A federal operation dubbed Fast and Furious allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers so the arms could be traced to the higher echelons of Mexican drug cartels. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the operation, has lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which have been linked to crimes, including the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
They never had any plans to actually track these guns…
–Katie Pavlich, author of “Fast and Furious:
Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Coverup”, who explains what she thinks motivated the administration to do this in the video linked.
Obama’s Attorney General was held in contempt of court for trying to withhold official documents related to Fast and Furious:
The House Oversight Committee filed a civil contempt lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday seeking the release of documents linked to a controversial weapons crackdown.
The lawsuit asks a federal court judge to rule that President Barack Obama overstepped his authority in claiming executive privilege over documents sought by the committee in its investigation of the Fast and Furious weapons tracking program. The lawsuit also seeks an order requiring Holder to turn the documents over to House investigators.
–CNN Consider that Obama uses drug violence to justify drone warfare in Mexico (cf. the section on Mexico under “Obama’s Wars“).
al Qaeda in Syria
…al Qaeda [leader Ayman al-] Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria.
…we believe al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.
-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
Address to the Senate Armed Services Committee
The United Nations gave a grim new count Wednesday of the human cost of Syria’s civil war, saying the death toll has exceeded 60,000 in 21 months – far higher than recent estimates by anti-regime activists…
Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with protests calling for political change but has evolved into a full-scale civil war.
As the rebels have grown more organized and effective, seizing territory in the north and establishing footholds around Damascus, the government has stepped up its use of airpower, launching daily airstrikes…
“The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.
She criticized the [Syrian] government for inflaming the conflict by cracking down on peaceful protests and said rebel groups, too, have killed unjustifiably. Acts by both sides could be considered war crimes, she said.
She also faulted world powers for not finding a way to stop the violence.
“The failure of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to take concrete actions to stop the bloodletting shames us all,” Pillay said. “Collectively, we have fiddled at the edges while Syria burns.”
If President Obama is serious about tackling the ever-elusive goal of achieving peace in the Middle East, he should start his efforts not by focusing on Israel or the Palestinians, but rather a little closer to home: Foggy Bottom.
Either through deliberate neglect or simple ineptitude, the State Department has made U.S. taxpayers complicit in perpetuating the single greatest impediment to Middle East peace: an increasingly radical Palestinian society that despises Israel and embraces terrorism…
Despite multiple government audits and several changes enacted in the law over the past few years, the State Department still cannot ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not subsidizing terrorists or underwriting terrorist propaganda in schools across the West Bank and Gaza. According to a critical report issued late last month by the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, State has fallen short overseeing aid to Palestinians through both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which administers Palestinian refugee camps.
What this means in practical terms is that many of the Palestinians who are consuming a steady diet of Islamist indoctrination and glorification of violence are receiving this brainwashing courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. It doesn’t require high-level deductions to predict how badly this wounds—if not outright kills—any hope for Palestinian society to embrace peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state of Israel.
Given the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have steered to the Palestinians—almost $600 million just last year—the United States has as much leverage as anyone to put a stop to this nonsense.
On October 20, 2010, the U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.
Less than three months after including Bahrain on a list of human rights offenders requiring the United Nations’ attention, the Obama administration seems to have changed its mind. The US now believes Bahrain is “an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” according to a statement from the Defense Department, which intends to sell $53 million worth of military equipment and support to the Gulf state, including bunker buster missiles and armored vehicles.
–Mother Jones (emphasis mine) You can see why Bahrain was on the list to begin with here.
Iraqi Prime Minister
Today, I’m proud to welcome Prime Minister Maliki — the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. We’re here to mark the end of this war; to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible; and to turn the page — begin a new chapter in the history between our countries — a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect…
And so today, the Prime Minister and I are reaffirming our common vision of a long-term partnership between our nations. This is in keeping with our Strategic Framework Agreement, and it will be like the close relationships we have with other sovereign nations. Simply put, we are building a comprehensive partnership.
-Barack Obama, Whitehouse.gov (Note this is the man Obama’s Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, wants ousted. Look for an upcoming post on the Iraqi Prime Minister.)
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
…next month the Obama administration will begin to send Morsi’s government at least 20 F-16 jet fighters, filling an order placed by the Mubarak government two years ago…
Circumventing Congress in an Attempt to Gain Control of Internet
On process, this is a basically complete abdication of the principals of transparency, accountability, and public-participation in government. The cybersecurity legislation did not stall in Congress simply because of dysfunction or disregard. Rather, it was the target of a massive grassroots effort that drove tens of thousands of calls to Congress and dozens of in-person meetings urging lawmakers to either add privacy safeguards to the bill, or vote it down. That action, which coincided with an industry-led attack on regulations in the bill, is what caused its demise. The executive order is a way for the Obama Administration to enact a bill that the public has clearly demonstrated they do not want. What’s worse, the it is being drafted in secret by unaccountable government bureaucrats, and, unless leaked, it will not be available for public review before it goes into effect. The Administration is essentially taking all the worst qualities of how the legislative branch operates these days, turning them up to an extreme level, and using them to enact legislation that’s so unpopular even our corrupt and out-of-touch Congress can’t pass it.
Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.
Given the counterterrorism provisions in the fairly recent National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), we currently live in a country where the government can pick up American citizens and detain them indefinitely without access to a lawyer or even a criminal trial. That means locked up forever without even the basic protections we afford to rapists and murderers.
…the NDAA will persist under a Romney administration as well.
