It’s Official Dogma in political Washington right now that you can’t touch the Pakistan drone strike policy. “Wasting bad guys for free” is too popular, the story says; besides, Democrats have to have some military killing of foreigners that they’re for, to give them political cover for the military killing of foreigners that they’re against. Most Democrats want to get U.S. troops the hell out of Afghanistan (outside of Official Washington, most Republicans agree.) But, the story goes, these Democrats have to have an “alternative,” and the “alternative” is drone strikes.
As a political matter, this story is true as far as it goes: it’s true because people believe it to be true. But in order for this political story to continue to work, drone strikes have to continue to be a black box, about which you can claim “success,” regardless of whether it is true. If people have to confront the actual reality of the Pakistan drone strike policy - the reality in which its impact is mostly about killing and terrorizing civilians and alienating Pakistani public opinion from the United States as opposed to the fairy tale in which it is all about wasting top-level “bad guys” - the political story will fall apart. A policy that does more harm than good isn’t an alternative to anything.
Recall that in 2006-8 there was very little Democratic opposition to the war in Afghanistan. It was the “good war” and the “right war,” unlike Iraq, which was the “bad war” and the “wrong war.” If you pressed Democrats on why they were cheerleaders for the war in Afghanistan while they slammed the war in Iraq, some would say what amounted to: “well, we have to be for some war.”
Today the situation is totally reversed on Afghanistan: Democrats overwhelmingly want to get out. What changed? Did the war change? Was the war in Afghanistan from 2009-12 fundamentally different from the war in Afghanistan from 2006-8? Or was it more that the perception of the war in Afghanistan changed, as the drawdown of troops in Iraq and the escalation of troops in Afghanistan brought the Afghan war under greater public scrutiny, so that it couldn’t be a black box anymore, about which you could claim “success,” regardless of whether it was true?
Now there is a new level of effort in the United States to open the black box of the drone strike policy and reveal to Americans the injustice that has been hidden inside the box. A report this week has given an unprecedented amount of mainstream media attention to impact on civilians of the drone strike policy. Next week I will join 34 other Americans in visiting Pakistan, meeting with the families of victims of US drone strikes, participating in a peace march against the drone strikes, and delivering a petition to US and Pakistani officials from Americans, calling for the drone strike policy to end. [++]
As we approach the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in the United States on October 1, it is important to remember why marijuana was deemed illicit in the first place, and why we as Americans must open our eyes to the insidious strategy behind 75 years of failed policy and ruined lives. Marijuana laws were designed not to control marijuana, but to control the Mexican immigrants who had brought this native plant with them to the U.S. Fears over loss of jobs and of the Mexicans themselves led cities to look for ways to keep a close eye on the newcomers. In 1914, El Paso Texas became the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to ban the sale and possession of marijuana. This ban gave police the right to search, detain and question Mexican immigrants without reason, except the suspicion that they were in possession of marijuana. Folklore started to erupt about the effect that marijuana had on those who used it. As Harry Anslinger stated, “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“There are these little moments in Palestine where you forget where you are and are just taken away by the sun, the olive tree groves, and the gregarious small town life of the West Bank. You think maybe this could be everyday—if you don’t look left or right so you avoid seeing the Israeli settlements eating up the pine scented hillsides and if you tune out the cacophony of the sardined Palestinian cities cut apart by graffitied prison walls.”—An excerpt from “Searching for Peace Lamps” by Alia Yunis (via jadaliyya)
An interesting and terribly written/headlined piece from Greg Miller:
Yemen’s [President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi] said Saturday that he personally approves every U.S. drone strike in his country and described the remotely piloted aircraft as a technical marvel that has helped reverse al-Qaeda’s gains.
[He] also provided new details about the monitoring of counterterrorism missions from a joint operations center in Yemen that he said is staffed by military and intelligence personnel from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft […]
“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,”* Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. Praising the accuracy of the remotely operated aircraft, he added, “The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”
* This is the only quote about “approval” from Hadi in the whole piece. Is the Post saying this is his approval? Was he talking about himself in the third person? Or is he talking about President Obama? Or is the headline of this piece slightly misleading?
Hadi’s enthusiasm helps to explain how, since taking office in February after a popular revolt ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, he has come to be regarded by Obama administration officials as one of the United States’ staunchest counterterrorism allies.
In a sign of Hadi’s standing, he was greeted by President Obama during meetings at the United Nations in New York last week and has met with a parade of top administration officials in Washington, including Vice President Biden, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The pace of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen has surged in the past year […]
The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA have carried out 33 airstrikes in Yemen this year, compared with 10 in 2011, according to the Long War Journal Web site, which tracks drone attacks.
Resulting in nearly 200 deaths this year, with a particularly gruesome string of 29 dead in 8 days just three weeks ago.
In the interview, Hadi alluded to civilian casualties and errant strikes earlier in the campaign, which began in December 2009, but he said that the United States and Yemen have taken “multiple measures to avoid mistakes of the past.”
He also described a joint operations facility near Sanaa, the capital, that serves as an intelligence nerve center for operations against AQAP, as the terrorist group’s Yemeni affiliate is known. “You go to the operations center and see operations taking place step by step,” Hadi said.
AQAP exploited political chaos in Yemen in the past year, seizing territory in southern provinces and control of several cities, including Jaar and Zinjibar. Hadi said that the Yemeni military’s recovery of that southern territory marks “the beginning of the total defeat of al-Qaeda on the Peninsula” and that foreign AQAP fighters have fled to other countries including Mali and Mauritania.
