September 6, 2011
With the new Dick Cheyney book out, this monster under the rug has come back to haunt America. Here is a segment of a conversation Col. Lawrence Wilkerson had with then Secretary of State Colin Powell:
He had pulled me aside in the National Intelligence Council spaces in the CIA, put me in a room, he and I alone, and he told me he was going to throw all the presentation material about the connection between Baghdad and al-Qaeda out, completely out. I welcomed that, because I thought it was all bogus.
Within about an hour, George Tenet, having scented that something was wrong with the Secretary vis-à-vis this part of his presentation, suddenly unleashes on all in his conference room that they have just gotten the results of an interrogation of a high-level al-Qaeda operative, and those results not only confirm substantial contacts between an al-Qaeda and Baghdad, the Mukhabarat and Baghdad, the secret police, if you will, but also the fact that they were training, they were actually training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Well, this was devastating. Here’s the DCI telling us that a high-level al-Qaeda operative had confirmed all of this. So Powell put at least part of that back into his presentation.
We later learned that that was through interrogation methods that used waterboarding, that no U.S. personnel were present at the time–it was done in Cairo, Egypt, and it was done by the Egyptians–and that later, within a week or two period, the high-level al-Qaeda operative recanted everything he had said. We further learned that the Defense Intelligence Agency had issued immediately a warning on that, saying that they didn’t trust the reliability of it due to the interrogation methods. We were never shown that DIA dissent, and we were never told about the circumstances under which the high-level al-Qaeda operative was interrogated. Tenet simply used it as a bombshell to convince the secretary not to throw that part, which was a very effective part, if you will recall, out of his presentation.
July 29, 2011
Glenn Greenwald illuminates the stark differences between America and Norway in light of the Oslo attacks last week:
The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly “inspired” the attacker. The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet. That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan’s shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of “material support for Terrorism” that criminalizes free speech. In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America’s Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.
The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway’s political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality. The day after the attack — one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion: “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.” It is simply inconceivable that any significant U.S. politician — the day after an attack of that magnitude — would publicly reject calls for greater security measures. Similarly inconceivable for American political discourse is the equally brave response of the country’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was the target of the bomb and whose Labour Party was the sponsor of the camp where dozens of teenagers were shot:
He called on his country to react by more tightly embracing, rather than abandoning, the culture of tolerance that Anders Behring Breivik said he was trying to destroy.
“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference. . . .
Stoltenberg strongly defended the right to speak freely — even if it includes extremist views such as Breivik’s.
“We have to be very clear to distinguish between extreme views, opinions — that’s completely legal, legitimate to have. What is not legitimate is to try to implement those extreme views by using violence,” he said in English.
Stoltenberg’s promise in the face of twin attacks signaled a contrast to the U.S. response after the 9/11 attacks, when Washington gave more leeway to perform wiretaps and search records.
It reflects the difference between the two countries’ approaches to terrorism. The U.S. has been frustrated by what it considers Scandinavia’s lack of aggressive investigation and arrests.
Since the attacks, Stoltenberg and members of Norway’s royal family have underlined the country’s openness by making public appearances with little visible security. (emphasis by GG)
The American approach, even taken up by Barack Obama, is tough on terror. If we give terrorists (or even in a larger context, criminals) any slack, our demise will be nigh. Ironically, this slogan does not always match our actions (it again goes back to using secrecy for protective purposes):
Patrick Henry’s long celebrated tribute to courage has been turned on its head by the degraded cowardice of GOP tough-guy leaders — such as Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and Rush Limbaugh — shrieking that civil liberties are worthless if you’re dead: i.e., that safety is the paramount goal. Meanwhile, as virtually every other country that suffers a horrendous Terrorist attack puts the accused perpetrators on trial in their real court system in the city where the attack occurred — the subway bombers in London, the train bombers in Madrid, the shooters in Mumbai, the Bali nightclub bombers in Indonesia — it is only the U.S., the self-proclaimed Home of the Brave, that is too frightened to do so, instead concocting military tribunals and sticking accused terrorists in cages on a Caribbean island, as members of both parties spew base fear-mongering to bar trials on American soil.
