The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Malala and Nabila: worlds apart | Murtaza Hussain

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones - a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day - followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother travelled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the Congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: ”My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn’t make sense to me, why this happened… as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured.”

The translator broke down in tears while recounting their story, but the government made it a point to snub this family and ignore the tragedy it had caused to them. Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: “What did my grandmother do wrong?” There was no one to answer this question, and few who cared to even listen. Symbolic of the utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

It is useful to contrast the American response to Nabila Rehman with that of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was nearly assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. While Malala was feted by Western media figures, politicians and civic leaders for her heroism, Nabila has become simply another one of the millions of nameless, faceless people who have had their lives destroyed over the past decade of American wars. The reason for this glaring discrepancy is obvious. Since Malala was a victim of the Taliban, she, despite her protestations, was seen as a potential tool of political propaganda to be utilized by war advocates. She could be used as the human face of their effort, a symbol of the purported decency of their cause, the type of little girl on behalf of whom the United States and its allies can say they have been unleashing such incredible bloodshed. Tellingly, many of those who took up her name and image as a symbol of the justness of American military action in the Muslim world did not even care enough to listen to her own words or feelings about the subject.

As described by the Washington Post’s Max Fisher:

Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the struggles of millions of girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desire to make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easy message. It’s a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselves that it’s simple matter of good guys vs bad guys, that we’re on the right side and that everything is okay.

But where does Nabila fit into this picture? If extrajudicial killings, drone strikes and torture are in fact all part of a just-cause associated with the liberation of the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where is the sympathy or even simple recognition for the devastation this war has caused to countless little girls such as her? The answer is clear: The only people to be recognized for their suffering in this conflict are those who fall victim to the enemy. Malala for her struggles was to be made the face of the American war effort -  against her own will if necessary - while innumerable little girls such as Nabila will continue to be terrorized and murdered as part of this war without end. There will be no celebrity appearances or awards ceremonies for Nabila. At her testimony almost no one even bothered to attend.

But if they had attended, they would’ve heard a nine year old girl asking the questions which millions of other innocent people who have had their lives thrown into chaos over the past decade have been asking: “When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

From Dissident Gold to Imperial Dross: The Neutering of the NSA Archives

Part 1: CLANCY LIVES!

Take heart, you fans of slam-bang super-spy adventure stories! Tom Clancy is not dead; he lives on in the pages of the Washington Post, channeled through the airport-thriller prose of Barton Gellman — one of the small coterie of media custodians doling out dollops from the huge archive of secret NSA documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Drawing on that archive of what should be shocking, empire-undermining revelations, Gellman and his co-authors last week penned a story that is, in almost every respect, a glorification of state-ordered murder: a rousing tale of secret ops in exotic lands, awesome high-tech spy gear, flying missiles, deadly explosions, and dogged agents doing the grim but noble work of keeping us safe. No doubt Hollywood is already on the horn: it’s boffo box office!

The story describes how the NSA’s determined leg-work helped Barack Obama shred the sovereignty of a US ally in order to kill a man — in the usual cowardly fashion, by long-distance, remote-control missile — without the slightest pretense of judicial process. It’s really cool! Just watch our boys in action:

In the search for targets, the NSA has draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan. In Ghul’s case, the agency deployed an arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions to determine where Ghul might “bed down.” …

“NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA,” said a former U.S. intelligence official with experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the region in northwest Pakistan where al-Qaeda’s leadership is based. … Surveillance operations that required placing a device or sensor near an al-Qaeda compound were handled by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which specializes in high-tech devices and “close-in” surveillance work. “But if you wanted huge coverage of the FATA, NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget and 100 times the brainpower,” the former intelligence official said.

I mean, get a load of these guys: 100 times the brainpower of ordinary mortals! Didn’t I say they were super-spies?

The target was Hassan Ghul, an al-Qaeda operative who was once in American custody but was released after giving his captors the tip that eventually led them to Osama bin Laden. (He was also tortured after giving the information — because, hey, why not? Even super-powerful brains need to let off steam once in a while, right?) Returned to his native Pakistan, Ghul evidently became a bad Injun again in eyes of the imperium, so, after snooping on his wife, they found out where he was and ordered some joystick jockey with his butt parked in a comfy chair somewhere to push a button and kill him.