Hadi emphasized that the toll in Yemen goes beyond the country’s casualties in its fight against al-Qaeda. He said the country has seen dozens of oil exploration companies abandon projects in Yemen and that tourism has evaporated, exacerbating the country’s economic problems.
U.S. Special Operations drones patrol Yemen from a base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa. The CIA aircraft are flown from a separate facility on the Arabian Peninsula whose location has not been publicly disclosed.
Keep in mind that Yemeni officials, including Presidents, often offer statements of support or cover for the undeclared US war in Yemen. As Chris Woods of TBIJ noted recently:
There is a long history of senior Yemeni officials lying to protect Barack Obama’s secret war on terror. When US cruise missiles decimated a tented village in December 2009, at least 41 civilians were butchered alongside a dozen alleged militants, as a parliamentary report later concluded. As we now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, the US and Yemen sought to cover up the US role in that attack. ‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ President Saleh informed US Central Command (Centcom)’s General Petraeus.
“Governor Brown today reaffirmed what medical and mental health organizations have made clear: Efforts to change minors’ sexual orientation are not therapy, they are the relics of prejudice and abuse that have inflicted untold harm on young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians.”—
President Obama … stated in his scolding of Muslim world leaders that they needed to emulate the behavior of civilized nations that respect “the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.” But such lofty rhetoric from the president might be very difficult to accept since he himself acted as prosecutor, judge, and executioner when he ordered the murder of several American citizens, including a cleric of Yemini descent and a magazine editor of Pakistani descent with a drone attack in Yemen. People across the Muslim world wondered why the rule of law was absent in these cases and why their due process rights did not apply. Even two weeks after their death, the cleric’s sixteen-year old son, also an American citizen with supposedly constitutional protections, and a child by international standards, was also assassinated in a separate drone attack. So much for due process or respect for human rights.
In fact, since Obama became president in 2009, dozens of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and else where have been killed each year. But rarely does the civilized nation apologize for killing innocent Muslim civilians because “America does not apologize” as many American politicians repeatedly love to say.
Furthermore, Obama’s commendable call for mutual respect among nations may have fallen on deaf ears because it was considered by many as disingenuous. As noted above, for years the U.S. has disrespected the sovereignty of Pakistan and Yemen as it assassinated many individuals, including U.S. citizens, on their soil without any regard for the national sovereignty of the host countries, which are not at war with the U.S. But Obama could not have dared to use a drone attack in the U.K. to kill a cleric of Egyptian descent, who the U.S. has been after for years. In the U.K., the U.S. simply asked the British to extradite him so that he could be tried on U.S. soil. So the U.K. gets every consideration while the administration only shows contempt for Yemen or Pakistan. [++]
Both left and right … confuse explanations with justifications.
When a writer writes about the perils that we as a society face and the implications, it is very discouraging for the writer to know that many readers will not listen unless it is what they want to hear. This discouragement is precisely what every truth-teller faces, which is why there are so few of them.
This is one reason I stopped writing a couple of years ago. I found that solid facts and sound analysis could not penetrate brainwashed and closed minds seeking vindication to keep the mind locked tightly against unsettling truths. Americans want to have their beliefs vindicated more than they want the truth. The success of print and TV pundits is based on allying with a prominent point of view or interest group and serving it. Those served make the writer or talking head successful. I never thought much of that kind of success.
But success as a whore is about the only kind of success that can occur in Washington or in the media these days. Those who refuse to prostitute themselves arouse pity and denunciation, not admiration. A couple of years ago an acquaintance from a university in the northeast called me to say he had recently had lunch with some of my former associates in Washington. When he inquired about me, he said the response was, “Poor Craig, if he hadn’t turned critic, he would be worth tens of millions of dollars like us.”
I replied that my former associates were undoubtedly correct. My acquaintance said that he hadn’t realized that he was having lunch with a bunch of prostitutes.
The incentive to speak the truth and the reward for doing so are very weak. And not just for a writer, but also for academics and experts who can make far more money by lying than by telling the truth. How else would we have got GMOs, jobs offshoring, the “unitary executive,” and a deregulated financial system? It is a very lucrative career to testify as an expert in civil lawsuits. It is part of America’s romance with the lie that experts purchased by the opposing sides in a lawsuit battle it out as gladiators seeking the jury’s thumbs-up.
And look at Congress. The two members of the House who stood up for the Constitution and truth in government will soon be gone. Ron Paul is stepping down, and Dennis Kucinich was redistricted out of his seat. As for the Senate, these thoughtful personages recently voted 90-1 to declare war on Iran, as the sole dissenter, Rand Paul, pointed out. The Senate is very much aware, although only a few will publicly admit it, that the US has been totally frustrated and held to a standoff, if not a defeat, in Afghanistan and is unable to subdue the Taliban. Despite this, the Senate wants a war with Iran, a war which could easily turn out to be even less successful. Obviously, the Senate not only lies to the public but also to itself.
Last week the Pentagon chief, Panetta, told China that the new US naval, air, and troop bases surrounding China are not directed at China. What else could be the purpose of the new bases? Washington is so accustomed to lying and to being believed that Panetta actually thinks China will believe his completely transparent lie. Panetta has confused China with the American people: tell them what they want to hear, and they will believe it.
Americans live in a matrix of lies. They seldom encounter a truthful statement.There is no evidence that Americans can any longer tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Americans fell for all of these lies and more: Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda connections. Saddam Hussein’s troops seized Kuwaiti babies from incubators and threw them on the floor. Gaddafi fed his troops viagra to help them rape Libyan women. Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Change–yes we can!
