You are four times more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt than by a terror attack. August 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, War on Terror.
Tags: civil liberties, roger hollander, ronald bailey, terror plots, terrorism, terrorist, terrorist attacks, war on terror
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How Scared of Terrorism Should You Be?
Ronald Bailey | September 6, 2011
How many Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks inside the United States since the September 11, 2001, atrocities? Arguably 16. Egyptian Hesham Mohamed Hadayet killed two Israelis at the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport on July 4, 2002. On June 1, 2009, Abdulhakim Muhammedkilled one soldier at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 soldiersduring a shooting rampage in at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009
In addition, the National Counterterrorism Center has been compiling worldwide deaths of private U.S. citizens due to terrorism since 2005. Terrorism is defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence, perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
Checking the Global Terrorism Database, one finds that an additional 14 Americans were killed in broadly defined domestic terrorism incidents since September 2001. Five died from anthrax attacks (2001); two died in an attack on a Knoxville church (2008); two are suspected to have been killed by members of the Minutemen American Defense group in Arizona (2009); an abortion provider was killed in Wichita, Kansas (2009); a guard was stabbed to death at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., (2009); two died in Austin when a man crashed his light plane into a government building over a dispute with the IRS (2009); and a neo-Malthusian terrorist was shot by police during a hostage incident at the Discovery Channel in Silver Spring, Maryland (2009). That adds up to a grand total of 30 Americans killed in terrorist incidents inside the United States in the last 10 years.
In 2010 (the latest report), 15 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks; nine died in 2009; 33 in 2008; 17 in 2007; 28 in 2006; and 56 in 2005. The vast majority of private U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks died in the war zone countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. So the sad tally of Americans killed by terrorists around the world since 2005 comes to a total of 158, yielding an annual rate 16 Americans killed by terrorists outside of the borders of the United States.
Taking these figures into account, a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has just published, Background Report: 9/11, Ten Years Later [PDF]. The report notes, excluding the 9/11 atrocities, that fewer than 500 people died in the U.S. from terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2010. The report adds, “From 1991-2000, the United States averaged 41.3 terrorist attacks per year. After 2001, the average number of U.S. attacks decreased to 16 per year from 2002-2010.”
Of course, the police and politicians will cite the lack of deaths from terrorism as evidence that their protective measures are working. Earlier this year, the conservative Heritage Foundation compiled a list of 39 terror plots that had been foiled since September 2001. Going through the list, about 23 of the plots might plausibly have resulted in terror attacks of one sort or another. Several were aimed at subways, military bases, and shopping malls. To get a feel for the number of people that might be killed in typical terrorist attacks, consider that four subway bombs killed 52 people in London in 2005; the deadliest attack on a military base killed 13; and blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killed 187 people in 1995.
Making the huge assumption that all 23 plausible plots would have succeeded in killing an average of 100 Americans each, that means that 2,300 would have died in the last 10 years, or about 230 per year. (This implies a rate that is 10 times higher than the rate between 1970 and 2010, excluding the 9/11 attacks, by the way.) Even at this higher rate, your chances of dying in a terrorist attack would be about 1 in 1.7 million.
Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller and Mark Stewart, an engineering professor at University of Newcastle in Australia recently estimated that the U.S. has spent $1 trillion on anti-terrorism security measures since 2001 (this figure does not include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Assuming that 2,300 Americans might have been killed by terrorists inside the United States, this implies a cost of more that $400 million dollars per life saved. Typically when evaluating the costs of protective regulations, federal government agencies set the value of a life at about $9 million.
However, terrorism is especially frightening (that’s why they call it “terrorism”), so the average citizen might want to spend double the usual amount to prevent a death. But still suggests that on a reasonable benefit-cost basis public and private spending is 20 times too much to prevent deaths from terrorist attacks. Now let’s retrospectively add the tragic 3,000 deaths from the 9/11 attacks to take into account the remote possibility that terrorists might be able to pull off another similarly spectacular assault; that still means that nearly $200 million is being spent per plausible life saved.
A good bit of the trillion dollars has supported measures that threaten our liberties by beefing up the national security state. Since 2001, we all get to enjoy airport security theater; we must carry proper “papers” in order to gain admission to federal buildings; and federal minions have felt free to wiretapwithout warrants.
On this 10th anniversary, we will certainly remember those who died so tragically. But we should also recognize that terrorism is a hollow threat to which we should not surrender one iota of our liberties.
Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine’s science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.
The real definition of Terrorism December 11, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, glenn greenwald, Iraq invasion, Iraq war, roger hollander, terrorism, terrorist, terrorist definition, terrorists, war on terror
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Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:
By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).
In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:
Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes: they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?
Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).
It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).
Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who were accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.
This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.
When mistaken identity leads to torture September 11, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: al-Qaeda, Alia Malek, By Sara Jayyousi, human rights, Julien Lallemand, Khaled El-Masri, kifah joyyousi, patriot act, rendition, roger hollander, terrorist, torture, war on terror, wikileaks
Roger’s note: There is nothing wrong with mourning the deaths of the nearly 3000 victims of 9/11. It is only natural, and I can only imagine what it must be like to have lost a friend or relative in that holocaust. But to mourn in an orgy of patriotic jingoism and at the same time ignore the hundreds of thousands of non-American lives destroyed by the murderous response to 9/11 by the Bush and Obama Administrations: well, that to me is beyond obscene. What follows below are only two stories of the thousands of stories could be told of lives caught in the web of blood thirsty orgy of revenge and paranoia that has become official United States policy.
Saturday, Sep 10, 2011 15:01 ET
Khaled El-Masri was held for weeks by secret agents who missed a letter in his name
By Khaled El-Masri
Every day through Sept. 11, we’ll offer a new story from “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” about men and women caught in the war on terror’s crossfire.
On New Year’s Eve 2003, Khaled el-Masri, now 48, was seized at the border of Serbia and Macedonia by Macedonian police who mistakenly believed that he was traveling on a false German passport. (Reportedly, he was mistaken for a suspected terrorist with the name al-Masri.)
He was detained for over three weeks before being handed over to the CIA and rendered to Afghanistan. Shortly after Khaled’s release from Afghanistan, staff within both the CIA and the U.S. State Department reported the mistaken identity of their detainee to senior personnel, and German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents allegedly involved in Khaled’s abduction. However, cables disclosed by WikiLeaks reveal that United States officials heavily pressured Germany to abandon the case. A February 2007 cable quoted the deputy U.S. chief of mission in Berlin as advising a German diplomat to “weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the United States” if the agents were prosecuted. The German government withdrew the warrants five months later. The CIA analyst who advocated Khaled’s abduction and argued against his release was reportedly later promoted to chief of the Global Jihad unit hunting al-Qaida members.
