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Iran’s Nuclear Scientists are not being Assassinated. They are Being Murdered January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, War on Terror.
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Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Killing our Enemies Abroad is Just State-sponsored Terror – Whatever Euphemism Western Leaders Like to Use

  by  Mehdi Hasan

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

© 2012 The Guardian

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Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman and a former news and current affairs editor at Channel 4. His New Statesman blog is here

Open Letter to President-Elect Obama January 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
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by Ralph Nader

Dear President-Elect Obama:

You have been receiving a great deal of advice since November 4, 2008 from people and groups who either want you to advance policies not covered in your campaign or who want you to be more specific about initiatives you emphasized.

There are two suggestions which may not be among your store of recommendations that need to be considered before you take office on January 20, 2009.

First, the public would benefit from a concise recounting of the state of the union and where the Bush Administration has left our country. As is your style, you can render such a bright line of serious problems inside and outside the government in a matter-of-fact manner. Otherwise, a blurring of who was responsible for what can taint your presidency.

Second, you need to make a clean break from the Bush regime’s law of rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law as in the firm adherence to constitutional requirements and statutory and treaty compliance. There is a Bush-Cheney stream of criminal and unconstitutional actions which are on auto-pilot day after day. You have pointed out some of these abominations such as a policy and practice of torture and violations of due process and probable cause. The task before you is to break these daily patterns just as soon as you ascend to the Presidency or be held increasingly responsible for them. This can be significantly accomplished by executive orders, agency or departmental directives, whistle-blower protections, enforcement actions and explicit legislative proposals.

With Americans wishing you well in this most portentous of times, the last thing they want to see is you tarnished by the preceding rogue regime and its ruthless monarchical forays. To avoid this contagion of power over law and its contiguous accountabilities at a time when you are striving for a “clean slate” administration, you must be decisive and eschew any excessive harmony ideology which has seemed to be your nature vis-à-vis those who are powerful but are opposed to your views.

One possible impediment to your making a comprehensive clean break for restoring the rule of law is that you have too easy an act to follow. There are a long list of violated civil liberties that need to be restored (the American Civil Liberties Union has compiled a list of immediate actions for you to take), and resolute commitments must be made so that it is clear the United States, for example, will not engage in, or countenance, torture. Only a few restorations, however, would produce a sense of relief and flurry of accolades — but they are hardly sufficient.

There are also regulations and interpretations of statutes that scholars believe to have been erroneous as a matter of law. As one guide for your new era of overdue regulation or reregulation—given the corporate wrongdoing these days—you may wish to refer to the Center for Progressive Reform’s report By the Stroke of the Pen.

The Bush lawlessness and state terrorism are like a contagious disease. If you do not remove their sprawling incidence, you will become their carrier. This means you must move fast to eject the mantle of war criminality and repeated unconstitutional outrages committed in the name of the American people here and abroad.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

Confronting the Terrorist Within December 1, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Posted on Dec 1, 2008, www.truthdig.com
AP file photo

A mother tends to her injured child in a hospital 35 miles northeast of Baghdad after a U.S airstrike that killed three civilians and wounded five others.

By Chris Hedges

The Hindu-Muslim communal violence that led to the attacks in Mumbai, as well as the warnings that the New York City transit system may have been targeted by al-Qaida, are one form of terrorism. There are other forms.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when viewed from the receiving end, are state-sponsored acts of terrorism. These wars defy every ethical and legal code that seek to determine when a nation can wage war, from Just War Theory to the statutes of international law largely put into place by the United States after World War II. These wars are criminal wars of aggression. They have left hundreds of thousands of people, who never took up arms against us, dead and seen millions driven from their homes. We have no right as a nation to debate the terms of these occupations. And an Afghan villager, burying members of his family’s wedding party after an American airstrike, understands in a way we often do not that terrorist attacks can also be unleashed from the arsenals of an imperial power.

Barack Obama’s decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and leave behind tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines in Iraq—he promises only to withdraw combat brigades—is a failure to rescue us from the status of a rogue nation. It codifies Bush’s “war on terror.” And the continuation of these wars will corrupt and degrade our nation just as the long and brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has corrupted and degraded Israel. George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has bitten it.

The invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were our response to feelings of vulnerability and collective humiliation after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They were a way to exorcise through reciprocal violence what had been done to us. 

Collective humiliation is also the driving force behind al-Qaida and most terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden cites the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which led to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as the beginning of Arab humiliation. He attacks the agreement for dividing the Muslim world into “fragments.” He rails against the presence of American troops on the soil of his native Saudi Arabia. The dark motivations of Islamic extremists mirror our own.

Robert Pape in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” found that most suicide bombers are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation. Almost every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent—carried out attacks to drive out an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Kashmir, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. The large number of Saudis among the 9/11 hijackers appears to support this finding.

A militant who phoned an Indian TV station from the Jewish center in Mumbai during the recent siege offered to talk with the government for the release of hostages. He complained about army abuses in Kashmir, where ruthless violence has been used to crush a Muslim insurgency. “Ask the government to talk to us and we will release the hostages,” he said, speaking in Urdu with what sounded like a Kashmiri accent.

“Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir? Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims? Are you aware how many of them have been killed in Kashmir this week?” he asked.

Terrorists, many of whom come from the middle class, support acts of indiscriminate violence not because of direct, personal affronts to their dignity, but more often for lofty, abstract ideas of national, ethnic or religious pride and the establishment of a utopian, harmonious world purged of evil.  The longer the United States occupies Afghanistan and Iraq, the more these feelings of collective humiliation are aggravated and the greater the number of jihadists willing to attack American targets. 

We have had tens of thousands of troops stationed in the Middle East since 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The presence of these troops is the main appeal, along with the abuse meted out to the Palestinians by Israel, of bin Laden and al-Qaida. Terrorism, as Pape wrote, “is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.”

The decision by the incoming Obama administration to embrace an undefined, amorphous “war on terror” will keep us locked in a war without end. This war has no clear definition of victory, unless victory means the death or capture of every terrorist on earth—an impossibility. It is a frightening death spiral. It feeds on itself. The concept of a “war on terror” is no less apocalyptic or world-purifying than the dreams and fantasies of terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

The vain effort to purify the world through force is always self-defeating. Those who insist that the world can be molded into their vision are the most susceptible to violence as antidote. The more uncertainty, fear and reality impinge on this utopian vision, the more strident, absolutist and aggressive are those who call for the eradication of “the enemy.” Immanuel Kant called absolute moral imperatives that are used to carry out immoral acts “a radical evil.” He wrote that this kind of evil was always a form of unadulterated self-love. It was the worst type of self-deception. It provided a moral façade for terror and murder. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a “radical evil.”

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