The US is “the indispensable country.” America is broke because of food stamps and Social Security, not because of wars, bankster bailouts, and a failing economy. Russia is America’s number one enemy. China is America’s number one enemy. Iran is a terrorist state. Jobs offshoring is free trade and good for the US economy. Israel is America’s most loyal ally. The US missile shield surrounding Russia is not directed at Russia. The South China sea is an area of US national interest. Financial markets are self-regulating.
The list is endless. Lies dominate every policy discussion, every political decision. The most successful people in America are liars.
The endless lies have created a culture of delusion. And this is why America is lost. The beliefs of many Americans, perhaps a majority, are comprised of lies. These beliefs have become emotional crutches, and Americans will fight to defend the lies that they believe. The inability of Americans to accept facts that are contrary to their beliefs is the reason the country is leaderless and will remain so. Unless scales fall from Americans’ eyes, Americans are doomed.
“The burden of debt has become the lens through which I see my workplace, and it is rapidly altering my view of my profession. I can no longer fulfill my classroom duties without wondering if the ultimate price, for many of my students, is a form of indenture. This is not an extreme way of putting it. After all, the indentured have to go into debt in order to find work, and their wages are then used to pay off the debts. I have concluded that it is immoral to expect young people to privately debt-finance a basic social good like education, especially if we are telling them that a college degree is their passport to a livelihood that is increasingly thin on the ground.”—NYU Professor: Are Student Loans Immoral? - The Daily Beast (via ronmarks)
“Er, no, they’re less destructive and more precise. To conjure a surgeon with a knife is to lead the listener astray. And it is a downright dishonest metaphor when invoked by an administration that could make their strikes more like surgery but doesn’t. For example, the Obama Administration could make certain of the identity of the people it is “operating on.” Instead it sometimes uses “signature strikes,” wherein the CIA doesn’t even know the identity of the people it is killing. It could also attempt autopsies, literal or figurative, when things go wrong. Instead, it presumes sans evidence that all military-aged males killed in drone strikes are “militants.””—
The phrase “surgical drone strike” is handy for naming U.S. actions without calling up images of dead, limb-torn innocents with flesh scorched from the missile that destroyed the home where they slept or burned up the car in which they rode. The New America Foundation, which systematically undercounts these innocents, says there have been at least 152 and many as 192 killed since 2004. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the civilian death figure at between 474 and 881 killed. Either way, would “surgical” strikes kill innocents on that scale in a region with just 2 percent of Pakistan’s population? Using data that undercounts innocents killed, The New America Foundation reports that 85 percent of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes are “militants,” while 15 percent are civilians or unknown. What do you think would happen to a surgeon that accidentally killed 15 in 100 patients? Would colleagues would call him “surgical” in his precision?
Judging by the relative disinterest – in both the mainstream and left media in North America – towards the situation in Honduras, you would think that the crisis in this country was over. Yet, almost everyone I have talked to in my most recent stay here has told me that the situation is grave; twice in one week alone, I was sitting with an activist in the movement when they received news of the assassination of one of their compañeros. These moments – an absurd but real part of the daily routine here - provoke a particular kind of reflection among movement activists, who need to develop the emotional capacity to compartmentalize their grief and fear in order to stay in the struggle, while at the same time maintaining their ability to feel that very sadness and human compassion that separates them from the callous forces they are struggling against. As I sat with friends one night in April 2012, a call came in that Erick Martinez, an LGBT activist and political candidate, had been killed; the one among us who knew him said that in spite of the danger and difficulty of the struggle, news of these assassinations “reminds you that you have to live well because you may not live long.”
I offer this as introduction in order to highlight the fact that while most international attention has turned away from Honduras since 2009, the low intensity warfare against the social movement in resistance has continued unabated. The movement itself, however, has gone through significant changes, and in this piece I will outline the new contours of the resistance movement, summarize the forces that are stacked against it, and conclude with a call for increased international solidarity. While this article is rooted in the immediate circumstances facing the Honduran social movement, there is an overarching purpose informing this piece, addressed to North American activists: it is to insist on a particular form of left international solidarity that supports principled and progressive forces within the Honduran movement, but leaves discussions of tactics and strategy to be determined by those forces.
Much of the critical writing in North America on the situation in Honduras begins with, and is focused on, centre-left president Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who was kidnapped on June 28, 2009 in his pyjamas and whisked to a U.S. military base – and then to exile in Costa Rica – provoking 161 days of uninterrupted demonstrations which marked the launch of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP). Zelaya briefly returned to Honduras in 2009, but was forced to hole up in the Brazilian embassy, guarded by the Honduran military in case he tried to leave, until January 2012, when he was granted passage to the Dominican Republic. While Zelaya was under siege in the embassy, the de facto regime held elections that were widely understood in Honduras to be a farce - an illegitimate and fraudulent process designed to regain international recognition. The elections were held in a climate of state terror and violent silencing of critical media and public protest that was manifest in hundreds of targeted assassinations, disappearances, detentions and all manner of violent assaults. Meanwhile, liberal international organizations like the Carter Centre and the United Nations refused to send elections observers, and hundreds of political candidates withdrew their names after receiving violence and intimidation - including presidential frontrunner, Carlos H. Reyes, a union leader who was running as an independent candidate with Zelaya’s endorsement.
