AlterNet.org: Ray McGovern http://www.alternet.org/authors/ray-mcgovern en Trial Begins in Case of Ex-CIA Officer Allegedly Divulging Secrets to Journalist http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trial-begins-case-ex-cia-officer-allegedly-divulging-secrets-journalist <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Jeffrey Sterling faces felony charges over leaks concerning a risky and convoluted covert op against Iran.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/tenet-cheney-bush.jpg?itok=xmAosfYG" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The federal government claims it is prosecuting former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for leaking information to a journalist about a risky covert operation in which the spy agency funneled flawed nuclear-bomb schematics to Iran. But the opening days of the trial suggest that the government may be using the case more to overcome its reputation for shoddy intelligence work.</p><p>In opening statements and testimony on Wednesday, prosecutors seemed more concerned about refuting journalist/author James Risen’s assessment of the CIA’s scheme as botched and dangerous than in connecting Risen to Sterling. Eliciting testimony from a nuclear engineer testifying behind a screen, prosecutors sought to portray the phony-blueprint gambit as meticulous and careful.</p><p>The dispute seems to center on whether the Russian operative code-named “Merlin,” who was assigned to deliver the documents to Iranian representatives, easily detected the flaws, as Risen wrote in his 2006 book, <em>State of War</em>, or simply noticed that some pages were missing. An internal team of CIA experts – when asked to examine the schematics – spotted about 25 percent of the errors, but there is a clash of opinions over whether that showed how easy it was to unmask the fraud or how difficult it was to spot the flaws.</p><p>None of that, however, relates to whether Sterling was or was not a source for Risen regarding the “Merlin” operation, proof that may prove difficult for U.S. prosecutors to establish because Risen, a New York Times’ national security reporter, has an array of sources within the intelligence community from whom to draw. Since the Justice Department has dropped attempts to force Risen to identify his sources, prosecutors may find it hard to substantiate that Sterling was one of the sources for the “Merlin” disclosures.</p><p>But the real subtext of the Sterling case is how the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division over the past several decades has contributed to multiple intelligence failures, especially efforts to “prove” that targeted regimes in the Middle East were amassing weapons of mass destruction.</p><p>The false Iraq-WMD case provided the key rationale for a war that has spread devastation not only across Iraq but has prompted terrorism and other violence throughout the Middle East and into Europe. “Operation Merlin” – hatched during the Clinton administration – was part of a similar effort to show that Iran was engaged in an active program for building a nuclear bomb and thus would have interest in the flawed schematics that the CIA was peddling.</p><p>Yet, in the Sterling case, federal prosecutors seem to want to have it both ways. They want to broaden the case to burnish the CIA’s reputation regarding its covert-op skills but then to narrow the case if defense attorneys try to show the jury the broader context in which the “Merlin” disclosures were made in 2006 – how President George W. Bush’s administration was trying to build a case for war with Iran over its nuclear program much as it did over Iraq’s non-existent WMDs in 2002-2003.</p><p>Judge Leonie Brinkema appears to be bending to the U.S. government’s wishes, allowing the prosecutors to polish up the “Merlin” gambit but then slip back to insisting on narrow relevance if defense attorneys try to broaden the frame to include the reasons why Risen considered it important to publish the story in the first place. Then, the case is just about the narrow question of whether Sterling gave classified information to Risen.</p><p>But the two issues – the bogus Iraq-WMD intelligence and the pressure to create another casus belli on Iran – are inextricably linked, as Risen himself explained in his <a href="http://fas.org/sgp/jud/sterling/062111-risen115.pdf">affidavit</a> submitted in connection with the Sterling case.</p><p>Risen wrote, “I believe I performed a vitally important public service by exposing the reckless and badly mismanaged nature of intelligence on Iran’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, so that the nation would not go to war once again based on flawed intelligence, as it had in Iraq.”</p><p><strong>Behind the Screen</strong></p><p>In the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, there was a huge screen between those of us from the public and the proceedings, to permit a number of the witnesses to testify without their identities being revealed. Some witnesses even used partial or fake names.</p><p>The 12-foot-tall screen seemed like a metaphor for all the smoke and mirrors that we could hear but not see during the first “public” day of Sterling’s trial on ten felony charges. Another scheduled witness was Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who famously helped sell the Iraq WMD claims by warning that she didn’t want “the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”</p><p>Another phrase from that era – “not authentic” – kept going through my mind, the words that Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, applied to forged documents supposedly proving that Iraq was hard at work on a nuclear-weapons program.</p><p>Those forged documents purportedly showed that Iraq was seeking “yellow-cake” (very low refined) uranium from the African country of Niger, a claim that President Bush referenced in his 2003 State of the Union Address as he sought to seal the deal on his Iraq invasion two months later.</p><p>No wonder the U.S. government wanted ElBaradei out as IAEA chief and a more pliable bureaucrat inserted to replace him. Then, the IAEA could be used to hype allegations about Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program to justify ratcheting up U.S. sanctions and even possibly a bombing campaign. That is where leaked cables from Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to Wikileaks come in.