The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence.
The message sent by America’s invisible victims
› US troops will stay in Afghanistan to support local forces, Allen insists | guardian.co.uk
Rewind to the 2012 debates - “we’re getting out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Period.” Now read this:
The US and its allies will retain a presence in Afghanistan big enough to bolster Afghan forces after the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of 2014, the recently retired commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said on Monday.
Speaking in Washington, Allen said he had never been asked to produce a report on the so-called “zero option” – the suggestion that no American troops would remain after the 2014 deadline, floated by one White House adviser in January.
Instead, Allen said that he expected that Obama would approve a force that would be commensurate with ensuring that the Afghan security forces could be properly supported.
Obama is currently considering how many troops are to be left behind, mostly in an advisory capacity, after the official withdrawal in 2014.
Speculation on the size of the force ranges from about 6,000 through to 20,000. Allen offered Obama various options about force size before retiring last month. He ruled out a full pullout, an option the White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes had said in January was on the table.
“I was never asked to conduct any analysis with respect to the zero option,” Allen told a meeting at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday.
A big part of the problem is that the authorization to use military force is too vague. It gives the president the power to attack ‘nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.’ Making the law more specific, however, would only further enshrine the notion of a war without end. And, as Jeh Johnson, then counsel to the defense secretary, said in a speech last November, ‘War must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs.’ The right solution is for Congress to repeal the 2001 authorization. It could wait to do that until American soldiers have left Afghanistan, which is scheduled, too slowly, for the end of 2014. Better yet, Congress could repeal it now, effective upon withdrawal.
Repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Law | NYTimes
A tepid yet welcome call from the NYT.
› What’s War? | Lawrence Davidson
In the halls of Congress and confines of the Oval Office, the perception is that the U.S. is at war with an enemy called al-Qaeda. Is this actually the case or is the claim an exaggerated piece of propaganda that has conveniently captured the minds of leaders whose abuse of power has become institutionalized?
[E]very military (and civilian) official says ‘you cannot capture or kill’ your way out the problems caused by those who use violence to achieve political objectives. What McChrystal noted about Afghanistan — ‘You can kill Taliban forever, because they are not a finite number’ — would apply to any of the groups [or ‘associated forces’] currently targeted by the United States. Yet, the perception exists that killing is the only thing happening in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, in part because the military has so little faith in the capabilities of the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and/or the host nation. … During his confirmation hearing to become the director of central intelligence, John Brennan repeated his prior pledge regarding al Qaeda — ‘We will destroy that organization’ — which, according to the latest State Department estimates, is growing to thousands of individuals among its various ‘affiliates.’ This current U.S. counterterrorism strategy of ‘mowing the grass’ (as it’s indelicately called) through indefinite drone strikes, without thinking through the likely second- and third-order effects, will never achieve its strategic objectives.* This highlights the question military planning staffs will pose to civilian policymakers who ask about bombing a target or individual: ‘And then what?’ In the case of a campaign of drone strikes, the answer these military planners see is more drone strikes.
Killing Isn’t Cool | Micah Zenko
* Unless, of course, the “strategic objective” is permanent warfare (and all the perks like unitary executive power and hegemonic control that come along with it), a conclusion too terrible for most to ponder.
As long as the War on Terrorism is being fought with its current policies in tact [i.e. as long as the 2001 AUMF remains as the backbone of post-legal America], Americans can count on presidents who differ little from their predecessor on civil liberties. They will never defend due process, free speech, press freedom, privacy or rights to liberty and justice and risk constraining the ability of government to fight enemies abroad. Each president will be the same or worse than the previous president.
› In Afghanistan pullout, Pentagon favors phased reduction over 3 years | The Washington Post
The Pentagon is pushing a plan that would keep about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the NATO military mission ends in 2014, but then significantly shrink the contingent over the following two years, according to senior U.S. government officials and military officers.
Trevor Aaronson in his book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s War on Terrorism, documents that the FBI has so far concocted 150 ‘terrorist plots’ and that almost all of the other ‘terrorist cases’ are cases unrelated to terrorism, such as immigration, with a terror charge tacked on. The presstitute American media doesn’t ask why, if there is so much real terrorism requiring an American war against it, the FBI has to invent and solicit terrorist plots. Neither does the media inquire how the Taliban, which resists the US invasion and attempted occupation of Afghanistan, fighting the US superpower to a standstill after 11 years, came to be designated as terrorists. Nor does the US presstitute media want to know how tribesmen in remote regions of Pakistan came to be designated as ‘terrorists’ deserving of US drone attacks on the citizens, schools and medical clinics of a country with which the US is not at war. Instead the media protects and perpetrates the hoax that has given America the police state.
