Prospects? February 13, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    (Roger’s note: British Defence (War Machine) Minister Ainsworth states blithely, “casualties are something we have to expect.”  Easy enough for him to say from the safety of his luxury limonene.  But for “casualty” read a dead soldier or civilian, someone who is loved by a mother, father, children, spouse, siblings, friends.  You go out there and kill and be killed, Mr. Cowardly Ainsworth.  Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and their minions are nothing less than war criminals who are prosecuting an invasion that is illegal by every standard of international law.  If there were justice, they all would be accused and convicted before a world court.  All blood is on their hands.)     

    Published on Saturday, February 13, 2010 by Radio France Internationalby Tony Cross

    No sooner had combat begun than both sides were claiming to have inflicted losses on their enemies. The Nato-led troops claimed to have killed five Taliban, while the rebels said they had killed six foreign soldiers.

    [An Afghan villager, who was not detained, at the first compound that the Marines seized during an assault into Marja, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)]
    An Afghan villager, who was not detained, at the first compound that the Marines seized during an assault into Marja, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

    Operation Mushtarak (“Together” in Dari) aims to secure Marjah district, a long-time Taliban bastion which is also reported to provide ten per cent of the world’s opium. 

    British Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth declared that “casualties are something that we have to expect”, while British Engineer Group commander Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley warned that “it is bloody dangerous out there”.

    “We are going into the heart of darkness,” he told his troops.

    Pro-government forces number 15,000, while estimates of Taliban numbers vary between 400 and 2,000. But the rebels have the advantage of having occupied the area for years, being hard to distinguish from civilians and, apparently, having good enough relations with local people to lead generals to fear that many may shelter Taliban fighters.

    The Afghan and international troops of Isaf did not even try to profit from the element of suprise, announcing that the offensive would take place several days before it began.

    “Whether western troops trumpet their intentions or not, the Taliban know when their enemies will launch their attacks,” says Gilles Dorronsoro, of the Carnegie Peace Foundation.

    Instead, the offensive was preceded by a welter of press releases, perhaps aiming to convince the public in the US and UK that something serious was going on. And helicopters dropped leaflets on the target area, warning the population to stay indoors, rather than flee. 

    But rights campaigners fear that there will be civilian casualties.

    “I suspect that they believe they have the ability to generally distinguish between combatants and civilians,’ says Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. “I would call that into question, given their long history of mistakes, particularly when using air power.”

    The Wall Street Journal reports that “frustration is boiling over” among frontline troops over more restrictive combat rules than those in place in Iraq.

    “The line between peaceful villager and enemy fighter is often blurred,” an editorial in the paper says.

    Although civilian deaths are a source of enormous resentment in Afghanistan, the strategists insist they want to win hearts and minds. They plan to hand over power to pro-government officials as swiftly as possible, in line with President Hamid Karzai’s repeated calls for “Afghanisation“.

    “We are going to arrive with Afghan governance as the tip of the spear,” British General Nick Carter, who is the Nato commander for southern Afghanistan, told the BBC.

    The principal aim of the offensive is to drive the Taliban out of Marjah, preferably forcing them right down to the southern border with Pakistan.

    A decisive military defeat in Helmand would limit them to neighbouring Kandahar province, the western strategists hope. The aim is to hammer the rebels during this year’s troop build-up, allowing withdrawal to start in 2011.

    This is not the first offensive in Helmand.

    When the British took over security in the province in 2006 their brief was modest – to control two population centres.

    “But the British general in charge at the time all of a sudden decided to clean up the whole of Helmand province,” says the Carnegie Peace Foundation’s Dorronsoro. “It was a disaster.”

    “Then every year since you have a new offensive, which is to say that the only thing which explains this overinvestment in Helmand was the initial offensive which was compensated for by victory.”

    The model for Operation Mushtarak is Operation Khanjar (“dagger” in Dari and Pashtu), last summer’s offensive in Garmser and Nawa districts.

    It was judged a success as most of the Taliban fled, while heavily armed troops set up posts in key settlements and junctions. That was quickly followed by meetings, in which the pro-government forces’ intention of staying was impressed on local elders.

    But it failed in its aim to ensure security in August’s presidential election, in which fraud was widespread in the south. Troops continue to suffer casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they are also likely to face in Marjah.

    US and Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal has promised to follow military gains with development and aid. Government officials, police and army are poised to follow the combat troops into Marjah to establish control, according to Helmand governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal. 

    This time, the leaders of the pro-government forces insist, they intend to win and they intend to stay.

    © 2010 Radio France International

    Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations December 4, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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    by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | Report

    December 4, 2009

    The head of Blackwater revealed the details of his collaboration with the CIA to locate and assassinate top al Qaeda operatives as part of a covert antiterror operation Tuesday, and blamed Democrats for the leak that ended the program.

    In an article published in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into “denied areas” to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.

    Prince was one of a secret network of American citizens with special skills or access chosen to help the CIA access targets of interest. The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed to lawmakers in a closed session with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. During this meeting, CIA director Leon E. Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players.

    Prince blames Congressional Democrats for the leak. “[W]hen it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus,” he said. “The left complained about how [CIA operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.”

    According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al Qaeda leaders. Under an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the CIA was barred from carrying out assassinations. But President George W. Bush took the position shortly after 9/11 that killing al Qaeda members was comparable to killing enemy soldiers in battle, and therefore assassinations were permissible. Prince was hired in 2004.

    A former Navy Seal, Prince said, “I’ve been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services.” In his role as a contractor for the covert CIA program, according to The New York Times, Prince’s Blackwater employees assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto remotely piloted aircraft – work previously performed by authorized and trained CIA employees.

    Prince says he and a team of foreign nationals located a target for assassination in October 2008, but did not complete the job. He alleges two of these trips brought him and his team into Germany and Dubai – without the knowledge of their governments.

    He further said that Blackwater resources were never used, but that he used his personal finances and was later reimbursed by the government. Prince has personally spent $45 million to finance a fleet of armored personnel carriers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater itself had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.

    Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services for Xenon, the noncombustible gas, was founded in 1997 and has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. In 2004, coalition forces in Baghdad declared private contractors, which included Blackwater employees, immune from Iraqi law.

    Largely assigned to act as bodyguards for American diplomats and provide security for military and intelligence stations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Prince’s employees have on more than one occasion been accused of wanton force, which has resulted in civilian deaths.

    A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.

    A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside, who later turned out to be a father of six, and a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq’s vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.

    Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.

    “We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the US government,” says Prince. “Now we pay lawyers.”

    The company is also facing a grand jury investigation and bribery accusations along with the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007.

    American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations , but many worry that the contracting out of the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for.”

    Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan – President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.

    Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, said  that drone attacks also operate in “an accountability void.”

    Prince said that until two months ago, he was still working on intelligence-gathering operations from an undisclosed location in America and coordinating the movements of spies who were working undercover in the Axis of Evil countries. However, Prince, who was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a position, now plans to curtail his work with Blackwater and teach economics and history in high school.

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