The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

All the signs are they’re going to do it again. The attack on Syria now being planned by the US and its allies will be the ninth direct western military intervention in an Arab or Muslim country in 15 years. Depending how you cut the cake, the looming bombardment follows onslaughts on Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali, as well as a string of murderous drone assaults on Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. … The two former colonial powers that carved up the Middle East between them, Britain and France, are as ever chafing for a slice of the action as the US assembles yet another “coalition of the willing”. And as in Iraq and Sudan (where President Clinton ordered an attack on a pharmaceuticals factory in retaliation for an al-Qaida bombing), intelligence about weapons of mass destruction is once again at the centre of the case being made for a western missile strike. Seumas Milne, An attack on Syria will only spread the war and killing

UK police accused of supplying target information for military 'kill list' | The Guardian

Another story that slipped through the cracks this week: UK collusion in the Obama Murder Program:

British police have been accused of illegally supplying information on potential targets for a highly controversial military “kill list” in a legal challenge being launched at the high court on Wednesday.

The role of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been put under the spotlight by the claims, which are set out in papers to be filed on Wednesday morning.

Lawyers acting for an Afghan man who lost five members of his family in a missile strike are demanding a judicial review of Soca’s role, saying there is evidence the agency has been helping compile and review Nato’s Joint Prioritised Effects List (JPEL).

They say this breaches Soca’s remit and exceeds the unit’s statutory mandate and powers.

Soca, which is responsible for tracking down organised crime gangs and drug-traffickers, has denied any wrongdoing.

The case revolves around in incident on 2 September, 2010, when Nato forces in Afghanistan launched a missile strike against a convoy in Takhar province.

They believed they were targeting an insurgent leader and hailed the “precision air strike” a success.

However, the military operation may have been a case of mistaken identity.

Instead of hitting a man called Muhammad Amin, an alleged member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the missile killed five men who were relatives of an Afghan bank worker called Habib Rahman.

Rahman’s two brothers, two of his uncles and his father-in-law died in the missile attack. Three other members of his family were injured.

The men were driving around in convoy helping another member of the family who was campaigning for a parliamentary seat. In all, 10 people died in the attack.

Amin was not among them; he has since been seen alive.

The legal challenge states that Amin was on the “kill list” and that information from Soca has been used to help the US military decide whom to target.

It cites a report to the committee on foreign relations in the US Senate, which says Soca was one of the agencies providing information for the “kill list”.

Papers filed to court say: “The UK’s involvement in the list is not limited to military or intelligence officials but includes civilians working for Soca.

“The US Senate report specifically acknowledges such involvement by Soca.”

The author of the report was Douglas Frantz, who was chief investigator of the committee at the time, working for John Kerry, now US secretary of state.

In a witness statement in support of the demand for judicial review, Frantz says he conducted interviews and was a witness to briefings which left him in no doubt of Soca’s involvement.

“The statements made by the Soca officer quoted in the report and by others during my trip to Afghanistan led to my understanding that Soca was indeed involved in collecting and evaluating evidence as part of the preparation of the [list],” Frantz said.

Referring to the 2005 legislation that set out Soca’s powers, lawyers acting for Rahman said it would be illegal for the unit to provide any information that could lead to someone being killed.

“Nothing in the 2005 Act indicates that Soca is mandated to carry out activities outside the scope of civilian law enforcement,” the papers say.

“In particular, there is no express statutory authorisation for Soca to be involved in activities connected to armed conflict and the potential killing of individuals.”

Soca officers are not members of the armed forces and do not have the right to directly participate in hostilities in an armed conflict, the document adds.

The legal challenge relates to “an issue of fundamental constitutional importance, namely whether a UK public body is unlawfully involved in the taking of life. If there is any such involvement, either as alleged or at all, then prompt judicial oversight of the legality of the practice challenged is essential.”

