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America Is Committing Brutal Acts of Torture Right Now December 12, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Imperialism, Torture.
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Roger’s note: the United States was founded on the genocide of the First Nations peoples, the brutal slavery of Africans, and — in later times — aggressive wars and imperial exploitation of its Latino neighbors.  Given the bleak and degenerated state of Native Americans, African Americans and Latinos in the United States, it is difficult not to look back, as Barack Obama (a war criminal himself) wants us to do when it comes to the American torture program.  Most want to believe that past atrocities are behind us.  That is a cruel illusion.  It is time to face the Truth.

NA/TORTURE

Torture has been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since WWII.

The grisly details of CIA torture have finally been at least partly aired through the release this Tuesday of the executive summary to a landmark Senate intelligence committee report. The extent of the torture has been covered extensively across the media, and is horrifying. But much of the media coverage of this issue is missing the crucial bigger picture: the deliberate rehabilitation of torture under the Obama administration, and its systematic use to manufacture false intelligence to justify endless war.

Torture victims, who had been detained by the US national security apparatus entirely outside any sort of recognizable functioning system of due process, endured a litany of extreme abuses normally associated with foreign dictatorships: 180-hour sleep deprivation, forced “rectal feeding,” rectal “exams” using “excessive force,” standing for dozens of hours on broken limbs, waterboarding, being submerged in iced baths, and on and on.

Yet for the most part, it has been assumed that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program” originated under the Bush administration after 9/11 and was a major “aberration” from normal CIA practice, as one US former military prosecutor put it in the Guardian. On BBC Newsnight yesterday, presenter Emily Maitlis asked Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under Carter, about the problem of “rogue elements in the CIA,” and whether this was inevitable due to the need for secrecy in intelligence.

High-level sanction

Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the second World War, continuing even today under the careful recalibration of Obama and his senior military intelligence officials. The key function of torture, largely overlooked by the pundits, is its role in manufacturing nebulous threats that legitimize the existence and expansion of the national security apparatus.

The CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was formally approved at the highest levels of the civilian administration. We have known for years that torture was officially sanctioned by at least President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA directors George Tenet and Michael Hayden, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Yet the focus on the Bush administration serves a useful purpose. While the UN has called for prosecutions of Bush officials, Obama himself is excused on the pretext that he banned domestic torture in 2009, and reiterated the ban abroad this November.

Even Dan Froomklin of the Intercept congratulated the November move as a “win” for the “good guys.” Indeed, with the release of the Senate report, Obama’s declaration that he has ended “the CIA’s detention and interrogation program” has been largely uncritically reported by both mainstream and progressive media, reinforcing this narrative.

Rehabilitating the torture regime

Yet Obama did not ban torture in 2009, and has not rescinded it now. He instead rehabilitated torture with a carefully crafted Executive Order that has received little scrutiny. He demanded, for instance, that interrogation techniques be made to fit the US Army Field Manual, which complies with the Geneva Convention and has prohibited torture since 1956.

But in 2006, revisions were made to the Army Field Manual, in particular through ‘Appendix M’, which contained interrogation techniques that went far beyond the original Geneva-inspired restrictions of the original version of the manual. This includes 19 methods of interrogation and the practice of extraordinary rendition. As pointed out by US psychologist Jeff Kaye who has worked extensively with torture victims, a new UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) review of the manual shows that a wide-range of torture techniques continue to be deployed by the US government, including isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules, among others.

Indeed, the revelations contained in the Senate report are a mere fraction of the totality of torture techniques deployed by the CIA and other agencies. Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen born and raised in Germany who was detained in Guantanomo for five years, has charged that he had been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, repeated beatings, water-dunking, electric shock treatment, and suspension by his arms, by US forces.

On Jan. 22, 2009, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, then Obama’s director of national intelligence, told the Senate intelligence committee that the Army Field Manual would be amended to allow new forms of harsh interrogation, but that these changes would remain classified:

“We have large amounts of unclassified  doctrine for our troops to use, but we don’t put anything in there that our enemies can use against us. And we’ll figure it out for this manual… there will be some sort of  document that’s widely available in an unclassified form, but  the specific techniques that can provide training value to  adversaries, we will handle much more carefully.”

Obama’s supposed banning of the CIA’s secret rendition programs was also a misnomer. While White House officials insisted that from now on, detainees would not be rendered to “any country that engages in torture,” rendered detainees were already being sent to countries in the EU that purportedly do not sanction torture, where they were then tortured by the CIA.

Obama did not really ban the CIA’s use of secret prisons either, permitting indefinite detention of people without due process “on a short-term transitory basis.”

Half a century of torture as a system

What we are seeing now is not the Obama administration putting an end to torture, but rather putting an end to the open acknowledgement of the use of torture as a routine intelligence practice.

But the ways of old illustrate that we should not be shocked by the latest revelations. Declassified CIA training manuals from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, prove that the CIA has consistently practiced torture long before the Bush administration attempted to legitimize the practice publicly.

In his seminal study of the subject, A Question of Torture, US history professor Alfred W. McCoy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison proves using official documents and interviews with intelligence sources that the use of torture has been a systematic practice of US and British intelligence agencies, sanctioned at the highest levels, over “the past half century.” Since the second World War, he writes, a “distinctive US covert-warfare doctrine… in which psychological torture has emerged as a central if clandestine facet of American foreign policy.”

The psychological paradigm deployed the CIA fused two methods in particular, “sensory disorientation” and so-called “self-inflicted pain.” These methods were based on intensive “behavioural research that made psychological torture NATO’s secret weapon against communism and cognitive science the handmaiden of state security.”

“From 1950 to 1962,” McCoy found, “the CIA became involved in torture through a massive mind-control effort, with psychological warfare and secret research into human consciousness that reached a cost of a billion dollars annually.”

The pinnacle of this effort was the CIA’s Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation handbook finalized in 1963, which determined the agency’s interrogation methods around the world. In the ensuing decade, the agency trained over a million police officers across 47 countries in torture. A later incarnation of the CIA torture training doctrine emerged under Freedom of Information in the form of the 1983 Human Resources Training Exploitation Manual.

Power… and propaganda

One of the critical findings of the Senate report is that torture simply doesn’t work, and consistently fails to produce meaningful intelligence. So why insist on its use? For McCoy, the addiction to torture itself is a symptom of a deep-seated psychological disorder, rather than a rational imperative: “In sum, the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis, not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment.”

He is right, but in the post-9/11 era, there is more to the national security apparatus’ chronic torture addiction than this. It is not a mere accident that torture generates vacuous intelligence, yet continues to be used and justified for intelligence purposes. For instance, the CIA claimed that its torture of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) led to the discovery and thwarting of a plot to hijack civilian planes at Heathrow and crash them into the airport and buildings in Canary Wharf. The entire plot, however, was an invention provoked by torture that included waterboarding, “facial and abdominal slaps, the facial grab, stress positions, standing sleep deprivation” and “rectal rehydration.”

As one former senior CIA official who had read all KSM’s interrogation reports told Vanity Fair, “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” Another ex-Pentagon analyst said that torturing KSM had produced “no actionable intelligence.”

Torture also played a key role in the much-hyped London ricin plot. Algerian security services alerted British intelligence in January 2003 to the so-called plot after interrogating and torturing a “terrorist suspect,” former British resident Mohammed Meguerba. We now know there was no plot. Four of the defendants were acquitted of terrorism and four others had the cases against them abandoned. Only Kamal Bourgass was convicted after he murdered Special Branch Detective Constable Stephen Oake during a raid. Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has also blown the whistle on how the CIA would render “terror suspects” to the country to be tortured by Uzbek secret police, including being boiled alive. The confessions generated would be sent to the CIA and MI6 to be fed into “intelligence” reports. Murray described the reports as “bollocks,” replete with false information not worth the “bloodstained paper” they were written on.

