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U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria Killed Hundreds of Civilians, U.N. Panel Says June 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, Imperialism, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It was Flag Day yesterday, and the entire patriotic nation was paralyzed with shock over the non-lethal shooting of a handful of Republican wannabe baseball stars.  In other news, buried in the back pages if noted at all, a report suggests that the U.S. led coalition ion in Syria may have killed up to 3,100 civilians and created 160,000 refugees with its airstrikes.  Of course, it is logical to expect a certain priority for local news.  But wait.  Is the latter not local?  Are the warplanes and bombs not Made in the USA?  Are the pilots not American?  Are they not financed with American taxes?

All lives matter.  That’s what the fake Christian bigots were saying in response to Black Lives Matter?  But of course they don’t really mean it.  When I was a Christian I believed that all lives matter (equally).  I am no longer a Christian.  Yet I still believe it.  Go figure.

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GENEVA — Airstrikes by the American-led coalition against Islamic State targets have killed hundreds of civilians around Raqqa, the militant group’s last Syrian stronghold, and left 160,000 people displaced, a United Nations panel said on Wednesday.

The findings of the panel, which has been documenting the war in Syria with periodic reports almost since the conflict began more than six years ago, reinforced fears by humanitarian groups over the heavy loss of civilian life that would result from the American-led coalition’s airstrikes.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Brazilian diplomat who leads the panel, said the airstrikes had escalated as an American-backed militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces moved recently to retake Raqqa, which Islamic State fighters seized in 2014 and made their de facto capital.

“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an S.D.F. advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes,” Mr. Pinheiro said in a report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

It was the first time Mr. Pinheiro’s panel had focused on American military conduct that has led to heavy civilian casualties and other suffering.

The panel’s investigators found that 300 civilians had been killed in the airstrikes since March 21, panel member Karen Abuzayd told reporters in Geneva later. They included 200 civilians killed in a single incident in March when an airstrike hit a school in the town of Mansoura, she said.

The attack on Mansoura, shortly after midnight on March 21, hit a school building housing families that had fled the fighting around Palmyra and other towns, investigators said. Initial reports said up to 40 people had died in the bombing, but rescue workers and other witnesses interviewed by the panel said that as operations to clear the rubble progressed the death toll had climbed to around 200. The United States military has said it is aware of the reports of higher casualty figures in Mansoura and is investigating.

The Mansoura attack came on a day that the American-led coalition conducted 19 airstrikes on targets in the vicinity of Raqqa and a week after 49 people reportedly died when coalition aircraft struck the village of Al Jinah in western Aleppo Province. In that strike, residents said coalition aircraft had hit a mosque but American officials said they had hit a meeting of Al Qaeda operatives, producing satellite images which showed the mosque was still standing.

The recapture of Raqqa would be a significant step in the drive to eliminate the Islamic State’s hold on Syrian territory, and in the wider battle between President Bashar al-Assad’s government, backed by Russia and Iran, and rebel forces supported by the United States and Arab regional powers to decide the future of Syria.

Mr. Pinheiro’s panel, officially known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has been chronicling evidence of war crimes and other atrocities in exhaustive detail.

Success in purging Raqqa of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would free thousands of civilians from the group’s rule, Mr. Pinheiro said, including women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who have been held as sex slaves for almost three years. But “the imperative to fight terrorism must not, however, be undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where ISIL is present,” Mr. Pinheiro said.

Its report echoed deepening fears among humanitarian agencies over the toll in civilian lives exacted by American and coalition forces in the campaign to eliminate the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Airwars, a nonprofit group monitoring reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, has estimated that at least 3,100 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes since the onset of the war against Islamic State in August 2014 up to March 2017, more than eight times the 352 civilian casualties acknowledged by the United States military.

The number of civilians killed in coalition attacks has raised questions among human rights organizations over whether the greater autonomy the Trump administration has allowed military commanders on the battlefield has diverted attention from protection of civilians. Those concerns were further underscored by reports last week that coalition forces attacking Islamic State positions around Raqqa had used munitions containing white phosphorus, a weapon banned in populated areas under international law. United States officials said last week that the weapons were not being used against people.

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Russia enters Syria war, exposing hypocrisy and contradictions of U.S. policy October 2, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Syria.
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Roger’s note: This article untangles the situation in Syria better than anything else I have read.  The Answer Coalition is almost always spot on.  That the US empire oriented foreign policy (US foreign policy = endless war), the chaos, the deaths, the infrastructure destruction, the refugees, etc., is indisputable.  Obama’s irrational and hypocritical stumbling makes it easy for Putin to look like a statesman.  I got a chuckle out of “expert” statements in the New York Times article to the effect that Putin can get away with anything in Russia because the media he controls will always report his narrative: as if the US mass media were independent of the party line!!!

And even if he is a hypocrite, Putin correctly unmasks the basic US objective of REGIME CHANGE, which not only is it in contravention of what is left of international standards, but is murderous and counterproductive.  One is reminded of what Netanyahu is doing to contribute to the ultimate destruction of Israel because of his imperial and racist obsessions.

By Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator

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Russia’s direct military intervention into Syria has dramatically changed the dynamics of a war that has raged since 2011. The fighting during the last four years has torn this historic Arab country to shreds, made millions of Syrians into refugees, and left more than 200,000 people dead.

The stage has been set for a possible major military counteroffensive against arch-reactionary Islamic military organizations who have been gaining more and more territory.

After four years of fighting against these groups, the Syrian army has been forced into an ever smaller portion of western Syria. The Russian intervention is meant to bolster their effort, stop the retreat before the armies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Al-Qaeda and others, in preparation for a military counteroffensive.

The main force preventing Syria from being completely overrun by ISIS and Al-Qaeda has been the Syrian Arab Army, the national army of the country. Between 50,000 and 85,000 Syrian soldiers have been killed in this fight already. Syrian Kurdish forces under the leadership of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have also been heroically battling against ISIS. The YPG had earlier fought against the Syrian army in an effort to create a Kurdish-ruled autonomous area in the northern part of Syria.

Now the Russian military has directly entered the battle on the side of the Syrian national army. Russia may directly give assistance to the Kurdish fighters as well. Russia’s intervention was formally requested by the sovereign Syrian government led by Bashar Al-Assad and thus conforms to international law.

