The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

America’s Support for Syrian Rebel War Crimes

arielnietzsche:

The fact that the Syrian rebels have committed war crimes has been found and publicized repeatedly for anyone willing to hear it. In May, a United Nations investigation found that rebel militias were committing atrocities along with Syrian government forces. Again in August, the UN “identified both parties as guilty of war crimes.” Human rights organizations like Amnesty International, along with good, hard reporting have revealed a systematic practice among the rebel groups of murder, torture, and brutal massacres.

Now again, Human Rights Watch exposes practices of torture and executions by Syrian rebel forces and urges investigations and pressure for these crimes to stop:

Armed opposition groups have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extrajudicial or summary executions in Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib, Human Rights Watch said today following a visit to Aleppo governorate. Torture and extrajudicial or summary executions of detainees in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes, and may constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and systematic.

Opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that they will respect human rights and that they have taken measures to curb the abuses, but Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern about statements by some opposition leaders indicating that they tolerate, or even condone, extrajudicial and summary executions. When confronted with evidence of extrajudicial executions, three opposition leaders told Human Rights Watch that those who killed deserved to be killed, and that only the worst criminals were being executed.

Yet, US policy remains aiding and abetting the Syrian rebels. As Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, “Those assisting the Syrian opposition have a particular responsibility to condemn abuses.”

Actually, that has already occurred. In early August, White House spokesman Jay Carney was forced to condemn such acts when asked about them. “We strongly condemn summary executions by either side in Syria. We condemn actions like that,” he said, displaying no intention by the administration to try to put a stop to it or to pull support from such unscrupulous groups. Public condemnations are an easy public relations strategy of deflecting responsibilities for the crimes the US supports.

To reiterate, the US is working with allies in the Arab Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send the Syrian rebels weapons, intelligence, and other equipment. Our NATO ally Turkey is harboring and even training members of the Free Syrian Army, as our military and intelligence officials are stationed on the Turkish-Syrian border to aid the rebels. It is widely known and even officially acknowledged that the Syrian rebels have a large and growing contingent of al-Qaeda fighters in their ranks. Rather than deter US funding, this has merely prompted the Obama administration to claim, incredibly, that they’re going through a vetting process to ensure aid doesn’t reach the al-Qaeda-linked rebels. But the process is made up of untrustworthy, third-party sources and intelligence officials have recently told the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times that the truth is that the US doesn’t know who is getting the money and weapons.

And anyways, it would seem, from reports like this one from Human Rights Watch, that even rebels that don’t boast membership in al-Qaeda are committing serious crimes. US policy in this regard is both immoral and strategically bankrupt.

In relevant news, Al-Qaeda is now a US ally in Syria

(Source: jayaprada)

Report: Al-Qaida planning to crash U.S. airline during London Olympics | Haaretz

Woah. Good timing. That should be enough to justify the militarization of London during the Olympics, including things like this:

As part of the elaborate security set-up for the Olympics, the airborne threat has also been taken into account. Anti-aircraft missile batteries have been set up in open spaces and on the roofs of apartment buildings around London, Typhoon fighter-jets have been stationed at Northolt airfield near the capital and snipers - trained to shoot down light aircraft - will operate from helicopters, taking off and landing from a battleship on the Thames. Prime Minister David Cameron will personally authorize shooting down a passenger plane believed to be on a suicide collision course. The preparations have drawn a significant amount of criticism, including from residents of one of the buildings where missiles have been stationed, and who are petitioning the court to have them removed.

Well, what do you say now, residents? Feel stupid? Did you read the totally credible, not-at-all suspiciously timed, “report” about Al Qaeda? We should all be so lucky to have missile batteries on our rooftops. And David Cameron to launch them, personally. Listen to how scary this is:

… it is reportedly scheduled to take place during a period when western security services will be at their highest alert. The Games are also going to take place at a time when chaos in Yemen is increasing, as is the uncertainty in Saudi Arabia and the breakdown of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The only way to effectively deal with “uncertainty in Saudi Arabia” is missile batteries on rooftops. And scary Iran, of course.