Many are unaware that the 9/11 Commission report is exactly such a document. Nearly a third of the report’s footnotes reference information obtained from detainees subject to “enhanced” interrogation by the CIA. In 2004, the commission demanded that the CIA conduct “new rounds of interrogations” to get answers to its questions. As investigative reporter Philip Shennon pointed out in Newsweek, this has “troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report” and “its account of the 9/11 plot and al-Qaeda’s history.” Which is why lawyers for the chief 9/11 mastermind suspects now say after the release of the Senate report that the case for prosecution may well unravel.

That torture generates false information has long been known to the intelligence community. Much of the CIA’s techniques are derived from reverse-engineering Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training, where US troops are briefly exposed in controlled settings to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemy forces, so that they can better resist treatment they might face if they are captured. SERE training, however, adopted tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes, according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report in 2009.

Torture: core mechanism to legitimize threat projection

By deploying the same techniques, the intelligence community was not seeking to identify real threats; it was seeking to manufacture threats for the purpose of justifying war. As David Rose found after interviewing “numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic,” their unanimous verdict was that “coercive methods” had squandered massive resources to manufacture “false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts.” Far from exposing any deadly plots, torture led only to “more torture” of supposed accomplices of terror suspects “while also providing some misleading ‘information’ that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.” But the Iraq War was not about responding to terrorism. According to declassified British Foreign Office files, it was about securing control over Persian Gulf oil and gas resources, and opening them up to global markets to avert a portended energy crisis.

In other words, torture plays a pivotal role in the Pentagon’s posture of permanent global war: generating spurious overblown intelligence that can be fed-in to official security narratives of imminent terrorist threats everywhere, in turn requiring evermore empowerment of the security agencies, and legitimizing military expansionism in strategic regions.

The Obama administration is now exploiting the new Senate report to convince the world that the intelligence community’s systematic embroilment in torture was merely a Bush-era aberration that is now safely in the past.

Do not be fooled. Obama has rehabilitated and recalibrated the covert torture apparatus, and is attempting to leverage the torture report’s damning findings to claim moral high ground his administration doesn’t have. The torture regime is alive and well, but it has been put back in the box of classified secrecy to continue without public scrutiny.

Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, author and international security scholar. He writes the System Shift column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his former work at the Guardian. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel Zero Point, among other books. 

 

To end terrorism by Muslims, end wars on Muslims: Siddiqui November 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: It is refreshing, if rare,  to see a main stream media outlet publish an opinion that flies in the face of the official narrative (only war is the solution), one that is sold in the proud tradition of the Big Lie by governments and corporate media alike.  The author of this article himself finishes with this: “The long-term solution to ending terrorism by some Muslims, homegrown or otherwise, is to end Western wars on many Muslims. Yet, curiously, this statement of the obvious is rarely if ever mentioned by our politicians and pundits.”

Syria is the seventh predominantly Muslim country bombed by the U.S. during Barack Obama’s presidency

An explosion follows an air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani on Oct. 28, 2014.

KUTLUHAN CUCEL / GETTY IMAGES

An explosion follows an air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani on Oct. 28, 2014.

Laura Bush was all for saving Afghan women and children from the evil Taliban. So were some feminists, becoming unwitting enablers of America’s long and botched occupation of Afghanistan. So were Stephen Harper and acolytes — until our military mission there came to an end.

Now Harper and Co. are saving Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish minorities from the axes and knives of the evil Islamic State.

But the American-led bombing campaign is already running out of targets, as the jihadists have moved away from open spaces into populated areas. Canadian F-18 jets are bombing trucks and sundry equipment.

Barack Obama, Harper and other allies concede that the caliphate cannot be obliterated without deploying ground troops, which they are unwilling to commit. Instead, they will arm the Iraqi Kurdish militia and train Iraqi forces. The latter will take years, with no guarantee that the newly minted battalions won’t do what the previous batches of American-trained troops did — abandon their posts and cede territory, and their American arms, to the marauding jihadists.

In fact, there’s no military solution. What’s needed is a political settlement in both Iraq and Syria, which is nowhere on the horizon.

An inclusive government in Baghdad would have to entice away two key groups that joined the Islamic State only to protect their interests — several Sunni tribes and former Baathist army officers. The latter have been the brains behind the jihadists’ military strategy of controlling water resources, oil refineries and border posts between Iraq and Syria.

In Syria, a solution is not likely without the help of Russia and Iran. Neither would help without getting something in return — in the case of Iran, a nuclear deal and the lifting of economic sanctions, which Israel, Saudi Arabia and other American allies vociferously oppose.

The longer the current bombing campaign lasts, the more legitimate the Islamic State will become and attract more wannabe jihadists from around the world, including the West.

Why? Not because Muslims are savages and Islam is “a violent religion,” as we are repeatedly told, but because Syria is “the seventh predominantly Muslim country bombed by the U.S. during his (Obama’s) presidency” — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq — “and he is the fourth consecutive U.S. president to order bombs dropped on Iraq,” writes Glenn Greenwald , well-known American commentator (his italics).

Plus, there have been “the bombing and occupation of still other predominantly Muslim countries by key U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, carried out with crucial American support. It excludes coups against democratically elected governments, torture, and imprisonment of people with no charges.”

By another measure, the latest bombing is the 14th time the U.S. has attacked a Muslim nation since 1980, writes American military historian Andrew Bacevich in the Washington Post.

He notes that in trying to keep its hold on the Middle East, especially its oil and gas, the U.S. has been good at toppling governments and destroying countries and civilizations, but singularly inept at nation-building — leaving behind chaos and power vacuums.

Bacevich: “By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order with something more to their liking. This is the so-called caliphate that Osama bin Laden yearned to create and that now exists in embryonic form in portions of Iraq and Syria.”

Obama seemed to grasp this, which is why he resisted getting entangled in Syria and re-entangled in Iraq. But the gruesome beheading of two Americans and the ethnic cleansing of minorities galvanized public opinion and forced his hand on the eve of the American mid-term elections (which the Democrats have lost, anyway).

Washington is sending mixed signals — Obama’s half-hearted bombing campaign and the Pentagon’s assertions of a multi-year commitment of more American and allied military “advisers.”

Harper used to say that we were in Afghanistan to ensure the Taliban terrorists didn’t come to Canada. Now he says that if we are not in Iraq, the Islamists will come to your neighbourhood. The reverse is more likely. They may come here because we are attacking them there. Or their sympathizers here will do the job for them. This prompts the response, already used by Harper, that we are not going to be frightened off the war we have chosen to wage. Fine — but what’s the end game? That’s what Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau should be demanding of Harper. That’s what all Canadians, regardless of ideology or partisan preference, should be asking.

The long-term solution to ending terrorism by some Muslims, homegrown or otherwise, is to end Western wars on many Muslims. Yet, curiously, this statement of the obvious is rarely if ever mentioned by our politicians and pundits.

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

The Spirit of Columbus – Jesus Christ, Columbus, and the US Constitution October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Religion, War.
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Roger’s note: Although somewhat abstract and speculative, not to mention Manichean,  I found this article to be quite interesting.  With respect to the notion of freedom/justice, my understanding is that Marx found in Hegel’s idealistic philosophy the highest ideal of freedom and with his look at the actual relations between capital and living human labor in his time of the Industrial Revolution, he brought the idealism down from the sky and into the real world, showing that freedom is the capacity to be the sole owner of your own human creativity.