Paul Craig Roberts, The Police State is Real
› A haunting echo: WEB Du Bois in a time of permanent war | Keith Feldman
“[T]oday I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and colour, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilised persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease for the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today, [such that] war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be colour and race.”
— W.E.B Du Bois, 1953, preface to the Jubilee edition of The Souls of Black Folk
… [U]nlike so many key figures enacting what Robin DG Kelley calls “freedom dreams” - those political projects that envision more egalitarian forms of justice - Du Bois survived. He survived multiple professional exclusions, debilitating illnesses and persistent state repression that only increased with age.
He wrote over 20 books (including four autobiographies), supervised a ground-breaking series of sociological studies of rural black life (1897-1910), edited the NAACP’s official magazine, The Crisis (1910-1934), wrote a major history called Black Reconstruction in the US (1935) and embarked on an encyclopaedic study of Africa and its diasporas. He was instrumental in petitioning the UN on behalf of African-American human rights and fought vociferously to curtail the development of nuclear weapons. Across this gargantuan oeuvre, we learn of the dynamic thought and political acuity of a radical pragmatist, someone who, in the words of Amiri Baraka, was “constantly in the act of changing himself as the open reflection of an ever-changing world”.
“For a nation built through the dehumanising regimes of European colonisation, chattel slavery, gratuitous violence and the convict-lease system, Souls provides a kaleidoscopic lens to view the glaring contradictions to American freedom.”
At the same time, echoing forth to us from the Jim Crow violence of racial segregation in which Souls was written is the incisive claim that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour-line”. You cannot understand the modern world, Du Bois argues, without understanding the crucible of race in which it has been forged. For a nation built through the dehumanising regimes of European colonisation, chattel slavery, gratuitous violence and the convict-lease system, Souls provides a kaleidoscopic lens to view the glaring contradictions to American freedom. It frames a powerful theory of double consciousness that emerged from a centuries-long subjection to white supremacy.
Black people, Du Bois argues, carry a “sense of always look at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity”. Such brutalising metrics produce radical limits on how the nation’s racial others view and value themselves, limits buttressed by dominant (and seemingly “neutral”) scholarly assumptions that Souls forcibly contests. Double consciousness enables what Du Bois calls “second sight”, such that black people have knowledge of the deeper truths of American modernity, its violent contradictions as well as its underutilised emancipatory resources.
In doing so, Souls poses a major challenge to what Reiland Rabaka calls the “epistemic apartheid” that polices what counts as knowledge of the worlds of colour, dwelling instead in the deeper truths of American modernity known only too well by black folk. After all, “we who are dark”, Du Bois wrote in the 1920s, “can see America in a way that white Americans cannot”.
What, people ask, is the alternative to small war, if not big war? And the answer no one ever seems to even consider is: no war. If the existence of people out in the world who are actively working to kill Americans means we are still at war, then it seems to me we will be at war forever, and will surrender control over whether that is the state we do in fact want to be in. There’s another alternative: we can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks. The Obama administration quite ostentatiously jettisoned the phrase war on terror from its rhetoric, but it’s preserved and further expanded its fundamental logic and legal architecture. Even after the troops come home from Afghanistan, we will still be a nation at war.
How America kills
› AFP: US needs to keep up drone war against Qaeda: Panetta
The United States will have to keep up an open-ended drone war against Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan and elsewhere to prevent another terror attack on America, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld Leon Panetta said.
The assassination of Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with unmanned, robotic aircraft has provoked widespread criticism from human rights groups and some US allies, but
Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta said the US campaign has been effective.
Asked if the CIA “targeted killings” should be curtailed in coming years,
Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta told AFP in an interview on Friday that there was still a need to continue the drone strikes more than a decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
“I think it depends on the nature of the threat that we’re confronting. We are in a war. We’re in a war on terrorism and we’ve been in that war since 9/11.
“The whole purpose of our operations were aimed at those who attacked this country and killed 3,000 innocent people in New York as well as 200 people here at the Pentagon,” said
Cheney Rumsfeld Panetta, who is days away from retiring as Pentagon chief.
Before taking over as defense secretary, Panetta oversaw a dramatic increase in drone raids in Pakistan as head of the CIA from 2009-2011.
The CIA drone bombing raids, by Predator and Reaper aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles, have caused an unknown number of civilian casualties and prompted accusations that Washington is carrying out extrajudicial killings in the shadows with no genuine oversight by courts or lawmakers. […]
Panetta, who as CIA director presided over the successful raid that killed Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, said the campaign still needed to be regularly reviewed but did not say he favored turning over the spy agency’s drone war to the military.