Currently incarcerated in Germany (on unrelated charges), Khaled has stopped speaking about his experiences. His narrative is drawn from sworn and published statements made in the past. The excerpt below describes Khaled’s arrest by Macedonian police and his subsequent detention in Skopje, Macedonia. Khaled was held in a hotel room in Skopje for 23 days before being transported by the CIA to Afghanistan.
I asked them if I was under arrest and they said that I wasn’t, asking me if I saw any handcuffs on my wrists. They carried out another search of all my belongings. After this, three of them began interrogating me again. These interrogations were conducted in English, despite the fact that I have only a very basic grasp of the language. The three men asked many questions all at once, speaking at me and firing questions from all sides of the room. The interrogation lasted until at least 3 a.m. the next morning.
The men conducted similar such interrogations for the next three days. They observed my every move at all times. Even when I went to the toilet they asked me to leave the door open, although it was located in the same room where I was staying. When I was exhausted and tired of answering their questions, and after having been locked in this hotel room all this time, I demanded a translator. Then I asked to call the German embassy, a lawyer and my family. All my requests were refused.
At one point I became so angry that I demanded to be released and attempted to leave the room by force. During this particular incident, we all raised our voices, each of us speaking in our own language. Communication was clearly impossible. One of the men pulled out his firearm and held it level with my head. The other two placed their hands on their holsters in a threatening manner.
* * *
The watch was divided between nine men; they changed shifts every six hours. On the fifth day, a man with a bag appeared. He had sheets of paper and fingerprint ink. He also had a camera and took a few photographs of me: right profile, left profile and then frontal.
After about seven days, another official turned up. He appeared to be of a much higher rank than any of my guards. He brought an assistant with him. He was very respectful. He asked me about my condition and how the food was. He told me that I could order food from any restaurant if I didn’t like the food that was being served. He also asked if the guards had treated me well. I thanked him and said that so far I was fine. He then told me that he wanted to and could end my current situation, and that he had a deal to offer me.
I asked him what kind of a deal. He replied that if I admitted that I belonged to the al-Qaida organization they would send me back to Germany with a police escort. I refused and he subsequently left.
Two or three days later, his assistant showed up again and presented me with a list of allegations. He told me that he was certain that these allegations were true. He added that, based on these allegations, the case against me was no longer within their control, and that it had been referred to the Macedonian president. He said that the president had made a decision regarding my continued detention.
I was surprised by this turn of events and asked again to meet with the German ambassador or any other German authority. He told me that the German government did not want anything to do with me, and that I was wanted by them as well. One of the specific allegations against me was that my passport did not belong to me, and that I was wanted by both the Egyptian and German governments because I had been seen in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. After presenting me with these allegations, he left.
* * *
On the 13th day after my seizure, I began a hunger strike to protest my situation. A week later, I was told they would soon send me to the airport to fly me back to Germany. I did not eat again for the remaining 10 days of detention in Macedonia.
At around 8 p.m. on the 23rd day of my captivity, January 23, 2004, a video recording was taken of me. I was instructed to state my full name, that I had been treated well, and that I would shortly be flown back to Germany. I was then accompanied out of the hotel. Once outside, two men approached me. They grabbed hold of my arms and a third man then handcuffed and blindfolded me.
Before being blindfolded, I saw a white minivan, and in front of it, a black jeep. I also saw many people in plainclothes waiting around. I was placed in the jeep and it drove off.
The most degrading and shameful act
After about half an hour, the vehicle came to a halt. I was taken out of the vehicle and made to sit down on a chair, where I sat for about another one and a half hours. At this point, I heard the voice of the assistant who had come to see me with the high-ranking official. I was told that I would soon be taken into a room for a medical examination before being returned to Germany.
As I was led into this room, I felt two people violently grab my arms, one from the right side and the other from the left. They bent both my arms backward. This violent motion caused me a lot of pain. I was beaten severely from all sides. I then felt someone else grab my head with both hands so I was unable to move. Others sliced my clothes off. I was left in my underwear. Even this they attempted to take off. I tried to resist at first, shouting out loudly for them to stop, but my efforts were in vain. The pain from the beatings was severe. I was terrified and utterly humiliated. My assailants continued to beat me, and finally they stripped me completely naked and threw me to the ground. My assailants pulled my arms back and I felt a boot in the small of my back.
I then felt a stick or some other hard object being forced in my anus. I realized I was being sodomized. Of all the acts these men perpetrated against me, this was the most degrading and shameful.
I was then pulled to my feet and pushed into the corner of a room. My feet were tied together, and then, for the first time since the hotel, they took off my blindfold. As soon as it was removed, a very bright flashlight went off and I was temporarily blinded. I believe from the sounds that they had taken photographs of me throughout.
When I regained my vision, I saw seven to eight men standing around me, all dressed in black, with hoods and black gloves.
I was dressed in a diaper, over which they fitted a dark-blue sports suit with short sleeves and legs. I was once again blindfolded, my ears were plugged with cotton, and headphones were placed over my ears. A bag was placed over my head and a belt around my waist. My hands were chained to the belt. They put something hard over my nose. Because of the bag, breathing was getting harder and harder for me. I struggled for breath and began to panic. I pictured myself like the images I had seen in the media of the Muslims that were brought to Guantánamo.
They bent me over, forcing my head down, and then hurried with me to a waiting car and then on to a waiting aircraft. They walked so fast that the pain in my joints was getting worse, as the iron of my shackles chafed against my ankles. When I tried to slow down, they almost dislocated my shoulder. In the airplane, I was thrown down onto the floor and my arms and legs were spread-eagled and secured to the sides of the plane.
During the flight, I received two injections, one in the left arm and one in the right arm, at different times. They put something over my nose. I think it was some kind of anesthesia. It felt like the trip took about four hours, but I don’t really remember. However, it appeared to be a much longer trip than one to Germany.
I was mostly unconscious for the duration. I think the plane touched down once and took off again. When the plane landed for the final time I was fully conscious, although still a little light-headed. I was taken outside the aircraft. I could feel dry, warm air and knew immediately that the place where the plane had landed couldn’t possibly be Europe.
That day, Khaled was not flown back to Germany, as he’d been told, but to Kabul, Afghanistan.
A small, filthy concrete cell
After being removed from the aircraft, I was thrown down into what felt like the trunk of a vehicle. The vehicle drove for about 10 minutes. I was then dragged out of the trunk and down a flight of stairs. My arms were raised high behind my back. I was marched so quickly that at times my feet hardly touched the ground. They pushed and shoved me against the walls of the building. Finally I was thrown to the ground. They beat me and kicked my head. Someone stepped on my head and neck with his feet, then removed my chains and my blindfold. I heard them leave and the door being pulled hard and locked behind them.
After adjusting my eyes to the light, I could see that I was lying in a small, filthy concrete cell. The walls were covered in crude Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi writing. In place of a bed there was one dirty, military-style blanket and some old, torn clothes bundled into a thin pillow. It was cold and dark. Through a small opening near the roof of the cell, I could see the red, setting sun. It was only then that I realized that I had been traveling for some 24 hours.