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/13/2013 at 08:00:01,
published originally on CounterPunch

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Officially celebrated in the US on the second Monday of October, Columbus first made landfall in the Americas, in what is now the Bahamas, on October 12, 1492. And though, in his eyes, he did stumble onto the shores of a new world, what is more important for the present inquiry is the fact that Columbus immediately imposed the Order of the old world upon the one he invaded. The law of force (articulated in the European legal tradition’s Doctrine of Conquest, which grants invaders legal title to the lands they conquer) was subsequently imposed throughout the Americas and beyond. Though this doctrine was formally abolished by the UN in 1974, insofar as it continues to determine the distribution of the planet’s resources, the right of conquest in many respects continues to  determine the course of our lives. And while it is crucial to remember the atrocities that Columbus and his successors committed throughout the world during the so-called Age of Discovery, it is equally important to recognize the fact that, though its forms may have changed, the underlying Order that Columbus initiated (with all of its violent implications) continues to operate in politics, economics, and law – that is, systemically – throughout the world today.

It is said that events occur in groups of three. With this in mind, it is interesting to consider the fact that Christopher Columbus was born in the year 1451 – in the year of the death of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, and the ascension of the sultan’s son and heir, Mehmed II. In the following year, 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued his notorious Dum Diversas, the papal decree declaring war against all of the world’s non-Christians. Thirdly, one year later, in 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered  Constantinople, delivering the terminal blow to the 1500-year-old Eastern Roman Empire.

Among the results of their military triumph in Constantinople, the Ottoman Turks made significant geopolitical inroads into Christian Europe. Importantly, this included wresting control of the invaluable overland trade routes to India, China, and the other lands to the east from the Europeans. The subsequent influx of Byzantine refugees into Christian Italy, with their classical texts in tow, contributed to the flourishing of learning and secularism that marked the Italian Renaissance. And it is likely that this proliferation of classic Greek and Roman texts, many of which treated the sphericity of the world as an ancient and uncontentious theory, contributed to Columbus’ adoption of this topographical notion. Among its other consequences, the Turk’s capture of Constantinople led the banking centers of Europe to shift from the markets of the eastern Mediterranean to the ports of the west, whose sea-routes now allowed traders easier access to the Indies. And it was from just such a port along the Spanish coast that the Christian from the Italian city of Genoa would embark in search of a western sea-route to Asia, spreading – whether willfully or not is unimportant –  Christian and Roman political, economic, and theological institutions (the old world) to the Americas.

While they were to some degree mediated by Christian influences, Roman forms of power and institutions of governance were to take firm root in the so-called new world. As the historian Gordon S. Wood informs us, the founders of the United States themselves consciously modeled not only their political, but also their social projects on Classical Roman forms. Today, few places evince this more strikingly than what is arguably the most politically powerful city in the Americas – a city that, not coincidentally, couples the name of George Washington, that admirer of Roman thought and virtue, with Columbus’. Beyond the classical appearance of Washington, D.C.’s buildings and monuments, the political institutions they house are also heavily indebted to Roman models. To cite probably the most obvious example, the main legislative body of the US, the senate – Latin for council of elders (and etymologically related, incidentally, to the word ‘senile’) – is derived from the Roman institution of the same name.

Regarding governmental, administrative, and economic forms of power persisting from Rome to the present, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben observes in his treatise on political power, The Kingdom and the Glory, that the constitutional separation of powers schema of the US Constitution, among others modeled on Montesquieu’s tripartite division, can be traced directly to the Christian Trinity and the administrative apparatus of the Church. To be sure, it is not difficult to see the father – god, the creator of law – as an analogue of the legislative branch. Moreover, the son, Jesus, often referred to as the one who judges, may be seen to correspond to the institution of the judiciary. Lastly, the Holy Spirit – defined by the Fourth Lateral Council of 1215 as that “who proceeds” – corresponds to the executive branch. Insofar as the transitive verb ‘to execute’ means to carry out fully, the executive branch of government conforms to this notion of one “who proceeds” quite closely.

Yet while the correspondence between the separation of powers and the Trinity is very close, today’s constitutional schema and the theological and ideological justifications that accompany it can be traced to structures of power that significantly predate the Trinity. Beyond the mixed constitution Aristotle described in his Politics, there is a Hellenic progenitor to the Trinity – itself an echo of paleolithic religious structures – that predates the Trinity by many centuries. And not only does the structure of the Greek Moirai, or Fates, predate the Trinity, it also matches the US Constitution’s separation of power schema with uncanny preciseness.

Like the Trinity and the three branches of government, the Fates (the three daughters of Necessity) are one power that has three distinct aspects. Corresponding to the legislature, Clotho, the spinner, spins the thread of life. Corresponding to the judiciary, Lachesis, the measurer, measures this thread. And Atropos, the cutter, cuts the thread of life. Curiously, in describing his job as “the decider” – which literally means ‘to cut’ – George W. Bush confirms this correspondence between the executive and Atropos.

Among other things, it is important to point out that in Greek myth the Fates were more powerful than all of the gods – even Zeus, who alone was more powerful than all of the other gods combined, could do nothing but adhere to the dictates of the Fates. As such, it seems appropriate that Law should mirror their form. Yet the general rule of the Fates’ supremacy had one exception. Asklepios, the son of the god Apollo, and a powerful healer (who, in addition to other feats, could raise the dead), was through his healing power able to overrule the Fates’ Order – demonstrating that what appeared to be a necessary power was, in fact, not necessary at all. Threatened by his incursion into their monopoly over divine power, the Fates soon determined that Zeus would destroy Asklepios with a bolt of lightning. Shortly after his death, Asklepios was resurrected as a god and raised into the heavens. It does not take a terribly keen eye to see in this a likeness to another son of a god who raised the dead, healed the sick and the lame, was killed for threatening power, and was resurrected as a god himself. In fact, in many respects Asklepios is a prototype of Jesus of Nazareth – at least one aspect of Jesus. For while Jesus is represented as both a healer and a shepherd (the latter role, as Michel Foucault informs us in his elaboration of the notion of pastoral power, is a dominating, oppressive force), Asklepios is only a healer. And just as the healer Asklepios is able to overrule the Fates (as justice, or the spirit of the law, is said to prevail over its dead letter), Jesus (in his role as healer and champion of the poor and oppressed) stands opposed to not only his shepherdly role, but the pastoral, dominating power that manifests in the Trinity and the institution of the Church as well.

In light of the above it is revealing that, in his oft-quoted diary entry of 1498, Columbus wrote: “let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.” That is, it is the pastoral power of the administrative body of the church – the power of law, of violence, sanctioned by the papal decrees of 1452 and 1493 – that Columbus is referring to and conspiring with, and decidedly not with the healer. Indeed, the enslavement, murder, and other atrocities committed by Columbus over the course of his conquest may be viewed as the very opposite of healing.

This tension between Jesus the healer and Jesus the shepherd/the Trinity (which matches the opposition between Asklepios and the Fates, and between the spirit and the letter of the law) makes another important appearance in the Americas. Three centuries after Columbus’ voyage this same dynamic appears in the US Constitution. As with the Fates, a dominating power is “separated” into three parts – into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. And just as the Fates are not only opposed, but neutralized, by Asklepios, it is important to recognize that the Constitution’s Power is at once opposed and legitimated by a notion of justice that (in addition to the “general welfare” of the people) is intimately related to the concept of health. To be sure, it is no small coincidence that Asklepios’ daughter – the Greek goddess of healing – was known to the Romans as Salus; and Salus, the Roman goddess of health, in turn pops up in the ancient Roman legal maxim salus populi suprema lex esto. Translated as the health of the people is the supreme law, the maxim has been interpreted to hold that laws and practices that are hostile to the health of the people (however defined) are devoid of legitimacy altogether.

