Friedersdorf is being generous by taking humanitarian interventionists at their word about what drives their arguments for war. It’s fair to assume that many American citizens who advocate humanitarian intervention actually have humanitarian concerns. But for most policymakers and think-tank experts, humanitarianism is merely a pretext to justify war for other reasons. … [T]he most vocal advocates of U.S. military intervention in Syria have said all along that taking out the Assad regime would be a major geo-political blow for Iran in the same breath as ‘we have to stop the killing.’ While the death count in Syria is horrifying, there are other conflicts currently plaguing the Earth that are far bloodier, like in the Congo, that garner no [‘humanitarian’] arguments for U.S. intervention. You see, for a humanitarian crisis to be worthy of an American military response, the location has to be strategically vital. In case you haven’t got the point yet: the interests of the state are paramount, while appeals to save lives merely help legitimize the case for war.
The ‘Humanitarian’ Pretext: Why Applying Moral Purpose to the Warfare State is Absurd
Good piece from John Glaser - I’d just add that while there are no calls for “humanitarian” intervention in the Congo, we (the U.S.) are most certainly intervening in the resource rich area by proxy.
The First Lady and the President of the United States have officially told all the Negroes that they are not here for your lazy, hoop-dreaming, rapper-fantasizing, video-game-addicted, blame-it-on-the-white-man, media-whorish asses. They are over your excuses and they don’t want to hear it and they say no one else wants to hear it either. You ain’t getting reparations and they gives zero fucks about whatever legacy left you in the condition you’re in. Fuck institutionalized racism and stop-and-frisk and stand your ground and the prison industrial complex and inherent wealth disparity and inherent resource disparity and government persecution and government antipathy. Fuck all your excuses. If Oprah and Tyler can do it, any Negro can do it: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps—whether you have boots or straps or just bare feet. Otherwise, ain’t nobody got time for your sob story. Peace out!
Love, the most powerful black couple on the planet.
“Today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of ‘separate but equal,’ when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours, playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper. Right now, one in three African American students are dropping out of high school, only one in five African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 has gotten a college degree.” - First Lady Michelle Obama, New York Daily News
“I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ Well, we’ve got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned.
Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.”- President Barack Obama, Wall Street Journal
If you are, then you understand the problematics. If you’re not, then you don’t.
But we should all know one thing for sure:
“When people show you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou
› Conspiracy To Commit Journalism: The Justice Dept's Dangerous Argument Threatens Basic Reporting | Freedom of the Press Foundation
› DOJ Releases Completely Blacked-Out Memo on Surveillance of Text Messages
The Justice Department has released 15 pages of completely blacked-out material in response to a request for information about how text messages from cellphones are intercepted. The American Civil Liberties Union says the Obama administration is reading emails and other electronic communications without a warrant, despite a court ruling against the practice. In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request on the issue, the Justice Department released a memo with black rectangles covering every bit of text except the title, sender and recipient. ACLU spokesperson Josh Bell told ABC News: “We got very little information about the policy on text messages. [The document] does not even show the date, let alone what the policy is.”
Paperclipped to the last page of the redacted document was a sheet of white paper, blank, except for the phrase, perfectly centered both vertically and horizontally, “Go Fuck Yourself” in 12 pt. brush script.
Obama has classified, I think, seven million — in one year, classified seven million documents. Everything is classified. So [if the administration criminalizes the publishing of classified information] that would give the government the ability to control all its information on the theory that it’s classified. And if anybody asks for it and gets it, they’re complicit, and they’re going to go to jail. So that criminalizes the process, and it means that the dissemination of information, which is inevitable, out of the classified sources of that information will be stopped.
James Goodale, former general counsel for the New York Times
[As] Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler noted recently in the New Republic, when the judge presiding over Manning’s prosecution asked military lawyers if they would ‘have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?,’ the prosecutor answered simply: ‘Yes, ma’am’. It has long been clear that this WikiLeaks-as-criminals theory could and would be used to criminalize establishment media outlets which reported on that which the US government wanted concealed. Now we know that the DOJ is doing exactly that: applying this theory to criminalize the acts of journalists who report on what the US government does in secret, even though there is no law that makes such reporting illegal and the First Amendment protects such conduct. Essentially accusing James Rosen of being an unindicted co-conspriator in these alleged crimes is a major escalation of the Obama DOJ’s already dangerous attacks on press freedom. … It is virtually impossible at this point to overstate the threat posed by the Obama DOJ to press freedoms.
Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes | Glenn Greenwald
… Back in 2006, Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales triggered a major controversy when he said that the New York Times could be prosecuted for having revealed the Top Secret information that the NSA was eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without warrants. That was at the same time that right-wing demagogues such Bill Bennett were calling for the prosecution of the NYT reporters who reported on the NSA program, as well as the Washington Post’s Dana Priest for having exposed the CIA black site network.
But despite those public threats, the Bush DOJ never went so far as to formally accuse journalists in court filings of committing crimes for reporting on classified information. Now the Obama DOJ has.
… If even the most protected journalists - those who work for the largest media outlets - are being targeted in this way, and are saying over and over that the Obama DOJ is preventing basic news gathering from taking place without fear, imagine the effect this all has on independent journalists who are much more vulnerable.
There is simply no defense for this behavior. Obama defenders such as Andrew Sullivan claim that this is all more complicated than media outrage suggests because of a necessary “trade-off” between press freedoms and security. So do Obama defenders believe that George Bush and Richard Nixon - who never prosecuted leakers like this or formally accused journalists of being criminals for reporting classified information - were excessively protective of press freedoms and insufficiently devoted to safeguarding secrecy? To ask that question is to mock it. Obama has gone so far beyond what every recent prior president has done in bolstering secrecy and criminalizing whistleblowing and leaks.
Greenwald is writing in response to this report from The Washington Post.
› Deadly Manufacturing Mirage, Green-Red Alternative | Paul Street
[T]he fact that American and other global capitalists and their corporations increasingly find the U.S. to be a hospitable environment for manufacturing reflects the declining fortunes of the U.S. workers across the long neoliberal era (1970s to the present). The mass “off-shoring” (export) of formerly U.S.-based manufacturing jobs during that era did not occur because big “American” capital was interested in de-industrialization per se. It occurred because capital was interested in maximum profits and reduced costs – reduced labor costs above all. Capitalists who dismantled industry in the “high wage” and once heavily unionized United States were happy to promote a type of industrialization in “developing nations” – ultimately and above all “communist” China (endowed with spectacular supplies of newly available and super-exploitable labor power) – where low wages and weak worker protections promised higher rates of surplus value and profit. It was always implicit that some manufacturing might return to the U.S. if and when American unions were smashed and wages cut.
“U.S. Steel,” that company’s former Chairman David Roderick once commented in explaining why his firm was laying off workers and closing plants, “is in business to make profits, not to make steel.” That was a very candid statement of the cold reality of the profits system. “Rarely is the reality put with greater clarity,” notes the prolific Marxist analyst David McNally: “under capitalism, use is irrelevant; profit is king. Capitalist enterprises have no particular attachment to what they turn out, be it flat-rolled steel, loaves of bread, or pairs of jeans.”. An obvious fact should be added: capitalism has no particular attachment to turning out anything material or tangible in any particular country.
If manufacturing is reviving in the U.S. to any significant degree, it is not because of any particular commitment to the United States on the part of investors. It is happening because U.S. labor, materials, energy, transportation and/or other production costs have fallen so low that capitalists finally find it competitively advantageous to make more things in the so-called homeland.
› Western leaders study 'gamechanging' report on global drugs trade | The Observer
European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.
Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs. It spells out the effects of the policy on many countries and examines what the global drugs trade will look like if the status quo continues. It notes how rapidly countries’ unilateral drugs policies are evolving, while at the same time there is a growing consensus over the human costs of the trade. “Growing media attention regarding this phenomenon in many countries, including on social media, reflects a world in which there is far greater awareness of the violence and suffering associated with the drug problem,” José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, says in a foreword to the review. “We also enjoy a much better grasp of the human and social costs not only of drug use but also of the production and transit of controlled substances.”