From “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” edited by Alia Malek and published by Voice of Witness. This oral history collection tells the stories of men and women who have been needlessly swept up in the war on terror. Narrators recount personal experiences of the post-9/11 backlash that have deeply altered their lives and communities. For more information on the book and to learn more about Voice of Witness visit www.voiceofwitness.org
“Isn’t that a terrorist?”
No, it’s a young girl. And with her father jailed on questionable terror-related charges, she’s growing up alone
Every day through Sept. 11, we’ll offer a new story from “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” about men and women caught in the war on terror’s crossfire.
Sara Jayyousi, now 15, was just 9 years old when her father, Kifah, was arrested in March 2005 and charged with providing material support to terrorists and with conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim in a foreign country. The charges against him were the result of charitable contributions he made to an organization in Bosnia in the 1990s. Prior to his arrest, Kifah had been chief facilities director for the Washington, D.C., public school system, and then an adjunct professor at Wayne State University. He had also served in the U.S. Navy. When he was convicted in 2007, the judge noted for the record that there was no evidence linking Sara’s dad to specific acts of violence anywhere. The judge also said that he was “the kind of neighbor that people would want in a community.” In June 2008, Kifah was transferred to the federal Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Terre Haute, Ind.
On August 17, 2007, my dad and mom were going to court on the last day of the trial. That was the day the verdict was to be delivered. “High School Musical” was playing on the Disney Channel, and my sisters and I had never seen it before, so we were super-excited to watch it. We made popcorn and got situated around the TV. As my father and mother were getting ready to leave, my dad told us to come hug him before he left. He was holding his brown leather briefcase. He has had it as long as I can remember. He took it with him every day of the trial.
So I walked up and gave him a hug really fast and pulled away. I wanted to hurry back to the TV because “High School Musical” was starting in a couple of minutes! I didn’t know that was the last hug I was going to give him for a very long time.
My parents told us they would both be back in three hours. They had that much hope that my dad would be found innocent.
Four hours passed with me and my sisters watching “High School Musical,” playing on the computer and messing around. Then we all started to get worried, and we didn’t want to be alone. So we called my mom’s friend, and she picked us up and took us to her house, where we swam in her pool. We just left a message on my mom’s cell phone telling her where we were going. We swam for two hours with my mom’s friend’s kids.
I was carefree and super-happy; it would be the last time I felt that way.
Suddenly, my mother appeared on the patio outside, next to the pool. Her face was red and puffy. I was freaking out because my dad wasn’t beside her, and she was holding his briefcase in her hands.
She sat us all down when we got out of the pool. She said our dad had been found guilty.
I burst out crying. She said he wasn’t going to come back. And I knew, from her holding his briefcase, that he really wasn’t coming back.
Before she told us all this, it had felt so hot. But then suddenly I got cold. I was shivering, a lot. I was in my wet bathing suit; it felt like snow.
Then I felt this pumping in my head. Everything was weird, it was all going wrong. I felt like my family had been put on pause, like everything else was moving, except us. I’d never felt that kind of pain in my life before.
I remember going back in the pool because I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. I remember my big sister came after me, hugging me. I cried a lot that day, more than I have ever done.
When we got home, my dad’s clothes were still were where he had left them in his room. That made it even harder for me.
That night, I remember me and my little sister piled in with my mom, and we slept next to her. I’ve never seen my mom so sad before.
We still have my dad’s briefcase. It has his smell in it. A cologne that smells really sweet and manly at the same time.
Handprints on the glass
Sara’s father was sentenced to 12 years and eight months. He began serving his sentence in Florida. On June 18, 2008, he was transferred to the CMU in Terre Haute, Ind., and was then moved to the CMU in Marion, Ill.
After he was put in the CMU in Terre Haute, telephone calls were every Wednesday and Sunday for 15 minutes. The thing about telephone calls is that we share them with my grandparents, so we get every other Wednesday but every Sunday. When he was in Terre Haute, we would visit him whenever we had a break at school, so every few months, but we’ve only been to Marion once because it’s a lot farther to get to. We always have non-contact visits, with a heavy glass in between us.
I have not touched my father since December 2007. If I had known, I could have made that hug longer.
Now, when we travel to Terre Haute, I stay in the car most of the time because my mom and I get stared at a lot for wearing hijabs. Like when we enter Olive Garden, everyone turns around. I can just hear them talking and whispering. I imagine them saying, “Isn’t that a terrorist?” or “Oooo, look, it’s an Arab.”
I don’t know what they say exactly. I’m glad I don’t.
I just don’t feel safe. I hate stares. I hate angry people.
* * *
The CMU visits are horrible. The visitation room there is so, so small, and it’s hot and uncomfortable. It’s surrounded by Plexiglas, and we’re separated from my father by a Plexiglas wall in the middle of the room. We are all locked in. I wanna break that Plexiglas wall.
We have to use a black telephone to talk to my father through the glass. Running through the glass are all these wires. The wires reflect on the glass, so it’s checkered and I don’t get a clear view. I can’t even see my father’s full face.
I want to see his face clearly. I want to notice the littlest things, down to every little dimple or freckle, so I can keep it in my head and remember them until the next visit. In Florida, I got to hug and kiss my dad. I got to smell him and see him as he is, without a checkered pattern from a glass on his skin.
One time we asked if we could hug him on a holiday, and the guards said no, because they didn’t have enough security. It’s not like he’s gonna kill us or hurt us. I mean, we are his daughters. It hurts so much knowing that he’s right there but you can’t touch him at all, like he’s an animal, like he’s gonna hurt you.
When it’s over, you hear the guard’s keys rattling on the door. That sound hurts so bad. All you see at the end of our visits are the handprints on the glass.
From “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice,” edited by Alia Malek and published by Voice of Witness. This oral history collection tells the stories of men and women who have been needlessly swept up in the war on terror. Narrators recount personal experiences of the post-9/11 backlash that have deeply altered their lives and communities. For more information on the book and to learn more about Voice of Witness visit www.voiceofwitness.org.
The great generational threat July 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in War, War on Terror.
Tags: afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, anwar awlaki, bin Laden, civilian casualties, drone attcks, drone missiles, glenn greenwald, Karzai, leon panetta, national security, patriot act, roger hollander, surveillance state, terrorism, terrorist, terrorist attacks, war on terror
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Roger’s note: no one is better at unmasking the motives behind the Bush Obama agenda than Glenn Greenwald. But one has to ask the question: what is served by the “National Security and Surveillance State” that the United States has become? In broad terms the answer is simple: the Empire. The enormous apparatus of the National Security and Surveillance State is necessary to maintain and protect the US corporate interests around the globe. This includes the FBI and the Patriot Act at home, the CIA and its vast network of torture and drone missile targeted assassination abroad, and of course the array of US military scattered amongst the nooks and crannies of the four corners of the world. It is a dying empire that is doomed to collapse under its own weight, but oh the suffering and destruction that it will engender as it dies its slow and agonizing death.