Absorbed into ancient Roman Law as a constitutional metanorm, the maxim spread throughout the legal systems of Europe, and across the globe. And though it has been subjected to diametrical interpretations (for health is often conflated with not only mere strength and power, but with an obsession with purity which leads to oppression and, ironically, dis-ease), and has bolstered the regimes of tyrants, it is vital to note that the maxim has been employed just as frequently in efforts to liberate people from the domination of tyrants. For instance, while common lands were being privatized in England during the enclosure period, the Levellers employed the maxim to justify their efforts to wrest land from dominating powers and distribute land in an egalitarian manner. Though authoritarian thinkers like Thomas Hobbes would use the maxim to justify absolutism and domination, it was the emancipatory, “Asklepian” interpretation of the maxim that would become most influential in the British colonies. It was just this interpretation that the North American colonists repeated in their efforts to legitimize their struggles for liberation from the British Crown. The health of the people is the supreme law, they argued; and because domination by the British Empire (not to mention any other form of domination) is hostile to people’s health, this rule lacks legitimacy and must be dissolved.

While the emancipatory spirit animating the employment of the maxim may have been frustrated by the re-emergence of dominating power (one that manifested in the US Constitution, with its enshrinement of slavery, among other economic institutions), just as the figure of Asklepios would counter the dominating power of the Fates, the maxim salus populi suprema lex esto would continue (in limited ways) to be employed to combat harms perpetrated against the health of the people – condemning noxious  industrial enterprises, for example, and nullifying debts, among other things. Though shrouded in myth, this is not purely happenstance. An important  equivalence exists between actual justice and actual health. In many respects the conditions necessary for health — the freedom from conditions of disease and domination, and the freedom to access all the resources health requires — are indistinct from the concrete conditions of justice. One may even argue that the maxim provides a basis for positive rights to housing, health care, and other elements of health. For if the health of the people is the supreme law, that which is hostile to the health of the people is against the law. As such, conditions that are hostile to health must be corrected – corrected by supplying those conditions necessary for the actual health and well being of the people of the world – such as housing, nutritious food, a healthy environment, etc. This ought to be the top social and economic priority of any society that claims to respect justice. And because we redirect our society to the extent that we reinterpret it, such a reinterpretation of the maxim – among other things – is crucial today.

In a world in which harms are systematically reproduced (from wars, global warming, and the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima, to the more mundane epidemics of poverty, occupational disease, and police brutality), and the political-economy of domination – of which Columbus was as much an effect as a cause – continues to plague the health of the people of the world, it is important to recognize that embedded within the power-structure that Columbus conveyed to the Americas is the germ of its destruction. Implicit in the dominating power of the Fates (law as mere Order) is the liberating power of Asklepios (law as Justice), and the potentially emancipatory constitutional metanorm that the actual health of the people should be the supreme law.

http://hygiecracy.blogspot.com

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and contributor to hygiecracy.blogspot.com. He lives in New York City.

 

 

In Oval Office Meeting, Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama to End Drone Strikes in Pakistan October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror, Women.
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ROGER’S NOTE: I TURN OVER MY “ROGER’S NOTE” SPACE TODAY TO “TUTTLE,” WHO COMMENTED ON THIS ARTICLE IN COMMONDREAMS.ORG:

President Obama in conversation with Malala in the Oval Office

“Well Malala, it goes like this. I am the Ruling Elite and you are not. Your life is yet just another mere commodity to be used as fodder to heat the machine that devours the planet and the rest of your class. Posing with you here today is like posing with the Turkey I pardon every year when the American people celebrate the genocide carried out on the original peoples that inhabited this country. These people are now just an embarrassment and a nuisance. Which brings me back to you and your people. You see Malala your life is worthless to me and my investors. These photo-ops are just to keep the illusion going that we care. And you are now a willing participant in that fairytale. If you threaten me or my class or their ability to make a profit… I have a list… Where is that list?…Malia, darling could hand your father that piece of paper… thank you. See Malala, I have the right to Kill anyone in the ENTIRE world. ANYONE. yes, even U.S. citizens… see here, I killed a young man no more than a couple years older than you. And that was because of who his father was! hahaha! Imagine! Now Imagine, if you, Malala truly stood up and spoke out against me and my friends. So just to let you know, I will drone anyone anywhere I feel like because that’s just apart of my job as Ruler of the free world. Now smile for the camera.
Say Freedom!”

 

 

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

 

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughter Malia meet with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago, in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2013. PETE SOUZA — Official White House photo

Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by members of the Taliban for speaking out on women’s right to education, told President Barack Obama in an Oval Office meeting on Friday that he should stop drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan.

In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.

 

“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

 

Yousafzai—the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize—was invited to the White House “for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.

 

Yousafzai also recently called on the U.S. and U.K. governments to end military attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in an interview with BBC.

 

“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,” she told BBC. “That’s not an issue for me, that’s the job of the government… and that’s also the job of America.”

 

Yousafzai was awarded a prestigious international human rights award—the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—on Thursday, but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, as was announced on Friday.

 

 

Humanity Is Drowning In Washington’s Criminality August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Democracy, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
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Roger’s note: before reading this article, please not that the author is not Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader, but rather a former official in the Reagan administration and writer for the Wall Street Journal.  

 

1a-jpg_12495_20130813-522

 

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/13/2013 at 16:06:54
Americans will soon be locked into an unaccountable police state unless US Representatives and Senators find the courage to ask questions and to sanction the executive branch officials who break the law, violate the Constitution, withhold information from Congress, and give false information about their crimes against law, the Constitution, the American people and those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.  Congress needs to use the impeachment power that the Constitution provides and cease being subservient to the lawless executive branch. The US faces no threat that justifies the lawlessness and abuse of police powers that characterize the executive branch in the 21st century.