Circumventing Congress in Presidential Appointments, and Infrastructure, Economic, Immigration, & Welfare Policy Changes
By a vote of 261-116, the House of Representatives passed a bill rewriting Article II of the Constitution and divesting the Senate of the power to accept or reject the appointment of many presidential nominees…
Dozens of key management positions in the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, and Homeland Security (including the treasurer of the United States, the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, and the assistant administrator of FEMA) will now be filled by presidential edict, without the need of the “advice and consent” of the Senate, a phrase specifically removed from the process in the text of the bill.
Although the House vote occurred on Tuesday, the Senate voted to surrender its constitutional check on the executive over a year ago on June 29, 2011.
Obama is employing his executive powers now more than ever before during his presidency.
Obama has been sidestepping Congress through his “We Can’t Wait” initiative, a series of executive actions that he claims benefit the middle class through infrastructure projects and economic policy changes.
He also skirted Senate approval in January when he appointed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The appointments were unprecedented because he made them when the Senate was technically not in recess, prompting legal challenges from conservative groups.
In June, the president halted deportations of illegal immigrants who entered the United States when they were children and met certain requirements, such as the lack of a criminal record. The change mirrored provisions of the DREAM Act — failed legislation that Obama supported and Senate Republicans blocked in 2010.
And in July, Obama changed welfare policy to allow states to modify work requirements if they test new approaches to increasing employment. Obama did not submit the policy change to Congress for review, which the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded he should have done.
Acting with minutes to spare, President Obama approved a four-year extension of expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, after Congress overcame mounting opposition from both parties to narrowly avoid a lapse in the terrorist surveillance law.
Obama, attending an international summit in France, awoke early Friday to review and approve the bill, directing that it be signed in Washington by automatic pen before the provisions expired at midnight Thursday Eastern time.
The combat mission in Iraq ended in August 2010, at which point troop levels were brought down to 50,000. In October 2011, over a year later, there were still about 45,000 troops left in Iraq. Furthermore, these supposedly non-combat troops would engage in combat missions and were described as having a “combat capacity” by administration officials, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in which they engage in “targeted counterterrorism operations” and work and fight alongside Iraqi security forces. In light of this, “support” seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for extended combat.
President Obama has essentially followed President Bush’s policy towards Iran.
–Nicholas Burns (Foreign Service officer and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the George W. Bush administration)
In September 2012, it waswidelyreported that Obama’s “troop surge” in Afghanistan was over, leaving 68,000 troops in the country. But when President Obama took office, there were only roughly 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan. In two “surges”, Obama added to this figure over 66,000 additional troops. By reducing the US troop presence by 33,000, his drawdown plan has removed only half the number of troops that he sent to Afghanistan, not all.
…the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was struck between the United States and Afghanistan in June 2012, provides for a US military presence after 2014…
…the Pentagon is trying to strike a deal with the Afghan government to leave 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024.
…there were only 34,000 troops there when Obama took office. If 25,000 troops are kept in Afghanistan after 2014, that means that the net withdrawal would be a mere 9,000 troops. Furthermore, before 2008, troop levels were at roughly 25,000 or less. So leaving 25,000 troops in Afghanistan would be to merely return to 2007 troop levels.
In addition to killing and maiming, the presence of drones exacts a high toll on civilian life in northwest Pakistan…
Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones…
…there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.
The expansion of U.S.’ drone war has the potential to further enflame a volatile conflict involving the southern Muslim areas and Manila, which has killed around 120,000 people over the past four decades… his controversy could increase with the recent American announcement that it plans to boost its drone fleet in the Philippines by 30 per cent. The U.S. already has hundreds of troops stationed on Jolo Island
A US cruise missile armed with cluster ammunition was used in an attack in Yemen in December which resulted in the deaths of 52 people, more than half of them women and children, according to a human rights watchdog.
…the Obama administration has begun sending drones deep into Mexican territory
Before the outbreak of drug violence in Mexico that has left more than 34,000 dead in the past four years, such an agreement would have been all but unthinkable, they said.
“It wasn’t that long ago when there was no way the D.E.A. could conduct the kinds of activities they are doing now,” said Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “And the only way they’re going to be able to keep doing them is by allowing Mexico to have plausible deniability.”
In addition to wariness by Mr. Calderón’s government about how the American intervention might be perceived at home, the Mexican Constitution prohibits foreign military and law enforcement agents from operating in Mexico except under extremely limited conditions, Mexican officials said, so the legal foundation for such activity may be shaky. In the United States, lawmakers have expressed doubts that Mexico, whose security agencies are rife with corruption, is a reliable partner.
After quietly testing Predator drones over the Bahamas for more than 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security plans to expand the unmanned surveillance flights into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to fight drug smuggling, according to U.S. officials.
The move would dramatically increase U.S. drone flights in the Western Hemisphere, more than doubling the number of square miles now covered by the department’s fleet of nine surveillance drones, which are used primarily on the northern and southwestern U.S. borders.
…a new control station will arrive this month in Corpus Christi, Texas, allowing Predators based there to cover more of the Gulf of Mexico.
“We need help fighting this battle along the Caribbean border to protect U.S. citizens there being buffeted by violence,” Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuno told a congressional panel this week.
…Customs and Border Protection has requested $5.8 million to push its drone operations farther into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
…The Predator B is best known as the drone used by the CIA to find and kill Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen.
…For the recent counter-narcotics flights over the Bahamas, border agents deployed a maritime variant of the Predator B called a Guardian with a SeaVue radar system that can scan large sections of open ocean.
Guatemala & Honduras
“A team of 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala’s western coast this week in an unprecedented operation… This is the first Marine deployment that directly supports countering transnational crime in this area, and it’s certainly the largest footprint we’ve had in that area in quite some time,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes at the U.S. Southern Command in Miami.”