Propaganda is easy. Use touchy-feely words like ‘human rights’ to sell wars. Claim to cherish ‘values’. Demonise your enemies; ignore the crimes of your allies. Don’t be afraid to lie. … The greatest innovation that William Hague has brought to the dark art of spin is that he has mastered it in a Yorkshire accent. The West must ‘be prepared to do more to save lives’ in Syria, Britain’s foreign secretary said recently. Hague’s preferred method of saving lives is to arm one side in a civil war. David Cronin

Britain's wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia | Seumas Milne

[…] The fact that the US declared the war on terror to be a war without national borders and routinely targets unarmed or unidentified victims has fatally blurred those boundaries. The grisly, intimate killing of Lee Rigby was the absolute antithesis of high technology drone attacks. But both embody the degradation of the human spirit.

There can be no surprise, however, that such attacks take place. It’s not just opponents of the war on terror who predicted from the start that it would fuel terrorism not fight it. The intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic did the same. The perpetrators of one attack after another, from London 2005 to Boston 2013, say they’re carrying them out in retaliation for the vastly larger scale US and British killing in the Muslim world.

It’s true that all kinds of personal factors and experiences help create the mentality to carry out such attacks. But as Abdul Haqq Baker – head of the south London “counter-radicalisation” outfit Street – puts it, the tipping point that has turned people to violence has been shown again and again to be episodes in the war on terror.

There is already some evidence that torture of one of the Woolwich suspects in Kenya – after which MI5 tried to recruit him – may have been such a catalyst. Azad Ali, a Muslim community activist who has advised the Metropolitan police, says there has been a pattern of official abuse of British Muslim activists in Arab countries, apparently using British-supplied intelligence, who are then pressed to work for the British security services when they return home.

What is indisputable is that there were no jihadist attacks in Britain before 9/11, itself claimed as a response to US support for Arab dictatorships, Israeli occupation and murderous sanctions on Iraq. Wars supposedly fought to keep Britain safe have been shown to do the exact opposite.

Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven’t been more terror attacks.

Kabul demands surrender of detainees in British custody in Afghanistan | guardian.co.uk

Afghanistan has demanded the handover of nearly 100 people who have been detained by British forces in Afghanistan, in some cases for more than a year.

Mohammad Daud Yaar, the Afghan ambassador to the UK, told the World at One on Wednesday that “the principle of national sovereignty” meant that they should be surrendered to Afghan custody. He added that he could promise that they would not be mistreated.

He was speaking a few hours after Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, confirmed that 80 or 90 people were being held at the site but rejected claims that it amounted to a secret detention facility.

[…]

UK lawyers acting for eight of the men, some of whom they say have been held for up to 14 months without charge, have launched habeas corpus applications in the UK high court in a bid to free them, raising comparisons with the outrage over the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. [++]

Not only have we failed to progress by even a single, faltering step; we have probably regressed. It is inconceivable to Cameron, just as it is inconceivable to any U.S. leader, that the nations brutalized and destroyed by the West have their own “way of life.” Cameron’s statement regarding “betrayal” implies that the slaughters and mayhem perpetrated by the U.S. and Britain have betrayed nothing at all — and on that point, Cameron is certainly correct. Countries determined to dominate the world, as the U.S. and its junior partner are, have and will always turn to wide-scale murder and destruction when other avenues fail to deliver the desired outcome. Some will argue that the West’s reaction to murders like the one yesterday reveals a double standard. That’s not quite accurate. There would seem to be but a single standard: whatever the U.S. and its allies do is right; whoever resists them, in whatever form, for whatever reason, is wrong. If necessary, those who resist must be destroyed. So it is not a new day in any manner. It’s the same goddamned, bloody, sickening day all over again. The Monster in the Mirror

London Man Killed in Suspected Terror Attack

sonofbaldwin:

“We swear by Almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. The only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We apologize that woman had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”

The danger would be for us not to heed the testimony of this man and to continue to allow our governments to piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining.