The stated position of the Russian government is that a long-term solution to the Syrian crisis is through political change, based on dialogue between the Baathist government and some of the opposition but not ISIS or Al Qaeda, and the retention and defense of Syria’s core state institutions.

The Russia-Syria connection

Russia and before it the Soviet Union were historic allies of the secular Baathist government in Damascus, with deep military, social and economic ties to the country.

It is critically important that progressive forces abandon the false language and political characterizations being spoon-fed to the public by the pro-imperialist media.

Assad is characterized as a “dictator” who is “killing his own people.” That works for demonization purposes, but it cannot help anyone establish an informed position about the social and political character of the different forces in the Syrian war. When reading the Western news, one would think every death has been at the hands of the Syrian government. There has been almost no mention of the social base of support for the Syrian government, or the 50,000-80,000 Syrian soldiers who have died fighting sectarian armed groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The Syrian Baathist government, like the Iraqi Baathist regime, banned sectarian-based religious parties. Saddam Hussein also banned the Communist Party while establishing a secular-based social democratic economic and social program. In Syria, the Baathists worked with some Syrian leftists and repressed others.

In 2011 and 2012, the Russian government hosted meetings in Moscow of Syrian opposition groups that stood politically against Assad and demanded far-reaching political reforms from the regime but rejected foreign intervention and armed struggle. Most of these opposition groups were secular.

U.S. policy and the rise of ISIS

The United States, France, Britain and their allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia took a different path. The United States and its NATO and regional allies have funneled weapons and money to right-wing armed sectarian groups since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. This quickly morphed into the dominance among the armed opposition in Syria of the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other groups.

In its reckless effort to smash the Assad government, as it did to Qaddafi’s in Libya, the Obama administration cared little about the political character of the “rebels.” In so doing, they created a monster they could not control.

Even as ISIS and Al-Qaeda grew stronger and grabbed more and more territory from the besieged Syrian army, the Obama administration aimed its fire at the Syrian government. The CIA kept coordinating massive weapons shipments from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that allowed the armed opposition to get ever stronger. In August 2013, John Kerry and the Republicans in Congress demanded the bombing of the Syrian national army and government military assets, not ISIS or the armed opposition groups.

Then in June 2014, ISIS shocked the United States by defeating the Iraqi army and seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, and much of Anbar province, and seemed to threaten U.S. assets in Iraq. In a panic, Obama suddenly changed course, sent thousands of U.S. military personnel back to Iraq and announced the open-ended bombing of ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq.

Obama announced the new military campaign against ISIS on September 10, 2014 but also reiterated that the United States would continue to work to topple the Assad government in Syria.

When he spoke to the people of the United States about the plan for “endless war” against IS in Iraq and Syria, Obama refused to tell the truth about the situation in the Middle East. He refused to acknowledge how his administration’s strategy for regime change in Libya and Syria, like George W. Bush’s earlier war in Iraq, were the fundamental factors that had led to the rise of ISIS and other extremist organizations in three out of the four most important secular states in the Arab world.

The feckless, reckless and shortsighted policy of the Obama administration in Syria and Libya was no less breathtaking in 2011 than had been Jimmy Carter’s and Ronald Reagan’s in Afghanistan in the 1980s when the CIA and Pentagon provided massive support to the “mujahadeen” fighters—among them Osama bin Laden—in a clandestine war against the socialist government that had taken power in Afghanistan. The U.S.-supported anti-communist guerrillas morphed later into Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Failed U.S. military efforts: ISIS has been winning

Not only did U.S. interventions open the political space for the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Libya and Syria, but Obama’s latest effort against ISIS has proven a miserable failure. If the goal was to “degrade and defeat ISIS” as promised, they have failed completely. ISIS is stronger. Tens of thousands of new fighters have joined ISIS in Syria during the past 12 months. Money and weapons kept pouring in. It is the Syrian army that lost ground, not ISIS.

Obama promised “no boots on the ground” in Syria. His even more right-wing and militaristic critics in Congress are also not calling for thousands of U.S. troops to go and do battle with ISIS. Public opinion in the United States will not allow another mass deployment of troops to fight and die in another Middle East war.

But from a military standpoint, the armies of ISIS and Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated by air assault. They can only be defeated by other forces on the ground.

When Russian President Putin spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, he implicitly blamed the United States for creating the current crises in the Middle East by invading and destroying the secular government Iraq in 2003, militarily destroying the secular Libyan government in 2012 and fomenting civil war in Syria.

At the UN, Putin called for an international coalition to defeat ISIS, similar to the “anti-Hitler” coalition in World War that allied the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain during World War Two. He also emphasized the need to stand with the sovereign government in Syria battling ISIS, Al Qaeda and the other armed organizations.

The Obama administration immediately rejected this proposal because it included collaboration with the Syrian government. This is merely a demonstration of arrogance and hubris by representatives of the Empire. In their eyes, Assad was not supposed to survive after they declared that his government must fall. Since Obama, Kerry and Hillary Clinton declared “Assad must go,” they are now unwilling to accept responsibility for the “humiliation” of their “great power” that would be implied by entering into an open alliance with the same government they declared had “no future” in Syria.

Contradiction and hypocrisy

Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, says that Russia’s efforts in Syria are “doomed to fail” because Russia believes the fight against ISIS and other terrorist forces requires support for the Assad government and the Syrian military.

But the logical contradiction lies not with the Russian position but with the one espoused by the White House. ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-led coalition, while they sometimes fight each other, are fighting the Syrian army. The only reason they have not seized the entire country is because of the battle waged by the Syrian army.

The United States says it wants to degrade and defeat ISIS, and is bombing some of the ISIS positions, but it won’t send U.S. troops to defeat ISIS. It won’t support the Syrian military that is actually fighting against ISIS and an array of other terrorist groups. In fact, the U.S. government is sending arms and weapons and paying the salaries of anti-Assad fighters who are then fighting alongside Al-Qaeda.

The U.S. position appears not just as a “logical contradiction” or hypocritical but downright nonsensical.

Just step back and look: Obama officials are condemning the Russian bombing because it has targeted Al-Qaeda. Russian aircraft are bombing positions of several armed opposition groups including the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, which the United States recognizes as responsible for hijacking and flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The need to destroy Al-Qaeda has been the principal rationale used by the U.S. “war on terror” conducted for the past 14 years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali and elsewhere.