In the week leading up to the elections, the Resistance called for a nationwide boycott. Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans refused to cast ballots despite a campaign of state terror intended to coerce people into participating. Since the military regime was relying on the election process to legitimate its rule over the country, it released fraudulent numbers inflating the total number of ballots cast, though it was patently obvious to anyone in Honduras that the boycott had been successful and the overwhelming majority of Hondurans had made it clear that they considered themselves to be living under a dictatorship. Nevertheless, a handful of foreign governments – with Canada taking the lead – ignored or denied the boycott, and instead used the opportunity to heap legitimacy on the coup government. A new president, Porfirio ‘Pepe’ Lobo, was inaugurated and soon recognized by Canada and the United States, while repression and violence continued alongside a rejuvenated neoliberal push. Manuel Zelaya remained in exile until the signing of the Cartagena Accords in 2011, which gave him full right of return to Honduras and political amnesty, while, at the same time, cementing the international legitimacy of the coup government, a point to which I will return below.
Most North American analyses of the coup – left and mainstream - foreground the social-democratic reforms that Zelaya had put forward, between 2006-2009, and imagine that the coup was an interruption of Zelaya’s attempts to re-orient the country away from neoliberalism and towards the Bolivarian alternative. Left and mainstream observers tend to disagree on whether that was a good or bad thing; but, either way, Zelaya is credited as the leader of a left populist project of reform, and the dramatic resistance movement that captured international headlines after the coup is read as a spontaneous response to the military’s move against a beloved leader. Consequently, Zelaya’s return to Honduras in 2011 has meant that even less international attention and solidarity is directed at Honduras, since the struggle is imagined to be centred around Zelaya himself, who has been allowed to go home. However, his term in office would much better be understood as the culmination – not the start – of a long period of reorganizing and rebuilding of social movements in this country that had, by the time Zelaya took power, already reached levels of mobilization not seen since the 1970s. [Continue reading this excellent piece]
A NATO soldier and a civilian contractor have been killed following a suspected insider attack in eastern Afghanistan, the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says.
There were also a number of Afghan National Army casualties in Saturday’s attack, an ISAF statement said, without specifying how many Afghans were killed or wounded.
Abdul Wali, a local police spokesperson, told the AFP news agency, that three Afghan army soldiers had been killed and two others wounded in the incident. He said that three ISAF personnel were also wounded.
The attack took place at an ISAF checkpoint on the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Wardak province, witnesses told Al Jazeera. It occurred at about 5:00pm local time (12:30 GMT) on Saturday, said General Zahir Azimi, a spokesperson for the Afghan defence ministry.
Witnesses said that gunfire had erupted after a dispute between ISAF soldiers, who were manning the checkpoint, and an Afghan National Army patrol, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reported from Kabul.
"[The NATO troops] were searching vehicles [carrying] men, women and children, and an Afghan Army patrol came along the highway [from their own checkpoint]. The Afghan patrol complained that the NATO troops were checking women and children, and it seems as a result of this confrontation a firefight broke out," reported Smith.
The Afghan casualties were “a result of the engagement” on Saturday night, an ISAF spokesperson told the AFP news agency, but could not confirm whether they had been killed by the insider or in return fire by ISAF troops. [++]
“And what about labor activism? Matt is right, of course, about the repressive Chinese state. But as I’ve long argued, a good deal of worker activism in the United States also gets repressed. One in 17 of every eligible voter in a union election gets illegally fired or suspended for his or her support for a union. While it’s true that the American state is not the equivalent of the Chinese state, it’s also true that a great deal of repression in the US has always been outsourced to the private sector—even in ‘the heyday of western labor activism.’ Over the summer, when Chris Bertram, Alex Gourevitch, and I were advancing our thesis about workplace tyranny, Matt repeatedly professed bafflement as to why we were even talking about this issue. Well, this is one reason: repression and coercion in the workplace actually prevent the union organizing that helps ensure that that growth in worker productivity translates into higher pay and benefits for workers. Matt gets it. In China.”—Corey Robin, Matt Yglesias’s China Syndrome
“Nobody knows how many civilians have been killed by covert drone strikes. Nobody — that means the Obama Administration, the Pakistan government, and the media….There are few boots on the ground to do an investigation after a strike, aerial surveillance is through a soda straw so can miss a lot and — unlike the military which has relatively transparent assessments and investigations in Afghanistan — the CIA and Special Forces are a black hole. The Obama administration says civilian casualties are ‘not a huge number.’ If that’s true, evidence could put the debate to rest, but we haven’t seen any.”—
The covert nature of the drone campaign produces strange imbalances in the ways civilians are treated from warzone to warzone. If an American aircraft drops a bomb on your house in Afghanistan, U.S. officers will usually offer some kind of financial compensation for your loss. It may not be much, but at least it’s a recognition of the harm done. If an American aircraft drops a bomb on your house in neighboring Pakistan, however, you get nothing. There are no American officers in the vicinity — at least not officially. There’s no one to provide that financial or psychological recompense.
The report relates the tale of Usman Wazir, who “was at his job selling fruits when a drone hit his house, killing his younger brother, his wife, their 15-year-old son, and 13-year-old daughter.” He wanted some kind of payback. But there is “no known process in Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia by which they can apply for compensation…. The secrecy surrounding the drone program, combined with its operation in many areas that are inaccessible, has meant that civilians harmed by drones have no recourse and no point of contact to hold accountable for the sudden devastation they face. This vacuum of accountability can lead to anger, despair, and even hatred, directed at their own government or at the U.S.”
Sometimes, innocents caught in the robotic crossfire get punished a second time. The drones are believed to be beyond-precise, which naturally leads to the conclusion that whoever has been targeted must be bad. “Victims face the double burden of dealing with the physical attack and also clearing their name,” according to the report. Meanwhile, the rest of us take our best guesses about the toll of these shadow wars.