A similar US mission is being carried out by commando-style DEA agents and hundreds of US soldiers in neighboring Honduras. In that case, it has brought about several incidents of killings of Hondurans by American forces and a massive uptick in support and training for a corrupt league of Honduran security forces with a long list of human rights abuses.
As Honduran scholars from diverse fields of study, men and women of science and art, with the solidarity of other Latin American scholars and scholars of Latin America from countries around the world, including of course the U.S.A., we call upon you to immediately suspend all military and police aid to Honduras until such time as those public institutions, plagued with corruption, have been cleaned up. We urge you to respect our sovereignty and declare our wish to submit to an open referendum the question of whether or not to permit the ongoing presence of U.S. military bases—one of which was used in the perpetration of the June 2009 coup d’état, a turning point in the worsening of so many of our troubles. And we demand that you respect the national and regional processes for confronting our current institutional breakdown. Let’s not kid ourselves. The current disaster in Honduras has an immediate explanation and roots in history, but it is most directly the result of your politics of “pragmatism” following the coup.
Since at least 1997 the abhorrent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered at least 2,400, kidnapped at least 3,400, and displaced at least 300,000… [and the United States did not intervene, until…]
Earlier this year, at least 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil were discovered along Uganda’s border… [and then…]
…President Obama announced that, without consulting congress, he has authorized the deployment of some 100 “combat-equipped U.S. forces” to the country in order to fight and hopefully kill or capture the vicious militant who has an international warrant for crimes against humanity.
…president Barack Obama’s Defense Department will bring new missiles even closer than JFK’s Turkey base. The U.S. will set up new Raytheon (RTN) SM-3 missile defense systems in Poland, roughly 50 miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. A Russian spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry said his government was not pleased to hear about the U.S. military decision for a permanent missile defense base so close to home. Kaliningrad is a unique piece of Russian real estate. It is not connected to mainland Russia. Neverthless, the Russians consider it part of the Federation and at least the Foreign Ministry is acting surprised by the missile base deal signed between Poland and the U.S..
The SM-3s system will be located at the Redzikowo military base in Poland, close to the Baltic Sea and Lithuania.
“Regarding the U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses elements and air force units in Poland, we are certainly concerned and agitated,” Alexander Lukashevich told reporters on Thursday.
…The real focus of the missile base is Iran, not Russia. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said last year that the missile defense program was aimed at deterring threats from Iran.
The move to send 250 Marines to bases here for six-month tours starting next summer, eventually rotating 2,500 troops through the country, is the first step toward the administration’s larger goal of repositioning the United States as a leader on economics and security in the fast-developing Asia-Pacific region.
A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the United States a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge…
Already the U.S. military has plans for nearly 100 different exercises, training programs and other activities across the widely diverse continent. But the new program faces significant cultural and language challenges..
The Pentagon’s effort in Africa, including the creation of U.S. Africa Command in 2007, has been carefully calibrated, largely due to broad misgivings across the continent that it could spawn American bases or create the perception of an undue U.S. military influence there.
Nobel Peace Prize officials were facing a formal inquiry over accusations they have drifted away from the prize’s original selection criteria by choosing such winners as President Barack Obama, as the nomination deadline for the 2012 awards closed Wednesday.
…If the Stockholm County Administrative Board, which supervises foundations in Sweden’s capital, finds that prize founder Alfred Nobel’s will is not being honored, it has the authority to suspend award decisions going back three years
…For example, in 2007 the prize went to climate activist Al Gore and the U.N.’s panel on climate change, and in 2009 the committee cited Obama for “extraordinary efforts” to boost international diplomacy.
“Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?” Heffermehl asked rhetorically.
Assassination of American Citizens on Secret Kill List
Outside the U.S. government, President Obama’s order to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without due process has proved controversial, with experts in law and war reaching different conclusions. Inside the Obama Administration, however, disagreement was apparently absent, or so say anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post.
…Obama hasn’t just set a new precedent about killing Americans without due process. He has done so in a way that deliberately shields from public view the precise nature of the important precedent he has set. It’s time for the president who promised to create “a White House that’s more transparent and accountable than anything we’ve seen before” to release the DOJ memo.
When it comes to national security, Michael V. Haydenis no shrinking violet. As CIA [and NSA] director, he ran the Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretaps against suspected terrorists.
But the retired [four star] air force general admits to being a little squeamish about the Obama administration’s expanding use of pilotless drones to kill suspected terrorists around the world — including, occasionally, U.S. citizens.
“Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel,” Hayden told me recently.
As an example of the problem, he cites the example of Anwar Awlaki, the New Mexico-born member of Al Qaeda who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen last September. “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him,” Hayden notes, “but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?”
Hayden isn’t the only one who has qualms about the “targeted killing” program. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been pressing the administration to explain its rules for months.
Whether or not al-Awlaki was affiliated with al Qaeda or committed any crime deserving of the death penalty does not matter. What matters is that we’ll never know whether he was guilty without a trial. Instead of a trial, charges that were never ruled upon were used as justification for assassinating him. What just might be worse is that Obama also independently killed this man’s teenage son:
The Atlantic… has posted a video of an exchange from a few days ago involving former Obama press secretary (and current Obama campaign adviser) Robert Gibbs, who was asked about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year old son of the late radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Like his father, the younger al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen. “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children,” Gibbs said, suggesting the son somehow deserved his death because of the sins of the father…
the al-Awlakis were not killed together—Abdulrahman was killed weeks later in a subsequent drone strike, and as Esquire’s Tom Junod wrote, he hadn’t seen his father in two years. That Gibbs appears to believe they were killed together changes the meaning a little bit, since it suggests he wasn’t aware that he was justifying Abdulrahman’s death weeks after the fact.