</p><p>According to leaked U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering how they had replaced ElBaradei with Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano who had agreed to push U.S. interests on Iran in ways that ElBaradei wouldn’t. After thanking the Americans for getting him his job, Amano put his hand out for more U.S. money to his office. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2011/12/24/americas-debt-to-bradley-manning/">America’s Debt to Bradley Manning</a>.”]</p><p>But ElBaradei’s phrase “not authentic” could have been applied much more broadly to what was passing for an intelligence product during those years. For me, “not authentic” brought a horrid flashback to those embarrassing days before the attack on Iraq, when my profession of intelligence analysis was corrupted by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and eager-to-please CIA Director George Tenet.</p><p>Commenting on the 2008 findings of a five-year bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the pre-Iraq War intelligence, then-Chairman Jay Rockefeller described much of it as “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”</p><p>UN weapons inspector Hans Blix put it this way: “I found it peculiar that those who wanted to take military action could – with 100 percent certainty – know that the weapons existed and turn out to have zero knowledge of where they were.” (I had a rare opportunity to raise that issue with Rumsfeld in May 2006 at <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1FTmuhynaw">a public session</a> in Atlanta, Georgia.)</p><p><strong>The Iran Group Think</strong></p><p>It was within the context of another “group think” – the Inside-the-Beltway certainty that Iran was rushing to build a nuclear bomb – that the CIA’s eager-beaver practitioners of covert action adopted an overly clever way to sabotage the equally ephemeral nuclear weapons program of Iran. It was a scarcely believable story of over-imaginative sophomores with lots of money plotting to set back a “program” that, in all probability, did not exist.</p><p>The most definitive study of a post-Iraq “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent” nuclear weapons program, this time in Iran, is presented in Gareth Porter’s <em><a href="http://justworldbooks.com/praise-for-manufactured-crisis/#sthash.jh8i0S9l.dpuf">Manufactured Crisis</a></em>published a year ago (and viewed as untouchable by reviewers in the fawning corporate media).  Porter brings together the results of his many years of research into the issue, including numerous interviews with former insiders.</p><p>He shows that the origins of the Iran nuclear “crisis” were not in an Iranian urge to obtain nuclear weapons but, rather, in a sustained effort by the United States and its allies to deny Iran its right, as guaranteed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to have any nuclear program at all.</p><p>The book highlights the impact that the U.S. alliance with Israel had on Washington’s belligerent policy toward Iran and sheds new light on the U.S. strategy of turning the IAEA into a tool of that policy, especially the mysterious intelligence from a laptop computer that supposedly “proved” Iranian duplicity but that has since been traced to a possible Israeli covert op to plant “not authentic” evidence.</p><p>Here’s how Hans Blix describes the disclosures in Porter’s book: “National intelligence presented or peddled is often problematic as evidence. In the case of Iraq, defective intelligence contributed to a war against weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Could unreliable or cooked intelligence one day lead to an attack on Iranian intentions that may not exist?</p><p>“I feel grateful to Gareth Porter for his intrusive and critical examination of intelligence material passed to the IAEA. When security organizations do not shy away from assassinating nuclear scientists we can take it for certain that they do not for a moment hesitate to circulate false evidence.”</p><p>The allusion to the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, killings widely ascribed to Israeli intelligence services, is clear enough. And that is only a small part of the essential role played by Israel in building a case to “bomb-bomb-bomb” Iran. To his credit, Porter pulls no punches in exposing chapter and verse of this story.</p><p>So, the trial against Jeffrey Sterling seems to have multiple purposes beyond simply proving that Sterling leaked some secrets to James Risen. It is a chance for the CIA to contest the widespread impression that is some bumbling intelligence agency that comes up with harebrained schemes. It is also an opportunity to intimidate any other potential whistleblowers who would dare expose to the public more evidence that the CIA is just such a bumbling intelligence agency.</p><p>And, it would provide some protection for the next time the U.S. government needs some made-to-order “intelligence” to justify another conflict like the Iraq War. In that way, the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling is a deterrent to future officials, who might be tempted to commit the unpardonable sin of putting loyalty to their conscience and the Constitution ahead of the non-disclosure contract they signed earlier as a condition of employment.</p><p>As Lord Acton, the Nineteenth Century English politician and historian, once said, “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.”</p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 17:20:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1030367 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Jeffrey Sterling cia james risen covert operations Will France Repeat US Mistakes after 9/11? http://www.alternet.org/world/will-france-repeat-us-mistakes-after-911 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The challenge is to learn from U.S. mistakes after 9/11 and address root causes, not react with another round of mindless violence.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/gq_iraq.jpg?itok=3Nx_B4ZP" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>First, a hat tip to Elias Groll, assistant editor at <em>Foreign Policy</em>, whose <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/07/what-we-know-about-the-attack-on-charlie-hebdos-paris-office/?utm_source=Sailthru&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=*Situation%20Report&amp;utm_campaign=Sit%20Rep%20January%208%202015">report</a> just a few hours after the killings on Wednesday at the French satirical magazine <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>, included this key piece of background on the younger of the two brother suspects:</p><p>“Carif Kouachi was previously known to the authorities, as he was convicted by a French court in 2008 of trying to travel to Iraq to fight in that country’s insurgent movement. Kouachi told the court that he wished to fight the American occupation after viewing images of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.”