Cause and Effect in the ‘Terror War’ December 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan surge, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, cia drone, civilian casualties, drone missiles, glenn greenwald, muslim, muslim civilians, muslim countries, obama administration, pakistan, pakistan bombing, roger hollander, somalia, terror war, terrorism, terrorist attack, war on terrorism, yemen, yemen bombing, yemeni extremists, yemeni government
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“In all their alleged allegedness, this Administration has an allergy to the concept of war, and thus to the tools of war, including strategy and war aims” — Supreme Tough Guy Warrior Mark Steyn, National Review, yesterday.
“The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan” – New York Times, December 4, 2009.
“In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen” — New York Times, yesterday.
Actually, if you count our occupation of Iraq, our twice-escalated war in Afghanistan, our rapidly escalating bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, and various forms of covert war involvement in Somalia, one could reasonably say that we’re fighting five different wars in Muslim countries — or, to use the NYT‘s jargon, “five fronts” in the “Terror War” (Obama yesterday specifically mentioned Somalia and Yemen as places where, euphemistically, “we will continue to use every element of our national power”). Add to those five fronts the “crippling” sanctions on Iran many Democratic Party luminaries are now advocating, combined with the chest-besting threats from our Middle East client state that the next wars they fight against Muslims will be even “harsher” than the prior ones, and it’s almost easier to count the Muslim countries we’re not attacking or threatning than to count the ones we are. Yet this still isn’t enough for America’s right-wing super-warriors, who accuse the five-front-war-President of “an allergy to the concept of war.”
In the wake of the latest failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines, one can smell the excitement in the air — that all-too-familiar, giddy, bipartisan climate that emerges in American media discourse whenever there’s a new country we get to learn about so that we can explain why we’re morally and strategically justified in bombing it some more. “Yemen” is suddenly on every Serious Person’s lips. We spent the last month centrally involved to some secret degree in waging air attacks on that country — including some that resulted in numerous civilian deaths — but everyone now knows that this isn’t enough and it’s time to Get Really Serious and Do More.
For all the endless, exciting talk about the latest Terrorist attack, one issue is, as usual, conspicuously absent: motive. Why would a young Nigerian from a wealthy, well-connected family want to blow himself on one of our airplanes along with 300 innocent people, and why would Saudi and Yemeni extremists want to enable him to do so? When it comes to Terrorism, discussions of motive have been declared more or less taboo from the start because of the dishonest equation of motive discussions with justification — as though understanding the reasons why X happens is to posit that X is legitimate and justifiable. Causation simply is; it has nothing to do with issues of morality, blame, or justification. Yet all that is generally permitted to be said in such situations is that Terrorists try to harm us because they’re Evil, and we (of course) are not, and that’s generally the end of the discussion.
Despite that taboo, evidence always ends up emerging on this question. As numerous reports have indicated, the Al Qaeda group in the Arabian Peninsula has said that this attempted attack is in “retaliation” for the multiple, recent missile attacks on Yemen in which numerous innocent Muslim civilians were killed, as well as for the U.S.’s multi-faceted support for the not-exactly-democratic Yemeni government. That is similar to reports that Nidal Hasan was motivated to attack Fort Hood because “he was upset at the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.” And one finds this quote from an anonymous Yemeni official tacked on to the end of this week’s NYT article announcing the “widening terror war” in Yemen — as though it’s just an afterthought:
“The problem is that the involvement of the United States creates sympathy for Al Qaeda. The cooperation is necessary — but there is no doubt that it has an effect for the common man. He sympathizes with Al Qaeda.”
As always, the most confounding aspect of the reaction to the latest attempted terrorist episode is the professed confusion and self-righteous innocence that is universally expressed. Whether justified or not, we are constantly delivering death to the Muslim world. We do not see it very much, but they certainly do. Again, independent of justification, what do we think is going to happen if we continuously invade, occupy and bomb Muslim countries and arm and enable others to do so? Isn’t it obvious that our five-front actions are going to cause at least some Muslims — subjected to constant images of American troops in their world and dead Muslim civilians at our hands, even if unintended — to want to return the violence? Just look at the bloodthirsty sentiments unleashed among Americans even from a failed Terrorist attempt. What sentiments do we think we’re unleashing from a decade-long (and counting and increasing) multi-front “war” in the Muslim war?
There very well may be some small number of individuals who are so blinded by religious extremism that they will be devoted to random violence against civilians no matter what we do, but we are constantly maximizing the pool of recruits and sympathy among the population on which they depend. In other words, what we do constantly bolsters their efforts, and when we do, we always seem to move more in the direction of helping them even further. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves: if we drop more bombs on more Muslim countries, will there be fewer or more Muslims who want to blow up our airplanes and are willing to end their lives to do so? That question really answers itself.
Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.