Thus, the irony is unmistakable when the Pentagon and U.S. media now denounces the Russian bombing of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. And the irony goes deeper. The Russian bombing has also struck CIA-funded armed groups fighting alongside Al-Qaeda.

That’s right. U.S. taxpayers are paying for arms and training and salaries for armed combatants who are fighting with, and not against, Al-Qaeda. Apparently Al-Qaeda is okay as long as they kill Syrians and not Americans, and help the U.S. overthrow independent governments in the Middle East.

This seeming contradiction and weirdness in U.S. policy regarding Al-Qaeda is not exaggerated by those of us in the U.S. anti-war movement who successfully mobilized to stop Obama and Kerry’s projected bombing campaign against the Syrian army that was planned in August 2013 and was only narrowly averted when Obama stepped back from the precipice at the last moment.

This is from the Oct. 1, 2015, New York Times:

“The strikes on Thursday targeted the Army of Conquest, a coalition of insurgent groups that includes the Nusra Front, the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and a range of less extreme Islamist groups—all of which are opposed to the Islamic State.

Often fighting alongside the Army of Conquest are relatively secular groups from what is left of the loose-knit Free Syrian Army, including some that have received United States training and advanced American-made antitank missiles. At least one C.I.A.-trained group was among the targets hit on Wednesday, which drew an angry response from Washington.”

John McCain himself confirmed strikes against “our Free Syrian Army or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA, because we have communications with people there.”

Stop the U.S. campaign for regime change in Syria

The position of the Russian government is that the survival of the Syrian army is indispensable for a viable political solution to emerge that could end the war in Syria and prevent the country from being fragmented. That is precisely what happened in Libya and Iraq following the imperialist-led destruction of those two countries in 2003 and 2011, when the existing state structures were shattered.

Far from being a “logical contradiction,” this is fully rational. In his CBS interview with Charlie Rose on Sept. 24, Putin stated: “There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform. … ” As a rejoinder to U.S. policy makers who insisted that “Assad must go,” he told Charlie Rose, “It’s only the Syrian people who are entitled to decide who should govern their country and how.”

The Syrian war has entered a new stage. The stakes are high. Russia’s intervention constitutes a pledge that the entire country will not be overtaken by ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

The fact that Russia has entered the Syria fray through the creation in Baghdad of a new international center for military coordination against ISIS that includes Russia, Iran, Syria and the government of Iraq must be regarded as a historical irony of the first order. When Bush and Cheney ordered the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003, the last thing they could have foreseen a decade later is a post-occupation Iraqi government providing a military headquarters in Iraq for Russia, Syria and Iran. The words “feckless,” “reckless” and “short-sighted” are not really adequate to capture the degree of incompetence of a foreign policy based ultimately on the arrogance of imperial power.

Targeting ISIS, US-Led Strike Kills 52 Civilians, Including 7 Children May 2, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Human Rights, Imperialism, ISIS/ISIL, Syria, War.
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Roger’s note: your tax dollars at work in promotion of democracy death.

 

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Edited U.S. Air Force image of two F-15E fighters after conducting airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. Central Command directed the operations. (Photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/USAF via Stuart Rankin/cc/flickr)

A U.S. military strike on Friday targeting fighters with the Islamic State has killed 52 civilians, including 7 children and 9 women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

According to the human rights watchdog group, an additional 13 Syrian civilians are missing following the attack on a village in the northern province of Aleppo. The deaths mark the highest civilian loss from a single attack since the U.S.-led coalition began its war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in September 2014.

“[We] condemn in the strongest terms this massacre committed by the U.S led coalition under the pretext of targeting the IS in the village, and we call the coalition countries to refer who committed this massacre to the courts, as we renew our calls to neutralize all civilians areas from military operations by all parties,” the group said in a statement.

Coalition airstrikes have killed an estimated 118 civilians. However, Reuters notes, the U.S.-led attack has “had little impact on the hardline Islamic State group, slowing its advances but failing to weaken it in areas it controls.”

“Washington and its allies say their aim is to support what they call moderate rebels fighting against both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Isis,” Reuters continues. “But four years into Syria’s civil war, no side is close to victory. A third of the population has been made homeless and more than 220,000 people have been killed.”

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? February 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: some of us remember the days when it was joked that the American Communist Party would go broke if the undercover FBI agent members failed to pay their dues.  We also remember Herb Philbrick, the intrepid hero of the television series “I Led Three Lives,”  who in each episode as a double agent uncovered one Russian Commie plot after another to sabotage American industry or security.  The Imperial rulers need an enemy in order for it to pose as a victim and justify its aggressions.  This phenomenon goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire.  Today we have “terrorists” hiding under every bed.  You’d better check yours before you go to sleep tonight (although it may be as likely an FBI agent there as an actual fully fledged time bomb toting terrorist).

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New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, right, speaks during a news conference at police headquarters, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in New York, regarding three men who were arrested on charges of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group and wage war against the U.S. Bratton is joined by assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office Diego Rodriguez, second from right, NYPD chief of counterterrorism James Waters, second from left, and Bill Sweeney special agent in charge of the counterterrorism division of the New York field office. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

By Glenn Greenwald

February 26, 2015, http://www.firstlook.org

The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.

Once again, we should all pause for a moment to thank the brave men and women of the FBI for saving us from their own terror plots.

One can, if one really wishes, debate whether the FBI should be engaging in such behavior. For reasons I and many others have repeatedly argued, these cases are unjust in the extreme: a form of pre-emptory prosecution where vulnerable individuals are targeted and manipulated not for any criminal acts they have committed but rather for the bad political views they have expressed. They end up sending young people to prison for decades for “crimes” which even their sentencing judges acknowledge they never would have seriously considered, let alone committed, in the absence of FBI trickery. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking this is a justifiable tactic, but I’m certain there are people who believe that. Let’s leave that question to the side for the moment in favor of a different issue.

We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this month cited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?

This FBI tactic would be akin to having the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) constantly warn of the severe threat posed by drug addiction while it simultaneously uses pushers on its payroll to deliberately get people hooked on drugs so that they can arrest the addicts they’ve created and thus justify their own warnings and budgets (and that kind of threat-creation, just by the way, is not all that far off from what the other federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, are actually doing). As we noted the last time we wrote about this, the Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat.