</p><p>The next morning, Amy Goodman of <a href="http://democracynow.org/">Democracynow.org</a> and Juan Cole (in his blog) also carried this highly instructive aspect of the story of the unconscionable terrorist attack, noting that the brothers were well known to French intelligence; that the younger brother, Cherif, had been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a network involved in sending volunteer fighters to Iraq to fight alongside al-Qaeda; and that he said he had been motivated by seeing the images of atrocities by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib.</p><p>An article in the <em>Christian Science Monitor</em> added:  “During Cherif Kouachi’s 2008 trial, he told the court, ‘I really believed in the idea’ of fighting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.”  But one would look in vain for any allusion to Abu Ghraib or U.S. torture in coverage by the Wall Street Journal or Washington Post. If you read to the end of a New York Times article, you would find in paragraph 10 of 10 a brief (CYA?) reference to Abu Ghraib.</p><p>So I guess we’ll have to try to do their work for them. Would it be unpatriotic to suggest that a war of aggression and part of its “accumulated evil” – torture – as well as other kinds of state terrorism like drone killings are principal catalysts for this kind of non-state terrorism? Do any Parisians yet see blowback from France’s Siamese-twin relationship with the U.S. on war in the Middle East and the Mahgreb, together with their government’s failure to speak out against torture by Americans? Might this fit some sort of pattern?</p><p>Well, duh. Not that this realization should be anything new. In an interview on Dec. 3, 2008, Amy Goodman posed some highly relevant questions to a former U.S. Air Force Major who uses the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than a thousand.</p><p><strong>AMY GOODMAN: “</strong>I want to go to some larger issues, this very important point that you make that you believe that more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq — I mean, this is a huge number — because of torture, because of U.S. practices of torture. Explain what you mean.”</p><p><strong>MATTHEW ALEXANDER: “</strong>Well, you know, when I was in Iraq, we routinely handled foreign fighters, who we would capture. Many of — several of them had been scheduled to be suicide bombers, and we had captured them before they carried out their missions.</p><p>“They came from all over the area. They came from Yemen. They came from northern Africa. They came from Saudi. All over the place. And the number one reason these foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq was routinely because of Abu Ghraib, because of Guantanamo Bay, because of torture practices.</p><p>“In their eyes, they see us as not living up to the ideals that we have subscribed to. You know, we say that we represent freedom, liberty and justice. But when we torture people, we’re not living up to those ideals. And it’s a huge incentive for them to join al-Qaeda.</p><p>“You also have to kind of put this in the context of Arab culture and Muslim culture and how important shame, the role of shame in that culture. And when we torture people, we bring a tremendous amount of shame on them. And so, it is a huge motivator for these people to join al-Qaeda and come to Iraq.”</p><p>However, if you listen to the corporate media, there is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks. The average consumer of this thin gruel of “information” might come away thinking that Muslims are hard-wired to despise Westerners or they might recall President George W. Bush’s favorite <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushaddress_092001.html">explanation</a>, “they hate our freedoms.”</p><p>One has to go back five years to find a White House correspondent worth his or her salt who bluntly raised this central question. In early January 2010, after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the late Helen Thomas asked why the culprit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, did what he did.</p><p>Like Carif Kouachi, he had trained in Yemen; like Carif Kouachi, he had slipped through the U.S. counter-terrorist security sieve despite intelligence that should have nailed him – and despite the billions of dollars frivolously spent on eavesdropping on virtually everyone in the world. (The eavesdropping had created such a giant haystack of data that intelligence analysts couldn’t locate the crucial needle – even when Abdulmutallab’s father called to warn U.S. officials about his son’s dangerous radicalization.)</p><p>Here’s the revealing <a href="https://consortiumnews.com/2013/07/21/answering-helen-thomas-on-why/">exchange</a> between Thomas and John Brennan, who was then White House counterterrorism adviser and is now CIA director:</p><p>Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”</p><p>Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”</p><p>Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”</p><p>Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”</p><p>Thomas: “Why?”</p><p>Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p><p>Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”</p><p>Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men.</p><p><strong>Palace Pundits Make It Worse</strong></p><p>The intelligence tradecraft term of art for a “cooperating” journalist, businessperson or academic is “agent of influence.” Some housebroken journalists take such scrupulous notes that they end up sounding dangerously close to their confidential government sources. Some have gone even further and actually worked for the CIA.</p><p>For a recent example of the housebroken variety, count the number of cooperating journalists who repeated the CIA and Republican line that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture released last month was “flawed and partisan,” even though it was based on CIA cables and other original documents.