In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a “withdrawal”plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF by detaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer. That’s all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared Saturday that the United States is “within reach” of “strategically defeating” Al Qaeda as a terrorist threat, but that doing so would require killing or capturing the group’s 10 to 20 remaining leaders.
Heading to Afghanistan for the first time since taking office earlier this month, Panetta said that intelligence uncovered in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May showed that 10 years of U.S. operations against Al Qaeda had left it with fewer than two dozen key operatives, most of whom are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa.
In one sense, it’s commendable that Panetta is acknowledging this, though he’s doing so to protect the President from political attacks in the wake of his announced withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Afghanistan. But in another, more important sense, Panetta knows that this disclosure won’t even slightly impede the always-expanding National Security State and the War on Terror which justifies it — just like the acknowledgment long ago that there were fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan had no effect on our decade-long war there. That’s because — as the above-described events of the last eight weeks demonstrate — civil liberties assaults and expansions of executive power are not what the U.S. Government does in response to some actual problem; it’s what the public-private consortium composing the U.S. Government is. Terrorist villains are the pretext for, not the cause of, those policies, and they will continue irrespective of the scope or magnitude of Terrorism.
Indeed, even as he described the puny, broken, absurd state of Al Qaeda — one that has, at most, produced a grand total of one attack on U.S. soil in the last decade and a handful of amateurish, low-level attempts thwarted by regular police powers, and kills fewer Americans each year than intestinal ailments – Panetta claimed “that it would take “more work’”; that “now is the moment following the death of Bin Laden to put maximum pressure“; that “it was from Yemen — not Pakistan — that the U.S. faces the most potent threat of future terrorist attacks, from an Al Qaeda offshoot known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, where “the group has gained strength in recent months as unrest has swept through Sana, the capital, and large swaths of its rugged hinterlands, where militants are growing in strength“; and that we have to kill all the remaining operatives. In other words, he offered multiple reasons why the War on Terror and the civil liberties abuses justified in its name must not only continue but be escalated.
Of course, just in case those propagandistic claims aren’t sufficient — we must wage war in multiple countries and seize ever-expanding surveillance powers to stop this group of two dozen Terrorist masterminds — the U.S. is doing everything possible to ensure that Terrorism remains as large as a threat as possible:
A NATO air strike has killed at least 14 civilians, including eight children, in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, local police say. . . .The deadly air raid came a day after two children were reportedly killed in a separate air strike in southwest Ghazni province.
The killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and has soured the feelings of many ordinary Afghans towards foreign forces. . . . As violence has spread across the country, casualties have risen, and the United Nations said May was the deadliest month for civilians since they began keeping records four years earlier.
I long believed that the most patently irrational American policy — the one that would cause future generations to look back in baffled disgust — was the Drug War: imprisoning huge numbers of citizens for years and years for nothing more than possessing or selling banned substances to consenting adults. But now I think it’s this: that the U.S. Government is able to persuade the populace to continue to support and pay for blood-spilling and liberty-destroying policies in the name of Terrorism when nothing sustains and exacerbates the threat of Terrorism more than those very policies. Just like the FBI continues to manufacture its own Terrorist plots that it then flamboyantly boasts of thwarting, the U.S. continues to generate the threat that justifies its National Security and Surveillance State.
* * * * *
In the last week alone, U.S.-allied governments have done the following to their own citizens: killed “dozens of civilians” in Yemen; beaten anti-government protesters in Baghdad while the Iraqi Prime Minister threatened “bloodshed” and “blood to the knees” if protests continued; attacked protesters in Cairo with arms; and beat opposition protesters in prison and branded them “traitors” in Bahrain. As we recently learned, the U.S. cannot and will not “stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.” What, then, can and should the U.S. do in the face of this oppression? Don’t we have more of a responsibility to act when such brutality is carried out by regimes that we arm, support and prop up than by ones we don’t?
- More: Glenn Greenwald
Terrorism Law, the New McCarthyism February 23, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: chandler davis, civil liberties, eric holder, first amendment, Freedom of speech, guilt by association, human rights, humanitarian law, McCarthyism, patriot act, roger hollander, smith act, stephen rohde, supreme court, terrorism, terrorist, war on terror
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Monday 22 February 2010
Tomorrow, the US Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the first encounter with the free speech and association rights of American citizens in the context of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, and in the first test of the constitutionality of a provision of the USA Patriot Act.
The “Material Support” law takes a sweeping approach to its ban on aid to terrorist groups, prohibiting the provision of cash, weapons and the like, as well as four more ambiguous categories – “training,” “personnel,” “expert advice or assistance” and “service.” Opponents of the law say that when it comes to providing lawful legal advice or training in nonviolence, the law is nothing more than “guilt by association,” reminiscent of the witch hunts of McCarthyism.
These are no paranoid fears. “Congress wants these organizations to be radioactive,” Douglas N. Letter, a Justice Department lawyer, said in a 2007 appeals court argument in the case, referring to the dozens of groups that have been designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department. Letter admitted that it would be a crime for a lawyer to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a designated organization or “to be assisting terrorist organizations in making presentations to the U.N., to television, [or] to a newspaper.”
The Humanitarian Law Project, a nonprofit group that has a long history of mediating international conflicts and promoting human rights, brought the case in 1998. Two years earlier, passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) had made it a crime to provide “material support” to groups the State Department had designated as “foreign terrorist organizations.” The definition of material support included “training” and “personnel.” Later versions of the law, including amendments in the USA Patriot Act, added “expert advice or assistance” and “service.”
In 2007, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bans on training, service and certain types of expert advice were unconstitutionally vague, but upheld the bans on personnel and expert advice derived from scientific or technical knowledge. Both sides appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the consolidated cases in October. The cases are Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, No. 08-1498, and Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder, No. 09-89.
David D. Cole, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the challengers, is arguing that the case concerns speech protected by the First Amendment “promoting lawful, nonviolent activities,” including “human rights advocacy and peacemaking.”
A number of victims of McCarthy-era persecution filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to remember the lessons of history.
“I signed the brief,” said Chandler Davis, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto, “because I can testify to the way in which the dubious repression of dissent disrupted lives and disrupted political discourse.” Professor Davis refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954, and was dismissed from his position at the University of Michigan. Unable to find work in the United States, he moved to Canada. In 1991, the University of Michigan established an annual lecture series on academic freedom in honor of Professor Davis and others it had mistreated in the McCarthy era.
The material support law authorizes the secretary of state to designate “foreign terrorist organizations,” and makes it a crime to provide certain statutorily defined “material support” for even the nonviolent and humanitarian activities of such groups. Similar to the Smith Act and federal executive orders in the 1940s and ’50s, the law grants the executive branch unreviewable discretion to designate groups as “terrorist” and creates vague bans on providing “expert advice or assistance,” “training,” “service” or “personnel” to designated groups. It threatens, once again unconstitutionally, to interfere with the rights of free speech and association.