Threats that are real, and substantial, do not need to be manufactured and concocted. Indeed, as the blogger Digby, citing Juan Cole, recently showed, run-of-the-mill “lone wolf” gun violence is so much of a greater threat to Americans than “domestic terror” by every statistical metric that it’s almost impossible to overstate the disparity:

In that regard, it is not difficult to understand why “domestic terror” and “homegrown extremism” are things the FBI is desperately determined to create. But this FBI terror-plot concoction should, by itself, suffice to demonstrate how wildly exaggerated this threat actually is.

Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

UPDATE: The ACLU of Massachusetts’s Kade Crockford notes this extraordinarily revealing quote from former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, as he defends one of the worst FBI terror “sting” operations of all (the Cromitie prosecution we describe at length here):

If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that “We won the war on terror and everything’s great,” cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’—it’s ‘Keep Fear Alive.’ Keep it alive.

That is the FBI’s terrorism strategy — keep fear alive — and it drives everything they do.

Where Islamic State was born November 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: this article demonstrates the upsidedown Alice in Wonderland world we live in.  It asks the question: “It’s a scenario that’s long confounded law enforcement: How do you crack down on extremism without creating more of it?”  Dear Law Enforcement, here is the answer: stop invading Muslim countries and bombing their civilian populations.  Then, in referring to those the Americans have put in prison, it notes with straight faced incredulity: “Many were guilty of attacking American soldiers.”  Again, Dear Law Enforcement, when invading foreign countries, would it not be logical and expected for the citizens to attack the invading American soldiers?”

Pogo

During the Iraq War, the U.S. locked up thousands of radicals in Camp Bucca. That gave the future leaders of Islamic State the opportunity to meet — and plan

At the height of the Iraq War, Camp Bucca had 24,000 inmates. Many of Islamic State's leaders were incarcerated and likely met at the sprawling detention centre, located near the Kuwait-Iraq border. Photo taken May 19, 2008.

DAVID FURST / AFP/GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO

At the height of the Iraq War, Camp Bucca had 24,000 inmates. Many of Islamic State’s leaders were incarcerated and likely met at the sprawling detention centre, located near the Kuwait-Iraq border. Photo taken May 19, 2008.

WASHINGTON—In March 2009, in a windswept sliver of Iraq, a sense of uncertainty befell the southern town of Garma, home to one of the Iraq War’s most notorious prisons.

The sprawling detention centre called Camp Bucca, which had detained some of the Iraq War’s most radical jihadists, had just freed hundreds of inhabitants. Families rejoiced, anxiously awaiting their sons, brothers and fathers who had been lost to Bucca for years. But a local official fretted.

“These men weren’t planting flowers in a garden,” police chief Saad Abbas Mahmoud told The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, estimating 90 per cent of the freed prisoners would soon resume fighting. “They weren’t strolling down the street. This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don’t know how big the problem has become.”

Mahmoud’s assessment of Camp Bucca, which funnelled 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, would prove prescient. The camp now represents an opening chapter in the history of Islamic State — many of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were incarcerated and likely met there.

According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and it was formative in the development today’s most potent jihadist force.

In all, nine members of the Islamic State’s top command did time at Bucca, according to the terrorist analyst organization Soufan Group. Baghdadi spent five years there; the leader’s No. 2, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, as well as senior military leader Haji Bakr, now deceased, and the leader of foreign fighters, Abu Qasim, were also incarcerated at Bucca, Soufan said. Though it’s likely the men were extremists when they entered the detention centre, the group added, it’s certain they were when they left.

“Before their detention, Mr. al-Baghdadi and others were violent radicals, intent on attacking America,” wrote military veteran Andrew Thompson and academic Jeremi Suri in the New York Times last month. “Their time in prison deepened their extremism and gave them opportunities to broaden their following … The prisons became virtual terrorist universities: The hardened radicals were the professors, the other detainees were the students, and the prison authorities played the role of absent custodian.”

It’s a scenario that’s long confounded law enforcement: How do you crack down on extremism without creating more of it? From the radicalization of white supremacists in U.S. prisons to the United Kingdom’s disastrous bid in the 1970s to incarcerate Irish Republican Army members, the problem is nothing new: prisons are pools of explosive extremism awaiting a spark.

And at Camp Bucca, there was no shortage of sparks. As news of al-Baghdadi’s tenure at Bucca emerged, former prison commander James Skylar Gerrond remembered many of them. “Re: Baghdadi,” he wrote on Twitter in July, “Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism.” He worked at the prison between 2006 and 2007, when it was glutted with tens of thousands of radicals, including al-Baghdadi.

Many were guilty of attacking American soldiers. But many more were not — “simply being a ‘suspicious looking’ military-aged male in the vicinity of an attack was enough to land one behind bars,” according to the Times opinion piece.

Shadid reported as much in 2009, confirming that many viewed it “as an appalling miscarriage of justice where prisoners were not charged or permitted to see evidence against them (and) freed detainees may end up swelling the ranks of a subdued insurgency.”

That this subdued insurgency eventually caught fire isn’t much of a surprise. At the height of the Iraq surge in 2007, when the prison had 24,000 inmates, it seethed with extremism. Inhabitants were divided along sectarian lines to ameliorate tension, a military report said, and inmates settled their disputes with Islamic law. “Inside the wire at these compounds are Islamic extremists who will maim or kill fellow detainees for behaviour they consider against Islam,” the military report said.

“Sharia courts enforce a lot of rules inside the compounds,” one soldier quoted in the report said. “Anyone who takes part in behaviour which is seen as ‘Western’ is severely punished by the extremist elements of the compound … It’s quite appalling sometimes.”

Prison commanders such as Gerrond observed the growing extremism. “There was a huge amount of collective pressure exerted on detainees to become more radical in their beliefs,” he told Mother Jones. “ … Detainees turn(ed) to each other for support. If there were radical elements within this support network, there was always the potential that detainees would become more radical.”

But the unique setting at Bucca, which thrust together Saddam Hussein’s Baathist secularists and Islamic fundamentalists, set the stage for something perhaps worse: collaboration. At the prison, the two seemingly incongruous groups joined to form a union “more than a marriage of convenience,” Soufan reported.

Soufan found each group offered the other something it lacked. In the ex-Baathists, jihadists found organizational skills and military discipline. In the jihadists, ex-Baathists found purpose. “In Bucca, the math changed as ideologies adopted military and bureaucratic traits and as bureaucrats became violent extremists,” the Soufan report said.