</p><p>Or think further back to those vengeful days in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the macho pose taken by President George W. Bush, who won oohs and aahs for posturing with a bullhorn and throwing an opening pitch at a Yankees game (and later for dressing up in a flight suit as he arrived to deliver his “Mission Accomplished” speech).</p><p>CIA operative Gary Schroen told National Public Radio that, just days after 9/11, Counterterrorist chief Cofer Black sent him to Afghanistan with orders to “Capture bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice.” As for other al-Qaeda leaders, Black reportedly said, “I want their heads up on pikes.”</p><p>This bloodthirsty tone reverberated among Bush-friendly pundits who sought to out-macho each other. One consummate insider, <em>Washington Post</em> veteran Jim Hoagland went so far as to publish a letter to President Bush on Oct. 31, 2001, that was no Halloween prank. Rather, Hoagland strongly endorsed what he termed the “wish” for “Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike,” which he claimed was the objective of Bush’s “generals and diplomats.”</p><p>In his open letter to Bush, Hoagland also lifted the curtain on the actual neoconservative game plan by giving Bush the following ordering of priorities: “The need to deal with Iraq’s continuing accumulation of biological and chemical weapons and the technology to build a nuclear bomb can in no way be lessened by the demands of the Afghan campaign. You must conduct that campaign so that you can pivot quickly from it to end the threat Saddam Hussein’s regime poses.”</p><p>Thus, Hoagland had the “pivot” idea three weeks before Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called Gen. Tommy Franks to tell him the President wanted the military to shift focus to Iraq. Franks and his senior aides had been working on plans for attacks on Tora Bora where bin Laden was believed hiding but attention, planning and resources were abruptly diverted toward Iraq. And Osama bin Laden, of course, walked out of Tora Bora through the mountain passes to Pakistan.</p><p>The point here is that some media favorites are extremely well briefed partly because they are willing to promote what the powerful want to do and because they are careful not to bite the hands that feed them by criticizing the CIA or other national security agencies. Still fewer are inclined to point out basic structural faults — not to mention the crimes of recent years.</p><p>So it is up to those of us who know something of intelligence and how structural faults, above-the-law mentality and flexible consciences can spell disaster — how reckless reactions to terrorist provocations can make matters worse by accelerating a truly vicious cycle and doing nothing to address the underlying causes that prompted the violence in the first place.</p><p>Because of the refusal to seriously address the question of <strong>why</strong> that Helen Thomas posed to John Brennan – or to do more than compete like bodybuilders adopting the most muscular poses – disaster after disaster is what the West is in for, if it does not come to its senses.</p><p> </p> Sat, 10 Jan 2015 08:55:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1030066 at http://www.alternet.org World News & Politics World middle east charlie hebdo france radical islam 9/11 united states We Shouldn't Rush to Judgement—The Facts Are Still Needed On the Malaysian Plane Shoot-Down http://www.alternet.org/world/we-shouldnt-rush-judgement-facts-are-still-needed-malaysian-plane-shoot-down <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The history of the U.S. government’s deceptions is reason to pause and let a careful investigation uncover the facts in Ukraine.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/800px-70di_-_malaysia_airlines_boeing_747-4h6_9m-mplsyd04.09.1999_5157769228.jpg?itok=RPUIeXgQ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It will likely take some time to determine who downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people onboard. Initial speculation is that someone with a missile battery mistook the plane as a military aircraft, but the precise motive may be even harder to discern.</p><p>Given the fog of war and the eagerness among the various participants to wage “information warfare,” there is also the possibility that evidence – especially electronic evidence – might be tampered with to achieve some propaganda victory.</p><p>Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko immediately labeled the tragedy “a terrorist act” although there was no evidence that anyone intentionally shot down the civilian airliner. But Poroshenko and others in the Kiev government have previously designated the ethnic Russians, who are resisting the Feb. 22 overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, as “terrorists” so Poroshenko’s bellicose language was not a surprise.</p><p>For their part, the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine denied responsibility for the crash – saying they lacked anti-aircraft missiles that could reach the 33,000-foot altitude of the Malaysian airliner – but there are reasons to suspect the rebels, including their previously successful efforts to shoot down Ukrainian military aircraft operating in the war zone.</p><p>On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin deflected questions about who may have fired the missile as he called for an international investigation. But he made a telling point when he noted that the “tragedy would not have happened if military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine.”</p><p>Those likely to agree with that statement include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande who, during a lengthy four-way conference call with Poroshenko on June 30, tried desperately to get him to prolong the ceasefire. Only the U.S. voiced support for Poroshenko’s decision to spurn that initiative and order Ukrainian forces into a major offensive in the east.</p><p>It was in the context of Ukrainian forces using their airpower to strike rebel positions that led to the rebels’ efforts to neutralize that advantage by deploying anti-aircraft missiles that have achieved some success in downing Ukrainian military planes. The Ukrainian military is also known to possess anti-aircraft batteries scattered throughout the country.