…the US government has never provided any evidence that the younger al-Awlaki was a terrorist or played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and it’s an elementary moral precept that children are not responsible for the sins of their parents. It’s one thing to argue that killing Anwar al-Awlaki was justified because of evidence he was part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, (although one does not simply lose the constitutional right to due process as a US citizen by being abroad); it’s another to justify the killing of a teenager based on decisions made by his father.
It’s worth contrasting Gibbs’ response with that of an anonymous administration official quoted in the Washington Post’s recently published profile of White House counterterrorism adviser… According to the Post, the official called the younger al-Awlaki’s death “an outrageous mistake…”
Perhaps it’s too much to expect an admission of error from a political spokesperson. But no one forced Gibbs to justify Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s death in such glib and callous terms.
If you don’t think Obama is personally responsible, consider:
This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years…
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
The U.S. Government on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over the killing of three American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen earlier this year: alleged Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, his son Abdulrahman, and alleged AQAP magazine editor Samir Khan.
The administration also threatened to invoke the State Secrets Privilege if the suit is not dismissed on other grounds. The privilege, which 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama regularly blasted the Bush administration for invoking, allows the government to seek dismissal of a suit if it could expose national security secrets.
Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best , America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy.
Since then, under both Bush and Obama, the US has carried out targeted killings (or extrajudicial executions according to UN experts) using conventional aircraft and helicopter strikes; cruise missiles; and even naval bombardments.
Yet the drone remains the US’s preferred method of killing. The Bureau has identified a minimum of 2,800 (and as many as 4,100) killed in covert US drone strikes over the past ten years. What began as an occasional tactic has, over time, morphed into an industrialised killing process.
Every confirmed US drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia recorded 2002-2012.
There was no inevitability to this when the strikes began. Time magazine opined in 2002 that covert drone attacks were ‘unlikely to become a norm.’ And in the early years of the programme this was true. The next covert drone strike took place in Pakistan in June 2004, followed by a further strike 11 months later.
Yet slowly, surely, the United States has come to depend on its drone killing programme. By Obama’s presidency drone use against alleged militants was sometimes daily. Six times more covert strikes have hit Pakistan under Barack Obama than under George W Bush. And as the Bureau’s work shows, when known strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are added together, they reveal a growing dependence upon covert drone killings.
For the past three years, Noor Behram has hurried to the site of drone strikes in his native Waziristan. His purpose: to photograph and document the impact of missiles controlled by a joystick thousands of miles away, on US air force bases in Nevada and elsewhere…
Sometimes arriving on the scene just minutes after the explosion, he first has to put his camera aside and start digging through the debris to see if there are any survivors. It’s dangerous, unpleasant work. The drones frequently hit the same place again, a few minutes after the first strike, so looking for the injured is risky. There are other dangers too: militants and locals are suspicious of anyone with a camera. After all, it is a local network of spies working for the CIA that are directing the drone strikes.
But Noor Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important – and unreported – truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal region: that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. The world’s media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each strike. But reporters don’t go to the spot, relying on unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Noor Behram believes you have to go to the spot to figure out whether those killed were really extremists or ordinary people living in Waziristan. And he’s in no doubt.
“For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” he said. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.”…
According to Noor Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.
“The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they’re doing is far greater.”
Even when the drones hit the right compound, the force of the blast is such that neighbours’ houses, often made of baked mud, are also demolished, crushing those inside, said Noor Behram. One of the photographs shows a tangle of debris he said were the remains of five houses blitzed together.
The photographs make for difficult viewing and leave no doubt about the destructive power of the Hellfire missiles unleashed: a boy with the top of his head missing, a severed hand, flattened houses, the parents of children killed in a strike. The chassis is all that remains of a car in one photo, another shows the funeral of a seven-year-old child. There are pictures, too, of the cheap rubber flip-flops worn by children and adults, which often survive: signs that life once existed there. A 10-year-old boy’s body, prepared for burial, shows lipstick on him and flowers in his hair – a mother’s last loving touch.
There are photos of burned and battered Qur’ans – but no pictures of women: the conservative culture in Waziristan will not allow Noor Behram to photograph the women, even dead and dismembered. So he makes do with documenting shredded pieces of women’s clothing.
The jagged terrain, the often isolated location of strikes, curfews and the presence of Taliban, all mean that it is a major challenge to get to the site of a drone strike. Noor Behram has managed to reach 60, in both North and South Waziristan, in which he estimates more than 600 people were killed. An exhibition of his work, at London’s Beaconsfield gallery opening on Tuesday, features pictures from 27 different drone strikes. Clive Stafford Smith, head of Reprieve, the campaigning group, has launched a lawsuit along with a Pakistani lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, seeking to bring to justice those responsible for civilian deaths from drones. “I think these pictures are deeply important evidence,” said Stafford Smith. “They put a human face [on the drone strike campaign] that is in marked contrast to what the US is suggesting its operators in Nevada and elsewhere are doing. “They show the reality of ordinary people being killed and losing their homes, not senior al-Qaida members.“…
Sadaullah, a 15-year-old, lost one eye and both legs in a drone strike on 7 September 2009, during the month of Ramadan, near Mir Ali town in North Waziristan. Three family members died, including an uncle who used a wheelchair. It was reported at the time that three Taliban commanders – rather than his three relatives – were killed in the strike….
Sadaullah is one of the victims on whose behalf British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith is to launch a lawsuit against the CIA’s former legal chief, John Rizzo, who approved dozens of drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal region.