From the ashes of what former inmates called an “Al Qaeda school,” rose the Islamic State. Indeed, when those inhabitants freed in 2009 returned to Baghdad, the Post reported, they spoke of two things: their conversion to radicalism — and revenge.

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

Iraq: Here come the boots, ignoring the consequences September 27, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Roger’s note: Here are some of the voices that the president, the congress and most of the media virtually ignore: the men and women are sent to kill and damage and be killed and damaged in order to advance the interests of the political and economic elite, who risk nothing and take all.  Yes, slitting throats is barbaric, but this is wholesale barbarism capital B.

 

March Forward logo

Iraq: Here come the boots,
ignoring the consequences
Just like that, those year-long Iraq deployments are back

By Mike Prysner

James Circello also contributed to this article. Prysner and Circello are former non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army, who served together in the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. 

As Iraq war veterans, it is almost surreal watching the rapid unfolding events that has brought us, again, into an occupation of Iraq, with no public discussion about the potential consequences for soldiers and our families.

The deployment of regular Army “boots on the ground” has begun—and looks poised to grow.

The Pentagon announced on Sept. 25 that the Headquarters element of the 1st Infantry Division is now staged in Kuwait, under orders for a one-year deployment to Baghdad, Irbil and possibly other cities in Iraq. This is just the first of many future rotations.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said of the deployment “The complexity of the environment that we have to operate in now, and probably the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, we need these headquarters.” With that, this general who built his career on the 2003 war, set the stage for people not even born yet to be sent to occupy Iraq.

The 1st Infantry Division, a tank unit, was also sent to Iraq as one of the advance elements prior to the U.S. ground invasion in March 2003. Their initial deployment was extended by six months to fight an armed uprising by the Iraqi people, completely unanticipated by the generals and politicians.

Around 500 regular Army soldiers (increased from 130 announced the day before, in true Washington fashion), will be leaving their families for 12 months to return to the site of the U.S. government’s most blood-drenched foreign policy disaster since the war on Vietnam.

Fort Riley, from which the 1st Infantry Division is deploying, lost 140 soldiers and had thousands wounded in “Operation: Iraqi Freedom.”

What could happen

The complete carelessness and belligerence with which we are being thrown back into Iraq is beyond alarming.

Has there been any public discussion or debate by our so-called representatives about what this could mean for soldiers and our families? Has there been any scrutiny at all over the fact that U.S. soldiers could again be targeted and blown up in large numbers by a wide variety of Iraqi groups that oppose Islamic State but also refuse to be occupied by the United States?

The 500,000-strong Mahdi Army, under the command of prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has already vowed to take a break from their war against Islamic State to attack U.S. troops if they return. Other broad sectors of the population, which fought for years to drive out the U.S. military, could very well follow suit. But that potentially major combat scenario is completely absent from the speeches given by the Pentagon.

Even if the Generals give us the flimsy assurance that this Division Headquarters will just be a base supporting Iraqi and Kurdish troops doing all the front-line fighting, thousands of casualties were inflicted on U.S. soldiers holed-up on big fortified bases by suicide bombers, rocket and mortar attacks, “insider attacks” and car bombs.

But there is no discussion, or even feigned concern, about what could possibly happen to the young men and women who are being rushed back to the place where so many of us left in coffins and wheelchairs.

The Pentagon just announces that we’re going. We’re expected to trust them, as if we’ve all forgotten about what a catastrophe the last Iraq war was for soldiers, our families and Iraqis.

Brave words from the Generals—the safest soldiers in Iraq

1st Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen Paul Funk—who commands but does not participate in battle—said “we stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world to protect the United States of America.” Except, the Pentagon says quite openly that there is no intelligence indicating that Islamic State poses a threat to people in the United States.

He went on to say “we are ready for anything because we know we have the whole nation behind us.”

Why, then, did the President and his staff have to repeat on television over and over that “there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq”? That doesn’t sound like the words of a commander who thinks the whole nation would be behind such a decision.

The Pentagon’s trend

The White House has skirted around the admission of “boots on the ground” because those boots are worn by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, Marine Corps security guards, drone operators and Apache pilots.

Those boots, which apparently don’t count, increased in number periodically since June, going from under 200 authorized and deployed to around 2,000.

Sending a Division Headquarters sets the stage to have other elements of the Division follow behind.

Should we believe that the generals are sending a command and control operations center without the intention of sending the Army units that it commands and controls?

If the past three months are any indicator, it would not be surprising if this new 500 soldier deployment, too, was incrementally increased.

What the U.S. government wants in Iraq

Their stated goal is to “degrade and destroy ISIL.” But whatever their stated goal is, there is no doubt that the U.S. government seeks to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq—just like it did at the end of the Iraq war, but was unable to secure in the midst of a political crisis.

The U.S. government wants permanent bases in Iraq. It wants permanent bases in Syria. It wants permanent bases everywhere, because that’s how this system works.

The three-piece suits in Washington serve and protect the interests of big banks, oil giants and corporations. Key to their doctrine of being the world’s leading economy is the projection of military power wherever there are resources to be gobbled up. That is how the United States functioned from its birth, and the foundation on which it rests today. The Middle East is home to two-thirds of the world’s oil.

President Obama didn’t withdraw troops from Iraq because he believed it was best for U.S. service members, their families and the Iraqi people. He did so because he, like many in a certain sector of the political and military establishment, believed the U.S. occupation to be politically counter-productive to its geopolitical strategy.

But now that political situation has changed. The widely-hated and brutally sectarian Iraqi government is now begging for the U.S. military to come back, unlike its posturing three years ago.

The White House and its parade of military generals featured in the U.S. media have established a fear-based narrative that this will be nothing like the last war, but a limited humanitarian mission to simply destroy a vile terrorist group, leaving out all the many haunting details of what could really happen if Iraq is re-occupied.

We are now in a new Iraq war. Just like the last one, it could have devastating effects on people who are not our enemies. Just like the last one, it’s based on lies, false-rationales, and a complete disregard for the grave consequences that face the troops they say they support so much.

The best way soldiers can really serve the people of the United States is by refusing to take part in this new rush to war by politicians and officers drunk with power and arrogance.