</p><p><strong>Raw Meat for Russia Bashing</strong></p><p>But the chance to further demonize Putin and Russia will be hard for Official Washington and its corporate-owned press to resist. The New York Times was quick out of the starting blocks on Friday with a lead editorial blaming the entire Ukraine conflict, including the Malaysian Airline tragedy, on Putin:</p><p>“There is one man who can stop it – President Vladimir Putin of Russia, by telling the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to end their insurgency and by stopping the flow of money and heavy weapons to those groups.”</p><p>Among Putin’s alleged offenses, according to the Times, has been his “failing to support a cease-fire and avoiding serious, internationally mediated negotiations” – though Putin has actually been one of principal advocates for both a cease-fire and a negotiated solution. It has been the U.S.-backed Poroshenko who canceled the previous cease-fire and has refused to negotiate with the ethnic Russian rebels until they essentially surrender.</p><p>But the death of all 298 people onboard the Malaysian Airline flight, going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, will surely provide plenty of fuel for the already roaring anti-Russian propaganda machine. Still, the U.S. press might pause to recall how it’s been manipulated by the U.S. government in the past, including three decades ago by the Reagan administration twisting the facts of the KAL-007 tragedy.</p><p>In that case, a Soviet fighter jet shot down a Korean Air Line plane on Sept. 1, 1983, after it strayed hundreds of miles off course and penetrated some of the Soviet Union’s most sensitive airspace over military facilities in Kamchatka and Sakhalin Island.</p><p>Over Sakhalin, KAL-007 was finally intercepted by a Soviet Sukhoi-15 fighter. The Soviet pilot tried to signal the plane to land, but the KAL pilots did not respond to the repeated warnings. Amid confusion about the plane’s identity — a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity hours earlier — Soviet ground control ordered the pilot to fire. He did, blasting the plane out of the sky and killing all 269 people on board.</p><p>The Soviets soon realized they had made a horrendous mistake. U.S. intelligence also knew from sensitive intercepts that the tragedy had resulted from a blunder, not from a willful act of murder (much as on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes fired a missile that brought down an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people, an act which President Ronald Reagan explained as an “understandable accident”).</p><p>But a Soviet admission of a tragic blunder regarding KAL-007 wasn’t good enough for the Reagan administration, which saw the incident as a propaganda windfall. At the time, the felt imperative in Washington was to blacken the Soviet Union in the cause of Cold War propaganda and to escalate tensions with Moscow.</p><p><strong>Falsifying the Case</strong></p><p>To make the very blackest case against Moscow, the Reagan administration suppressed the exculpatory evidence from the U.S. electronic intercepts. The U.S. mantra became “the deliberate downing of a civilian passenger plane.” Newsweek ran a cover emblazoned with the headline “Murder in the Sky.”</p><p>“The Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” wrote Alvin A. Snyder, then-director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.</p><p>USIA Director Charles Z. Wick “ordered his top agency aides to form a special task force to devise ways of playing the story overseas. The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible,” Snyder recalled.</p><p>Snyder noted that “the American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation. Said the venerable Ted Koppel on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program: ‘This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.’”</p><p>On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council (a prelude to a similar false presentation two decades later by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction).</p><p>“The tape was supposed to run 50 minutes,” Snyder said about recorded Soviet intercepts. “But the tape segment we [at USIA] had ran only eight minutes and 32 seconds. … ‘Do I detect the fine hand of [Richard Nixon's secretary] Rosemary Woods here?’ I asked sarcastically.’”</p><p>But Snyder had a job to do: producing the video that his superiors wanted. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.</p><p>Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had hidden — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were false.</p><p>The Soviet fighter pilot apparently did believe he was pursuing a U.S. spy plane, according to the intercepts, and he was having trouble in the dark identifying the plane. At the instructions of Soviet ground controllers, the pilot had circled the KAL airliner and tilted his wings to force the aircraft down. The pilot said he fired warning shots, too. “This comment was also not on the tape we were provided,” Snyder wrote.</p><p>It was clear to Snyder that in the pursuit of its Cold War aims, the Reagan administration had presented false accusations to the United Nations, as well as to the people of the United States and the world. To these Republicans, the ends of smearing the Soviets had justified the means of falsifying the historical record.</p><p>In his book, Snyder acknowledged his role in the deception and drew an ironic lesson from the incident. The senior USIA official wrote, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.” [For more details on the KAL-007 deception and the history of U.S. trickery, see Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/30/a-dodgy-dossier-on-syrian-war/" target="_blank" title="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/30/a-dodgy-dossier-on-syrian-war/">A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Reliability of U.S. Intelligence</strong></p><p>It was not always this way. There was a time when the U.S. government wouldn’t risk its credibility for a cheap propaganda stunt, knowing that there are moments when it is crucial for the world to believe what U.S. officials say.</p><p>Some of us will remember when, in 1962, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson showed the Security Council U-2 photographs of fledgling Soviet offensive missile bases in Cuba. It was the perfect squelch to the Soviets and their allies trying to sow doubt about the truth behind President John F. Kennedy’s allegations.