Tags: al-Qaeda, civilian casualties, collateral damage, drone missiles, drone strikes, high value targets, jeremy scahill, Media, media war, pakistan, pakistan bombing, pakistan taliban, pakistan war, predator drones, roger hollander, Taliban, unmanned bombs, wall street journal
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The paper’s editors attack unembedded journalists who report the Pakistani deaths. Instead, they say, we should all just shut up and listen to U.S. intelligence agencies.
by Jeremy Scahill
The Wall Street Journal is officially in love with President Obama’s undeclared air war inside of Pakistan’s borders. In an unsigned editorial, the paper enthusiastically endorses Obama’s use of predator drones to bomb areas throughout Pakistan. The WSJ editors praise the administration, saying “to its credit, [the White House] has stepped up the use of Predators.” The editors declare: “When Pakistan’s government can exercise sovereignty over all its territory, there will be no need for Predator strikes. In the meantime, unmanned bombs away.”
The paper accurately notes some of the reasons for opposing drone strikes: “the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds.” The WSJ also accurately reports:
Lord Bingham, until recently Britain’s senior law lord, has recently said UAV strikes may be “beyond the pale” and potentially on a par with cluster bombs and landmines. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen says “the Predator [drone] strikes have an entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability.” He adds, “We should be cutting strikes back pretty substantially.”
But Bingham and Kilcullen are naive fools, according to the WSJ editors. Moreover, they are fools who have been suckered by evil un-embedded reporters. “If you glean your information from wire reports – which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses,” the editors quip, “the argument [against drone attacks] seems almost plausible.” Right, these “stringers” who often risk their lives to reveal the human toll of U.S. bombings are far less credible than the fat cat editors of the WSJ (some of whom are probably in the Hamptons having servants clip their toe nails or mix their Martinis as I write this).
The WSJ editors descend from their thrones to mingle among the mortals and teach us the error of our ways:
Yet anyone familiar with Predator technology knows how misleading those reports can be. Unlike fighter jets or cruise missiles, Predators can loiter over their targets for more than 20 hours, take photos in which men, women and children can be clearly distinguished (burqas can be visible from 20,000 feet) and deliver laser-guided munitions with low explosive yields. This minimizes the risks of the “collateral damage” that often comes from 500-pound bombs. Far from being “beyond the pale,” drones have made war-fighting more humane.
Ah, yes, that famous humane war we have all been waiting for. Finally!
The WSJ editors then reveal the highly independent, impeccable source for their information: “A U.S. intelligence summary we’ve seen corrects the record of various media reports claiming high casualties from the Predator strikes.” Wow. Remember when the Bush administration was correcting all those errors about Saddam’s WMDs? Not surprisingly, the WSJ states that “In each of the strikes in 2009 that are described by the intelligence summary, the report says no women or children were killed. Moreover, we know of planned drone attacks that were aborted when Predator cameras spied their presence.”
The WSJ wants this U.S. “intelligence” shared with the American public and the world, arguing, “We understand there will always be issues concerning sources and methods. But critics of the drone attacks, especially Pakistani critics, have become increasingly vocal in their opposition. They deserve to know about the terrorist calamities they’ve been spared thanks to these unmanned flights over their territory.”
It is very telling that the WSJ editorial-with no apparent shame-fails to mention the U.S. drone attacks last month that may have killed more than 80 people in Pakistan, including as many as 70 people in a U.S. bombing of a funeral procession in a tribal area. The WSJ editors defend the attacks, saying they are killing “high value targets,” saying of those killed by U.S. drone strikes, “Is the world better off with these people dead? We think so.” But the fact is that some statistics from the Pakistani government suggested that of the 700+ people killed in these U.S. drone strikes since 2006, 14 were “high value targets” or “al Qaeda” leaders and the vast majority were civilians. In this case, the real question is: “What does it say about the U.S. that its government authorizes the killing of these civilians?”
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.
Tags: andrew buncombe, Major-General Athar Abbas, pakisani taliban, pakistan, pakistan bombing, pakistan civilian casualties, pakistan war, pakistani refugees, refugees, roger hollander, sharia law, swat valley, Taliban, taliban fighters, taliban militias, u.s. bombing, yousaf gilani
Prime Minister appeals for unity amid growing anxiety over spread of militants
Up to 500,000 terrified residents of Pakistan’s Swat valley have fled or else are desperately trying to leave as the military steps up an operation using fighter jets and helicopter gunships to “eliminate” Taliban fighters.
As the military intensified what may be its most determined operation to date against militant extremists, the UN said 200,000 people had already arrived in safe areas in the past few days while another 300,000 were on the move or were poised to leave.
The escalation of the operation came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, made a public appeal for unity. In a televised address on Thursday evening, Mr Gilani said: “I appeal to the people of Pakistan to support the government and army at this crucial time. We pledge to eliminate the elements who have destroyed the peace and calm of the nation and wanted to take Pakistan hostage at gunpoint.”
The struggle to drive the Taliban from Swat comes amid intense pressure from the US and deepening anxiety in Pakistan about the spread of the militants to areas no more than 60 miles from Islamabad. The government had initially hoped to bring an end to two years of violence in the former tourist haven by signing a controversial peace deal which saw it agree to the establishment of sharia law in the valley and in neighbouring areas. However,the ceasefire appeared to encourage Taliban militias and their fighters slipped into the adjacent area of Buner.