They don’t hate us because of our “freedoms”; they hate us because of our foreign policies, imperialism, and theft of their land and resources.

This should be a familiar chorus by now.

New light shed on US government's extraordinary rendition programme | guardian.co.uk

A groundbreaking research project has mapped the US government’s global kidnap and secret detention programme, shedding unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.

The interactive online project – by two British universities and a legal charity – has uncovered new details of the way in which the so-called extraordinary rendition programme operated for years in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to avoid detection in the face of growing public concern.

The Rendition Project website is intended to serve as a research tool that not only collates all the publicly available data about the programme, but can continue to be updated as further information comes to light.

Data already collated shows the full extent of the UK’s logistical support for the programme: aircraft associated with rendition operations landed at British airports more than 1,600 times.

Although no detainees are known to have been aboard the aircraft while they were landing in the UK, the CIA was able to refuel during operations that involved some of the most notorious renditions of the post-September 11 years, including one in which two men were kidnapped in Sweden and flown to Egypt, where they suffered years of torture, and others that involved detainees being flown to and from a secret prison in Romania.

The database also tracks rendition flights into and out of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands, and suggests that flight crews enjoyed rest-and-recreation stopovers on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Both are British overseas territories.

The Rendition Project is the result of three years of work, funded by the UK taxpayer through the Economic and Social Research Council, by Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, and Sam Raphael, a senior lecturer at Kingston University, working with Crofton Black, an investigator with the legal charity Reprieve.

“By bringing together a vast collection of documents and data, the Rendition Project publishes the most detailed picture to date of the scale, operation and evolution of the global system of rendition and secret detention in the so-called war on terror,” said Blakeley.

Raphael said: “The database makes a major contribution to efforts to track CIA rendition flights, and provides the clearest picture so far of what was going on. It also serves as an important tool for investigators, journalists and lawyers to delve into in more detail.”

Black added: “The Rendition Project lays bare the inner workings of the logistics network underlying the US government’s secret prison programme. It’s the most accurate and comprehensive resource so far published.”

The data includes details on 11,006 flights by aeroplanes linked to the CIA’s rendition programme since 2002. Of those, 1,556 flights are classed as confirmed or suspected rendition flights, or flagged as “suspicious”, depending on the strength of the supporting evidence surrounding each.

Europe presses US on drones – not to cease, but to share | Drone Wars UK

European countries are piling more pressure on the US to allow them to buy armed Predator and Reaper drones. As we have previously reported Germany wants to buy armed Reaper drones from the US and France too has reported this week that it ‘expects’ the US to allow it to acquire unarmed Reapers as a step towards it aim of acquiring armed drone capability.

Italy meanwhile is getting frustrated with a lack of response from the US to its request to arm the unarmed Reaper that it currently operates. According to the Aviation News article, Italy says that it is “looking for alternatives” including supporting a European black (secret) armed drone project. There are already a number of known drone programmes under development within Europe including BAE System’s Taranis, Dassault’s Neuron and EADS’Talarion (although the future of the latter is far from clear). However these are all at an early stage of development with possible in-service dates being many years off and hence the desire of European countries to purchase Reaper and Predator drones.

This week Germany also announced it was cancelling the Euro Hawk project. Unveiled with such fanfare in 2011, Euro Hawk was a German version of the Northrop Grumman’s surveillance drone, the Global Hawk. Various reasons were given this week to the press for its cancellation but German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière simply called the project “a horror without end” in his Bundestag statement. Cancellation of this project, even though it has already cost Germany 500 million Euros, apparently ‘saves’ a further 500 million Euros which can now be spent on alternative drone developments.

Meanwhile the UK continues to operate its armed Reapers acquired from the US in 2007. The UK is now testing the British-made Brimstone missile on its Reapers as an alternative to the US-made Hellfire missile. This will no doubt make it easier for the UK to continue operating its Reaper drones after the Afghanistan ‘drawdown’.