And that’s its own problem. The drone strikes, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts, inspire heated opinions in the United States. That’s as it should be: Wars ought to be debated. But by keeping the drone war, and especially its consequences, wrapped in secrecy, the Obama administration and its foreign enablers shut off the basis for that debate. Second-order questions (Would other tactics be more or less brutal? Do the drones breed more radicalization than dead radicals?) that are necessary to intelligently assess the wisdom of the drone war can’t be answered. And so various factions yell at each other, each convinced they’ve grasped the truth of a war that has practically none to offer.
Israeli President “Bibi” Netanyahu on Guy Fawkes. The super-terrorist plans to blow up parliament and the King; the very nation will be liquidated. Fawkes was a Catholic rather than a Muslim – though Renaissance Europe was pretty good at bestialising both – but what a cartoon! I loved the curly fuse and the “flashy” bit on the end – Dan Dare versus The Mekon – and the red line drawn on the black line. It was all oh-so-convincing. Ninety per cent convincing.
Not since the last set of cartoons flourished in the UN Donkey House has the world been so gobsmacked. Then it was Colin Powell (I was in the Security Council chamber as a witness to this nonsense in 2003) who displayed his own cartoon of white-coated Iraqi chemists making weapons of mass destruction in a mobile laboratory. It was a railway train, for heaven’s sake. And, unlike Bibi’s bomb and fuse, it was actually meant to be a railway train. Cartoons, you see, can be taken literally or metaphorically. Or just plain insult the intelligence of ordinary folk; like Bibi’s – or cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, for that matter. They all go “BANG” in the end. And I can see why Israel’s sorrowful defenders had to trash Bibi’s cartoon yesterday. Sure, it was awful – but the MESSAGE, that was the thing. Don’t let the cartoon distract you from the truth (albeit that cartoons are supposed to contain an inner truth, are they not?) and the truth according to Bibi was that Iran could have a nuclear bomb “BY THE MIDDLE OF NEXT YEAR”.
But whoops! Here’s a little downgrading for the reader. “Iran is the centre of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is … more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb …” Bibi speaking on Thursday? Nope. The ex-Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, in 1996. And – I’m indebted here to the indispensable Roger Cohen – Peres himself said in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999! That’s 13 years ago. And Ehud Barak – now Bibi’s Defence Minister – said in 1996 that Iran would have a nuke by 2004. That’s eight years ago. Maybe cartoons are all that’s left.
Of course, the think-tank loonies waffled on the networks, grinning idiotically over the cartoon but nodding sagely at Netanyahu’s warning – without bothering to recall those utterly false warnings in the past. You can’t cry wolf when the wolf is called Ahmadinejad.
Bloomberg’s columnist, Lisa Beyer, remarked that Netanyahu had noted “rightly, that Israel’s intelligence agencies are superb”. They are not. Israel’s intelligence on Lebanon has been pitiful for two decades, and it was these same “agencies” who assured Powell back in 2003 that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction. Later, we somehow forgot that little bit of false Israeli “intelligence” input.
Of course, the cartoon managed to distract us from the dignified speech by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose condemnation of Israel’s land theft in the West Bank was infinitely more accurate than Netanyahu’s artwork. But Abbas spoke in Arabic, Netanyahu in American English. Only one man was going to be on the world’s screens yesterday. He did seem oddly hot under the collar about the UN’s almost-forgotten report on Israel’s cruelty during the 2008-9 Gaza war, when Israel’s “surgical strikes” – this is Bibi-speak – killed 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians. For a man obsessed with statistics, this one escaped Netanyahu’s memory.
But there you go. Iran is a dodgy place. Ahmadinejad is a crackpot, though he came across, in his new “moody” grey specs, as a bit more laid back than Bibi. Of course Iran’s going to have a nuke. Saddam was making one, too. Wasn’t he?
The NYPD is the biggest police force in the country, with over 34,000 uniformed officers patrolling New York’s streets, and 51,000 employees overall — more than the FBI. It has a proposed budget of $4.6 billion for 2013, a figure that represents almost 15 percent of the entire city’s budget.
NYC’s population is a little over 8 million. That means that there are 4.18 police officers per 1,000 people. By comparison, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. with 3.8 million people, has only 9,895 officers—a ratio of 2.6 police per 1,000 people.
In an email published by WikiLeaks, an FBI official joked about how shocked Americans would be if they knew how egregiously the NYPD is stomping all over their civil liberties. But what we already know is bad enough. Here’s a round-up of what the department has been up to lately.
Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.
Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.
“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”
Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously.
“If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”
Strangely, Soltanieh later denied making these statements or conducting the interview with IPS. From the correction at the top of the piece:
Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh has reportedly denied the interview on which this Sep. 24 story was based. The interview, conducted by telephone on Sep. 20, is the third story that IPS has published based on interviews with the ambassador, and like the others, it accurately reflects the ambassador’s statements to IPS reporter Gareth Porter. We regret the fact that the ambassador has felt the need to deny any or all of it.
As Marcy points out this morning, Iran is now emphasizing the many ways that the US is waging war on Iran. What I find interesting in both the physical attacks, whether they hit equipment or people, and the propaganda attacks waged in the media is that the flow of information is of overwhelming importance. I’ll hit three examples of the importance of information flow in the posturing for war with Iran.