There is not a single word in the entire story to suggest, even remotely, that there is anything wrong with the government of the United States running high-tech death squads and blanketing the globe with a level of invasive surveillance far beyond the dreams of Stalin or the Stasi. There is not even a single comment from some token ‘serious’ person objecting to the policy on realpolitik grounds: i.e., that such actions create more terrorists (as the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai told Obama to his face), engender hatred for the US, destabilize volatile regions, etc. etc. There is not a shred of even this very tepid, ‘loyal opposition’ type of tidbit that usually crops up in the 15th or 25th paragraph of such stories. But there was, of course, plenty of room for quotes like this:

“Ours is a noble cause,” NSA Director Keith B. Alexander said during a public event last month. “Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy.”

Makes you want to puddle up with patriotic pride, don’t it? These noble, noble guardians of ours: peeping through our digital windows, rifling through our in-boxes, listening to our personal conversations, reading our private thoughts, tracking our purchases (underwear, fishing gear, sex toys, books, movies, tampons, anything, everything), recording our dreams, our interests, our beliefs, our desires, skulking in the shadows, pushing buttons to kill people … yes, noble is certainly the first word that comes to mind.

Two principles have formed the core of Wikileaks’ operative mores since its formation: uncensored information and a rigorous commitment to protect the anonymity of the whistleblowers who provide that information. Unsurprisingly, authoritarian governments, criminal corporate enterprises and their toadies just hate these two prongs of potential exposure – full disclosure of primary source material and protection of the sources of that information. Just ask Richard Nixon how he felt about Deep Throat. … For a more contemporary example, just ask the censorship-happy Obama administration, which is increasingly being viewed as the single most hostile government to whistleblowers and freedom of the press in the history of history, at least among our vaunted Western ‘democracies.’ Disney’s Ode to State Repression

Cable News Far More Hawkish On Syria Than The Public

Sometimes we’re offered perfect examples of what some refer to as “Manufacturing Consent”:

A Pew study on Monday attracted attention for its assertion that Al Jazeera America, which promised a different take on the world than its cable news counterparts, mostly mirrored their approach when it came to the debate over Syria. But an equally interesting portion of the study found that all of the cable news channels were markedly more hawkish in their coverage than the public as a whole.

Poll after poll after poll has found that a large majority of Americans opposed a strike on Syria.

But Pew found that, “in the week studied, the overall percentage of cable stories conveying a message that America should get involved (47% ) solidly outnumbered stories with messages counseling against a strike (27%).”

The breakdowns are striking. For Al Jazeera, pro-strike messages outnumbered anti-strike ones by 43-24%. On CNN, it was 45-23. On Fox News, it was 45-20.

MSNBC, Pew found, had by far the most pro-strike sentiment, with a whopping 64%. But the network also had far more messages of opposition (39%) than its counterparts.

Even so, Americans tuning in to their news networks saw a debate that was far more skewed in favor of the pro-strike view than the debate happening off-screen.

When one hears that policy-makers want not just intelligence on a particular subject but intelligence that supports a particular conclusion about that subject, antennae ought to go up. A “quest” for conclusion-bolstering material is fundamentally different from an open-minded use of intelligence to inform policy decisions yet to be made. It is instead a matter of making a public (and Congressional) case to support a decision already made. Paul Pillar

Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itself | Glenn Greenwald

The Independent this morning published an article - which it repeatedly claims comes from “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” - disclosing that “Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies.” This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it’s the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.

That leads to the obvious question: who is the source for this disclosure? Snowden this morning said he wants it to be clear that he was not the source for the Independent, stating:

I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.

It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.

In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK’s abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act - with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda - and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before. That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent’s attempt to make it appears that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?

The US government itself has constantly used this tactic: aggressively targeting those who disclose embarrassing or incriminating information about the government in the name of protecting the sanctity of classified information, while simultaneously leaking classified information prolifically when doing so advances their political interests.