June 6, 2011
Conor Friedersdorf makes the case:
Give the hawks their due: terrorism is an ongoing threat to the United States. In fact, it’s likely to pose a bigger threat with every year that passes, insofar as technological advances are permitting people with meager resources to obtain ever deadlier weapons. Heaven forbid they get a nuke or a killer virus. What the hawks fail to recognize, however, is that perpetual war poses a bigger threat to the citizenry of a superpower than does terrorism. Already it is helping to bankrupt us financially,undermining our civil liberties, corroding our values, triggering abusive prosecutions, empoweringthe executive branch in ways that are anathema to the system of checks and balances implemented by the Founders, and causing us to degrade one another.
Alas, we still have an ambiguous exit strategy from the Middle East.
May 28, 2011
Drink your morning coffee, sit back, do your Saturday cleaning, and enjoy Bibi’s pep talk to the U.S. Congress (which gave him 27 standing ovations compared to Obama’s 25 before him. When was the last time this happened and it was labeled anything else but unpatriotic and inciting treason?)
Also, when it’s done, check out this map and see how difficult it would be to establish a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
May 24, 2011
“Obama has adopted in these speeches what might be termed the Mafia Gambit: the implied threat to Israel that either it accepts the ‘1967 Auschwitz borders’ or runs the gauntlet of UN recognition and further western delegitimisation… The fact is that, for all his ludicrous protestations of friendship towards Israel, Obama believes the Palestinians have a legitimate grievance over the absence of their state. He thus believes their propaganda of historical falsehoods and murderous blood libels. He therefore believes it is a just solution to reward murderous aggression. And that makes Obama a threat not just to Israel but to free societies everywhere,” – Melanie Phillips.
H/T: The Dish
May 23, 2011
Peter Kirsanow asks another good slew of questions in related to this discussion.
May 23, 2011
Many will say that there is little rational reason for dealing with Hamas. They are a terrorist group that cannot be reasoned with when it comes to a two-state solution for Palestine/Israel. The question I have is this: how much of American/Israeli behavior or ideology has polarized this issue and turned many to extremist stances? In a way, Benjamin Netayanhu needs Hamas to continue to act like lunatics to prop up his stance that there is no need for a two state solution. Land grabs by Israel do much to anger, frustrate, and radicalize Palestinians:
Of course Hamas is a problem, and I have no sympathy either for its terror tactics or for the rabid anti-Semitism and primitive, fundamentalist language of its charter. But research shows that peace can never be achieved by leaving out a major player. Whether we like it or not, Hamas is an integral part of Palestinian society.
The smart way to deal with Hamas is to force it to change its position by strengthening Fatah’s moderate line. Hamas is already under great pressure because of the ongoing changes in the Arab world: they may soon be bereft of any power-base outside the Palestinian territories, hence their hurry for reconciliation with Fatah.
International recognition of Palestine will be credited to Fatah; and if Israel dramatically expands the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, this will further convince Palestinians, that Hamas’ hard-line policies are opposed to their interests.
The problem is that Netanyahu has no motivation to maneuver Hamas into moderation, because an extremist Hamas is really Netanyahu’s best friend. A Hamas that moderates its stance and takes the way of the IRA from a terror organization to a legitimate party in a peace process is an existential threat to Netanyahu’s political future. Without a hard-line Hamas, he would be left with no case against a Palestinian state, and he would have to face open conflict with the hard-line right-wingers in his own party and in his coalition in actual moves towards peace.
Expect Netanyahu to do everything to torpedo recognition of Palestine; expect him to try to weaken Fatah, Abu Mazen and Fayyad, and thus to strengthen Hamas’ extremist wing. As a result, Israel’s legitimacy will indeed come under ever more fire. But let’s face it: this is good for Netanyahu. No right-wing politician ever stayed in power if he didn’t succeed in frightening his electorate to death.