“The Afghan jihad was the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA. In fiscal year 1987 alone, according to one estimate, clandestine U.S. military aid to the mujahideen amounted to 660 million dollars — ‘more than the total of American aid to the contras in Nicaragua’ (Ahmad and Barnet 1988,44). Apart from direct U.S. funding, the CIA financed the war through the drug trade, just as in Nicaragua. The impact on Afghanistan and Pakistan was devastating. Prior to the Afghan jihad, there was no local production of heroin in Pakistan and Afghanistan; the production of opium (a very different drug than heroin) was directed to small regional markets. Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics at University of Ottawa, estimates that within only two years of the CIA’s entry into the Afghan jihad, ‘the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 percent of U.S. demand,’ (2001:4). The lever for expanding the drug trade was simple: As the jihad spread inside Afghanistan, the mujahideen required peasants to pay an opium tax, Instead of waging a war on drugs, the CIA turned the drug trade into a way of financing the Cold War. By the end of the anti-Soviet jihad, the Central Asian region produced 75 percent of the world’s opium, worth billions of dollars in revenue (McCoy 1997).”—
In the category of “the sky is blue,” “fire is hot” and “the sun rises in the east,” the Guardian reports on a new study showing that Washington’s murderous drone killing campaign in Pakistan is “counterproductive.”
The sarcasm above is not meant to cast aspersions on the report itself — which is detailed, devastating, and very productive — but on the prevailing mindset in the ruling circles of the West (the self-proclaimed “defenders of civilization”) that makes such a study even necessary, much less ‘controversial.’
For of course even the denizens of the many secret services and black-op armies and intelligence agencies that make up America’s world-straddling security apparat have said, repeatedly, that Washington’s policy of murdering, torturing, renditioning and indefinitely detaining innocent people all over the world — day after day, week after week, year after year — is in fact creating the very extremism and anti-Americanism the policy purports to combat.
Thus the new report, by the law schools of New York University and Stanford (a famously if not notoriously conservative institution) should be, in a sane and rational world, a case of carrying coals to Newscastle or selling ice to the Inuit: an exercise in redunancy.
But instead, sadly, the report, “Living Under Drones,” is a very, very rare instance of speaking truth to the power that is waging a hideous campaign of terror — there is no other word for it — against innocent people all over the world.
The personal testimonies gathered by the researchers — on the ground, in Pakistan — are shattering … at least for those who actually believe that these swarthy foreigner are actually human beings, with “hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions .. fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is.” You can be sure — you can be damned sure — that the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House has never and will never read these stories of the ones he is terrorizing, night and day. These testimonies will never appear beside the scraps of rumor, conjecture and brutal prejudice that constitute the “reports” he sees each Tuesday — “Terror Tuesday” — when he meets in the Oval Office with his death squad team to decide who will be assassinated that week.
[…] [R]egardless of its “Homeland” provenance, this report will have no influence whatsoever on the non-existent “debate over the legality of drone warfare” in the United States. For beyond the rare, isolated op-ed, there is no “debate” on drone warfare in American political or media circles. The bipartisan political establishment is united in its support of the practice; indeed, both parties plan to expand the use of drones on a large scale in the future. This murderous record — and this shameful complicity — will be one of the Peace Laureate’s lasting legacies, whether he wins re-election or not.
[…] Current RAF doctrine tells us, euphemistically, how “the psychological impact of air power, from the presence of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to the noise generated by an approaching attack helicopter, has often proved to be extremely effective in exerting influence …” Perhaps they mean “terror”, as described by David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist kidnapped and held by the Taliban for months in Waziristan. Rohde, quoted in Living Under Drones, describes the fear the drones inspired in ordinary civilians: “The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death.”
Again — and we’ve said here over and over, for months, even years: when you vote for one of the factions in the imperial power bloc — Democrat or Republican — this is what you are supporting. You are empowering, enabling and associating yourself with an extremist regime that visits bin Laden-like terror on innocent people, day after day, night after night: killing them, traumatizing them, deranging their lives, destroying their families, their hopes and dreams. This is what you are voting for, you stalwart Tea Party patriots. This is what you are voting for, you earnest humanitarian progressives. This and nothing else but this: terror, murder, fear and ruin, in a never-ending, self-perpetuating, all-devouring cycle.
“[There] can be no sensible disagreement over certain salient facts: first, the US now has more than 10,000 weaponised drones in its arsenal; second, as many as six Predator drones circle over one location at any given time, often for 24 hours a day, with high-resolution cameras snooping on the movements of everyone below; third, the Predators emit an eerie sound, earning them the name bangana (buzzing wasp) in Pashtu; fourth, everyone in the area can see them, 5,000ft up, all day – and hear them all night long; fifth, nobody knows when the missile will come, and turn each member of the family into what the CIA calls a “bugsplat”. The Predator operator, thousands of miles away in Nevada, often pushes the button over a cup of coffee in the darkest hours of the Waziristan night, between midnight and 5am. So a parent putting children to bed cannot be sure they will wake up safely. Every Waziri town has been terrorised. We may learn this from the eyewitness accounts in Living Under Drones, or surmise it from the exponential increase in the distribution of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication across the region.”—Clive Stafford Smith
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.
That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room. According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military — but not all — the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum.
Of course, that’s not ISAF’s spin. The command notes that enemy attacks from January to August 2012 are slightly lower, by 5 percent, from that period last year; and that the past two Augusts show a reduction in attacks of 30 percent. But the more relevant comparison is to 2009, when Afghanistan looked like such a mess that President Obama substantially increased troop levels. And compared to 2009, Afghanistan does not look improved.