The AEDPA’s vague ban on “assistance” and “advice” is essentially no different from the McCarthy-era attempt to root out association with and advocacy for groups unpopular with the government. Starting in the 1930s, and through the 1960s, Congress and the executive branch identified organizations – the Communist Party and groups with ties to the Communist Party – as using illegal means, including terrorism, with the aim of overthrowing the US government by force and violence. The Smith Act and the Subversive Activities Control Act made it a crime to associate with these designated groups or to speak in support of these groups. These were crimes regardless of whether or not that speech or association supported or furthered the groups’ unlawful activities.
Our society now recognizes that the McCarthy era was a shameful episode in American history, characterized by widespread abuses of executive and legislative power, fueled by demagoguery and overzealous government action, ultimately encompassing “loyalty” investigations of over four million American citizens. See, e.g., Ellen Schrecker, “Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America” (1998), (the McCarthy era is “the most widespread and longest lasting period of political repression in American history.”).
While few individuals were ultimately prosecuted under the McCarthy-era laws, thousands were persecuted. Among the latter, larger group were Amici and their relatives, none of whom intended to or actually did engage in violence against this country. Nonetheless, they were investigated, libeled, terminated from and unable to secure employment, blacklisted, prosecuted and imprisoned. One of the key lessons from this era is that when the federal government fans the flames of public passion by enacting overreaching criminal statutes, staging Congressional hearings and investigating the loyalty of millions of American citizens, it implicitly condones and sanctions retributions against individuals, such as Amici. Eventually, our society and this court understood that these consequences were unacceptable. We should not make these mistakes again.
It is against this background that this court issued the decisions that are the controlling law that governs this case. In a series of landmark First Amendment decisions, this court struck down these statutes, restored freedom of speech and halted guilt by association. This court concluded that the Congressional and executive branch excesses were unconstitutional. The court held that punishing speech without showing incitement to crime and punishing association without showing specific intent to further illegal ends penalizes innocents and chills the political freedoms at the very core of our democracy.
These principles are equally applicable today, where the federal government (once again) has designated certain organizations as proscribed and purports to make it a crime to speak for or otherwise associate with such organizations. Now, when, once again, our safety and security have been threatened, this court should reaffirm the rights to free speech and association.
Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer, was co-counsel with Arnold & Porter on the amicus brief filed by victims of McCarthyism in Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder.
© 2010 Daily Journal Corporation. All rights reserved.
The Joys of Airstrikes and Anonymity December 30, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, air strikes, al-Qaeda, civilian casualties, collateral damage, corporate media, drone missiles, glenn greenwald, islam, journalism, Media, media ethics, muslim, muslim world, pakistan, predator missile, Qaaim al-Raymi, roger hollander, sudan, terrorism, terrorist, war, yemen, yemen strike
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Each time the U.S. bombs a new location in the Muslim world, the same pattern emerges. First, officials from the U.S. or allied governments run to their favorite media outlet to claim — anonymously — that some big, bad, notorious, “top” Al Qaeda leader “may have been” or “likely was” killed in the strike, and this constitutes a “stinging” or “devastating” blow against the Terrorist group. These compliant media outlets then sensationalistically trumpet that claim as the dominant theme of their “reporting” on the attack, drowning out every other issue.
As a result, and by design, there is never any debate or discussion over the propriety or wisdom of these strikes. After all, what sane, rational, Serious person would possibly question a bombing raid or missile strike that “likely” killed a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter and struck a “devastating blow” to that group’s operationg abilities? Having the story shaped this way also ensures that there is virtually no attention paid to the resulting civilian casualties (i.e., the slaughter of innocent people); most Americans, especially journalists, have been trained to ignore such deaths as nothing more than justifiable “collateral damage,” especially when a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter was killed by the bombs (besides, as Alan Dershowitz once explained, “civilians” in close enough proximity to a Top Terrorist themselves may very well bear some degree of culpability). The adolescent We-Got-the-Bad-Guy! headline also ensures there is no attention paid to the radicalizing effect of these civilian deaths and our attacks for that country and in the region.
Yet over and over and over, it turns out that these anonymous government assertions — trumpeted by our mindless media — are completely false. The Big Bad Guy allegedly killed in the strike ends up nowhere near the bombs and missiles. Sometimes, the very same Big Bad Guy can be used to justify different strikes over the course of many years (we know we said we killed him four times before, but this time we’re pretty sure we got him), or he can turn up alive when it’s time to re-trumpet the Al Qaeda threat (we said before we killed him in that devastating airstrike, but actually he’s alive and more dangerous than ever!!). Just like the “we killed 30 extremists” claim or the “we got Al Qaeda’s Number 3″ boast, this is propaganda in its purest form, disseminated jointly by the U.S. Government and American media, and it happens over and over, compelling a rational person to conclude that it’s clearly intentional by both parties.
In the last week alone, this pattern just asserted itself — twice — with regard to the air strikes in Yemen. The first set of strikes, it was immediately leaked, was allegedly aimed at “the presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi,” yet it turned out he was not among the dozens of people killed, though “U.S. officials believe one of his top deputies [unnamed] may have been killed.” Then, after a second set of strikes on Thursday, it was claimed that “a Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch,” and an American Muslim preacher linked to Nidal Hasan, “the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base [Anwar al-Awlaki] may also have died.”
But while ABC News had identified “the presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen” as “Qaaim al-Raymi” when he was the target of last week’s strikes, Reuters decided that the “top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch” were completely different people — “Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shehri” — and then excitedly announced that they “may have been killed” by this week’s air strikes. Whoever we claim we kill is the “key leader of Al Qaeda’s operations”– and it can change from day to day. And now, it turns out, the “radical cleric” who reportedly spoke at length with the accused Fort Hood shooter and thus packs the most emotional punch for Americans is not dead at all, but “is alive and well following reports he may have been killed in a Yemeni airstrike against suspected al-Qaida hideouts.”
Just watch how this obvious propaganda tactic works again and again:
The presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi, has frequently appeared on internet videos, . . . Qaaim al-Raymi was considered a prime target of the attack Thursday but was reported to have escaped the attack. However, U.S. officials believe one of his top deputies may have been killed.
A Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch on Thursday, and an American Muslim preacher linked to the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base may also have died, a Yemeni security official said. Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shehri, were believed to be among more than 30 militants killed in the dawn operation in the eastern province of Shabwa, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may also have died in the air strike which targeted a meeting of militants planning attacks on Yemeni and foreign oil and economic targets, he said. If all the deaths are confirmed, the air strike would appear to have struck a severe blow against AQAP, seen as the most dangerous regional offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s network.
A U.S.-born radical cleric is alive and well following reports he may have been killed in a Yemeni airstrike against suspected al-Qaida hideouts . . .