May 13, 2011
Some news on our toxic relationship with Pakistan and their military:
Despite mounting pressure from the United States since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden,Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, seems unlikely to respond to American demands to root out other militant leaders, according to people who have met with him in the last 10 days.
While the general does not want to abandon the alliance completely, he is more likely to pursue a strategy of decreasing Pakistan’s reliance on the United States, and continuing to offer just enough cooperation to keep the billions of dollars in American aid flowing, said a confidant of the general who has spoken with him recently.
Mind you, we have provided $20 billion since 2001 (that figure doesn’t include covert aid) to Pakistan. This article is worth a full read; it’s quite interesting.
March 30, 2011
I want to start write a piece about living in the present moment and the impacts of wishing today away for a desired tomorrow but I am still grading papers. I had my students write a 1-page paper giving three reasons why a terrorist should and shouldn’t get the right to a lawyer (as based on the 2004 Supreme Court case of Rasul v. Bush). I have at least 30 papers left. I hope to be done soon! I have PSSA’s to thank for this extra grading time.
March 22, 2011
Jeffrey Goldberg gives a great top 7 analysis.
October 11, 2010
The NYT applauds Obama’s assasination program all the while calling him to be transparent:
The Obama administration has sharply expanded the shadow waragainst terrorists, using both the military and the C.I.A. to track down and kill hundreds of them, in a dozen countries, on and off the battlefield.
The drone program has been effective, killing more than 400 Al Qaeda militants this year alone, according to American officials, but fewer than 10 noncombatants. But assassinations are a grave act and subject to abuse — and imitation by other countries. The government needs to do a better job of showing the world that it is acting in strict compliance with international law.
The fine details that separate a president being allowed to single out an extremist for kill and being covered by independent oversight seems minute. Is Obama commanding for these extremists to be killed or is he simply reporting to us what has been reported to him from the DOD or another group?
The Obama administration needs to go out of its way to demonstrate that it is keeping its promise to do things differently than the Bush administration did. It must explain how targets are chosen, demonstrate that attacks are limited and are a last resort, and allow independent authorities to oversee the process.
Obama responded to the above claim in a recent Rolling Stone interview, which I found extremely enlightening and fun to read:
I have been able to make sure that our intelligence agencies and our military operate under a core set of principles and rules that are true to our traditions of due process. People will say, “I don’t know — you’ve got your Justice Department out there that’s still using the state-secrets doctrine to defend against some of these previous actions.” Well, I gave very specific instructions to the Department of Justice. What I’ve said is that we are not going to use a shroud of secrecy to excuse illegal behavior on our part. On the other hand, there are occasions where I’ve got to protect operatives in the field, their sources and their methods, because if those were revealed in open court, they could be subject to very great danger. There are going to be circumstances in which, yes, I can’t have every operation that we’re engaged in to deal with a very real terrorist threat published in Rolling Stone.
These things don’t happen overnight. But we’re moving in the right direction, and that’s what people have to keep in mind.
I side with Obama on this, for the long term process and I applaud his patience.
September 12, 2010
Have you ever seen this clip before?
In There’s Something about Mary, Ben Stiller thinks the police are talking to him about picking up a hitchhiker. The police really are talking about the dead man in a bag in Stiller’s car that the hitchhiker left there. It makes for a funny misunderstanding.
I was in the Harrisburg airport today with MJ and being my goofy self. I was in the parking garage playing with the alarm feature on her Pap’s car. When we were leaving and I ran ahead to get the car, I held the key set in the air, looked back and MJ, and yelled, “You just have to press the red button!” I didn’t understand until later but I can imagine that what I said sounded like a terrorist remark. I forgot too that it was the day after 9/11. Lucky for me the airport was pretty barren and MJ could only shake her head and laugh.