One other matter about the Independent article: it strongly suggests that there is some agreement in place to restrict the Guardian’s ongoing reporting about the NSA documents. Speaking for myself, let me make one thing clear: I’m not aware of, nor subject to, any agreement that imposes any limitations of any kind on the reporting that I am doing on these documents. I would never agree to any such limitations. As I’ve made repeatedly clear, bullying tactics of the kind we saw this week will not deter my reporting or the reporting of those I’m working with in any way. I’m working hard on numerous new and significant NSA stories and intend to publish them the moment they are ready.

Let us not get too worked up. Let us not even feel too conspiratorial. But is it coincidence that, after a series of exposures of such programs as PRISM, that a “global terror alert” has been announced? Tax payers want bang for their buck; even more so, they want to see their hulks of security justified. The fact that the Obama administration has been presiding over the world’s most extensive regime of unwarranted global surveillance, both of its citizens and of others, suggests that some retort was bound to come in the face of Edward Snowden’s revelations. … In the game of espionage and counter-espionage, timing is everything. The players must be deft stroke makers, capable judges of tempo, momentum and strength. In the game of propaganda, appearance is everything. The lie assumes currency as quickly as it is discounted. The skill here is identifying the right price, and when to sell it. Binoy Kampmark, The NSA and Global Terror Alerts

National Security Porn | Binoy Kampmark

[…] The current crop of Hollywood films finds solace in a pressing condition of superhero masturbation in the face of improbable threat. Enemies are hard to find, so they need a singular streak of gifted villainy. GI Joe troops launch interventionist missions as physically taut and moral policemen (and women). Bruce Willis persists in not dying harder than ever, a permanently indestructible celluloid presence. Even his on screen offspring are heading for the Kleenex in the name of president and country.

As for the North Koreans, they also re-appear as the incorrigible invaders in the recently released Red Dawn (2012), a shameless remake of the 1984 film by the same name. The Soviets have long left the psyche, but their protoplasmic traces find their way into desperate American moviemaking. The ultranationalist Slav provides the ideal counter to the well-meaning American altruist who drinks the fluids of democracy for breakfast. Let us ignore how the starved state, a terrified brutal regime in Pyongyang can keen to keep the motor running even as it takes US leaders hostage.

If enemies are to be invented, or found, let them at least be vaguely credible. What audiences are instead seeing is an Uncle Sam on the couch nursing masochistic nightmares and indignant insecurity. What follows is surely, like the quality of acting, to be deserved, a vile sort of national security and terrorism porn, to use an apt expression coined by critic Till Kadritzke.

Another reason Americans will almost certainly do nothing about this outrage is that it’s not an outrage to them at all. We are blasé about the whole thing. We believe, to an alarming degree, that there’s nothing strange about some bureaucrat reading our email or listening to our phone calls; that this sort of thing has been happening for a long time; that it is in fact the nature of government to spy on its citizens. Why do we think this? Because these are lessons each of us has absorbed from careful, lifelong study of Hollywood entertainment, which assures us that government is all-knowing and all-powerful. It suits Hollywood spokesmen, of course, to claim that they have no influence over — and hence bear no responsibility for — the screwed-up workings of the American mind, but the polls and the blogs and the cynicism of the public tell a different story. The U.S. and the N.S.A. Scandal: Freedom: The Big American Lie (via azspot)

(via robotmonastery-deactivated)

Cranking Up the Washington Lie Machine

… The reason the NSA’s success rate at defeating terror plots leapt overnight from an initial unimpressive two to an impressive 50 is that it turns out that the American people were really not very happy or grateful about learning that they had surrendered all privacy to Big Brother in return for the alleged disrupting of one wacko who had a dream, though poorly conceived, of bombing the New York subway, and the belated capture of another guy who had already allegedly done all the target-scouting work for the successful massacre in the hotel and train station of Mumbai, in India. That’s clearly not a great record to stand on, so now we’re being told by the NSA that actually it wasn’t just two plots that were foiled by their Orwellian spying, it was two score and 10. Much better, right?

Except… we don’t get to learn what those alleged busted plots were. If they were as hairbrained as the underwear bomber’s plan, which succeeded only in scorching his own privates, or as poorly conceived as the Times Square bomber’s plot, which succeeded only in burning some of the upholstery in his SUV, we don’t really have much to show for the freedom we’ve had stolen from us.