Impeachment is the most important power of Congress. Impeachment is what protects the citizens, the Constitution, and the other branches of government from abuse by the executive branch. If the power to remove abusive executive branch officials is not used, the power ceases to exist. An unused power is like a dead letter law. Its authority disappears. By acquiescing to executive branch lawlessness, Congress has allowed the executive branch to place itself above law and to escape accountability for its violations of law and the Constitution.
National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper blatantly lied to Congress and remains in office. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, has also misled Congress, and he remains in office.  Attorney General Holder avoids telling Congress the truth on just about every subject, and he also remains in office.  The same can be said for President Obama, one of the great deceivers of our time, who is so adverse to truth that truth seldom finds its way out of his mouth.
If an American citizen lies to a federal investigator, even if not under oath, the citizen can be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison.  Yet, these same federal personnel can lie to Congress and to citizens with impunity. Whatever the American political system is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with accountable government. In Amerika no one is accountable but citizens, who are accountable not only to law but also to unaccountable charges for which no evidence is required.
Congress has the power to impeach any presidential appointee as well as the president.  In the 1970s Congress was going to impeach President Richard Nixon simply because he lied about when he learned of the Watergate burglary. To avoid impeachment, Nixon resigned. In the 1990s, the House impeached President Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual affair with a White House intern. The Senate failed to convict, no doubt as many had sexual affairs of their own and didn’t want to be held accountable themselves.
In the 1970s when I was on the Senate staff, corporate lobbyists would send attractive women to seduce Senators so that the interest groups could blackmail the Senators to do their bidding. Don’t be surprised if the NSA has adopted this corporate practice.
The improprieties of Nixon and Clinton were minor, indeed of little consequence, when compared to the crimes of George W. Bush and Obama, their vice presidents, and the bulk of their presidential appointees. Yet, impeachment is “off the table,” as Nancy Pelosi infamously declared. Why do Californian voters send a person to Congress who refuses to protect them from an  unaccountable executive branch? Who does Nancy Pelosi serve? Certainly not the people of California. Most certainly not the US Constitution. Pelosi is in total violation of her oath of office. Will Californians re-elect her yet again? Little wonder America is failing.
The question demanding to be asked is: What is the purpose of the domestic surveillance of all Americans? This is surveillance out of all proportion to the alleged terrorist threat. The US Constitution is being ignored and domestic law violated. Why?  Does the US government have an undeclared agenda for which the “terrorist threat” is a cover?
What is this agenda? Whose agenda is more important than the US Constitution and the accountability of government to law? No citizen is secure unless government is accountable to the Constitution and to law. It is an absurd idea that any American is more threatened by terrorism than by unaccountable government that can execute them, torture them, and throw them in prison for life without due process or any accountability whatsoever. Under Bush/Obama, the US has returned to the unaccountable power of caesars, czars, and autocrats.
In the famous play, “A Man For All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England, asks: So, you would have me to cut down the law in order to chase after devils? And what will we do, with the law cut down, when the devil turns on us?
This is the most important legal question ever asked, and it is seldom asked today,  not in our law schools, not by our bar associations, and most certainly not by the Justice (sic) Department or US Attorneys.
American conservatives regard civil liberties as mere excuses for liberal judges to coddle criminals and terrorists. Never expect a conservative Republican, or more than two or three of them, to defend your civil liberty. Republicans simply do not believe in civil liberty. Democrats cannot conceive that Obama — the first black president in office, a member of an oppressed minority — would not defend civil liberty. This combination of disinterest and denial is why the US has become a police state.
Civil liberty has few friends in government, the political parties, law schools, bar associations, or the federal judiciary. Consequently, no citizen is secure. Recently, a housewife researched online for pressure cookers looking for the best deal. Her husband was searching for a backpack. The result was that a fully armed SWAT team appeared at the door demanding to search the premises and to have questions answered.
I am always amazed when someone says: “I haven’t done anything wrong. I have nothing to fear.” If you have nothing to fear from the government, why did the Founding Fathers put the protections in the Constitution that Bush and Obama have stripped out?

Unlike the Founding Fathers who designed our government to protect the citizens, the American sheeple trust the government to their own demise.
Glenn Greenwald recently explained how the mass of data that is being accumulated on every American is being mined for any signs of non-terrorist-related criminal behavior. As such warrantless searches are illegal evidence in a criminal trial, the authorities disguise the illegal way in which the evidence is obtained in order to secure conviction based on illegally obtained evidence.
In other words, the use of the surveillance justified by the “war on terror” has already spread into prosecutions of ordinary criminals where it has corrupted legal safeguards and the integrity, if any, of the criminal court system, prosecutors and judges.
This is just one of the many ways in which you have much to fear, whether you think you are doing anything wrong or not. You can be framed for crimes based on inferences drawn from your Internet activity and jokes with friends on social media. Jurors made paranoid by the “terrorist threat” will convict you.
We should be very suspicious of the motive behind the universal spying on US citizens. The authorities are aware that the terrorist threat does not justify the unconstitutional and illegal spying. There have been hardly any real terrorist events in the US, which is why the FBI has to find clueless people around whom to organize an FBI orchestrated plot in order to keep the “terrorist threat” alive in the public’s mind. At last count, there have been 150 “sting operations” in which the FBI recruits people, who are out of touch with reality, to engage in a well-paid FBI designed plot. Once the dupes agree, they are arrested as terrorists and the plot revealed, always with the accompanying statement that the public was never in any danger as the FBI was in control.
When 99 percent of all terrorism is organized by the FBI, why do we need NSA spying on every communication of every American and on people in the rest of the world?
Terrorism seldom comes from outside. The source almost always is the government in power. The Czarist secret police set off bombs in order to blame and arrest labor agitators. The Nazis burned down the Reichstag in order to decimate the communists and assume unaccountable power in the name of “public safety.” An alleged terrorist threat is a way of using fear to block popular objection to the exercise of arbitrary government power.
In order to be “safe from terrorists,” the US population, with few objections, has accepted the demise of their civil liberties, such as habeas corpus, which reaches back centuries to Magna Carta as a constraint on government power.  How, then, are they safe from their government?  Americans today are in the same position as the English prior to the Great Charter of 1215. Americans are no longer protected by law and the Constitution from government tyranny.
The reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution was to make citizens safe from their government. If citizens allow the government to take away the Constitution, they might be safe from foreign terrorists, but they are no longer safe from their government.
Who do you think has more power over you, foreign terrorists or “your” government?
Washington defines all resistance to its imperialism and tyranny as “terrorism.” Thus, Americans who defend the environment, who defend wildlife, who defend civil liberties and human rights, who protest Washington’s wars and robbery of the people on behalf of special interests, all become “domestic extremists,” the term Homeland Security has substituted for “terrorist.” Those who are out of step with Washington and the powerful private interests that exploit us, other peoples, and the earth for their profits and power fall into the wrong side of Bush’s black and white division of the world: “you are for us or against us.”
In the United States independent thought is on the verge of being criminalized as are constitutionally guaranteed protests and the freedom of the press. The constitutional principle of freedom of speech is being redefined as treason, as aiding an undefined enemy, and as seeking to overthrow the government by casting aspersions on its motives and revealing its secret misdeeds. The power-mad inhabitants of Washington have brought the US so close to Gestapo Germany and Stalinist Russia that it is no longer funny. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to see the difference.
The neoconservatives have declared that Americans are the “exceptional” and “indispensable people.” Yet, the civil liberties of Americans have declined the more “exceptional” and “indispensable” that Americans become. We are now so exceptional and indispensable that we no longer have any rights.
And neither does the rest of the world. Neoconservatism has created a new dangerous American nationalism.  Neoconservatives have given Washington a monopoly on right and endowed its military aggressions with a morality that supersedes the Geneva Conventions and human rights. Washington, justified by its “exceptionalism,” has the right to attack populations in countries with which Washington is not at war, such as Pakistan and Yemen. Washington is using the cover of its “exceptionalism” to murder people in many countries. Hitler tried to market the exceptionalism of the German people, but he lacked Washington’s Madison Avenue skills.
Washington is always morally right, whatever it does, and those who report its crimes are traitors who, stripped of their coddling by civil liberties, are locked away and abused until they confess to their crimes against the state. Anyone who tells the truth, such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, are branded enemies of the state and are ruthlessly persecuted.
How does the “indispensable, exceptional nation” have a diplomatic policy? How can a neoconized State Department be based on anything except coercion?  It can’t. That is why Washington produces nothing but war and threats of war.
Wherever a person looks, whatever a person hears, it is Washington’s threat — “we are going to bomb you into the stone age” if you don’t do what we want and agree to what we require. We are going to impose “sanctions,” Washington’s euphemism for embargoes, and starve your women and children to death, permit no medical supplies, ban you from the international payments system unless you relent and consent to being Washington’s puppet, and ban you from posting your news broadcasts on the Internet.
This is the face that Washington presents to the world: the hard, mean face of a tyrant.
Washington’s power will survive a bit longer, because there are still politicians in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the NGOs in Russia, who are paid off by the almighty dollar. In exchange for Washington’s money, they endorse Washington’s immorality and murderous destruction of law and life.
But the dollar is being destroyed by Quantitative Easing, and the domestic US economy is being destroyed by jobs offshoring.
Rome was powerful until the Germans ceased to believe it. Then the rotten edifice collapsed. Washington faces sooner or later the same fate. An inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional regime based on violence alone, devoid of all morality and all human compassion, is not acceptable to China, Russia, India, Iran, and Brazil, or to readers of this column.
The evil that is Washington cannot last forever. The criminals might destroy the world in nuclear war, but the lawlessness and lack of humanity in Washington, which murders more people as I write, is no longer acceptable to the rest of the world, not even to its European puppet states, despite the leaders being on Washington’s payroll.
Gorbachev is correct. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a debacle for the entire world. It transformed the US from the “city upon the hill,” the “beacon for humanity,” into an aggressive militarist state. Consequently, Amerika has become despised by everyone who has a moral conscience and a sense of justice.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