SYRIA BECOMES THE 7TH PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM COUNTRY BOMBED BY 2009 NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE September 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Roger’s note: Shortly after Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I started a petition on Change.org demanding that it be returned.  I got less than a hundred signers and some angry responses.  I wonder how such a petition would fare today.

 

94289727-article-display-bPresident Barack Obama makes a speech during the Nobel Peace Prize Concert at Oslo Spektrum on December 11, 2009 in Oslo, Norway

Photo: Sandy Young/Getty Images

BY GLENN GREENWALD  

The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan.

That means that Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama—after Afghanistan,Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya evenafter Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

It was just over a year ago that Obama officials were insisting that bombing and attacking Assad was a moral and strategic imperative. Instead, Obama is now bombing Assad’s enemies while politely informing his regime of its targets in advance. It seems irrelevant on whom the U.S. wages war; what matters it that it be at war, always and forever.

Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, butbecause of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

If there is anyone who actually believes that the point of all of this is a moral crusade to vanquish the evil-doers of ISIS (as the U.S. fights alongside its close Saudi friends), please read Professor As’ad AbuKhalil’s explanation today of how Syria is a multi-tiered proxy war. As the disastrous Libya “intervention” should conclusively and permanently demonstrate, the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism isthe pretense, not the purpose.

 

Email the author: glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com

 

Obama’s Novel Lawyering to Bomb Syria

Exclusive: The U.S. government likes international law when it serves Washington’s purposes, but not when it constrains U.S. desires to use military force. Then, the rules are bent, ignored or subjected to novel lawyering, as President Obama is doing with airstrikes into Syria, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Obama administration has devised an extraordinary legal justification for carrying out bombing attacks inside Syria – that the United States and its Persian Gulf allies have the right to defend Iraq against the Islamic State because the Syrian government is unable to stop the cross-border terror group.

“The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself,” said the U.S. letter delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power to United Nations officials. “Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing ISIL [Islamic State] threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders.”

President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, following a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yet, beyond the danger to world order if such an expansive theory is embraced by the international community (does anyone remember how World War One got started?), there is the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and many of those same Gulf allies arming, training and funding Syrian rebels for the purpose of preventing the Syrian military from controlling its territory and then citing that lack of control as the rationale to ignore Syria’s sovereignty.

In other words, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other enemies of Syria covertly backed the rebels inside Syria and watched as many of them – including thousands of the U.S.-preferred “moderates” – took their newly acquired military skills to al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations. Then, the U.S. and its allies have the audacity to point to the existence of those terror groups inside Syria as a rationale for flying bombing raids into Syria.

Another alarming part of the U.S. legal theory is that among this new “coalition of the willing” – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan – only Jordan shares a border with Syria. So, this novel principle would mean that distant countries have the right to destabilize a country from afar and then claim the destabilization justifies mounting military attacks inside that country.

Such a theory – if accepted as a new standard of behavior – could wreak havoc on international order which is based on the principle of national sovereignty. The U.S. theory also stands in marked contrast to Washington’s pious embrace of strict readings of international law when denouncing Russia just this summer for trying to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine from brutal assaults by the U.S.-backed coup regime in Kiev.

In Ukraine, the Obama administration rejected any and all mitigating circumstances, such as the overthrow of an elected president and the coup regime’s use of artillery, airstrikes and even neo-Nazi militias to suppress eastern Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population. In the Ukraine case, the Obama administration insisted that national sovereignty was inviolable despite the fact that the Feb. 22 coup had violated Ukraine’s constitutional order and had produced a human rights disaster.

An entirely different set of rules were applied to Syria, where President Barack Obama decided that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” and where Obama authorized the CIA to provide arms, training and money for supposedly “moderate” rebels. Other U.S. “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supported some of the more extreme anti-Assad groups.

Israel’s right-wing Likud government also was eager for “regime change” in Syria as were America’s influential neoconservatives who saw Assad’s overthrow as a continuation of their strategy of removing Middle East leaders regarded as hostile to Israel. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the first on the list with Syria and Iran to follow. In those cases, the application of international law was entirely optional.

Before President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. government came up with another convenient argument, claiming the war was an act of American self-defense because otherwise Hussein might give his “weapons of mass destruction” to al-Qaeda for use against U.S. targets. As it turned out, Hussein had no WMDs and was a bitter enemy of al-Qaeda, which didn’t exist in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion.

The overthrow and subsequent execution of Hussein turned Iraq into a cauldron of bloody chaos, pitting Shiites against Sunnis and creating a fertile environment for a group of brutal Sunni extremists who took the name “al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Getting Assad

But Official Washington is slow to learn lessons. In 2011, the Obama administration’s “liberal interventionists” threw their weight behind a Sunni-led uprising to oust Assad, who runs a harsh but largely secular government with key support from Alawites, Shiites, Christians and other minorities who feared Sunni extremism.

As with Iraq, Syria’s sectarian violence drew in many Sunni extremists, including jihadists associated with al-Qaeda, particularly the Nusra Front but also “al-Qaeda in Iraq” which rebranded itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or simply the Islamic State. Eventually, al-Qaeda leaders rejected the Islamic State because it had become a rival of the Nusra Front and because its brutality was  too graphic even for al-Qaeda.

Despite the growing radicalism of Syrian rebels, Official Washington’s influential neocons and the “liberal interventionists” continued the drumbeat for ousting Assad, a position also shared by Israeli leaders who went so far as to indicate they would prefer Damascus to fall to al-Qaeda extremists rather than have Iranian ally Assad retain control. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Israel Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]

Whenever there was a chance to push Obama into ordering a U.S. military assault on Assad’s government, “the Assad-must-go crowd” pressed the argument. For instance, a still-mysterious Sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, was immediately blamed on Assad’s forces. The neocons and the ”liberal interventionists” demanded an air war to punish the Syrian government – and possibly open the way for a rebel victory.

This pressure on Obama mounted despite strong doubts within the U.S. intelligence community that Assad’s forces were responsible. Some evidence pointed to rebel extremists trying to create a provocation to bring the U.S. military into the war on their side.

Partly because of those doubts, President Obama backed away from a military strike at the last minute and accepted a compromise arranged by Russian President Vladimir Putin to get Assad to surrender his entire chemical weapons arsenal. Since then, additional evidence has emerged raising doubts about the government’s complicity and pointing more toward the rebels. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

Nevertheless, much of the mainstream U.S. news media, including the foreign-page editors of the New York Times who have increasingly fallen under the spell of neocon ideology, have taken to citing the Syrian government’s guilt for the Sarin gas attack as flat fact, rather than a point in serious dispute. It seems no journalism standards need apply when demonized figures, such as Assad or Putin, are facing accusations.