British and Pakistani journalists said Sunday that the C.I.A.’s drone strikes on suspected militants in Pakistan have repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.
The report, by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, found that at least 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help those hit by a drone-fired missile. The bureau counted more than 20 other civilians killed in strikes on funerals. The findings were published on the bureau’s Web site and in The Sunday Times of London…
The bureau counted 260 strikes by Predator and Reaper drones since President Obama took office, and it said that 282 to 535 civilians had been “credibly reported” killed in those attacks, including more than 60 children. American officials said that the number was much too high, though they acknowledged that at least several dozen civilians had been killed inadvertently in strikes aimed at militant suspects…
Getting a full picture of the drone campaign is difficult. It is classified as top secret, and Obama administration officials have refused to make public even the much-disputed legal opinions underpinning it…
American officials familiar with the rules governing the strikes and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that many missiles had been fired at groups of suspected militants who are not on any list.
The drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where the national parliament voted in April to end any authorization for it. This, however, was “a vote that the United States government has simply ignored,” according to Bergen…
The London-based rights organization Reprieve, which with the help of a partner organization in Pakistan facilitated access to some of the people interviewed for the Stanford/NYU study, backed its finding that the drone program causes wider damage than is acknowledged by the U.S. government.
“This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies,” said Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith.
“Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. Yet there is no end in sight, and nowhere the ordinary men, women and children of North West Pakistan can go to feel safe.”
In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.
An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS (pdf) news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step – one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. (The US constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard units by governors, who are answerable to the people; but this system is intended, as is posse comitatus, to prevent the military from taking action aimed at US citizens domestically.)
The air force document explains that the air force will be overseeing the deployment of its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the US; that it may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant – and will then, retroactively, determine if the material can be retained – which does away for good with the fourth amendment in these cases…
What happens to those images, that audio? “Distribution of domestic imagery” can go to various other government agencies without your consent, and that imagery can, in that case, be distributed to various government agencies; it may also include your most private moments and most personal activities. The authorized “collected information may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent”. Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told CBS..
This document accompanies a major federal push for drone deployment this year in the United States, accompanied by federal policies to encourage law enforcement agencies to obtain and use them locally, as well as by federal support for their commercial deployment. That is to say: now HSBC, Chase, Halliburton etc can have their very own fleets of domestic surveillance drones. The FAA recently established a more efficient process for local police departments to get permits for their own squadrons of drones.
Given the Department of Homeland Security militarization of police departments, once the circle is completed with San Francisco or New York or Chicago local cops having their own drone fleet – and with Chase, HSBC and other banks having hired local police, as I reported here last week – the meshing of military, domestic law enforcement, and commercial interests is absolute.
–Naomi Wolf (emphasis mine)
The article is worth reading in its entirety.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court Wednesday to force the Obama administration to release legal and intelligence records related to the killing of three U.S. citizens in drone attacks in Yemen last year.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charged the Justice and Defense departments and the CIA with illegally failing to respond to requests made in October under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It cited public comments made by President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other officials in arguing that the government cannot credibly claim a secrecy defense.
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens…
In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.
The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain’s National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, “creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture.” The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation’s “universal jurisdiction” law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities to confront them.” He promised a sweeping overhaul of the Bush administration’s war on terror, which he criticized for compromising American values.
But FRONTLINE has learned from a former high-ranking CIA official that even before he took office, Obama’s team “signaled” they had no intention of rolling back secret programs begun under the Bush administration.
Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again.
-Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU via ABC News (emphasis mine)
…the Obama administration has embraced rendition — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — despite widespread condemnation of the tactic in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement. Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser, the notice said.
The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.
Mr. Fried will become the department’s coordinator for sanctions policy and will work on issues including Iran and Syria.
The announcement came as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other Guantánamo Bay detainees facing death penalty charges before a military tribunal over the Sept. 11 attacks made their first public appearance since October on Monday, sitting quietly in a high-security courtroom at the naval base in Cuba as pretrial hearings resumed. A closed-circuit feed of the proceedings was shown at Fort Meade.
Despite promises to close Guantanamo Bay, Washington is now preparing to invest tens of millions into renovating the controversial facility’s infrastructure.
The Pentagon is planning to install a $40-million fiber optic cable at Guantanamo, and the base’s commanders say such a long term investment in infrastructure makes sense only if the US intends to continue operating the base.
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power.
For several decades, the US government – in annual “human rights” reports issued by the State Department (reports mandated by the US Congress) – has formally condemned nations around the globe for the practice of indefinite detention: imprisoning people without charges or any fixed sentence. These reports, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her preface to last year’s document, are grounded in the principle that “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere.” That 2011 report condemned numerous nations for indefinite detention, including Libya (“abuse and lack of review in detention”), Uzbekistan (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), Syria (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), and Iran (“Authorities held detainees, at times incommunicado, often for weeks or months without charge or trial”).
In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government is engaged in a fierce and protracted battle over the fundamental right to be free of indefinite detention. Specifically, the US is demanding that the governments of those two nations cease extending this right to their citizens. As a Washington Post article this morning details…
Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.
While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.
The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.
In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.
Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.
-President Jimmy Carter via NY Times (emphasis mine) (Keep in mind that this is the democrat whose administration, according to Hilary Clinton, founded al Qaeda to stave off the Soviets. See “Obama’s Support of Terrorism“.)
According to several sources, the CIA virtually installed the Ba’athist anti-Soviet Saddam Hussein under John F. Kennedy:
Forty years ago, the Central Intelligence Agency, under President John F. Kennedy, conducted its own regime change in Baghdad, carried out in collaboration with Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington’s role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America’s anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A…
From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem’s harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington’s Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt — much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s against the common foe of Iran. By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel’s arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country’s old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East — all steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form — Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.