In related news, the U.S. and their NATO allies planning to crash missiles into anyone in any country they want during anytime they want to.

Assassin kills leader of Yemen's fight against al-Qaida | McClatchy

SANAA, Yemen — Gen. Salem Ali al-Quton, the commander of Yemen’s southern military district, was assassinated early Monday morning, underscoring the continued threat of militants despite the army’s recent gains against al-Qaida-linked fighters in the country’s restive south.

According to Yemeni state media, al-Quton’s convoy was traveling through the southern port of Aden on the way to his office when a Somali man wearing a suicide belt threw himself onto the general’s vehicle. Al-Quton, his driver and a guard were killed, and five bystanders were wounded.

The assassination came days after what military officials have characterized as a breakthrough in the fight against militants based in southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, where Yemeni troops - backed by local tribesmen and American air and intelligence support - managed to push al-Qaida-linked fighters out of territory they’d held for more than a year.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul. A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary ‘to protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,’ he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general. The defense bill passed the House Friday afternoon.

Michael Hastings, Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

Hastings adds:

The bill’s supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda.

That’s interesting. A little less than a month ago, we had government officials giving quotes like this: “Some could argue that the organization that brought us 9/11 is essentially gone.”

Bonus Information (and a damn good read): How NATO and the US State Department endanger internet freedom | P U L S E

Al-Qaida is being used as a bogeyman by America’s Republicans to defend bloated US military spending and defend torture as having led to finding bin Laden. My sources tell me a huge bribe led the US to bin Laden, not torture. The Pentagon has been leaking so-called information claiming bin Laden was planning a wave of terror attacks just before he died. In fact, bin Laden had become an isolated, powerless jihadi living in retirement when he was killed. Eric Margolis (via azspot)

(via azspot)

U.S. Has No Idea Whether al-Qaida Is Beaten | Spencer Ackerman

[As] much as U.S. officials might look ahead to a world without al-Qaida, they might not know when they’re staring it in the face. On a conference call with reporters on Friday, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official who would not speak for the record conceded that envisioning an actual, definitive end to al-Qaida “isn’t a science, where we have a yardstick that says ‘we’re halfway toward strategic defeat, we’re 60 percent of the way.’”

The official continued, “I think it is a very useful exercise, for us and for you all, to think about how do you conceive of the defeat of an organization like al-Qaida? But I think, I’ve said in the past, determining whether or not we’ve achieved strategic defeat may be more a question for historians than for analysts.”

That would be a problematic statement about any conflict. But it’s especially troubling for this particular war. The Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress in the days after the 9/11 attacks, is an open-ended grant for presidents to wage war against anything it calls al-Qaida, and the Obama administration argues that there is no need for Congress to revisit its wide-ranging authorities. If there’s no way to call an end to this conflict, it means this limitless, practically unaccountable war continues until the Sun goes supernova.

They might figure it out by 2024.

Read the rest

When Did the United States Last Kill an Al Qaeda Fighter in Afghanistan? | George Zornick

Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jay Carney took a beating on the issue of Afghanistan, following a spate of bad news from the war zone—including more American deaths at the hands of supposed Afghan allies. He was peppered with questions from reporters about the viability, purpose and waning public support for the American mission there. No less than ten times, Carney repeated some version of this justification:

What the President did when he reviewed U.S. policy in Afghanistan was insist that we focus our attention on what our absolute goals in the country should be, and prioritize them. And he made clear that the number-one priority, the reason why U.S. troops are in Afghanistan in the first place, is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. It was, after all, al Qaeda, based in Afghanistan, that launched the attacks against the United States on September 11th, 2011.