Israel’s Shift

Yet, with al-Qaeda-connected terrorists controlling part of the Israeli border along the Golan Heights, the Israeli government began to reverse its position on demanding Assad’s removal. As the Israeli investigative Web site, Debka Files, reported on Sept. 9, citing military and intelligence sources:

“The Israeli government has radically changed tack on Syria, reversing a policy and military strategy that were long geared to opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad … This reversal has come about in the light of the growing preponderance of radical Islamists in the Syrian rebel force fighting Assad’s army in the Quneitra area since June. Al Qaeda’s Syrian Nusra front … is estimated to account by now for 40-50 percent – or roughly, 4,000-5,000 Islamists – of the rebel force deployed just across Israel’s Golan border. …

“Nusra Front jihadis fighting alongside insurgents on the various Syrian battlefronts made a practice of surreptitiously infiltrating their non-Islamist brothers-at-arms, a process which the latter’s foreign allies, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, either ignored or were unaware of. These tactics began to pay off in the past month, when large numbers of moderate rebels suddenly knocked on the Nusra Front’s door and asked to join.”

I have confirmed this Israeli shift with my own sourcing. But it’s unclear whether Israel’s change of heart will cause any second thoughts among U.S. neocons who typically conform their policy recommendations to Israeli interests. However, on the Syrian case, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” friends might be too dug in on ousting Assad to adjust.

Indeed, all of Official Washington seems incapable of admitting that its wishful thinking about Syrian “moderates” may have caused another major strategic error in the Mideast. The unrealistic “group think” about “moderates” contributed to a power vacuum in Syria that has pulled in some of the most vicious Islamic extremists on earth and turned parts of Syria into a new base of operation for international terrorism.

For his part, President Obama recognized the folly of training Syrian “moderates” – just last month he dismissed the notion as a “fantasy” that was “never in the cards” as a workable strategy – but he nevertheless resurrected it last week as a key part of his new Syrian initiative. He won solid congressional majorities in support of spending some $500 million on the training scheme.

The most charitable view of Obama’s strange flip-flop is that he feared being accused of aiding Assad if the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State indirectly strengthened Assad’s hold on Damascus. So, Obama tacked on what he knew to be a useless appendage, a tough-sounding plan to “ramp up” the “moderate” rebel forces.

Similarly, Obama’s harsh rhetoric about refusing to coordinate the airstrikes with the Syrian government may be more a concession to the sensibilities of the neocons and the “liberal interventionists” than a reality.

I was told last week that U.S. intelligence had used Russian government go-betweens to clear the airstrikes with the Syrian government which gave quiet permission for the bombing campaign in parts of Syria. I was further told on Monday that U.S. military officials and their Syrian counterparts have met face-to-face to ensure that the U.S.-led airstrikes would encounter no Syrian air defenses.

That tacit approval from the Syrian government could be a sound legal basis for the airstrikes, much as other governments, such as Yemen and Pakistan, have tolerated or even encouraged U.S. air attacks on domestic enemies associated with al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

Yet, Obama may find it politically impossible to state the truth – that a “realist” approach to foreign affairs sometimes requires working with disreputable governments. So, instead of simply saying that Syria has no objection to these bombing raids, Obama has invented a dangerous new legal theory to justify the violation of a country’s sovereignty.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Obama Charged with ‘Imperial Hubris’ Unmatched Even by Bush September 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Obama’s latest act of warmongering tells us at least two things.  One is that the positions on issues taken by a candidate are a completely unreliable indicator of what said candidate might do once elected.  Secondly, the fact that Obama’s decision to declare war unilaterally against Isis/Isil, without either congressional or international authority, has gained widespread bipartisan approval (which is rare these days) shows us how the military industrial complex are the de facto rulers of the allegedly democratic nation.

 

Published on
by Jon Queally
obama-war-crimes

Following his announcement to bomb Syria without congressional approval, president slammed for total disregard for constitutional safeguards regarding war-making

President Obama told the American public on Wednesday night that he will order significantly expanded military operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East, including more U.S. troops to Iraq and a bombing campaign in Syria. Anti-war voices and progressive critics were thoroughly unimpressed with the announced strategy as they issued warnings of the disaster to come. 

A day after President Obama told the American public he was preparing to bomb targets inside the sovereign state of Syria and that he did not need congressional approval to do so, critics are lashing out against what Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, described as “imperial hubris” on Friday.

In his scathing op-ed in the New York Times, Ackerman writes:

President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.

Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.

This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.

But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.

And Ackerman’s not alone.

Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told theDaily Beast this week that Obama’s claim of authority to bomb ISIS targets in Syria was “on its face” an “implausible argument.”

“The 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States,” explained Chesney, but “since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda it’s hard to make” the case that authority granted by the AUMF  still applies.

And as The Nation magazine’s Zoë Carpenter reports:

The White House’s dismissal of the need for congressional approval is also in conflict with positions Obama himself expressed as a presidential candidate. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama declared to The Boston Globe in 2008.

The situation in Iraq and Syria does not appear to meet that standard. Obama acknowledged on Wednesday that “[w]e have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland.” Meanwhile, intelligence sources say that the threat from ISIS has been grossly exaggerated. “It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems—all on the basis of no corroborated information,” former State Department counterterrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin told The New York Times.

According to Ackerman, the president has put himself in a perilous position.

“The president seems grimly determined to practice what Mr. Bush’s lawyers only preached,” the Yale professor concludes in his op-ed. “He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

And Carpenter says that in addition to defying Congress and his constitutional obligations, Obama should also be worried about the implications for his new strategy under international law. She writes:

It’s worth noting that the legality of an extended cross-border campaign isn’t only a question of the separation of powers. As Eli Lakenoted at The Daily Beast, the White House has not explained the basis for the strikes under international law.

While the administration’s current attempt to circumnavigate Congress is hypocritical as well as potentially illegal, it’s also consistent with the way Obama has exercised US military power before. As Spencer Ackerman notes, he’s extended drone strikes across the Middle East and North Africa; initiated a seven-month air campaign in Libya without congressional approval; prolonged the war in Afghanistan; and, in recent months, ordered more than 1,000 troops back into Iraq. Promises of no boots on the ground notwithstanding, Obama’s war footprint is large, and expanding.