New figures from SIPRI show that Israel has been the biggest proliferator of drone technology over the past decade with just over 40% of drone exports originating from Israel. Many of these small to medium unarmed drones have gone to European countries but also to Latin America and Africa. YnetNews also reported that sales of drones now nets Israel $400 million per year.

While other countries seek to catch up with the drone wars, the US this week undertook a significant test of its new autonomous X-47B drone. For the first time an unmanned drone has taken off from an aircraft carrier, flown a pre-programmed mission and landed all by itself. As many commentators reported, this is a major step forward.

Ominously, in the same week senior Pentagon officials told a Senate hearing on drone strikes that the war on terror is one without end or boundaries and that it is expected it to continue for another ten to twenty years. [++]

UK starts controlling drones in Afghanistan from British soil | guardian.co.uk

Remotely controlled armed drones used to target insurgents in Afghanistan have been operated from the UK for the first time, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.

Missions of the missile-carrying Reaper aircraft began from a newly built headquarters at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire earlier this week – five years after the MoD bought the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and attack the Taliban.

Since then the UK has been controlling the RAF’s five Reaper aircraft from Creech airforce base in Nevada because the British military did not have the capability to fly them from here.

However, the MoD made building a new UAV hub at Waddington a priority following the 2010 strategic defence and security review, and the centre “stood up” at the end of last year.

Waddington has become the home of XIII squadron, and defence officials said pilots from the unit have now started to take command of Reapers, working in tandem with the team in America. [++]

Shaker Aamer and the dirty secrets of the war on terror | Seumas Milne

More than four years after Barack Obama pledged to close the US internment camp at Guantánamo, over half its 166 inmates are on hunger strike, 16 are being violently force fed, and soldiers last week used rubber bullets against “non-compliant” prisoners. Guantánamo, along with Abu Ghraib, long ago became a symbol of the lawless brutality of George Bush’s war on terror.

Set up on US-occupied Cuban territory, it was filled with supposed “enemy combatants” seized in post-invasion Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom were then held without charge or trial, brutalised and tortured. That was all supposed to have come to an end after Obama’s election.

But instead of shutting this monstrosity, the camp is being rebuilt. Congress has played a central role in keeping Guantánamo open. But the president only tried to move it to Illinois, not end the scandal of indefinite detention without trial. And he’s personally blocked the release of dozens of prisoners, even when they’ve been cleared.

That’s at the heart of why the detainees are striking. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident held without charge for 11 years, much of it in solitary confinement. As with half of the rest of the prisoners, the US authorities now accept that there is no case against him, and he was cleared for release six years ago.

Aamer hasn’t seen his family since 2001, and has never met his 11-year-old son, Faris. He has refused food for 71 days, and his case is due to be debated tomorrow in parliament in response to a petition of over 100,000 names. But it now turns out that, uniquely among the prisoners, Aamer has been cleared for release to only one country: Saudi Arabia.

Despite the British government’s claims to be lobbying for his return to London, the evidence suggests neither London nor Washington wants anything of the kind. As Aamer’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, puts it: “The sole reason to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to have him silenced, most likely by sentencing him to a long imprisonment after a sham trial.”

The reason is not hard to find. Soon after he was seized, Aamer says he was assaulted and tortured (into falsely confessing links to al-Qaida) by US officials at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in the presence of MI6 officers – abuse that continued at Guantánamo. Even more dangerously, he was also present, along with British intelligence agents, when Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was tortured at Bagram into alleging that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaida terrorists – bogus claims Bush and Colin Powell used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The Metropolitan police has now opened three new investigations into UK intelligence collusion with torture and “rendition”, including Aamer’s case. That’s on top of MI6’s role in the kidnapping of Libyan dissidents and their families in 2004, for which the government has already paid out over £2m in compensation. [continue]

Fighting drone wars behind our back: cheap, invisible and risk-free mass murder | Counterfire

AF Waddington will soon be the control centre for British drone warfare. It may already be, we can’t be sure.