In addition to al-Awlaki, the top leader of al-Qaida’s branch in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi, and his deputy Saeed al-Shihri were also believed to be at the meeting, Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee said. But Yemeni officials still have no access to the area, which is controlled by armed gunmen and supporters of al-Qaida, and could not confirm for certain who was killed in the attack.
Ayman al-Zawahiri — Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in the al Qaeda terrorist network — was the target of a CIA airstrike Friday in a remote Pakistani village and may have been among those killed, knowledgeable U.S. sources told CNN. . . . the sources said there was intelligence suggesting he was in one of the buildings hit during the strike.
Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a videotape aired Monday that President Bush was a “butcher” and a “failure” because of a deadly U.S. airstrike in Pakistan targeting the bin Laden deputy, and he threatened a new attack on the United States. A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape.
Ayman al-Zawahiri – the second most powerful leader in al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s No. 2 – may be critically wounded and possibly dead, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reports exclusively. . . . CBS News has obtained a copy of an intercepted letter from sources in Pakistan, which urgently requests a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. . . . The letter is dated July 29 – one day after a U.S. air strike that killed al Qaeda weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri, and five other Arabs in South Waziristan. . . . a counter-intelligence expert and other U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. is looking into reports that al-Zawahiri is dead.
Al Qaeda’s No. 2 thug has “emerged” as its operational leader after seven years on the run with the same $25 million bounty on his head as Osama Bin Laden. Despite years of Bush administration claims that Ayman al-Zawahiri – an Egyptian doctor turned Bin Laden deputy – was on the lam with his boss and unable to exert control, the opposite is now true, a State Department report said Thursday. . . .”Although Bin Laden remains the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as Al Qaeda’s strategic and operational planner,” the report added.
Two senior members of Al Qaeda and the son-in-law of its No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were among those killed in the American airstrikes in remote northeastern Pakistan last week, two Pakistani officials said here on Wednesday. . . .If any or all were indeed killed, it would be a stinging blow to Al Qaeda’s operations, said the American officials, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized by their agencies to speak for attribution. . . . The airstrikes, which killed 18 civilians, among them women and children, have caused anger across the country . . . At least one of the men believed by the Pakistani officials to have been killed, an Egyptian known here as Abu Khabab al-Masri, is on the United States’ most-wanted list with a $5 million reward for help in his capture. His real name is Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, 52, who according to the United States government Web site rewardsforjustice.net, was an expert in explosives and poisons. . . . The target of the raid, American officials have said, was Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Mr. Zawahiri, but they have acknowledged that he was not killed in the attack and Pakistani officials say that Mr. Zawahiri failed to show up for the dinner that night.
ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda’s master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week’s U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan. Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of four known major al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit in the village of Damadola early last Friday morning.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials now believe that the Egyptian, Abu Khabab Masri, is alive and well — and in charge of resurrecting Al Qaeda’s program to develop or obtain weapons of mass destruction.
Another Egyptian, known by the alias Abu Ubayda al-Misri, was also believed killed, the Pakistani officials said. He was the chief of insurgent operations in the southern Afghan province of Kunar, which borders Bajaur in Pakistan, the area where the airstrikes occurred, according to one of the Pakistani officials.
Abu Ubaida al-Masri, one of Al Qaeda’s top operatives and the mastermind behind a plot to use liquid explosives to blow British passenger jets out of the sky, is dead, a U.S. official confirmed to FOX News Wednesday. The unidentified official said it is believed that al-Masri died of natural causes, possibly hepatitis, in Pakistan, and are staying away from a report that he was killed in a January CIA predator strike.
Months of attacks by unmanned US predator aircraft have caused carnage among the middle ranks of terrorist leaders in the lawless lands along the border with Afghanistan . . . Their victims have included experienced Arab leaders and, it is now thought, Adam Gadahn, a former heavy-metal fan and so-called “killer computer nerd” originally from California. Nothing has been heard from him for months, leading intelligence experts to conclude that he may be dead.
Adam Gadahn, a Southern California-raised man self-described as American Al Qaeda has released a new video in which he talks about his Jewish ancestry.
U.S. officials believe Usama bin Laden’s son, Saad bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan. Sources confirmed to FOX News late Wednesday that officials believe the younger bin Laden was killed by hellfire missiles from a U.S. Predator drone strike earlier this year.
A close friend of Osama bin Laden told Al Arabiya that he thought the al-Qaeda mastermind’s son was probably still alive casting doubt on reports by American media that he was killed in Pakistan. Yemeni national Rashad Saied, who stayed with bin Laden in Afghanistan before the September 11, 2001 attacks, said there is no proof to U.S. media reports last week that Saad bin Laden was killed in an American airstrike on Pakistan earlier this year. “If Saad had been killed, al-Qaeda would have announced that,” Saied told Al Arabiya. “They announced the death of many key figures in the organization before. It is considered a source of pride for them.”
A teenage daughter of Osama bin Laden, who has lived with at least five of her siblings in a guarded compound in Iran since 2001, took refuge last month in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran . . . The status of another son, Saad, remained uncertain. American officials said last summer that they believed that Saad bin Laden had traveled from Iran to Pakistan and had been killed by an American missile fired from a drone. Omar and Zaina bin Laden said Saad was still in the Tehran compound when the missile attack was said to have occurred, but they said that they did not know where he was now or whether he was still alive.
I could literally spend the rest of the day chronicling events very similar to these. A few caveats are in order. It’s not surprising that facts are sometimes difficult to obtain in the immediate aftermath of a strike, particularly in remote areas such as Western Pakistan and Yemen. Sometimes, these air strikes do actually result in the death of the specific targets alleged to lead various Islamic radical groups.
But far more often, these boasting claims regarding a controversial U.S. air attack or missile strike turn out to be completely false. It’s painfully obvious that these assertions are made to overwhelm, distort and suppress any discussions of the actual effects of the attack — who the strike really killed, whether it was justified, legal or wise, whether we should continue to drop bombs in more and more Muslim countries. Yet no matter how many times these claims prove to be false, American media outlets not only dutifully and mindlessly print them without challenge or skepticism, but also allow these claims to dictate their headlines and the overwhelming focus of their “reporting” on the attacks (U.S. Air Strike Said to Kill Top Al Qaeda Leaders). As a result, Americans are innundated with false claims about things that never actually happened — pure myths and falsehoods — while the actual consequences of our actions (the corpses of innocent Muslim men, women and children being pulled from the rubble) are widely disseminated in the Muslim world, yet are barely mentioned by our media. And then we walk around, confounded and confused, about how there could be such a grave disparity in perception among our rational, free and well-informed selves versus those irrational, mislead, paranoid, and primitive Muslims.
Because it’s all done under the corrupt cover of anonymity, there’s never any accountability (reporters will simply say that they printed this because their government sources whispered it in their ears — so what choice did they have? — and they’ll keep the government officials’ identity concealed to ensure they can never be questioned). The whole process is blatantly designed not to convey what happened, but to obscure what happened and to prevent any discussion of its consequences.
Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.
Richard Holbrooke:The Wrong Man for the Job January 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: 9/11, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, al-qaida, bin Laden, daytona accords, hawk, hillary clinton, obama administration, pakistan, richard holbrooke, roger hollander, scott ritter, Taliban, terrorist
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Posted on Jan 23, 2009, www.truthout.com
|AP Photo/Mike Wintroath|
By Scott Ritter
It was early in October 2001, and I had been invited to New York City on behalf of The History Channel for a show in which I was to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. I was pitted against a seasoned American diplomat who had made his reputation negotiating peace accords in difficult corners of the world. I felt a little out of place, since my area of expertise was arms control and disarmament, and specifically how arms control was being implemented in Iraq. I had written a few scholarly articles about Afghan-Soviet relations, with a focus on the ethnic and tribal aspects of Afghan politics, and in the mid-1980s I had been an analyst with the Marine Corps component of the rapid deployment force, following very closely the Soviet war against the Afghan mujahedeen, so I wasn’t totally out of my element.
I fully expected to play second fiddle to the veteran diplomat, and appreciated the opportunity to hear his insights into what clearly was a very difficult situation facing the Bush administration. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization had used their status as guests of the Taliban government of Afghanistan to formulate and implement their terrorist attacks against the United States. The question confronting the Bush administration was how best to respond. I had spent some time thinking over the problem and came down firmly against the idea of direct military intervention. History had shown that, since the time of Alexander the Great through the Soviet invasion and occupation, outside forces had fared poorly when they tried to impose their will on the diverse grouping of tribes and ethnic groups that made up Afghanistan.
Our fight, in any case, wasn’t against the people of Afghanistan. To a certain extent, it wasn’t even against the Taliban, since it was al-Qaida, not the Taliban, that had attacked us. Some, including leaders of the Bush administration, were making the case that the Taliban was directly implicated in the attacks since it had provided al-Qaida with a safe haven to plan the events of 9/11. It had yet to be proved that the Taliban was a witting host, however. As a student of the region, I believed that the United States would do well to use tribal concepts of honor to isolate and disenfranchise bin Laden and his Arab outsiders from their Taliban host. If the United States, working through the offices of the Pakistani intelligence services, could convince the Taliban that its hospitality had been abused by al-Qaida—in that the murder of innocents had been committed while under its protection—then Afghan tribal custom and honor and, even more important to the fundamentalist Taliban, Islamic law, dictated that the Taliban revoke the protections and privileges afforded bin Laden and al-Qaida.
I did not believe that the Taliban would impose justice itself, but rather could be convinced, through a combination of logic and economic incentive, to disperse al-Qaida and turn bin Laden and his senior leadership over to a third party, presumably an Islamic nation such as Pakistan or the United Arab Emirates. If a direct approach failed, then covert action, using proxy forces in Pakistan and Iran, would make contact with moderate elements of the Taliban, personified by its foreign minister, to remove the conservative Mullah Omar from power and achieve a more direct result against bin Laden and his cohorts. A new, moderate Taliban leadership would be more than capable of assembling the religious clerics necessary to convene a sharia, or Islamic, court, which would find the actions of al-Qaida to be violations of Islamic law. Also, a loya jirga, or tribal gathering, would revoke the protected status of “guest” enjoyed by bin Laden and his fellow terrorists. The least productive option America could pursue was that of direct military intervention, and I anticipated that the veteran diplomat would concur with that point of view.
What happened, however, was the exact opposite. The diplomat rejected out of hand any sort of diplomacy, arguing that there were only extremists within the ranks of the Taliban. There was, in his opinion, no such thing as a moderate Taliban, and as such the United States had no choice but to lump the Taliban and al-Qaida into a singular target set, and initiate direct military action designed to remove the Taliban from power and destroy al-Qaida in Afghanistan. I responded by noting that it would not be an easy thing to separate the Taliban from Afghan society, since the Taliban was a product of Afghan society, and that any military action against the Taliban would only strengthen the bonds between it and al-Qaida, which was of course the last result the United States should be seeking. The diplomat rejected my argument as simplistic and unrealistic. He argued for a military solution, and, of course, that was the result the Bush administration delivered. The diplomat’s name? Richard Holbrooke.
The new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has appointed Holbrooke as the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. With his extensive experience in peacemaking, including negotiating the Dayton Accords, which brought an end to the horrific fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Holbrooke seems an ideal candidate for the complexities represented by the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, as well as by the related unrest in neighboring Pakistan. The presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan also plays to Holbrooke’s perceived strengths, given the role played by NATO in bringing an end to the fighting in the former Yugoslavia. However, at a time when NATO itself questions the viability of the mission in Afghanistan, pushing for a solution emphasizing social and economic stability over military action, the selection of a hawk like Holbrooke is ill-advised. Not only has he demonstrated a lack of comprehension when it comes to the complex reality of Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan), Holbrooke has a history of choosing the military solution over the finesse of diplomacy. The Dayton Accords, after all, were built on the back of a NATO military presence. This does not bode well for the Obama administration.
It is highly doubtful that Holbrooke will bring anything more to the table than cheerleading. President Obama’s stated intention to increase the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and to more forcefully assert U.S.-imposed “security” through continued military action in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan is a dangerous scheme, one Holbrooke will enthusiastically support. Reinforcing failure is never a sound solution. Take it from the veteran British military officers who have served in Afghanistan and now advise that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem. Listening to advice like that would go a long way toward developing stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and neutralizing al-Qaida’s ability to organize and operate in those nations. The British recognize that the Taliban is not the problem, but rather part of the solution to what ails Afghanistan.
There will be no peace without a negotiated settlement that includes the Taliban. To accomplish this, leadership is required which recognizes the Taliban as a force of moderation, and not extremism. Holbrooke does not have a record which indicates he would be willing to consider direct negotiations with the Taliban. He tends to seek military solutions to difficult ethnic-based problems, and he is likely to argue for the deployment of even more U.S. troops to that war-ravaged nation. That would be a historic mistake.
Instability within Afghanistan continues to bleed over into Pakistan. As the United States pushes for a more effective military solution, there will be even greater pressures placed on U.S. leadership to become directly involved in Pakistan. The recent events in Mumbai, where Pakistani-based terrorists killed scores of innocent civilians, only underscore the inherent instability of Pakistan, which is fighting its own internal struggle against the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. Increased American military operations against Taliban and al-Qaida forces operating inside Pakistan will be a direct result of any increased U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Such military operations will only increase the influence of Islamic fundamentalists inside Pakistan, while doing little to halt the efforts of the Taliban inside Afghanistan.
The radicalization of Pakistan has potentially disastrous implications for Pakistani-Indian relations. There is already increased talk about the possibility of war between these two nuclear-armed regional powers. Any conflict between India and Pakistan, nuclear or not, brings with it the likelihood of a breakdown of central authority within Pakistan, and would even further empower radical Islamic fundamentalists. That would bring the possibility that sensitive nuclear material, up to and including a nuclear device, would fall into their control. Such an outcome is the stuff of nightmares.