And we’re not going to learn what most of these alleged foiled plots were because…they’re secret.

The Obama administration leaks classified information continuously. They do it to glorify the President, or manipulate public opinion, or even to help produce a pre-election propaganda film about the Osama bin Laden raid. The Obama administration does not hate unauthorized leaks of classified information. They are more responsible for such leaks than anyone. … What they hate are leaks that embarrass them or expose their wrongdoing. Those are the only kinds of leaks that are prosecuted. It’s a completely one-sided and manipulative abuse of secrecy laws. It’s all designed to ensure that the only information we as citizens can learn is what they want us to learn because it makes them look good. The only leaks they’re interested in severely punishing are those that undermine them politically. The “enemy” they’re seeking to keep ignorant with selective and excessive leak prosecutions are not The Terrorists or The Chinese Communists. It’s the American people. On the Espionage Act charges against Edward Snowden | Glenn Greenwald

What to Think Whenever You Hear "The Worst of the Worst" | Bruce Dixon

There are some phrases, mostly referring or belonging to government which frequently mean the opposite of what they say, or which are shorthand for entire libraries of lies promoted by the powerful to turn reality on its head. Terms like “military intelligence,” “public charter school,” “public-private partnership,” “extraordinary rendition,” “congressional oversight” and “humanitarian intervention” are among those that come readily to mind. We take this moment to focus on a current favorite phrase oft deployed by our masters of deceit to conceal their official crimes.

That phrase is “the worst of the worst.” Official spokespeople and corporate media apply this term to those unjustly confined for torture and indefinite sentences with no trial or formal charges, like those at Guantanamo, Bahgram, Diego Garcia and an archipelago of known and unknown prisons and surrogate facilities. It’s been shown again and again that the so-called “worst of the worst” in such places are often completely innocent, and sometimes include children.

No matter. The “worst of the worst” label is an open invitation to invent even more lies, to dismiss their lives, their families and the rules of international law and human decency in their cases. One of the signal policy innovations of the Obama administration over the Bush-Cheney regime is said to be the simple murder of such persons with drones rather than locking them up.

The “worst of the worst” phrase is deployed by domestic officials as well, usually to refer to the United States’ world-leading total of more than 70,000 in solitary confinement in thousands of federal, state and local jails and prisons. It has become standard procedure across the country to put prisoners in solitary confinement for years for such offenses as refusing to confess an alleged gang affiliation, engaging in anything that looks like unsanctioned self-help or self-improvement organizing, the possession of books that one’s jailers disapprove of, having a history of political activism on the outside, or experiencing an awakening of political consciousness while a prisoner.

The assertion of jailers that the 70,000 in solitary confinement on any day in the United States are “the worst of the worst” is nothing less than cynical doublespeak to conceal their own crimes. Solitary confinement, when prolonged for more than a few days is recognized under international law as torture, and crimes always are doubly diabolical when committed anyone on a public payroll.

Hence whenever we hear media spokespeople, military or civilian officials on any level refer to those in their dungeons and their gunsights at home and abroad as “the worst of the worst” we should not let that stand. We should know, and let everyone in our reach know we and they are hearing the worst kind of calumny, designed to conceal official wrongs committed in all our names. It’s our jailers and their official enablers, not our prisoners here and around the world who are truly “the worst of the worst.”

Even after setting up the future villains on whom they will pin the upcoming failure, though, our group of merry war mongers can only generate a partial guarantee of success, saying that by avoiding the pitfalls they have described, we can arrive at the nirvana of … ‘something that could still resemble victory’. That’s right. We need to continue to put US troops in peril, hemorrhage billions of dollars a month and by our presence continue a situation in which innocent Afghan civilians are slaughtered as bystanders all so that our military industrial complex can continue to hum merrily along in a situation in which even the strongest war proponents see no remaining path to clear victory. I hope there is a special section of hell for people who promote such carnage just so their overlords can continue to wallow in riches. Jim White, Afghan Situation So Bad Propagandists Only Speak Of “Something That Could Still Resemble Victory”