The fact we don’t know testifies to the secrecy that surrounds the operation of these remote control killing machines. Drones embody the sinister shift that has been taken in the West’s wars post Iraq.

They blur the distinction between war and state execution, with no chance for public scrutiny.

Britain has been using drones in Afghanistan for some years. But by developing its drone capability, the British government is now stepping up its global ability to conduct arbitrary assassinations.

Official US language shows drones are normalizing such behaviour. There has been next to no public discussion about their use in Britain, but in the US drones are actually justified as precision weapons of international assassination. Their supporters say they are capable of surgically removing terrorist targets, so ‘cleansing’ weakened states of extremist leaders.

In a half hearted attempt to provide a legal framework, the Obama administration has claimed that drones are justified because they are used only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans. The US is still at war against Al-Qaeda, the argument goes, so such lethal incursions into foreign territory are legal.

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”

But the evidence is unchallengeable: this is nonsense. Recent reports suggest that just 1.5% of the estimated 3,100 that have been killed by US drones in Pakistan were identified by US officials as ‘high-profile targets’. The US categorises victims as children, civilians, “high-profile,” and “other.” “The ‘other” grey zone comprises males of fighting age.

The Obama administration assumes that these are legitimate targets even though there is no information as to their affiliation. But the Washington Post reported in February that most attacks now are “signature strikes,” in which targets are selected based on suspicious patterns of activity and the identities of those who could be killed is not known. In 2012, the New York Times paraphrased a view they said was shared by several officials that “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.”

Their crime in other words was to have been young, male and in the area.

But it’s not just that fantasies are being peddled about drones’ technical ability to single out their targets. Their strategic role is being obscured too. In reality drones are not used simply as surgical weapon to pre-empt a possible attack. Partly their adoption has been driven by the unpopularity and the manifest failure of the conventional wars that have been fought under the rubric of the war on terror over the last twelve years.

The great advantage of drones from the point of view of western governments is that, at least while the West has the technological edge over competitors, they can be used without domestic casualties and therefore, they hope, without the risk of popular opposition or protest.

Another advantage of drones is that they are a relatively cheap way of killing people, important at a time of spending cuts. They are a way of continuing foreign wars while slimming budgets.

Drones are no more part of a rational policy of self-defence than the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. And nor do they mark a drawdown in US military ambitions. They are in fact being used as a surrogate for conventional military operations. White House senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended drone strikes in April 2012 by comparing them to “deploying large armies abroad” and “large, intrusive military deployments.”

The fact the US has used drones in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan and very likely in Mali as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, testifies to the fact that drones are integrated into the US’s wider war strategy. They are being used to destabilise enemy governments and shore up allies.

[…]

In a process that the experts call ‘monopoly erosion’, drone use is spreading fast, confirming that they are becoming the new face of modern warfare. A 2012 survey showed that 11 countries had functioning drone systems, including France, Germany, Israel, Turkey, India and China. Other countries are rushing to catch up. We already face a frightening situation in which great powers are confronting each other with these ‘easy to use’ ‘low cost’ killing systems. [++]

The delusion that we tried to install a democracy, and that Afghans subsequently rejected it, is central to the view that our inability to suppress the insurgency is down to some cultural deficiency on the part of the natives. It would be underselling the point to say that this mentality is common among occupying armies. Compare this position bemoaning the inherent unsuitability of Afghans for ‘democracy’ to the conclusion of Matt Waldman, a Fellow of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, who writes, ‘So long as the root causes remain - especially a corrupt, exclusionary, unjust government, and the perception among some Afghans of an aggressive, self-serving foreign military presence - then the violence will continue.’ Both of these root causes are our direct responsibility, they undermine the self-serving argument that Afghans aren’t fit for democracy, and therefore, aside from occasional lip-service, they must be ignored. Afghanistan: Benevolent Occupiers and Irrational Natives