Some critics have called for giving the US military authority over the drone air strikes, which would require openly reporting every operation.
“Having said that, we always need to continue to look at it, to make sure we develop the right standards, that we’re abiding by the laws of this country, that we’re doing it in a way that hopefully can be a little more transparent with the American people.”
Cheney Rumsfeld he said “to protect this country” it was not enough to have operations carried out openly by the military.
Secret action led by the CIA was also needed “when you got those kind of operations where, because of the nature of the country you’re in or the nature of the situation you’re dealing with, it’s got to be covert.”
› The War That Obama Forgot | Tom Junod
It is a war that continues even as the president said that our wars are ending. It is a war that persists even as he said that “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.” It is a war that endures and flourishes even as the president said that Americans are “heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends.”
I am not speaking, of course, of the wars that the president spoke of yesterday, in his second inaugural speech — the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he spoke of without naming. I am speaking of the war that is currently being prosecuted in countries where we are not supposed to be at war, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. I am speaking of the perpetual war, the shadow war, the invisible war against invisible enemies, the war whose latest manifestation came just two days ago, when three men identified as militants, names unknown, were killed by an American drone. I am speaking of the war that the president did not speak about, even though his Administration has never called it anything but a war, and it has killed thousands of people.
Indeed, it was just two months ago that the Obama Administration once again characterized its drone war as a war, and justified it as such. In a speech delivered at Oxford, in England, Jeh Johnson, then the general counsel for the Department of Defense, stated unequivocally that “the United States government is in an armed conflict against Al Qaeda and associated forces, to which the laws of armed conflict apply.” He declared that “it is an unconventional war against an unconventional enemy,” but that “President Obama…has insisted that our efforts in pursuit of this enemy stay firmly rooted in conventional legal principles.” And he warned, at last, that “in the current conflict with Al Qaeda, I can offer no prediction about when this conflict will end, or whether we are, as Winston Churchill described it, near the ‘beginning of the end.’”
Why didn’t the President’s speech reflect any of this? Why did he say that the “decade of war” prompted by Al Qaeda’s attack on America is ending, when by his Administration’s own insistence it is not? The answer is that he did because he could — and that he could because he has cast this war as a war against war, and because his investment in secrecy has yielded an inestimable return. No one expected him to speak about drones in a speech rhetorically haunted by bound wounds and better angels. But no one, certainly, could have expected him to wish our wars away, when American soldiers are still being killed in Afghanistan, and when we are still killing people — and, in the name of war, reserving the right to keep killing people — all over the world.
President Obama’s second inaugural was supposed to sound something like Lincoln’s: the speech of a man tired of war, and eager to move the nation beyond its bloody reach. In truth, it was the speech of a man who has perfected a form of war that can be written off as a kind of peace. He was able to put the pain of war in the past because his efforts to expand painless war have come to fruition. That there is no political disadvantage to the Lethal Presidency was made abundantly clear by the Lethal President’s speech; that there remains a moral cost was only apparent in what he didn’t say. We are thankfully ending a fruitless war in which Americans have gotten and are getting killed; we are continuing a war in which Americans do the killing, and that Barack Obama was able to imply that this is no war at all demonstrates its danger. Two months ago, Jeh Johnson told the English that we are locked in a war with Al Qaeda for the foreseeable future; yesterday, Barack Obama told the American people and the rest of the world that our decade of war is ending, which only proved that truth is not only the first casualty of war.
It is also the last.
Critics [The astonishingly small number of Americans that haven’t lost their fucking minds] see the manual as a symbol of the extent to which the targeted killing program has become institutionalized, part of an apparatus being assembled by the Obama administration to sustain a seemingly permanent war.
CIA drone strikes will get pass in counterterrorism ‘playbook,’ officials say | The Washington Post
… In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans [just trust us! Also, that really is not true, ed.]. That could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” a senior administration official said, or “intelligence that . . . a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.”
The playbook has adopted that tighter standard [which does’t actually exist in practice, ed.] and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval on drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.
None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, [where the agency uses “signature” strikes, or pattern of behavior or guilt by proximity strikes, ed.]. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.
Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.
Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.
The priest-like John Brennan is so in tune with Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine and “just war” theory, so uniquely gifted in his ability to see pure evil and eliminate it with precision, so trustworthy that he doesn’t even have to follow his own “rules”. And the anonymous officials are cool with it. Because, if Brennan says all of the hellfire-charred pieces of bodies are militants planning on attacking the United States then god dammit all those motherfuckers are militants. Got that? He’s perfect.