Finally, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Carney when was “the last time US troops in Afghanistan killed anybody associated with Al Qaeda.” Carney didn’t have an answer, and referred Tapper to the Defense Department and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

I queried those agencies Tuesday and got an answer today. According to a Defense Department spokesman, the most recent operation that killed an Al Qaeda fighter was in April 2011—ten months ago. However, there was an “Al Qaeda foreign fighter” captured near Kabul in May 2011, and an “Al Qaeda facilitator” captured in the Paktiya province on January 30 of this year.

By comparison, there have been 466 coalition fatalities since April 2011. 

Given Carney’s repeated insistence that the “number one”  purpose of the American mission is to “disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat” Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and given the ongoing sacrifices the country is making to achieve that goal, it’s very important to keep these benchmarks in mind. It is surprising Carney wasn’t aware of them, or didn’t disclose them—though, perhaps it’s not.

U.S. officials: Al Qaeda behind Syria bombings | War in Context

“This has less to do with the targets and more to do with the opportunity,” the U.S. official said. - McClatchy

To explain al Qaeda’s entry into the conflict in Syria as “opportunism” is really to offer no explanation — unless one believes al Qaeda’s ranks are filled with young men simply looking for an opportunity to blow themselves up.

Neither should a recognition of al Qaeda’s involvement draw the simplistic retort (but no doubt it will) that this is a confirmation of Bashir’s claim that his government is facing a challenge from terrorists.

Assuming that the intelligence being reported here is accurate, then it would seem more likely that AQI’s activity in Syria has more to do with its ambitions in Iraq than in lending support to the cause of Sunni majority rule in Syria.

In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is showing no restraint in his effort to wipe out AQI. This week, 14 people were executed on a single day — most of them AQI members according to government officials.

AQI’s emergence in Syria may simply be a way of declaring its continued existence. And it may also hope to consolidate its foothold in its last remaining safe haven by compounding the instability on which it thrives.

Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching. The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad. A “senior Al-Qaeda detainee” quoted in a much buzzed-about secret NATO report obtained by the BBC, which alleges that members of Pakistan’s security services directly aid Afghanistan’s branch of the Taliban. (I know? Stop the presses, who saw that one coming?)

(Source: thepoliticalnotebook, via nickturse)

gonzodave:

The Price of 9/11
Joseph E. Stiglitz

…  In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and its  allies knew that long-term victory required winning hearts and minds.  But mistakes in the early years of those wars complicated that  already-difficult battle. The wars’ collateral damage has been massive:  by some accounts, more than a million Iraqis have died, directly or  indirectly, because of the war. According to some studies, at least  137,000 civilians have died violently in Afghanistan and Iraq in the  last ten years; among Iraqis alone, there are 1.8 million refugees and  1.7 million internally displaced people.
Not all of the consequences were disastrous. The deficits to which  America’s debt-funded wars contributed so mightily are now forcing the  US to face the reality of budget constraints. America’s military  spending still nearly equals that of the rest of the world combined, two  decades after the end of the Cold War. Some of the increased  expenditures went to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the  broader Global War on Terrorism, but much of it was wasted on weapons  that don’t work against enemies that don’t exist. Now, at last, those  resources are likely to be redeployed, and the US will likely get more  security by paying less.
Al Qaeda, while not conquered, no longer appears to be the threat  that loomed so large in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But the price paid  in getting to this point, in the US and elsewhere, has been enormous –  and mostly avoidable. The legacy will be with us for a long time. It  pays to think before acting.
Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy.

gonzodave:

The Price of 9/11

Joseph E. Stiglitz

…  In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and its allies knew that long-term victory required winning hearts and minds. But mistakes in the early years of those wars complicated that already-difficult battle. The wars’ collateral damage has been massive: by some accounts, more than a million Iraqis have died, directly or indirectly, because of the war. According to some studies, at least 137,000 civilians have died violently in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last ten years; among Iraqis alone, there are 1.8 million refugees and 1.7 million internally displaced people.