In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies — chiefly France and Germany — resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.’s ”Health Alteration Committee,” as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.
Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. ”Almost certainly a gain for our side,” Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.
As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.
According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq’s educated elite — killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.
The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad — for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq.
But it wasn’t long before there was infighting among Iraq’s new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960’s, I often heard C.I.A. officers — including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time — speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.
This history is known to many in the Middle East and Europe, though few Americans are acquainted with it, much less understand it. Yet these interventions help explain why United States policy is viewed with some cynicism abroad. George W. Bush is not the first American president to seek regime change in Iraq. Mr. Bush and his advisers are following a familiar pattern.
The Kassem episode raises questions about the war at hand. In the last half century, regime change in Iraq has been accompanied by bloody reprisals. How fierce, then, may be the resistance of hundreds of officers, scientists and others identified with Saddam Hussein’s long rule? Why should they believe America and its latest Iraqi clients will act more wisely, or less vengefully, now than in the past?
If a new war in Iraq seems fraught with danger and uncertainty, just wait for the peace.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan [during Jimmy Carter’s (D) administration] we had this… idea that we were going come to Pakistan and create a force of Mujahadin [al Qaeda] and equip them with Stinger missiles and everything else to go after the Soviets inside of Afghanistan.
…the United States began a program of covert aid to the Afghan guerrillas six months before the Soviets invaded.
Americans, after all, cheered and armed the Afghan resistance after the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to rescue a tottering communist regime in Kabul. The CIA orchestrated massive arms shipments via Pakistan, including state-of-the-art Stinger surface-to-air missiles. Three administrations promoted a bipartisan policy that endured through a decade of war. Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush hailed the moujahedeen as “freedom fighters,” and no one doubts that Afghan intrepidity turned the tide.
Apparently the origin of al Qaeda in US intervention in Afghanistan is detailed in the book “Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism” by John Cooley, an ABC correspondent who spent years in the Middle East. According to Amazon, the LA Times Book Review says that “Cooley’s important and timely book examines a strange love affair that went disastrously wrong, the alliance between America and some of the most conservative and fanatical followers of Islam.”.
In the early 1960s, America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.
Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities…
America’s top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: “We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,” and, “casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.”
Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America’s largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years…
the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military — not democratic — control over the island nation after the invasion.
“That’s what we’re supposed to be freeing them from,” Bamford says. “The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing.”…
The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military…
One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base — an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.
Saddam Hussein in Iraq (Including Chemical Weapons)
Donald Rumsfeld & Saddam Hussein
The U.S. was officially neutral regarding the Iran-Iraq war, and claimed that it armed neither side. Iran depended on U.S.-origin weapons, however, and sought them from Israel, Europe, Asia, and South America. Iraq started the war with a large Soviet-supplied arsenal, but needed additional weaponry as the conflict wore on.
Initially, Iraq advanced far into Iranian territory, but was driven back within months. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive against Iranian human-wave attacks. The U.S., having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests, began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade U.S.-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in February 1982 the State Department removed Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism. (It had been included several years earlier because of ties with several Palestinian nationalist groups, not Islamicists sharing the worldview of al-Qaeda. Activism by Iraq’s main Shiite Islamicist opposition group, al-Dawa, was a major factor precipitating the war — stirred by Iran’s Islamic revolution, its endeavors included the attempted assassination of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.)
Prolonging the war was phenomenally expensive. Iraq received massive external financial support from the Gulf states, and assistance through loan programs from the U.S. The White House and State Department pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing, to enhance its credit standing and enable it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The U.S. Agriculture Department provided taxpayer-guaranteed loans for purchases of American commodities, to the satisfaction of U.S. grain exporters.
The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country’s official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan. These were prepared pursuant to his March 1982 National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM 4-82) asking for a review of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.
One of these directives from Reagan, National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 99, signed on July 12, 1983, is available only in a highly redacted version [Document 21]. It reviews U.S. regional interests in the Middle East and South Asia, and U.S. objectives, including peace between Israel and the Arabs, resolution of other regional conflicts, and economic and military improvements, “to strengthen regional stability.” It deals with threats to the U.S., strategic planning, cooperation with other countries, including the Arab states, and plans for action. An interdepartmental review of the implications of shifting policy in favor of Iraq was conducted following promulgation of the directive.
By the summer of 1983 Iran had been reporting Iraqi use of using chemical weapons for some time. The Geneva protocol requires that the international community respond to chemical warfare, but a diplomatically isolated Iran received only a muted response to its complaints [Note 1]. It intensified its accusations in October 1983, however, and in November asked for a United Nations Security Council investigation.
The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran’s accusations, and describing Iraq’s “almost daily” use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against “Kurdish insurgents” as well [Document 25].
…the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.
…As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing schoolbooks. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervor to fight communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in violence.
The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books “are fully in compliance with U.S. law and policy.” Legal experts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion…
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have repeatedly spotlighted the Afghan textbooks in recent weeks. Last Saturday, Bush announced during his weekly radio address that the 10 million U.S.-supplied books being trucked to Afghan schools would teach “respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.”
Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.
“The pictures [in] the texts are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse,” said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, an Afghan educator who is a program coordinator for Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a Pakistan-based nonprofit.
The military content was included to “stimulate resistance against invasion,” explained Yaquib Roshan of Nebraska’s Afghanistan center. “Even in January, the books were absolutely the same . . . pictures of bullets and Kalashnikovs and you name it.”