</p><p>Sadly, the credibility of U.S. officials and American intelligence is now at rock bottom. One need only think back on the evidence adduced to “prove” the existence of WMD in Iraq. “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” is what the head of British intelligence told Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002, after conferring with CIA Director George Tenet at CIA headquarters on July 20.</p><p>I also have grown more and more suspicious of the official U.S. government account about the crash of TWA-800 on July 17, 1996. Shortly after departing Kennedy Airport in New York, the plane exploded off Long Island with 230 people killed. More than 100 eyewitnesses reported seeing an object they described variously as a “missile,” “flare” or “rocket” rise up into the sky and merge with TWA Flight 800.</p><p>The immediate suspicion was that the disaster was an act of terrorism, although some speculation focused on the presence of U.S. Navy missile-carrying warships in the area. However, after raising much of the plane’s wreckage from the sea bottom, the National Transportation Safety Board and Justice Department/FBI dismissed the eyewitness accounts of a missile and concluded instead that the explosion was caused by an electrical malfunction.</p><p>To help in selling this version, the CIA “technical experts” working under CIA Director George Tenet – yes, the same fellow who described the Iraq WMD evidence as a “slam dunk” – were enlisted to prepare a video artfully designed to discredit the missile claims. But the TWA800 Project Investigative Team – a determined group of engineers, scientists, eyewitnesses and journalists – have continued to challenge the official findings, including the CIA video. [To see the team’s rebuttal, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyluFVxqBlo" target="_blank" title="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyluFVxqBlo">click here</a>.]</p><p>Quite aside from the likelihood that CIA exceeded its authority with its involvement in this domestic issue, it pains me as a former CIA analyst that my former colleagues would take part in this kind of deception, producing a video that was unprofessional at best and fraudulent at worst.</p><p>So, there is, sadly, additional reason to kick the tires of any fancy truck carrying “intelligence” offered by the U.S. with respect to the Malaysian Airline shoot-down on Thursday.</p> Sat, 19 Jul 2014 10:01:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1011983 at http://www.alternet.org World World ukraine russia There's a Big Risk the U.S. Will Back an Anti-Russian Bloodbath in Ukraine http://www.alternet.org/world/theres-big-risk-us-will-back-anti-russian-bloodbath-ukraine <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Pressured by neocons and the mainstream media, Obama&#039;s administration is charting a dangerous course.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/800px-2s19_msta-s_of_the_ukrainian_army.jpg?itok=txvvNrSn" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – by thumbing his nose at the leaders of Russia, Germany and France as they repeatedly appealed to him to renew the fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine – has left himself and his U.S. patrons isolated, though that’s not the version of the story that you’ll read in the mainstream U.S. press.</p><p>But the reality is that an unusual flurry of high-level conference calls last weekend from key European capitals failed to dissuade Poroshenko from launching major attacks on opposition forces in eastern Ukraine. Washington was alone in voicing support for Poroshenko’s decision, with a State Department spokeswoman saying “he has a right to defend his country.”</p><p>As Ukrainian air and artillery strikes increased on Tuesday, so did diplomatic activity among the Europeans with the U.S. playing no discernible role in the peace efforts. There was no sign, for example, that Secretary of State John Kerry was invited to a hastily called meeting in Berlin on Wednesday involving the foreign ministers of Germany (Frank-Walter Steinmeier), France (Laurent Fabius), Russia (Sergey Lavrov), and newly appointed Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.</p><p>This marginalization of the U.S. is a consequence of a well-founded suspicion that Poroshenko’s fateful decision to “attack” came with Washington’s encouragement. The continued provocative behavior of Secretary Kerry, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and other U.S. hardliners comes despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin still holds the high cards in this regional standoff.</p><p>Putin has at his disposal a range of alternatives short of sending in tanks to protect the ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine, many of whom had voted for President Viktor Yanukovych who was ousted in February by violent protests. The uprising was led by western Ukrainians demanding closer ties to Europe but was turned into a “regime change” on Feb. 22 through a putsch spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias contemptuous of the ethnic Russians living in the east and south.</p><p>Yanukovych’s ouster was strongly encouraged by Nuland, who handpicked Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be the leader of the interim government, while at least four ministries were awarded to the neo-Nazis, including the office of national security, in recognition of their key role in the final attacks that forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.</p><p>Though hailed as “legitimate” by the U.S. State Department, the coup regime was rejected by many ethnic Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine. In Crimea, the population voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a development that U.S. officials and the dutiful mainstream media characterized as a Russian “invasion.”</p><p>Similarly, in the east, in the so-called Donbass region, ethnic Russians rose up and asserted their independence from the Kiev regime, which then deemed them “terrorists” and launched an “antiterrorist” campaign that incorporated some of the neo-Nazi militias as National Guard units deployed as shock troops to crush the uprising. Several bloody massacres of ethnic Russians followed in Odessa and other cities.</p><p>In May, the election of Poroshenko – in balloting mostly conducted in western and central Ukraine – held out some hope for a negotiated settlement with guarantees to respect the ethnic Russian population and greater autonomy granted to the eastern regions. However, Poroshenko had trouble getting control of his hardliners and he refused to negotiate directly with the rebels, leading to the failure of a shaky ceasefire.