“…there is no baseline default distribution against which we can measure redistribution. Instead, there are a multiplicity of possible distributions, none of which is more natural, or less interventionist, or whatever than any other. All of these possible distributions can, in a sense, be called redistributive relative to all the other possible distributions. But calling them redistributive tells us nothing more than that they differ from each other.”—Matt Bruenig
Portugal protests erupt over austerity measures September 29, 2012
Thousands of Portuguese protested on Saturday against austerity, stepping up their opposition to the country’s 78-billion-euro bailout ahead of new spending cuts and tax hikes to be announced in the government’s 2013 draft budget.
The peaceful protest organized by the CGTP union came after the center-right government ignited widespread anger this month with a hike in social security taxes that threatened to end Portugal’s so far high social acceptance for austerity.
Facing criticism from unions, opposition politicians and businesses alike, the government reversed the tax hike. But it is now rushing to find alternative measures to adopt in its 2013 budget to ensure the country meets fiscal goals under its bailout from the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF, the so-called troika.
Protesters marched through downtown Lisbon, shouting “Let the fight continue” and carried banners reading “Go to hell Troika, we want our lives back.”
“A year ago the prime minister told us the solution to the country’s problems was the agreement with the troika,” shouted CGTP head Armenio Carlos in a speech.
“But we have already seen this film in Greece, this is a road without an exit, pushing us toward the precipice,” Carlos told the marchers that crowded into Lisbon’s main Praca de Comercio square on the banks of the Tagus River.
The protest in Portugal came after a week of similar anti-austerity marches in Greece, Spain and Italy as southern Europeans face increasingly grim economic conditions under hardship sparked by the euro debt crisis.
Carlos said the protest was one of the largest organized by the CGTP, Portugal’s biggest union, in recent years but he gave no figure of the number of people present. Praca de Comercio square has a capacity of about 100,000 people but it was not completely full on Saturday.
The protests were smaller than nationwide marches on September 15, immediately after the tax hike was announced, which prompted an estimated 500,000 people to take to the streets.
Portugal’s unemployment rate has hit record levels above 15 percent as the country descended this year into its worst recession since the 1970s under the weight of spending cuts and tax hikes.
Anger by the Portuguese at austerity is likely to rise further as the government now expects the recession to extend into next year with few signs of economic growth emerging from the bailout plan.
The government has to present its 2013 budget by the middle of October.
[…] Does [Joshua] Foust [of the “American Security Project” and writer for the Atlantic] no longer believe any of the content he wrote in June or July? He basically suggested that drones were a primary source of tension in his July post. Yet in his latest post, he asserts the “Living Under Drones” report did not “definitively build a case against drones in general.”
One is left to conclude that Foust read this report and reacted in a manner typical of Beltway pragmatists, those who view opposition to policies that have bipartisan support to often be “purist” or “sanctimonious” because they themselves to do not have the intellectual or political imagination to fathom alternatives.
Drones are to people like Foust the lesser of two evils. Either the US uses drones and ravages communities impacting civilians and inspiring militias and youth affected to engage in terrorism, or the drones are grounded and terrorists are allowed to overrun societies and threats against the US proliferate. It sets up a false choice, as if other actions that could be taken which do not require answering violence with violence, do not exist.
Foust is unwilling to support conclusions or recommendations, including suspending US drone strikes, which might match up with his prior analyses. And in the end, it is hard to know what someone like Foust really thinks about the US government’s use of drones other than the fact that his views are colored by intellectual cowardice motivated by a perceived reality that the powerful like drones and so opposing them is unrealistic because they are not going away anytime soon. [++]
It was bad enough that this Administration “asked” Google if it could find a way to remove this video. That, alone, is an egregious act worthy of a unified response from both of our major parties. We are fortunate that Google didn’t cave. (Google did block the video from airing in Egypt and Libya.) What if Google had capitulated? What if the Administration targeted a smaller company, or one sympathetic to the Administration’s brand of “soft” censorship? Yet, we are so far into the team sports approach to politics that a matter of plain vanilla First Amendment law gets forgotten (and trampled) in the process.
That the filmmaker suddenly gets investigated in the wake of Google’s polite refusal to abandon the First Amendment smacks of the tactics of a police state. Yes, he committed parole violations. But, it appears obvious that the only reason he was investigated was the content of his lawful speech, which he happened to put on the Internet (perhaps in violation of a restriction on computer access). One can reach no other reasonable conclusion than that this arrest was an appeasement, an attempt to punish speech indirectly […].
But, the icing on the cake, so to speak, is that it turns out that this film wasn’t the spark that lit the Middle East. What lit the Middle East were drone strikes that killed terrorist leaders, which the Administration now admits it knew immediately. Despite this, the Administration promptly pointed the finger at this film, which had very few viewings in the Middle East which occurred months earlier. By connecting the film to the Libyan attack which had no relationship at all to the film, the Administration poured gasoline on an already volatile situation. It continued to do so for days and days.
And so, the question is why?
Let me offer a suggestion. First, our drone policy is killing terrorists, but inflaming anti-Americanism across the region. The region lives under fear of these attacks, which not only kill “suspects” (who, by the way, are selected based upon suspicion alone), but innocent children as well. In other words, they undercut dramatically the Administration’s narrative of wanting to build bridges with states that harbor terrorists and with the Arab street. Why wouldn’t the Administration want a smokescreen to cover the fact that it new in advance of the Libyan attack that the attack was coming and that it was because of the drone killing of an Al Qaeda leader in Libya? Second, what the film furor also obscured was the fact that the United States had repeated, specific notice of the threat to its embassy in Libya and the reason for it (the drone killing), yet did nothing.