September 8, 2010
Any new jack in politics can tell you that conservatives dig big defense. Have a border problem? Put up a big wall. Have a terrorist problem? Build up your military so to surpass what we had against the Soviets. That is all quite debatable. What do you think of the below?
Andrew Sullivan makes a great point by saying whether or not the above action affects our troops, as hinted that it does by General Petraeus, it is very contra to protecting our national security (which the GOP loves to flaunt and rub in the Left’s face). We have to remember that the above video is by an extremist fringe (the Dove church has 50 members and the Westboro Baptist church has just under 100) but the comments and tendencies as of late by Right wingers on camera have not been praiseworthy.
August 28, 2010
For the important part of Newt Gingrich’s interview, tune to the 3:00 mark.
Newt makes a few comments that have been replayed and analyzed countless times. Newt calls the group that wants to build this mosque radical Islamists (no proof to back that up), they have no interest in reaching out to the community (no proof to back that up, and the essence of the mosque being a community center contradicts Newt outright), they are trying to make a case about supremacy over America (no proof to back that up), and he finishes up with the unintelligent hyperbole comparing how we would never let the Nazi’s put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum, therefore these “radicals” shouldn’t build their mosque. MJ doesn’t know half of the nitty gritty details about this and when I told her that comparison, she knew right away that Newt was talking about two different things.
I gave this a lot of thought while I was on vacation. Beyond Newt’s unfounded demagogic assertions, I see at the core of this the utilization of hyperbole and prejudice. In Newt’s comparison, the victims are the Jews and Americans while the persecutors were radical Islamists and the Nazis. The problem with this comparison is that Newt twists the facts and blurs the lines between radicals and moderates.
I am not very knowledgeable on contemporary Nazism but I would guess there are not many moderates within that party. Within Islam, there seem to be many moderates and the mosque push is headed up by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was utilized under the George W. Bush presidency. Rauf is seen as a radical because he sees America as partly to blame for 9/11. Do you become a radical terrorist sympathizer when you point out a blatant flaw in America?
I wrap this up with the inner workings of prejudice. In one way or another, many citizens of America have been hurt by 9/11. Some who have been hurt by what radical Islamists committed on 9/11 still hold that hurt today. That isn’t what I am addressing. I see that when we are hurt by a certain person, we respond by placing them within a larger homogeneous grouping. Take Muslims for example. They are only a few thousand around the globe that will turn their religion into jihad. There are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world (23% of the total global population). Look at the damage a few bad apples have done. As we place this certain person into its homogeneous group, we not only lie to ourselves about who they are but insert hate into the equation. I feel we react this way only out of self-protection. We are afraid of this person/group because they hurt us and in a way to take away our feeling of vulnerability, we make ourselves think that they are simpler than they are. This gives us the one up on them and ends any conversation and ultimately any chance of redemption. An dated version of this that I am currently reading is the view of African Americans in Atlanta during the beginning of the 20th century.
This all is right up Joe’s alley when he said how powerful our minds truly are.
August 14, 2010
Harpers tells of Osama Bin Laden’s cook who has “sentenced” to 15 years in prison at Guantanamo Bay:
The cases of al-Qosi and child warrior Omar Khadr, now underway, highlight America’s current prosecutorial dilemma. Any prosecutor worth his salt would want to start the process just as Justice Jackson did at the end of World War II: with high-profile targets against whom powerful evidence has been assembled. But nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain at large. Thus the world is shown not the mastermind of a heinous crime but a short-order cook and a 15-year-old child who offers credible evidence that he was tortured in U.S. custody. The spectacle is so pathetic that we can understand why those running it want to turn to carnival tricks to conceal the unseemly reality.
I appreciate what Scott Horton says, especially since I just watched Nuremberg and enjoyed all three hours of it. It should be noted that even though al-Qosi was merely bin Laden’s cook, he had to have some inside information and be somewhat valuable to bin Laden to be in his inner circle. Horton makes a good point as he refer’s to Justice Jackson: Jackson mulled over what to do with the city of Nuremberg and it’s ecumenical role in the Holocaust. He said that he preferred going after 22 men and putting together 22 solid cases based off of the evidence. I don’t think we can simply discredit this because of his role as a cook but it is disheartening that Osama is still out free. Remember, we still haven’t given up.