Not all of the consequences were disastrous. The deficits to which America’s debt-funded wars contributed so mightily are now forcing the US to face the reality of budget constraints. America’s military spending still nearly equals that of the rest of the world combined, two decades after the end of the Cold War. Some of the increased expenditures went to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader Global War on Terrorism, but much of it was wasted on weapons that don’t work against enemies that don’t exist. Now, at last, those resources are likely to be redeployed, and the US will likely get more security by paying less.

Al Qaeda, while not conquered, no longer appears to be the threat that loomed so large in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But the price paid in getting to this point, in the US and elsewhere, has been enormous – and mostly avoidable. The legacy will be with us for a long time. It pays to think before acting.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy.

(via halfcentonline)

Book Review | The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole Who Infiltrated the CIA | Lawfare

The Triple Agent: The Al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA, by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, ranks among the very best pieces of narrative journalism I have read related to the history of America’s conflict with Al Qaeda. Like the other books in that category—George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War, Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars—Warrick has pulled off a truly remarkable feat of reporting, bringing together a rich constellation of sources on a sensitive matter and telling a story that, prior to his efforts, had remained obscure despite our all having known it was there.

Unlike these other books, however, Warrick’s story does not deal with the big sweep of modern history. It is not about anything as broad as the history of Al Qaeda, much less modern Afghanistan or its confrontation with the Soviet Union. The Triple Agent, rather, is the story of a single suicide attack on the CIA base at Khowst in late 2009 by a supposed American-Jordanian agent arriving for a meeting—an attack which killed, among others, several CIA officers and contractors and a Jordanian intelligence officer and royal family member.

The book’s many virtues begin with its lack of pretense. There is no political agenda here, no broad thesis the events Warrick recounts are made to support. Those looking for shrill denunciations dressed up as investigative intelligence reporting will be disappointed. Warrick is simply telling a story, albeit a tragic one with broad implications.

The outlines of this story are simple enough. The CIA and Jordanian intelligence operatives cultivated what they thought was a mole in Al Qaeda—a doctor whom the Jordanians caught posting vile material to a jihadist web site and thought they had flipped. Their mole sent back tantalizing material suggesting that he had penetrated Al Qaeda’s inner core, thereby dangling before the highest levels of the Obama administration and the CIA the possibility of locating and nailing Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The supposed mole, however, turned out to be not just a double agent but a triple agent; the material he sent back was all bait. And when we fell for it and a meeting was finally arranged at the base at Khowst, he came with a suicide vest, detonated it, and thereby inflicted one of the greatest injuries the CIA has sustained in its modern history. [read]

US drone kills al-Qaeda’s deputy leader - FT.com

Al-Qaeda’s recently appointed deputy leader has been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, US officials said, cutting down yet another senior figure in an already seriously weakened terror organisation.

The Libyan-born Atiyah Abd al-Rahman became the deputy leader of the terrorist group when it was restructured and Ayman al-Zawahiri appointed its new boss following Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of US special forces in Pakistan in May.

A senior administration official said Rahman was killed in a strike by an unmanned drone on August 22 targeting a location in Pakistan’s north-western Waziristan region.

“Atiyah’s death is a tremendous loss for al-Qaeda, because [Zawahiri] was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organisation, especially since bin Laden’s death,” the official said.

“The trove of materials from bin Laden’s compound showed clearly that Atiyah was deeply involved in directing al-Qaeda’s operations even before the [May] raid. He had multiple responsibilities in the organisation and will be very difficult to replace.”

Note: drone accuracy has been revised upwards from 2.5 to 3%

As a misguided Turkish proverb holds, “If your enemy be an ant, imagine him to be an elephant.” The new information unearthed in Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggests that the United States has been doing so for a full decade. Whatever al Qaeda’s threatening rhetoric and occasional nuclear fantasies, its potential as a menace, particularly as an atomic one, has been much inflated.

John Mueller - The Truth About al Qaeda

Give this a read. I let go of the fear a long time ago. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to move on.