It’s called the “Pope In the Pool” technique by screenwriters. If you want your audience to miss something in a particular scene, throw the Pope into a swimming pool at the same time. Shame on the government, and shame on partisan columnists like this one for building a superstructure to support the misconduct, lies, and misdirection.
“Bahraini riot police killed a teenager when they fired shotgun pellets during clashes with protesters following a demonstration on Friday, the country’s opposition said on Saturday, the second young protester to die in six weeks.”—Bahraini teenager killed in Friday’s protest | Reuters
These diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, and affect more than one billion people, mainly in the tropics, where the most vulnerable developing world populations are concentrated.
But the map of tropical diseases like malaria, Chagas’ disease, sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and dengue fever, is starting to change.
Tropical diseases transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes, flies, ticks or snails are directly affected by conditions in the ecosystems they inhabit, such as changes in humidity, water levels, temperature or rainfall, experts explain.
“Global warming is ‘tropicalising’ subtropical regions; rising temperatures could bring an explosion of parasite and insect vectors that are expanding into North America, the Southern Cone of South America, Australia and New Zealand,” Costa Nery said.
One sign of this, said the president of the SBMT, is the spread of leishmaniasis in Europe by travelling persons and dogs. He explained that the disease, which is endemic in southern Europe, could continue to spread northward if temperatures keep rising.
At the same time, climate variation in the tropics and its effects on the frequency of flooding and drought “could also modify the dynamic of the transmission of diseases,” with the emergence of vectors that alter the population’s immunity and resistance.
Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr, the Toronto-born detainee whose decade-long case has bitterly divided Canadians, is on his way home to serve the remainder of his sentence.
The Toronto Star has learned that the 26-year-old prisoner was flown off the U.S. Naval base on Cuba’s southeast shore and expected to arrive in Canada early Saturday morning.
Guantanamo officials notified Khadr of his transfer Wednesday, assuring him he would be repatriated by the end of the weekend, a Pentagon source said.
Just where Khadr will be incarcerated – or where the U.S. military flight will land – continues to be a closely guarded secret.
But a Canadian government source told the Star in an interview earlier this year that the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines’ maximum-security facility, near Montreal, was a strong possibility. The prison’s Special Handling Unit, nicknamed “the SHU,” houses the majority of Canada’s prisoners convicted of terrorism offences.
Under Canada law, Khadr will now be eligible to apply for parole by next summer. In 2008, Khadr’s lawyers proposed a rehabilitation plan that included psychiatric treatment at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, religious counselling by a local imam and a tiered integration program that would see Khadr closely monitored for as long as four years.
However the government has given no indication that there is any formal plan in place for Khadr during his incarceration and has refused to answer questions on the case.
Senator Richard Lugar, the leading Republican foreign-policy expert in Congress, said President Barack Obama is following the right policy in Iran and warned of the dangers of war.
“The idea of moving with our allies, as many as we can find, on effective sanctions on the country has been the right move” on Iran, Lugar said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend.
“I understand even some wanting to go to war immediately to stop it where it is and so forth,” said Lugar, an Indiana Republican. “But even within Israel, the reports are that the debate with Netanyahu is very intense.”
“We’re really going to have hell to pay. They will come back on us, and the implications for the Israeli people here are very severe.”
Lugar, whose 36-year Senate career is coming to an end after he lost re-nomination in a May primary, rejected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s stance that Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Iran and that he hasn’t offered enough support to Israel. Romney has sought to use signs of differences between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran to raise doubts with U.S. Jewish voters about the president’s commitment to Israel and his ability to manage turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.
Lugar widened his distance from Romney’s foreign-policy platform, saying the nominee’s plan to call China a currency manipulator is a “campaign mode.”
The beautifully crafted speech of the Nobel peace laureate would have been believed – and better received—had it simply been genuine. The president’s appeal for rejecting violence, spreading peace among nations, while emphasizing the vital use of diplomacy in international relations, as well as his call for respecting the rule of law, due process, and cultural understanding were remarkable. But unfortunately, they were simply not credible.
In his speech, the president admonished the Muslim World by underscoring the important belief that people must “resolve their differences peacefully” and that “diplomacy” should take “the place of war.” Laudable words, but only if America practiced what it preaches.
In his seminal work “A Century of U.S. Interventions,” based on the Congressional Records and the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Services, Zoltan Grossman chronicled 133 U.S. military interventions by the most active military in the history of the world, between 1890 and 2001. Similarly, William Blum’s study “A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” covered 67 interventions between 1945 and 2000 that, according to him, resulted in the deaths of 13-17 million people. In his book “The Fall of the U.S. Empire – And Then What?,” European intellectual Johan Galtung listed 161 incidents of American overt political violence between 1945 and 2001, including 67 military interventions, 25 bombings, 35 political assassinations (or attempted ones), 11 foreign countries that were assisted with torture, and 23 interferences with elections or the political process abroad. And all that was before the 9/11 attacks.
Since then, the U.S. military has been extremely busy, invading Iraq in 2003 under false pretenses and causing hundreds of thousands of casualties while creating millions of refugees. Before that, it invaded Afghanistan in 2001, causing tens of thousands of casualties in the longest war in U.S. history while still maintaining to this date over 70,000 soldiers on the ground. The U.S. has also been waging open warfare with the whole world as its theater of operations in the so-called “war on terror.” This endless war allowed the U.S. military to engage in undeclared military operations, violating the sovereignty of many countries in Asia and Africa including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, and numerous Sub-Saharan and West African countries. So much for peaceful conflict resolution and mutual respect between nations. [++]