Insulza describes the report, which examines a number of ways to reform the current pro-prohibition position, as the start of “a long-awaited discussion”, one that experts say puts Europe and North America on notice that the current situation will change, with or without them. Latin American leaders have complained bitterly that western countries, whose citizens consume the drugs, fail to appreciate the damage of the trade. In one scenario envisaged in the report, a number of South American countries would break with the prohibition line and decide that they will no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels, having concluded that the human costs of the “war on drugs” is too high. [++]
› Goodale: Pentagon Papers have lessons for AP case | Committee to Protect Journalists
[James] Goodale, who was general counsel for the Times during the Pentagon Papers and the architect of the paper’s legal defense—and is a member of CPJ’s board of directors—was quick to relate the current scandal to the precedent-setting case. “Notice [Holder] didn’t tell you why it was the worst national security leak, he didn’t tell you what [the damage was]…The lesson from the Pentagon Papers is: Don’t trust the government when it claims national security” concerns, Goodale said. He came to this conclusion in the process of researching his book, for which he poured over formerly classified documents from the case. “I wanted to give the government the benefit of the doubt, but about three quarters of the way through I realized it was totally nonsense, they never had a damn thing,” Goodale said. Four decades later, he noted, no one has ever shown damage to U.S. national security caused by publication of the papers. Reporters today may do well to consider this point as they debate what, if any, actual harm was incurred by the AP article that revealed a secret CIA operation and foiled terrorist plot in Yemen and is at the heart of the subpoena fracas.
While Goodale could not have anticipated the timely revelation of the secret AP subpoena, he clearly did have one current issue in mind when he decided to write his account: the ongoing saga of WikiLeaks and its embattled and polemic founder, Julian Assange. While acknowledging that many traditional journalists find Assange to be a baffling character, Goodale said, “If you’re angry at Assange for publishing the information, you should be mad at The New York Times too. Assange is [reporter] Neil Sheehan and The New York Times” in the Pentagon Papers case, he added. “Assange is the publisher, so there shouldn’t be any question we are dealing with a First Amendment issue. If we don’t recognize that in the digital age, we are in a lot of trouble.”
Of course, there are notable differences between Assange and the Times, whose own partnership in publishing the first set of leaked documents eventually publicly broke down. Assange received widespread scorn from the journalism community for WikiLeaks’ later disclosure of thousands of classified, unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables that potentially put people’s lives at risk. (CPJ, for example, documented at least one Ethiopian journalist who was forced to flee his country after he was cited in one of the cables.) Nonetheless, Goodale noted that the measure of whether publication of leaked material meets journalistic quality and ethical standards does not affect whether it qualifies for First Amendment protection. In other words, while WikiLeaks may not have taken care to redact or contextualize the data as the Times did, professional failures “do not [constitute] a legal distinction for the First Amendment.” Moreover, Goodale emphasized, journalists must be aware that the precedent of prosecuting WikiLeaks, essentially criminalizing the newsgathering process, would put the whole profession at risk.
Goodale has received a lot of press in recent days for stating that Barack Obama is on a path to becoming “worse for press freedom than [former U.S. President Richard] Nixon.” That’s the kind of headline that would make any president shudder, and in a sign the White House crisis-control team is on full alert, Obama unexpectedly called this week for a renewed push to pass the long-dormant federal shield law that would enshrine the reporter’s privilege to protect confidential sources. While many in the room with Goodale Thursday welcomed the move as an added protection for the press—most notably Judith Miller, who famously went to jail to uphold that principle—the bill comes with several controversial elements, including a national security exemption and the need to legally define who is a journalist in order to be effective.
Whatever happens with the legislation, Obama’s announcement was characteristic of the schizophrenic nature of the administration’s record on whistleblowers and leaks. The low level of tolerance for leaked information under Obama, and post 9-11 more generally, led Miller to question whether Goodale could have won the Pentagon Papers case in the 21st century. (After doing a numbers analysis of the current makeup of the Supreme Court, Goodale’s response was an emphatic “Yes.”)