</p><p><strong>A Fateful Decision</strong></p><p>While the focus over recent days has been on Poroshenko’s decision to end the ceasefire and go on the offensive, Putin has continued to rely on diplomacy as his primary tool, especially with European officials fearful of the economic consequences of a full-scale confrontation between Russia and the West. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has made considerable headway in getting at least Berlin and Paris to join Moscow in trying to restrain Washington in its apparent eagerness to stoke the fires in Ukraine.</p><p>Speaking on Russian TV on Saturday, Lavrov said, “Peace within the warring country [Ukraine] would be more likely if negotiations were left to Russia and Europe,” adding, “Our American colleagues … according to a lot of evidence, still favor pushing the Ukrainian leadership towards the path of confrontation.”</p><p>That evidence is increasingly evident to Europeans. What is new is their apparent willingness to slip softly out of their accustomed lockstep subservience to the U.S. in such matters.</p><p>Washington is losing support elsewhere in Europe as well. Last Thursday, Kerry declared it “critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that it is moving to help disarm the separatists,” and on Friday the European Union leaders set a Monday deadline for Russia to take a series of steps to avoid further sanctions.</p><p>Alas, Monday showed the Europeans putting off any action for at least another week. This delay has driven the editors of the neocon flagship Washington Post to distraction; in Wednesday’s edition they pouted that such lack of resolve amounts to “craven surrender” to “Russian aggression.”</p><p>Putin, meanwhile, is maintaining a determined coolness in his public remarks. In a major speech on Tuesday, he noted, in a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone:</p><p>“Unfortunately, President Poroshenko has resolved to resume military action, and we failed – when I say ‘we,’ I mean my colleagues in Europe and myself – we failed to convince him that the road to a secure, stable, and inviolable peace cannot lie through war. … Mr. Poroshenko had not been directly linked to the orders to begin military action, and only now did he take full responsibility, and not only military, but political as well, which is much more important.</p><p>“We also failed to agree to make public a statement approved by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine on the need to maintain peace and search for mutually acceptable solutions.”</p><p><strong>Focus on Europe</strong></p><p>Putin reminded his audience of Russian ambassadors that “Europe is our natural and most significant trade and economic partner.” Adding a gentle reminder about Europe’s dependence on natural gas from Russia, Putin noted that Moscow had developed a reputation as a “reliable supplier of energy resources.” He also explained why Russia has put Ukraine on a pre-payment system for the delivery of natural gas, noting that Kiev had not paid its bill for several months.</p><p>Putin also took a dig at economic “blackmail” in referring to “the pressure our American partners are putting on France to force it not to supply Mistrals [helicopter carrier ships] to Russia.”  Russia bought two Mistral-class ships from France for $1.6 billion in what was Moscow’s first major foreign arms purchase since the collapse of the Soviet Union.</p><p>Appearing on French TV last month, Putin said, “We expect our French partners to fulfill their contractual obligations” and held out the prospect of future orders, an important enticement given France’s struggling economy.</p><p>Toward the end of his speech Putin also drew attention to the spread of “radical, neo-Nazi” elements not only in the fledgling states of the former USSR, “but also in Europe as a whole.”  He warned that “social contradictions … can be a breeding ground for … the growth of extremism.”</p><p>Putin added that even in seemingly stable countries ethnic and social contradictions can suddenly escalate and become ripe for external players “to seek illegitimate, non-democratic regime change, with all the ensuing negative consequences.”</p><p>Putin seems to be challenging the Germans and French, in particular, who have had direct experience living under fascism (and who now have their own home-bred fascists to deal with), to decide whether they really wish to acquiesce in the brutal suppression of southeastern Ukrainians with the help of admirers of the late Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera and other Ukrainian fascists who helped Hitler cleanse Ukraine of Jewish and Russian “vermin.”</p><p>There is serious question as to whether Poroshenko can now rein in these Frankenstein extremists even if he seriously tried to do so. The ultra-nationalists and other hardliners in western Ukraine have made it clear to Poroshenko that they expect him to fulfill his promises about rapidly crushing the eastern Ukrainian uprising.</p><p>Meanwhile, the neocon-dominated Western mainstream media has consistently downplayed the role of fascists and neo-Nazis in the Putsch of Feb. 22, in the subsequent violence in other key cities like Odessa, and now in southeastern Ukraine. Mentioning Ukraine’s “brown shirts” destroys the U.S. media’s preferred narrative of Washington-backed “white hats” vs. Moscow-backed “black hats.”</p><p>The Russians, of course, have their own violent history with fascists and seem intent on waking other Europeans to the dangers – with the coup in Kiev a very recent reminder. Professor Stephen F. Cohen of New York University provides an excellent wrap-up of the evidence on this issue in a new article, “<a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/180466/silence-american-hawks-about-kievs-atrocities" target="_blank" title="http://www.thenation.com/article/180466/silence-american-hawks-about-kievs-atrocities">The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities</a>.”