August 11, 2010
(Photo: Asan Bibi, 9, (R) and her sister Salima,13, (L) stand in the hallway of Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. Both were burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. Three members of the family were killed in the incident. The family belongs to the Kuchi ethnic tribe, nomads living in tents out in the open desert whom are very vulnerable to a war they have little understanding of. The Taliban are now staging suicide attacks and IED blasts in densely populated areas to create a bigger impact as more of Afghan’s war wounded hit the headlines. By Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.)
Some more background courtesy of the Daily Dish:
As we fight an unwinnable war in an ungovernable country, the enemy simplyratchets up the evil by targeting more and more innocent civilians, especially women and children. HuffPo’s headline misleadingly suggests that US policy is behind the yearly increase in civilian fatalities but the UN report actually notes that casualties caused by the US and UK fell by 30 percent and by 64 percent in aerial bombing in one year, which strikes me as a real achievement for McChrystal. But then you see an image like that above (having scanned many of them I feel numb from the images of agony and despair) which was the result of a Coalition air-strike gone awry and you see the awful, horrible, gut-wrenching moral dilemma we are in. But the vast majority of child murders are by the Taliban.
August 11, 2010
Entanglements at TNR put together an analysis of the future of American involvement in the world relevant to many areas and due to the Great Recessions’ vacuum effect. As Mandelbaum says at the end, this looks to be anything but benign:
Here the impact of the coming economic constraints on foreign policy will differ from the effects of the downsizing of the financial industry. Reducing the size of banks and other financial institutions will have benign consequences, reducing the risk of a major economic collapse, limiting economically unproductive speculation, and diverting talented people to other, more useful, work. By contrast, the contraction of the scope of American foreign policy will have the opposite effect because the American international role is vital for global peace and prosperity. The American military presence around the world helps to support the global economy. American military deployments in Europe and East Asia help to keep order in regions populated by countries that are economically important and militarily powerful. The armed forces of the United States are crucial in checking the ambition of the radical government of Iran to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. For these reasons, the retreat of the United States risks making the world poorer and less secure, which means that the consequences of the economically-induced contraction of American foreign policy are all too likely to be anything but benign.
Mandelbaum puts this in the perspective of everything tying together – a domino effect of sorts (minus the Communists). In a way, this sounds good to me. I don’t understand why we are spending more money now on foreign affairs and military engagements as we fight against Muslim nihilists who can’t light their car full of explosives on fire, the bomb in their shoe or in their underwear than against the Communist Russians and Chinese decades ago.
Mandelbaum’s new book looks appealing: The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era.
August 5, 2010
Christopher Predle ponders over the bipartisan Hadley-Perry commissions findings, which justifies spending $800 billion a year on military expenditures to ensure America’s “global policeman” personality:
Most in Washington still embraces the notion that America is, and forever will be, the world’s indispensable nation. Some scholars, however, questioned the logic of hegemonic stability theory from the very beginning. A number continue to do so today. They advance arguments diametrically at odds with the primacist consensus. Trade routes need not be policed by a single dominant power; the international economy is complex and resilient. Supply disruptions are likely to be temporary, and the costs of mitigating their effects should be borne by those who stand to lose — or gain — the most. Islamic extremists are scary, but hardly comparable to the threat posed by a globe-straddling Soviet Union armed with thousands of nuclear weapons. It is frankly absurd that we spend more today to fight Osama bin Laden and his tiny band of murderous thugs than we spent to face down Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao. Many factors have contributed to the dramatic decline in the number of wars between nation-states; it is unrealistic to expect that a new spasm of global conflict would erupt if the United States were to modestly refocus its efforts, draw down its military power, and call on other countries to play a larger role in their own defense, and in the security of their respective regions.