Modeling CIA Torture, ISIS Waterboarded Those It Captured: Report August 30, 2014

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Sources quoted by the Washinton Post say ISIS “knew exactly how it was done” as it employed brutal techniques also approved by Bush administration

Anti-torture demonstrators performed a mock waterboarding outside the White House during the Bush years to protest CIA use of the technique. (Photo: flickr)

The Washington Post reports on Thursday that at least four individuals taken captive by the Islamic State were tortured and that the group—also known as ISIS—appeared to be modeling the CIA’s use of torture as it employed waterboarding as one of the painful techniques they used.

Worldwide condemnation followed revelations that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration approved the CIA to torture suspected terrorists during interoggations conducted at secret ‘Black Sites’ – or clandestine holding facilities.

Among those subjected to the brutal treatment by ISIS, according to sources quoted in thePost‘s reporting, was American journalist James Foley who was subsequently executed by the group.

From the Post:

“They knew exactly how it was done,” said a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages. The person, who would only discuss the hostages’ experience on condition of anonymity, said the captives, including Foley, were held in Raqqah, a city in the north-central region of Syria.

James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State last week in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq where the militant group has seized large swaths of territory. The group, which also controls parts of Syria, has threatened to kill another American, journalist Steven J. Sotloff. He was seen at the end of a video showing Foley’s killing that was released by the militant group. Two other Americans are also held by Islamic State.

A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding.

“Yes, that is part of the information that bubbled up and Jim was subject to it,” the person said. “I believe he suffered a lot of physical abuse.”

Foley’s mother, Diane, said in a brief phone interview Thursday that she didn’t know her son had been waterboarded.

The FBI, which is investigating Foley’s death and the abduction of Americans in Syria, declined to comment. The CIA had no official comment.

As the Huffington Post‘s Jack Mirkinson points out:

Waterboarding became perhaps the most notorious method of torture practiced by American interrogators in the years after September 11th.

Interestingly, while the Post has, like most mainstream outlets, typically been reluctant to call methods such as waterboarding “torture” when it was practiced by Americans, the paper had no apparent problem calling what ISIS did to Foley “torture.”

“A second person familiar with Foley’s time in captivity confirmed Foley was tortured, including by waterboarding,” the Post wrote.

Still, the paper has not followed the New York Times in vowing to use the word “torture” more firmly in its articles.

One unnamed “U.S. official” quoted by the Post scoffed at the idea that there could be any comparison between the torture conducted by ISIS and the torture conducted by U.S. military or intelligence agents.

“ISIL is a group that routinely crucifies and beheads people,” the unnamed official said. “To suggest that there is any correlation between ISIL’s brutality and past U.S. actions is ridiculous and feeds into their twisted propaganda.”

But early reactions on Twitter were not niave to the implications of the news relative to the consistent and continued defense of torture by U.S. officials—and members of the U.S. media—when it was conducted by the CIA against their perceived enemies:

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Rendition Victims Urge Obama to Declassify Senate Torture Report

‘You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.’

Abdul Hakim Belhadj, one of the 10 signatories to the rendition letter. (Photo: Libya Herald)

As officials continue to delay the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on post-9/11 CIA interrogation techniques, 10 victims of CIA rendition and torture have signed an open letter (pdf) to President Obama asking him to declassify the heavily redacted report.

The 500-page summary of the report, which includes details about secret overseas prisons, waterboarding of suspected enemy combatants, and rendition — the practice of sending a terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a foreign country  — was so extensively redacted as to render it “impossible to understand,” as one critic put it. The report was expected to be released in August, but has been delayed and is currently thought to be sitting on President Obama’s desk while negotiations over declassification continue.

The signatories to the letter want these blackouts removed, in order to force a public reckoning with and official acknowledgement of their experiences.

“Despite living thousands of miles apart and leading different lives today, a shared experience unites us: the CIA abducted each of us in the past and flew us to secret prisons for torture,” reads the letter, which was coordinated by the international human rights group Reprieve. “Some of us were kidnapped with our pregnant wives or children. All of us were later released without charge, redress or apology from the US. We now want the American public to read that story, in full, and without redactions… You must now take responsibility for telling the world — and more importantly the American people — the whole truth about rendition and American torture.”

The letter, which details prolonged confinement in small boxes and dark spaces, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and “bombardment with noise and weapons,” continues:

Torture, we thought, was something only dictators did. Colonel Gaddafi’s thugs were infamous for maiming and killing political opponents in Libya. In Egypt activists often disappeared. Moroccan interrogation techniques include “bottle torture,” where bottles are used to violate prisoners. We understood the Syrian regime’s brutality well before it murdered thousands of its citizens.

Before our abductions, though, none of us imagined the torturers standing over us one day would come from the United States.

Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.

These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.

In advance of an August 29 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing deadline, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has reportedly asked for an additional one-month delay due to “ongoing negotiations” between the Committee, the Obama administration, and the CIA regarding declassification.

Earlier this week, the ACLU filed a FOIA lawsuit demanding the CIA release all three reports about “its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees” — the 6,000-page Senate Select Committee Intelligence Committee report; the CIA’s report in response, defending the agency’s actions; and a report commissioned by former CIA  Director Leon Panetta, which is reportedly consistent with the Committee’s investigative report findings, but contradicts the CIA’s response to the SSCI.

The Guardian reports:

While Feinstein and the CIA have reached the nadir of their relationship — the CIA intends to attack her report’s credibility — there are concerns that the CIA has weighed the scale in favor of secrecy. Obama allowed it to lead the declassification review, despite its interest in keeping the report secret. McClatchy reported this week that the main declassification interlocutor with Feinstein, top intelligence lawyer Robert Litt, represented CIA clients in private practice in undisclosed lawsuits.

“We believe the public should know the full story of what took place in the CIA’s secret prisons and that all of these documents – the Senate report, the CIA response, and the Panetta review should be released to the public,” said Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, which filed the freedom-of-information case.

“It’s disappointing that the government is seeking further delay, but, given Senator Feinstein’s assurances, we’re hopeful that all of the documents will be released with very limited redactions in September.”