One page from the texts of that period shows a resistance fighter with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov slung from his shoulder. The soldier’s head is missing.
Above the soldier is a verse from the Koran. Below is a Pashtu tribute to the mujaheddin, who are described as obedient to Allah. Such men will sacrifice their wealth and life itself to impose Islamic law on the government, the text says.
“We were quite shocked,” said Doug Pritchard, who reviewed the primers in December while visiting Pakistan on behalf of a Canada-based Christian nonprofit group. “The constant image of Afghans being natural warriors is wrong. Warriors are created. If you want a different kind of society, you have to create it.”
– Full story by the Washington Post (emphasis mine)
(Keep in mind that according to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the United States created al Qaeda to begin with. See the section on al Qaeda under “DNC Support of Terrorism“.)
Extremists in Saudi Arabia & Iran, and Iran Herself
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran.
America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran… Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret”, according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.
In 2002, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) distributed $521.7 million to the Palestinian Authority. Most of this money did not make its way into the pockets of the Palestinian people, as the average Palestinian continued to live on one to two dollars a day. Rather, large portions of this money ended up in the pockets of the Palestinian leaders and their terrorist associates. While the Palestinian Arab refugees constitute 17% of worldwide refugees, they receive more than one third of the annual refugee funds allocated by the UN, with roughly 30% of this $350 million coming from the United States. The staff of UNRWA, the organization that oversees and facilitates the aid to Palestinians, is staffed by so many Hamas members that it is nicknamed the “Hamas Union.” In the UN refugee camps themselves, large amounts of weapons and bomb materials have been found, including facilities to create rockets that can reach major Israeli cities. These weapons have been constructed under the watchful eye of the UN, and with money given to the UN under the guise of aiding impoverished refugees.
The Europeans, America’s supposed closest allies, have done little to stop the funding of terrorists. The EU States have persisted in allowing various organizations that act as fronts for Hamas to continue to send funds to the West Bank and Gaza. While many of these organizations have been shut down in the US, they have sprung up in ever increasing numbers in the EU states. A militant Islamic group in the UK went as far as publicly distributing playing cards with the faces of the “magnificent nineteen” World Trade Center bombers to celebrate the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
Saudi Arabia is an oppressive regime, accused of involvement in the 9-11 attacks:
If you are planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the summer days wind down, you may want to think twice before taking your Bible with you. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it is officially called, reportedly bans foreigners from bringing in Bibles, crucifixes, Stars of David and other religious non-Islamic items.
The heavily Muslim country threatens to confiscate them from foreign visitors along with other prohibited items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography, according to the web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country’s national carrier…
Saudi Arabia has long been known to have severe religious freedom problems. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – an independent, bipartisan government body established to monitor religious freedom in the world – recommended to the U.S. State Department again this year that Saudi Arabia be designated a Country of Particular Concern – the worst religious freedom violation label.
The U.S. State Department has often criticized Saudi Arabia for religious intolerance and human rights abuses including a legal system with punishments such as flogging and amputation.
Christian persecution watch group Open Doors this year listed Saudi Arabia as the world’s second worst Christian persecutor behind North Korea.
Moreover, the Saudi government is accused of propagating religious intolerance through its public textbooks, which teach Muslim children to hate all non-Wahhabi Muslims.
Saudi Arabian courts punish apostates (converts from Islam to another religion) with the death sentence if they refuse to recant. Executions by beheading have been on the rise in an effort to deter criminals. Women are treated as second class citizens and given few rights.
“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks.
And yet George W. Bush is best friends with the King:
On Friday we visited another of America’s friends in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia. I had a series of productive meetings with King Abdullah at his farm. We celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. We reaffirmed our shared objectives of peace in the Holy Land, a secure and united Iraq and a sovereign, independent Lebanon that is free of outside interference. We talked about oil production and gasoline prices. We discussed the King’s efforts to diversify his nation’s economy, and the importance of political reform. And I thanked him for Saudi Arabia’s strong commitment to fighting terror.
–George W. Bush, 2008 (emphasis mine)
See CBS News’ footage of President Bush holding hands with the King here.
America regularly supplies the Saudi government with weapons:
The United States and Saudi Arabia established full diplomatic relations in 1940. Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world’s largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays a role in military and civilian construction activities in Saudi Arabia. Three security assistance organizations are funded through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program: to provide training and support in the use of weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces; to assist in the modernization of the Saudi Arabian National Guard; and to train and equip a Facility Security Force, part of the Ministry of Interior. The United States has sold Saudi Arabia military aircraft, air defense weaponry, armored vehicles, and other equipment.
Did “Operation Iraqi Freedom” give Iraqis freedom? It is difficult to sort out quite exactly what is going on in Iraq, which is why I added the question mark. However things are certainly not peaceful and some Iraqis are reportedly concerned about regression into dictatorship (granting any progress has actually been made):
The Iraqi government is debating proposed laws that would impose strict controls on freedom of speech and association, prompting fears that the authorities are playing a growing and increasingly oppressive role in citizens’ lives.
As the country settles into its new identity as a sovereign state… some Iraqis are nervous that the government is moving back toward the heavy-handed monitoring of citizens that was a hallmark of life under dictator Saddam Hussein.
In parliament, there has been fierce debate of several draft laws. One would carry harsh penalties for online criticism of the government. Another would require demonstrators to get permission for any gathering.
Local and international human rights groups say the proposed legislation is vague and would give the government power to move against people or parties critical of the government.