Omar Khadr to appeal terrorism convictions April 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Torture, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I have taken a great deal of interest in this case of gross injustice at the hands of the US Kangaroo Kourt, better known as the Military Commissions.  The “Commissions” in Military Commissions should stand for nothing less than the commission of criminal injustice.  The most moving documentary film I have ever seen is “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo,” which is reviewed in this segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMJuErMEK7g.  You can find more on Youtube.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr plans to appeal his terrorism convictions and hopes to walk free if his efforts are successful.

Janet Hamlin / AP

Khadr had pleaded guilty before a military commission in October 2010 to five war crimes — among them killing a U.S. special forces soldier — committed as a 15 year old in Afghanistan. He was given a further eight years behind bars.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr plans to appeal his terrorism convictions and hopes to walk free if his efforts are successful.

Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney said Saturday that the Toronto-born 26-year-old was “looking forward” to the appeal, which is expected to be filed “very soon.”

Khadr has been held in maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Kingston, Ont. since his transfer to Canada last September from Guantanamo Bay, where he had been held for a decade.

He had pleaded guilty before a widely discredited American military commission in October 2010 to five war crimes — among them the killing of a U.S. special forces soldier — committed in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old. He was given a further eight years behind bars.

Edney said the appeal being launched aims to have all those convictions dismissed.

“We are very confident that the military tribunal convictions will be overturned because in our view there are serious questions about the validity of all these convictions,” Edney told The Canadian Press.

Although Khadr opted for a plea agreement in 2010, Edney argued his guilty plea may not have too much of a bearing on his appeal.

“If you plead guilty to a charge which is a nullity in war, then the plea is also a nullity,” he said.

The case is still likely to be complicated as Khadr did sign away his appeal rights in 2010. but Edney contends that obstacle, too, could be surmounted.

“If the underlying acts weren’t crimes, at least not war crimes, then Mr. Khadr’s waiver may also be unreliable,” he said.

Edney said his team would be filing an appeal first with a U.S. military commission, and then later in the U.S. civil courts if necessary, to overturn all of Khadr’s convictions.

The terms of Khadr’s transfer to Canada precluded attacking his sentence in Canadian courts.

Working in Khadr’s favour, Edney said, are two similar military commission verdicts which American appeal courts have already thrown out after ruling the crimes did not exist under international law of war at the time.

Last October an American appeal court dismissed Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan’s 2008 conviction for providing material support for terrorism.

In essence, the court ruled no such crime existed under international law of war at the time of the alleged offence and retroactive prosecutions were not authorized.

In January, the same court threw out the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni who was charged with providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy for making propaganda videos for Al Qaeda. In that case, however, a U.S. appeals court said earlier this month that it will re-examine the decision.

Nonetheless, Edney said the rulings on those two cases could bode well for Khadr’s appeal.

“As the law now stands, based upon two earlier rulings … where the civilian appeals court overturned the same charges Omar faced, it concluded the charges were not and are not recognized international law of war charges,” he said.

Edney said he was surprised previous lawyers retained by Khadr hadn’t filed an appeal so far.

“One would expect that should have been done as a matter of course. It wasn’t,” he said. “I took it upon myself to persuade the military defence department to agree that Omar Khadr’s case was worthy of an appeal and they agreed.”

277 Million Boston Bombings April 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, Arms, Asia, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Laols, Vietnam, War.
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Posted on Apr 23, 2013, http://www.truthdig.com
AP/Brendon Smialowski

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks at a memorial about cluster bombing during a tour of the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center in Vientiane, Laos, in 2012.

By Robert Scheer

The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?

The president’s deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president’s definition, weapons of terror. But it is America’s role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country’s refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world’s nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.

To this day, antipersonnel weapons—the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston—maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country’s past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.

The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.

Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.and the deadly bomblets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:

“Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 submunitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”

Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomblets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomblets at targets in northern Israel.

I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomblets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.

Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?

On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members, that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that “cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”

However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would “only be used against clearly defined military targets” and not deployed “where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” Lots of luck with that.

Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of US citizens February 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: OK, for the sake of argument, let’s give the benefit of doubt to the Obama supporters and say that he would never use this awesome power irresponsibly.  But what about the next Reagan or Nixon or other  future Republican wing nut  — Bachman?  Palin?  In a democracy you just don’t give anyone, including the Chief Executive, the unlimited power of life and death, judge jury and executioner.  This is such a no-brainer that one wonders about the collective lunacy that seems to have infected the Obama administration.
Published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 by The Guardian

The president’s partisan lawyers purport to vest him with the most extreme power a political leader can seize

by Glenn Greenwald
images

The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice. In September 2011, it killed US citizen Anwar Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, along with US citizen Samir Khan, and then, in circumstances that are still unexplained, two weeks later killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman with a separate drone strike in Yemen.

Since then, senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama’s top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, have explicitly argued that the president is and should be vested with this power. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article from October reported that the administration is formally institutionalizing this president’s power to decide who dies under the Orwellian title “disposition matrix”.

When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama’s hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.” The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying “he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president”. When the existence of Obama’s hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post’s Dana Priest, she wrote that the “list includes three Americans”.

What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch – with no checks or oversight of any kind – but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president’s underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president – at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as “Terror Tuesday” – then chooses from “baseball cards” and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.

In fact, The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has been so fixated on secrecy that they have refused even to disclose the legal memoranda prepared by Obama lawyers setting forth their legal rationale for why the president has this power. During the Bush years, when Bush refused to disclose the memoranda from his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that legally authorized torture, rendition, warrantless eavesdropping and the like, leading Democratic lawyers such as Dawn Johnsen (Obama’s first choice to lead the OLC) vehemently denounced this practice as a grave threat, warning that “the Bush Administration’s excessive reliance on ‘secret law’ threatens the effective functioning of American democracy” and “the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.”

But when it comes to Obama’s assassination power, this is exactly what his administration has done. It has repeatedly refused to disclose the principal legal memoranda prepared by Obama OLC lawyers that justified his kill list. It is, right now, vigorously resisting lawsuits from the New York Times and the ACLU to obtain that OLC memorandum. In sum, Obama not only claims he has the power to order US citizens killed with no transparency, but that even the documents explaining the legal rationale for this power are to be concealed. He’s maintaining secret law on the most extremist power he can assert.