As pointed out by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, the shield law and leak cases highlight that the Pentagon Papers case settled the issue of prior restraint (which has become largely irrelevant and unenforceable in the Internet era), but the debate on classified documents is unresolved. Decades after Goodale first articulated to corporate media lawyers the feasibility and importance of the First Amendment as a legal defense, he and his book are a handy and relevant reference for a new generation of attorneys tasked with protecting the press.
Quick, somebody tell CIA Director John Brennan about the handwriting on the inside wall of the boat in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding before Boston-area police riddled it and him with bullets. Tell Brennan that Tsarnaev’s note is in plain English and that it needs neither translation nor interpretation in solving the mystery: ‘why do they hate us?’ And, if Brennan will listen, remind him of when his high school teachers, the Irish Christian Brothers, taught him the meaning of ‘handwriting on the wall’ in the Book of Daniel and why it became an idiom for predetermined, imminent doom.
Ray McGovern, Boston Suspect’s Writing on the Wall
› Worse Than The AP Phone Scandal | Ken Klippenstein
Before Attorney General Eric Holder oversaw a Justice Department that secretly seized AP journalists’ phone records, he was guilty of something even worse, and closely related to the AP scandal. He argued a little-known case before the Supreme Court called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which found that speech (and other forms of nonviolent advocacy) could be construed as material support for terrorist organizations. The case involved a U.S.-based non-profit organization, the Humanitarian Law Project, which, according to its website, is “dedicated to protecting human rights and promoting the peaceful resolution of conflict by using established international human rights laws and humanitarian law.” It also enjoys a consultive status at the UN; so, in other words, hardly a radical organization.
The Humanitarian Law Project advised groups designated by the Secretary of State as “terror organizations” to enter into peace negotiations and the UN process. Holder argued that such advice was the same as material support for terrorist organizations. Elena Kagan (at the time Obama’s Solicitor General appointee) formally assisted Holder in his argument. Holder and Kagan won the case. Shortly thereafter, Obama promoted her to Supreme Court Justice. Back when he was a Senator, Obama wrote, “There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency”. To the layperson, social justice and civil liberties would seem to be related; but Harvard-educated constitutional law scholars know better.
The High Court’s decision in favor of the Obama administration prompted criticism from President Jimmy Carter:
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The ‘material support law’ – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom.”
Noam Chomsky has described Holder v. Humanitarian Law as “the first major attack on freedom of speech in the United States since the notorious Smith Act back around 1940.” I emailed him, asking why things like Obama’s NDAA are getting so much more attention than far more harmful Holder v. Humanitarian Law. Chomsky wrote back, “I agree with you that this is far more important than NDAA, and have been arguing that for some time, with no effect.”
Just as the Obama administration stifled speech in Holder v. Humanitarian Law, they did the same thing when they targeted AP journalists. Quite likely, the journalist’s great sin was exposing the story of a CIA operation in Yemen. We don’t know why the administration needs to know the identity of the journalist responsible for the story, because they won’t say. However, Holder assures us that “This was a very serious—a very serious leak, and a very, very serious leak.”
Very well put, Holder.
Given Obama’s enthusiasm for prosecuting whistleblowers, one might be led to think that he’s opposed to leaks. Not so, as evidenced by Obama’s leak of his “kill list” to the Times for political gain—among other intentional leaks. The “kill list” represented a top-secret leak, unlike the lower security clearance level of so many leaks that the administration has prosecuted with alacrity. The effect of Obama’s leak prosecutions, coupled with his hypocritical employment of leaks, is to concentrate power in his own hands. (History shows how well it turns out when charismatic leaders are permitted to consolidate power.) As constitutional and civil rights litigator Glenn Greenwald’s careful analysis of the topic has argued,
“Their unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers ensures that only the White House but nobody else can disclose classified information to the public, which is another way of saying that they seek to seize the ultimate propaganda model whereby the president and he alone controls the flow of information to the public. That’s what their very selective and self-serving war on leaks achieves.”