The cause-and-effect relationship between what the United States does inside Afghanistan and what occurs inside Pakistan cannot be ignored by American policymakers. As such, the goal of any U.S. special envoy to the region should be to stabilize the internal Afghan situation and de-emphasize cross-border military operations into Pakistan. Any effort which embraces the Taliban as part of a new Afghan reality would, by extension, eliminate the need to strike Taliban strongholds inside Pakistan. With the Taliban co-opted as a part of the central Afghan government, the forces of al-Qaida would lose their effectiveness, as any effort to continue to fight in Afghanistan would invariably pit them against their former allies. Reduction of hostilities in Afghanistan would create a similar reduction in hostilities in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. This in turn would result in a reduction of events which could be used by fundamentalists to justify radical behavior. And a reduction in radical Islamic fundamentalism would in turn allow for a more stable, moderate Pakistani government operating in a manner not only conducive to peace in Afghanistan but also peace with India and the entire region.
To embrace such a policy, the United States needs to contract the services of a U.S. special envoy capable of visionary thinking, one who possesses the political courage to stand up to a president and a secretary of state and argue against bad policy. I do not believe Holbrooke is such a man. As a result, I fear that the Obama administration will find the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continuing to deteriorate to the detriment of American national security, and will increasingly waste time and energy in a period of so many problems at home and abroad. Afghanistan does not need to be one of these problems, but the selection of Richard Holbrooke as U.S. special envoy bodes ill for the prospect of lasting peace and security in a volatile region.
Scott Ritter, a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, is the author of “Waging Peace” (Nation Books, 2007).
The Real Bill Ayers December 6, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Political Commentary, U.S. Election 2008.
Tags: 1960s, 1984, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, civil disobedience, demonization, fugitive, guilt by association, orwell, Pentagon, racism, roger hollander, terrorist, Vietnam War, war, weather underground
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IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.
Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”
Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.
I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.
With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.
Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:
I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.
The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.
Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.
I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.
I have regrets, of course — including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.
The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.
We — the broad “we” — wrote letters, marched, talked to young men at induction centers, surrounded the Pentagon and lay down in front of troop trains. Yet we were inadequate to end the killing of three million Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans during a 10-year war.
The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.
President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.
Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.
Gen. Jim Jones: What Kool-Aid Will He Offer Obama? December 1, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: Add new tag, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, Barack Obama, boeing, chevron, cold war, combat operations, foreign policy, general james jones, ground war, islam, kool-aid, national security, NATO, oil, pakistan, peter pace, Petraeus, shock and awe, steve weissman, Taliban, terrorist, war
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Monday 01 December 2008, www.truthout.org
by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Gen. James Jones, newly named Obama’s national security adviser. (Photo: AP)
The best military advice I know supposedly comes from a subordinate of Napoleon at a time that the French emperor was facing difficulties with his ill-fated military occupation of Egypt. “One can do anything with bayonets, Sire, except sit on them.” If only Gen. Jim Jones, the new National Security adviser, had the wisdom to give President-elect Barack Obama the same advice about the already planned escalation of forces in Afghanistan. But don’t count on it. From all available evidence, the good general has already urged Obama to dig the United States even deeper into a far-off land that Alexander the Great, the British raj and 150,000 Soviets troops all came to know as “the graveyard of empires.”
A former Marine Corps commandant and supreme allied commander of NATO, Jones is no simple war hawk. Far from it. He stood up against the way Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ran the war in Iraq and also opposed the surge that his longtime friend John McCain so passionately defended.
As Jones saw it, the real fight against al-Qaeda lay in Afghanistan, not Iraq, a position that Obama echoed throughout the election campaign.
So strongly did Jones feel, that he turned his back on heading US Central Command, the job now held by Gen. David Petraeus, and walked away from a chance to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he told his Marine Corps buddy Gen. Peter Pace, who later took the job, Jones was not willing to be “the parrot on the secretary’s shoulder.”
After leaving the military, Jones co-chaired the blue-ribbon Afghanistan Study Group, which issued a report called “Revitalizing Our Efforts, Rethinking Our Strategies.” The second edition of their report appeared in January 2008, when the Taliban-led insurgency was even less strong than it is now. But the basic approach will almost certainly guide Jones in his new White House post.
“The United States and the international community have tried to win the struggle in Afghanistan with too few military forces and insufficient economic aid, and without a clear and consistent comprehensive strategy to fill the power vacuum outside Kabul and to counter the combined challenges of Reconstituted Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a runaway opium economy, and the stark poverty faced by most Afghans,” wrote Jones and his co-chair, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering.
“We believe that success in Afghanistan remains a critical national security imperative for the United States and the international community.”
That’s quite a mouthful, I know, and the awkward syntax should alert readers to what a gargantuan task General Jones has in mind for the incoming administration.
In part, he worries that failure in Afghanistan would send a message to terrorist organizations that we and our allies can be defeated. It would. But, to use the new buzzword, let’s be pragmatic. Wouldn’t it be better to send that message at a time when a new American president offers the world new hope rather than after we follow the British and Soviets into a deadly Afghan quagmire?
The answer could determine the success of Obama’s domestic dreams, and whether he will be a one-term president. Lest he actually believes in the possibility of winning even a half-baked victory, he should read Rudyard Kipling or call Mikhail Gorbachev.
The problem with Jones goes even further. The vision offered by his Afghanistan Study Group draws heavily on his experience with NATO, as one can see in this recently released letter to the Washington Post that he co-authored with Harlan Ullman, the civilian architect of the Pentagon’s Rapid Dominance Strategy, or Shock and Awe.
“For the first time in its history, NATO is engaged in a ground war, not against a massive Soviet attack across the northern plains of Germany or in Iraq against insurgents and al Qaeda, but in Afghanistan,” they wrote. “In committing the alliance to sustained ground combat operations in Afghanistan (unlike Kosovo in 1999), NATO has bet its future. If NATO fails, alliance cohesion will be at grave risk. A moribund or unraveled NATO will have profoundly negative geostrategic impact.”
The words echo the rhetoric of the cold war, only now General Jones and so many other “foreign policy realists” see the big threat as radical Islam and other forces that threaten Western control of the oil and natural gas resources from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf into Central Asia. Jones views this threat not only as a 40-year marine, but also as a director of both Boeing and Chevron, and to counter it, he has helped Washington push the Europeans to increase their defense spending and join the United States in a multi-national military force to defend Western interests wherever threats appear.
Afghanistan is just the beginning, and many Europeans are already dragging their feet, seeing Washington’s view of NATO as too close to their own imperial past. Just as with the occupation of Iraq, they don’t think it will work any better this time. General Jones may hope that Obama’s charm can win them over, but I doubt they’ll drink the Kool-Aid.