Last night, NBC News’ Michael Isikoff released a 16-page “white paper” prepared by the Obama DOJ that purports to justify Obama’s power to target even Americans for assassination without due process (the memo is embedded in full below). This is not the primary OLC memo justifying Obama’s kill list – that is still concealed – but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

This new memo is entitled: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”. It claims its conclusion is “reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen”. Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

I’ve written many times at length about why the Obama assassination program is such an extreme and radical threat – see here for one of the most comprehensive discussions, with documentation of how completely all of this violates Obama and Holder’s statements before obtaining power – and won’t repeat those arguments here. Instead, there are numerous points that should be emphasized about the fundamentally misleading nature of this new memo:

1. Equating government accusations with guilt

The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to “terrorists” when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.

Time and again, it emphasizes that the authorized assassinations are carried out “against a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or its associated forces who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” Undoubtedly fearing that this document would one day be public, Obama lawyers made certain to incorporate this deceit into the title itself: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida or An Associated Force.”

This ensures that huge numbers of citizens – those who spend little time thinking about such things and/or authoritarians who assume all government claims are true – will instinctively justify what is being done here on the ground that we must kill the Terrorists or joining al-Qaida means you should be killed. That’s the “reasoning” process that has driven the War on Terror since it commenced: if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death.

But of course, when this memo refers to “a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida”, what it actually means is this: someone whom the President – in total secrecy and with no due process – has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US”.

This is the crucial point: the memo isn’t justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo – and those who defend Obama’s assassination power – willfully ignore it.

Those who justify all of this by arguing that Obama can and should kill al-Qaida leaders who are trying to kill Americans are engaged in supreme question-begging. Without any due process, transparency or oversight, there is no way to know who is a “senior al-Qaida leader” and who is posing an “imminent threat” to Americans. All that can be known is who Obama, in total secrecy, accuses of this.

(Indeed, membership in al-Qaida is not even required to be assassinated, as one can be a member of a group deemed to be an “associated force” of al-Qaida, whatever that might mean: a formulation so broad and ill-defined that, as Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller argues, it means the memo “authorizes the use of lethal force against individuals whose targeting is, without more, prohibited by international law”.)

The definition of an extreme authoritarian is one who is willing blindly to assume that government accusations are true without any evidence presented or opportunity to contest those accusations. This memo – and the entire theory justifying Obama’s kill list – centrally relies on this authoritarian conflation of government accusations and valid proof of guilt.

They are not the same and never have been. Political leaders who decree guilt in secret and with no oversight inevitably succumb to error and/or abuse of power. Such unchecked accusatory decrees are inherently untrustworthy (indeed, Yemen experts have vehemently contested the claim that Awlaki himself was a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat to the US). That’s why due process is guaranteed in the Constitution and why judicial review of government accusations has been a staple of western justice since the Magna Carta: because leaders can’t be trusted to decree guilt and punish citizens without evidence and an adversarial process. That is the age-old basic right on which this memo, and the Obama presidency, is waging war.

2. Creating a ceiling, not a floor

The most vital fact to note about this memorandum is that it is not purporting to impose requirements on the president’s power to assassinate US citizens. When it concludes that the president has the authority to assassinate “a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida” who “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US” where capture is “infeasible”, it is not concluding that assassinations are permissible only in those circumstances. To the contrary, the memo expressly makes clear that presidential assassinations may be permitted even when none of those circumstances prevail: “This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful.” Instead, as the last line of the memo states: “it concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation” – not that such conditions are necessary to find these assassinations legal. The memo explicitly leaves open the possibility that presidential assassinations of US citizens may be permissible even when the target is not a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat and/or when capture is feasible.

Critically, the rationale of the memo – that the US is engaged in a global war against al-Qaida and “associated forces” – can be easily used to justify presidential assassinations of US citizens in circumstances far beyond the ones described in this memo. If you believe the president has the power to execute US citizens based on the accusation that the citizen has joined al-Qaida, what possible limiting principle can you cite as to why that shouldn’t apply to a low-level al-Qaida member, including ones found in places where capture may be feasible (including US soil)? The purported limitations on this power set forth in this memo, aside from being incredibly vague, can be easily discarded once the central theory of presidential power is embraced.

3. Relies on the core Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield

The primary theory embraced by the Bush administration to justify its War on Terror policies was that the “battlefield” is no longer confined to identifiable geographical areas, but instead, the entire globe is now one big, unlimited “battlefield”. That theory is both radical and dangerous because a president’s powers are basically omnipotent on a “battlefield”. There, state power is shielded from law, from courts, from constitutional guarantees, from all forms of accountability: anyone on a battlefield can be killed or imprisoned without charges. Thus, to posit the world as a battlefield is, by definition, to create an imperial, omnipotent presidency. That is the radical theory that unleashed all the rest of the controversial and lawless Bush/Cheney policies.

This “world-is-a-battlefield” theory was once highly controversial among Democrats. John Kerry famously denounced it when running for president, arguing instead that the effort against terrorism is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world”.

But this global-war theory is exactly what lies at heart of the Obama approach to Terrorism generally and this memo specifically. It is impossible to defend Obama’s assassination powers without embracing it (which is why key Obama officials have consistently done so). That’s because these assassinations are taking place in countries far from any war zone, such as Yemen and Somalia. You can’t defend the application of “war powers” in these countries without embracing the once-very-controversial Bush/Cheney view that the whole is now a “battlefield” and the president’s war powers thus exist without geographic limits.

This new memo makes clear that this Bush/Cheney worldview is at the heart of the Obama presidency. The president, it claims, “retains authority to use force against al-Qaida and associated forces outside the area of active hostilities“. In other words: there are, subject to the entirely optional “feasibility of capture” element, no geographic limits to the president’s authority to kill anyone he wants. This power applies not only to war zones, but everywhere in the world that he claims a member of al-Qaida is found. This memo embraces and institutionalizes the core Bush/Cheney theory that justified the entire panoply of policies Democrats back then pretended to find so objectionable.

4. Expanding the concept of “imminence” beyond recognition

The memo claims that the president’s assassination power applies to a senior al-Qaida member who “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States”. That is designed to convince citizens to accept this power by leading them to believe it’s similar to common and familiar domestic uses of lethal force on US soil: if, for instance, an armed criminal is in the process of robbing a bank or is about to shoot hostages, then the “imminence” of the threat he poses justifies the use of lethal force against him by the police.

But this rhetorical tactic is totally misleading. The memo is authorizing assassinations against citizens in circumstances far beyond this understanding of “imminence”. Indeed, the memo expressly states that it is inventing “a broader concept of imminence” than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president’s assassination power “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future“. The US routinely assassinates its targets not when they are engaged in or plotting attacks but when they are at home, with family members, riding in a car, at work, at funerals, rescuing other drone victims, etc.

Many of the early objections to this new memo have focused on this warped and incredibly broad definition of “imminence”. The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer told Isikoff that the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning”. Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller called Jaffer’s objection “an understatement”, noting that the memo’s understanding of “imminence” is “wildly overbroad” under international law.

Crucially, Heller points out what I noted above: once you accept the memo’s reasoning – that the US is engaged in a global war, that the world is a battlefield, and the president has the power to assassinate any member of al-Qaida or associated forces – then there is no way coherent way to limit this power to places where capture is infeasible or to persons posing an “imminent” threat. The legal framework adopted by the memo means the president can kill anyone he claims is a member of al-Qaida regardless of where they are found or what they are doing.