Citing America’s war experience in Asia, and even Vietnam, President Bush on Wednesday made the case for staying the course in Iraq and reiterated his support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the president compared the war in Iraq to U.S. involvement’s in Asia that lost popular backing but which he argued eventually proved its worth and led to lasting peace…
“Prime Minister Maliki’s a good guy, a good man with a difficult job and I support him,” Bush said…
Is it possible that America’s longstanding intentions in the Middle East have been selfish and even aggressive? Is it possible that American intelligence as directed by George W. Bush deliberately did less than they ought to have to protect American citizens, knowing a disaster like 9-11 could result in the public support necessary to advance their objectives?
The Defense Planning Guidance, “a blueprint for the department’s spending priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union,” is leaked to the New York Times. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/8/1992; NEWSDAY, 3/16/2003] The document causes controversy, because it hadn’t yet been “scrubbed” to replace candid language with euphemisms. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/10/1992; NEW YORK TIMES, 3/11/1992; OBSERVER, 4/7/2002] The document argues that the US dominates the world as sole superpower, and to maintain that role, it “must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/8/1992; NEW YORK TIMES, 3/8/1992] As the Observer summarizes it, “America’s friends are potential enemies. They must be in a state of dependence and seek solutions to their problems in Washington.” [OBSERVER, 4/7/2002] The document is mainly written by Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who hold relatively low posts at the time, but become deputy defense secretary and Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, respectively, under George W. Bush. [NEWSDAY, 3/16/2003] The authors conspicuously avoid mention of collective security arrangements through the United Nations, instead suggesting the US “should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/8/1992] They call for “punishing” or “threatening punishment” against regional aggressors before they act. [HARPER’S, 10/2002] Interests to be defended preemptively include “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, [and] threats to US citizens from terrorism.” The section describing US interests in the Middle East states that the “overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve US and Western access to the region’s oil…, deter further aggression in the region, foster regional stability, protect US nationals and property, and safeguard… access to international air and seaways.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/8/1992] Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) later says, “It is my opinion that [George W. Bush’s] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.” [NEWSDAY, 3/16/2003] In response to the controversy, US releases an updated version of the document in May 1992, which stresses that the US will work with the United Nations and its allies. [WASHINGTON POST, 5/24/1992; HARPER’S, 10/2002]
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank, calls for regime change in Iraq, and control by the US government of the internet [see first entry here], but complains that, without a “new Pearl Harbor”, such goals “are likely to take a long time”… The document… was written for the George W. Bush team even before the 2000 presidential election. It was written for future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor and Bush’s brother Jeb Bush, and Cheney’s future chief of staff Lewis Libby.
“It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,'” says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.”
-Paul O’Neill, George Bush’s Treasury Secretary, and a permanent member of the National Security Council in an interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes.
The F.B.I. had been aware for several years that Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network were training pilots in the United States and elsewhere around the world, according to court records and interviews at flight schools and with federal law enforcement officials.
The F.B.I. knew by 1996 of a specific threat that terrorists in Al Qaeda, Mr. bin Laden’s network, might use a plane in a suicide attack against the headquarters of the C.I.A. or another large federal building in the Washington area, the law enforcement officials acknowledged…
Congressional investigators say they are only now compiling a detailed chronology of what was known about potential terrorists receiving flight training here as Congress evaluates whether the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies failed to recognize signs that might have allowed the government to prevent the September attacks. At least six of the Sept. 11 hijackers received flight training in the United States.
General Norman Schwarzkopf says in a testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services: “Middle East oil is the West’s lifeblood. It fuels us today and being 77 percent of the Free World’s proven oil reserves, is going to fuel us when the rest of the world has run dry…. Our allies are even more dependent on Middle East oil. Japan gets almost two-thirds of its oil from the area while our allies in Europe import over one quarter.” [US CONGRESS, 2/8/1990]
Oil remains fundamentally a government business. While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies, even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow.
–Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush, CEO of $25 billion oilfield service company Haliburton, 1995 to 2000, and Vice President under George W. Bush
[NOTICE: Since I didn’t finish this post in time, I cut out all the different supporting sections I had been building so that I could finish them and publish them as independent blog posts.]
What follows is my attempt to persuade you to vote for Gary Johnson tomorrow. I will explain why I think your values have not been honored by Obama and would not be honored by Romney if he were to win. I will explain why I think a vote for either of them would be much more of a throw-away vote than a vote for Gary Johnson (spoiler: it has to do with the electoral college and what will happen if Gary Johnson gets 5% of the vote). If you do not have an open mind about whom you will vote for or do not have the stomach to hear out some criticisms of your guy, stop reading now. If there is a real chance you will like me less after hearing me out, then please don’t.
Why Not Barack Obama?
Barack Obama has continued many immoral aspects of the foreign policy of George W. Bush by supporting terrorism and waging several unwarranted and unconstitutional wars. He has transgressed against human rights at home and abroad. He is doing virtually irreparable damage to the fundamentals of the United States and global economies. He has eerily and unconstitutionally expanded the powers of the Executive branch.
Why Not Mitt Romney?
Mitt Romney flip-flops on issues, lies, and is loyal to the Republican Party in a way that will likely result in carrying out their unconscionably harmful plans just as other presidents have been doing. He gives lip service to life and sound fiscal policy but his record and his actions signal the intent to carry on the establishment business as usual.
Why Gary Johnson?
Gary Johnson is an Ironman. He unwaveringly champions compassion, justice, freedom, fiscal responsibility, and overall sanity at home and abroad. If he earns 5% of the vote it will allow Libertarians equal ballot access and federal funding, striking a critical blow to the entrenched two-party system. A vote for him directly contributes to this achievable and high-impact goal. A vote for an establishment candidate is a throw-away vote if you are not in a swing state.