By use of the term ‘propaganda model,’ Greenwald is probably referring to Chomsky and Herman’s landmark book, Manufacturing Consent. The book demonstrated empirically that the mainstream media are biased in the favor of elite interests, largely because the information it disseminates is subject to five different filters (things like corporate ownership). Obama is trying to introduce a sixth filter, namely himself. Simply put, Obama is attempting to acquire a monopoly on leaks—a chilling prospect. [++]
› Syria's Inglorious Basterd | Jadaliyya
On 13 May 2013, Human Rights Watch released a statement attesting to the authenticity of a disturbing video that circulated first on Syrian pro-regime websites and then on social media. In it, a Syrian man cuts open a dead government soldier’s chest, pulls his heart and lung out, threatens “Alawite dogs” that they will all face a similar fate, and takes a bite of the viscera while addressing the videocamera. This latest sectarian evocation by a member of the armed opposition, Khalid al Hamad (“Abu Sakkar”), was simplistically depicted by many American and Gulf media outlets as an isolated abomination perpetrated by a savage man. However, the incident tells a more complex story about the evolution of sectarianism in Syria, the relationship between war and social media, and the Western media narrative on Syria more broadly. [read]
When he completed Volume II sixteen years ago, the 78-years-old Allen, in words that resonate today, ended by describing ‘unmistakable signs of maturing social conflict’ between ‘the common people’ and ‘the Titans.’ He suggested that ‘Perhaps, in the impending … struggle,’ influenced by the ‘indelible stamp of the African-American civil rights struggle of the 1960s,’ the ‘white-skin privileges may finally come to be seen and rejected by laboring-class European-Americans as the incubus that for three centuries has paralyzed their will in defense of their class interests vis-à-vis those of the ruling class.’ It was with that prospect in mind, with its profound implications for radical social change, that the independent, working class intellectual/activist Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) concluded The Invention of the White Race.
Jeffrey B. Perry, Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race
› Benghazi, Petraeus, and the CIA | Horace Campbell
What Greg Hicks and Representative Darrell Issa did not probe was the role of the CIA and Petraeus in the use of Benghazi as the largest CIA station in North Africa, where they ran militias into Syria. When the information about the attack on the US ‘facility’ in Benghazi was first brought to light, there was confusion because this information had the potential of putting the vaunted military in its proper perspective. Was the space that was attacked a consulate, a State Department facility, a CIA safe house, or indeed a prison for captured militias? This confusion took attention away from the reality that elements in the military/intelligence hierarchy had formulated a policy to align with certain militia groups in Eastern Libya and that these militias (sometimes called jihadists) had in the past been linked to groups that the U.S. called ‘terrorist organizations.’ France, the CIA, and the U.S. Africa Command had aligned with these jihadists to destabilize Libya, freeze billions of dollars of assets, execute Gaddafi, and use Libya as a rear base in the drive for regime change in Syria.
… [T]his review and these hearings are obfuscating … the real issues that emanate from the role of the CIA in recruiting Jihadists in Benghazi. On Monday at a press conference, Obama called the continued discussions on Benghazi a “side show.” However, for the millions of persons in North Africa that have been negatively affected by the NATO intervention and the role of the CIA, private militias and private military contractors, the debates in the USA can be viewed as another diversion to cover up the CIA operations in North Africa. Ethan Chorin, one of the operators in Libya and close ally of Ambassador Stevens, has weighed in with an op-ed piece in the New York Times that stated,
“The biggest American failure wasn’t in the tactical mistakes about security at the diplomatic mission where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died. It lay in thinking that an intervention in Libya would be easier or less costly than it has proved to be — a judgment that led the United States to think it could go in light, get out fast and focus on the capital, Tripoli, without paying enough attention to Libya’s eastern provinces, where the rebellion began as a call for a constitution and increased civil liberties.”
Chorin, who was an insider in Benghazi, continues to insist that the NATO intervention was “inspired and skillfully executed, and had the potential to do more good than harm.”
› How the U.S. Turned Three Pacifists into Violent Terrorists | Dissident Voice
On the lengths this goddamned State will go to to silence and punish dissent:
In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.
Here is how it happened. [continue]