The only reason to add these limitations of “imminence” and “feasibility of capture” is, as Heller said, purely political: to make the theories more politically palatable. But the definitions for these terms are so vague and broad that they provide no real limits on the president’s assassination power. As the ACLU’s Jaffer says: “This is a chilling document” because “it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen” and the purported limits “are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

5. Converting Obama underlings into objective courts

This memo is not a judicial opinion. It was not written by anyone independent of the president. To the contrary, it was written by life-long partisan lackeys: lawyers whose careerist interests depend upon staying in the good graces of Obama and the Democrats, almost certainly Marty Lederman and David Barron. Treating this document as though it confers any authority on Obama is like treating the statements of one’s lawyer as a judicial finding or jury verdict.

Indeed, recall the primary excuse used to shield Bush officials from prosecution for their crimes of torture and illegal eavesdropping: namely, they got Bush-appointed lawyers in the DOJ to say that their conduct was legal, and therefore, it should be treated as such. This tactic – getting partisan lawyers and underlings of the president to say that the president’s conduct is legal – was appropriately treated with scorn when invoked by Bush officials to justify their radical programs. As Digby wrote about Bush officials who pointed to the OLC memos it got its lawyers to issue about torture and eavesdropping, such a practice amounts to:

“validating the idea that obscure Justice Department officials can be granted the authority to essentially immunize officials at all levels of the government, from the president down to the lowest field officer, by issuing a secret memo. This is a very important new development in western jurisprudence and one that surely requires more study and consideration. If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had known about this, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.”

Life-long Democratic Party lawyers are not going to oppose the terrorism policies of the president who appointed them. A president can always find underlings and political appointees to endorse whatever he wants to do. That’s all this memo is: the by-product of obsequious lawyers telling their Party’s leader that he is (of course) free to do exactly that which he wants to do, in exactly the same way that Bush got John Yoo to tell him that torture was not torture, and that even it if were, it was legal.

That’s why courts, not the president’s partisan lawyers, should be making these determinations. But when the ACLU tried to obtain a judicial determination as to whether Obama is actually authorized to assassinate US citizens, the Obama DOJ went to extreme lengths to block the court from ruling on that question. They didn’t want independent judges to determine the law. They wanted their own lawyers to do so.

That’s all this memo is: Obama-loyal appointees telling their leader that he has the authority to do what he wants. But in the warped world of US politics, this – secret memos from partisan lackeys – has replaced judicial review as the means to determine the legality of the president’s conduct.

6. Making a mockery of “due process”

The core freedom most under attack by the War on Terror is the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. It provides that “no person shall be . . . deprived of life . . . without due process of law”. Like putting people in cages for life on island prisons with no trial, claiming that the president has the right to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield without any charges or trial is the supreme evisceration of this right.

The memo pays lip service to the right it is destroying: “Under the traditional due process balancing analysis . . . . we recognize that there is no private interest more weighty than a person’s interest in his life.” But it nonetheless argues that a “balancing test” is necessary to determine the extent of the process that is due before the president can deprive someone of their life, and further argues that, as the New York Times put it when this theory was first unveiled: “while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”

Stephen Colbert perfectly mocked this theory when Eric Holder first unveiled it to defend the president’s assassination program. At the time, Holder actually said: “due process and judicial process are not one and the same.” Colbert interpreted that claim as follows:

“Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do. The current process is apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them.”

It is fitting indeed that the memo expressly embraces two core Bush/Cheney theories to justify this view of what “due process” requires. First, it cites the Bush DOJ’s core view, as enunciated by John Yoo, that courts have no role to play in what the president does in the War on Terror because judicial review constitutes “judicial encroachment” on the “judgments by the President and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force”. And then it cites the Bush DOJ’s mostly successful arguments in the 2004 Hamdi case that the president has the authority even to imprison US citizens without trial provided that he accuses them of being a terrorist.

The reason this is so fitting is because, as I’ve detailed many times, it was these same early Bush/Cheney theories that made me want to begin writing about politics, all driven by my perception that the US government was becoming extremist and dangerous. During the early Bush years, the very idea that the US government asserted the power to imprison US citizens without charges and due process (or to eavesdrop on them) was so radical that, at the time, I could hardly believe they were being asserted out in the open.

Yet here we are almost a full decade later. And we have the current president asserting the power not merely to imprison or eavesdrop on US citizens without charges or trial, but to order them executed – and to do so in total secrecy, with no checks or oversight. If you believe the president has the power to order US citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it’s truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable.

DOJ White Paper

Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Q… by

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited
Glenn Greenwald

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

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

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

 

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

by Glenn Greenwald

endless_war_on_terror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

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

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

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

Published on Friday, November 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

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

  – Common Dreams staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Reuters reports:

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

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

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

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

And The Guardian adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Jeh Johnson’s full prepared remarks here.

38 comments 26 reactions

  • Dem. Socialism

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

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

  • itsthethird

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

  • Tom Carberry

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

  • LocalHero

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

  • Paul Fretheim

    I agree. What rubbish!

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

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f…

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

  • Shantiananda

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

  • Laurence Schechtman

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

  • beaglebailey

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

  • Memory_Hole

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

  • beaglebailey

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

  • Memory_Hole

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

  • Bill_from_Saginaw1

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Memory_Hole

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

  • dogpaddle

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

  • Siouxrose

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

  • Norton_Fort

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

  • rtdrury

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

     

  • Thoughts_Into_Action

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

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

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

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

  • Memory_Hole

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

  • Kokr_Spanielesko

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

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

  • Hello

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

  • Doug Latimer

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

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

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Memory_Hole

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

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

  • tutan_khamun

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

  • frigate

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

  • Anton van der Baan

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

    2011??? oops

  • GeorgeA

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

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

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

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

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

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

  • Memory_Hole

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

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

  • GeorgeA

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

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

  • Memory_Hole

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

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

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

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

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

  • Norton_Fort

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

  • New Afrikan ImageMakers

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

  • jimbojamesiv

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

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

  • lucitanian

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

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

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

  • timebiter

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

  • Laurence Schechtman

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

  • Paul_Klinkman_two

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

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

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

    Afghani:  But when will you get this democracy?

    American:  The heck I know.

  • MidaFo

    Yet more Dubyaspeak.

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  • Avatar
    Dem. Socialism16 hours ago

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

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

  • Avatar
    Tom Carberry15 hours ago

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

  • Avatar
    LocalHero14 hours ago

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

  • Avatar
    Bill_from_Saginaw115 hours ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill from Saginaw

  • Avatar
    rtdrury14 hours ago

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

     

  • Avatar
    Thoughts_Into_Action12 hours ago

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

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

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

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

  • Avatar
    Kokr_Spanielesko14 hours ago

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

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

  • Avatar
    Hello15 hours ago

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

  • Avatar
    Doug Latimer8 hours ago

    The “war” will never end

    Because in the empire game

    You can’t boogie without a boogeyman

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

    How can you call its launching “impulsive”?

    Inquiring – and incredulous – minds want to know.

  • Avatar
    Memory_Hole12 hours ago

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

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

  • Avatar
    tutan_khamun13 hours ago

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

  • Avatar
    frigate10 hours ago

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

  • Avatar
    Anton van der Baan16 hours ago

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

    2011??? oops

  • Avatar
    GeorgeA12 hours ago

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

    Couple things that are noteworthy:

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

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

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

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

    • Avatar
      Memory_Hole GeorgeA11 hours ago

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

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

      • Avatar
        GeorgeA Memory_Hole10 hours ago

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

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

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          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.

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        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.

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      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.

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      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.

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    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.

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    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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