Last night a military spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, told a Pakistani television channel: “To a rough estimate there are between 4,000 to 5,000 militants present in Swat. We are looking forward to the return of the writ of the state.”
Yet the operation – which the military says had already killed scores of militants – could yet present Pakistan with one of its greatest humanitarian challenges. In Geneva, Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said there was now a “massive displacement in north-west Pakistan”.
He added: “The provincial government estimates between 150,000 to 200,000 people have already arrived in safer areas of North West Frontier Province [NWFP] over the last few days, with another 300,000 already on the move or about to move. Those fleeing the latest escalation of hostilities … join another 555,000 previously displaced Pakistanis who had fled their homes in the tribal areas and NWFP since August 2008. The new arrivals are going to place huge additional pressure on resources.”
What also remains unclear is exactly what the military will have to do to clear and secure the Swat valley and how long that might take. While the Taliban may be outnumbered, the offensive is far from one-sided. “They are putting up very stiff resistance, there is no doubt. I don’t think this is going to go away very quickly. It will be weeks, if not months,” said General Talat Masood, a former military officer turned analyst. “But it’s not just about pushing them back. The military then have to hold the territory and then set in place the administrative structure that will give people confidence to return.”
The military operations are taking place in three districts over some 400 square miles. Much of the fighting has been in the city of Mingora, home to 360,000 people before the insurgency. Among those who remain, some have said they had been prevented from leaving by the Taliban who may to use them as human shields.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, answer coalition, iraq aggression, iraq independence, Iraq invasion, Iraq occupation, iraq protest, Iraq sovereignty, Iraq war, iraqi deaths, John McCain, March 21, Middle East, middle east oil, odierno, pakistan assaults, pakistan bombing, palestine occupation, Pentagon, pentagon budget, pentagon march, Petraeus, president obama, Robert Gates, roger hollander, war profiteering, war spending
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With his speech today, President Obama has essentially agreed to continue the criminal occupation of Iraq indefinitely. He announced that there will be an occupation force of 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for at least three more years. President Obama used carefully chosen words to avoid a firm commitment to remove the 50,000 occupation troops, even after 2011.
The war in Iraq was illegal. It was aggression. It was based on lies and false rationales. President Obama’s speech today made Bush’s invasion sound like a liberating act and congratulated the troops for “getting the job done.” More than a million Iraqis died and a cruel civil war was set into motion because of the foreign invasion. President Obama did not once criticize the invasion itself.
He has also requested an increase in war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans to double the number of U.S. troops sent to fight in Afghanistan.
President Obama has asked Congress to provide more than $200 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the next two years, in addition to increasing the Pentagon budget by four percent.
Based on President Obama’s new budget, the Pentagon would rank as the world’s 17th largest economy—if it were a country. This new budget increases war spending. Total spending in 2010 would roughly equate to an average of $21,000 a second.
This is not the end of the occupation of Iraq, but rather the continuation of the occupation.
There is only one reason that tens of thousands of troops will remain in Iraq: It is because this is a colonial-type occupation of a strategically important and oil-rich country located in the Middle East where two-thirds of the world’s oil reserve can be found.
Obama’s speech was a major disappointment for anyone who was hoping that Obama would renounce the illegal occupation of Iraq. Today, the U.S. government spends $480 million per day to fund the occupation of Iraq. Even if 100,000 troops are drawn out by August 2010, that means the indefinite occupation of Iraq will cost more than $100 million each day. The continued occupation of Iraq for two years or three years or more makes a complete mockery out of the idea that the Iraqi people control their own destiny. It is a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.
It is no wonder that John McCain came out to support President Obama’s announced plan on Iraq. McCain was an supporter of former President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s war and occupation in Iraq.
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld—the architects of regime change in Iraq—never had the goal of indefinitely keeping 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They wanted to subdue the Iraqi people and exercise control with a smaller force. The Iraqi armed resistance prolonged the stationing of 150,000 U.S. troops.
Bush’s goal was domination over Iraq and its oil supplies, and domination over the region. This continues to be the goal of the U.S. political and economic establishment, including that of the new administration.
President Obama decided not to challenge the fundamental strategic orientation. That explains why he kept the Bush team—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and Odierno—on the job to oversee and manage the Iraq occupation. They will also manage the widening U.S. war in Afghanistan and the aerial assaults on Pakistan. There have been over 30 U.S. bombing attacks in Pakistan in the last two months.
We are marching on Saturday, March 21 because the people of this country are fed up with the status quo. They want decent-paying jobs, and affordable health care and housing for all. Students want to study rather than be driven out by soaring tuition rates. The majority of people want a complete—not partial—withdrawal of ALL troops from Iraq. They want the war in Afghanistan to end rather than escalate. They are increasingly opposed to sending $2.6 billion each year to Israel and want an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine.
Don’t miss the important announcement about the
Dramatic Action Planned for the March 21st Pentagon
Go to http://www.pentagonmarch.org for more information.