› The Death of Bin Laden, Revisited | William Blum
The books and the films are coming out. The subject is a sure winner. The American tracking down and execution of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011. Has there ever been a better example of Good triumphing over Evil? Of Yankee courage and cleverness? “The bin Laden operation was a landmark achievement by our country, by our military, by our Intelligence Community, and by our Agency,” said the acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell.
But even if everything the government has told us about the operation is true … How important was it really? What did it change in Washington’s glorious War on Terror? American taxpayers are not spending a penny less on the bloody spectacle. American soldiers still die in Afghanistan as before. American drones still bring extreme anxiety, death and destruction to children and parents in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Guantánamo still holds numerous damned souls who wonder why they are there as they bang their head against a brick wall.
Anti-American terrorists are still being regularly created as a result of US anti-terrorist operations. (Even the way bin Laden was “buried” increased the hatred.) It’s a mass-production terrorist assembly line working three shifts even if the bin Laden model has been discontinued. If only one in 10,000 of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims is moved to want to attack the US because of Washington’s repeated outrages against Muslims, the United States will have created a pool of 160,000 Muslims devoted to seeking revenge against Americans.
“Remember when the United States had a drug problem and then we declared a War on Drugs, and now you can’t buy drugs anymore? The War on Terrorism will be just like that,” declared author David Rees in 2008.
The fear mongering remains as is; airport security has not gotten any less stupid, embarrassing, or destructive of civil liberties than before, only worse. “Will that be frisked or naked pictures with your airline ticket, sir?” The No-Fly list grows bigger with each passing day, listing people who are too guilty to fly, but too innocent to charge with anything.
Wherever you go — “If you see something, say something!”
People are entrapped as much as ever, charged with some form of terrorism (or “terrorism”), staged and financed by government agents, put away for terribly long periods. The State Department puts a country on its terrorist list, then the FBI persecutes Americans for helping someone in that country, perhaps no more than medical aid.
And surveillance of Americans … the science fiction methods are expanded without end … no escape from Fortress America. Protestors in America are monitored and harassed and recorded as much as before; witness the recent revelations concerning the FBI/Homeland Security/et al and the Occupy Movement. The Patriot Act is still the law of the land, now joined by the National Defense Authorization Act which makes it easier than ever to hold people in indefinite detention, for any reason, or no reason, including American citizens. And now we have the president’s clandestine “kill list”.
Could it be any worse if bin Laden were still alive?
› Drones are fool's gold: they prolong wars we can't win | Simon Jenkins
The greatest threat to world peace is not from nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. It is from drones and their certain proliferation. Nuclear bombs are useless weapons, playthings for the powerful or those aspiring to power. Drones are now sweeping the global arms market. There are some 10,000 said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. Some reports say they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11.
I have not read one independent study of the current drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the horn of Africa that suggests these weapons serve any strategic purpose. Their “success” is expressed solely in body count, the number of so-called “al-Qaida-linked commanders” killed. If body count were victory, the Germans would have won Stalingrad and the Americans Vietnam.
Neither the legality nor the ethics of drone attacks bear examination. Last year’s exhaustive report by lawyers from Stanford and New York universities concluded that they were in many cases illegal, killed civilians, and were militarily counter-productive. Among the deaths were an estimated 176 children. Such slaughter would have an infantry unit court-martialled. Air forces enjoy such prestige that civilian deaths are excused as a price worth paying for not jeopardising pilots’ lives.
This week President Obama appointed two drone “enthusiasts” as his new defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, and his new CIA chief, John Brennan. Drone war is now the flavour of the month and the military-industrial complex is licking its lips. If Obama, himself a lawyer, had any reservations about the legality of these weapons, he has clearly overcome them.
Quite apart from ethics and law, I find it impossible to see what contribution these weapons make to winning wars. The killing of officers merely sees others replace them, eager for revenge. The original Predator was intended for surveillance but was adapted for bombing specifically to kill Osama bin Laden. When he was finally found, the drone was considered too inaccurate a device to risk, and old-fashioned boots-with-guns had to be sent instead.
As for the inevitable killing of civilians, however few or many, this is not just “collateral damage” but critical to victory or defeat. It does not occupy or hold territory and it devastates hearts and minds. Aerial bombardment has long been a questionable weapon of war. It induces not defeat but retaliation.* [continue]
* Which, however much we might like to deny the possibilty, may be, and likely is, the end goal.