</p><p><strong>Taking the Ukrainian Army Seriously</strong></p><p>Nastupat is a strong word in Ukrainian and Russian. It means “attack” – and Poroshenko hit the word hard in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukraine-forces-press-assault-hours-after-ceasefires-suspension/2014/07/01/f0f313e0-0104-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html?wpisrc=nl_eve" target="_blank" title="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukraine-forces-press-assault-hours-after-ceasefires-suspension/2014/07/01/f0f313e0-0104-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html?wpisrc=nl_eve">announcing</a> he had ordered his forces to “attack and free our lands.” He seemed intent not only on snubbing his peace-seeking telephone partners from last weekend, but also on channeling John Kerry’s hawkish buddy John McCain.</p><p>There were even hints of Bandera’s old attitude about ethnically purifying Ukraine in Poroshenko’s warning that Kiev’s new attack would rid Ukraine of “parasites.” The Ukrainian defense ministry quickly announced the launching of attacks “from the air and land,” and the violence has escalated sharply.</p><p>It struck me, though, as I watched the short clip from Reuters that the Washington Post and Huffington Post ran before the footage of Poroshenko’s solemn “nastupat’” announcement, that the segment did nothing to burnish the image of the Ukrainian troops he is sending off to battle.</p><p>The clip shows a ragged line of soldiers applauding two comrades as each approaches the corpulent, fatigue-clad, Poroshenko for an award that looks like a small box of chocolates – presumably from Poroshenko’s own candy factory.</p><p>The choreography was not the best. Nor has been the performance of Ukrainian troops sent to the east so far. But it would be far too easy to underestimate the kinds of casualties that elite Ukrainian units are capable of inflicting on lightly armed opponents – not to mention the highly trained Right Sektor and other fascists. A bloodbath may be in the offing.</p><p><strong>Will Good Sense Prevail?</strong></p><p>In his speech on Tuesday, Putin expressed the hope that “pragmatism will eventually prevail.” He tucked in one short paragraph relating directly to Russia’s relations with the U.S., stating merely, “We are not going to shut down our relationship with the United States,” while conceding that relations “are not in good shape” and blaming Washington for ignoring Russia’s “legitimate interests.”</p><p>And there is some reason to hope that, as the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine gather in Berlin, they will be able to reinstate the ceasefire and move the conflict off the battlefield and onto the negotiating table.</p><p>If Poroshenko chooses the path of bloodshed, however, Putin will react strongly. Russia can be counted on to supply arms to those under air and artillery attack from the Ukrainian military. If this proves to be not enough support, Moscow may decide to do even more, possibly adopting a favorite American strategy of declaring a “no-fly zone” and shooting down attacking aircraft.</p><p>But any overt or even covert Russian government assistance to the rebels would, in turn, be sure to add fuel to the fiery hysteria in Official Washington about “Russian aggression.” There would be demands on President Barack Obama to retaliate. Who knows where this madness would end?</p><p>In the first part of his Tuesday speech, Putin was upfront about the possibility of a Russian intervention to stop any Ukrainian military slaughter of ethnic Russians. He said he “would like to make clear” to all that Moscow might feel compelled to protect “Russians and Russian-speaking citizens of the Ukraine. … I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community; they may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.”</p><p>Putin said, “This country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means – from political and economic to the right to self-defense envisaged by international humanitarian law.”</p><p>Putin’s reference to “international humanitarian law” sounds very much like the “Responsibility to Protect” so favored by some of President Obama’s foreign policy advisers, though apparently not when the people doing the killing are being supported by the U.S. government.</p><p>If an even more dangerous crisis is to be averted, the Russian leader’s words need to be taken seriously. To stanch bloodletting in eastern Ukraine and to protect those on the receiving end of Poroshenko-authorized attacks, I would not expect Putin to let himself be mouse-trapped into invading Ukraine – at least not until he had exhausted all other alternatives.</p><p>More likely, he would impose a no-fly zone in an attempt to shield the opposition in the east and save it from being decimated. But that itself could represent a dangerous escalation. Poroshenko and his supporters should realize that such matters can get quickly out of hand. Putin has his own tough-guy John McCains to deal with.</p><p>Someone might remind Poroshenko of the embarrassingly bloody nose that the Russians gave Georgia’s then-President Mikheil Saakashvili in August 2008 when he sent Georgian forces to attack the city of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Moscow justified its military retaliation as necessary to prevent the killing of Russians as well as the Ossetians in the area.</p><p>Ultimately, President George W. Bush and then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who had encouraged Saakashvili’s adventurism, were powerless to protect him.</p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:05:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1009444 at http://www.alternet.org World World obama ukraine russia How the Washington Post Devalues and Dehumanizes Iraqi Lives http://www.alternet.org/world/how-washington-post-devalues-and-dehumanizes-iraqi-lives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The U.S. establishment has long behaved like spoiled, destructive children, treating Iraq as if it were some meaningless plaything.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/1024px-us_navy_030402-n-5362a-004_u.s._army_sgt._mark_phiffer_stands_guard_duty_near_a_burning_oil_well_in_the_rumaylah_oil_fields_in_southern_iraq.jpg?itok=vZ7boqAd" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>When I saw the Washington Post’s banner headline, “U.S. sees risk in Iraq airstrikes,” I thought, “doesn’t that say it all.” The Post apparently didn’t deem it newsworthy to publish a story headlined: “Iraqis see risk in U.S. airstrikes.” Then, in an accompanying article, authors Gregg Jaffe and Kevin Maurer <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/chaos-in-iraq-prompts-soul-searching-among-military-veterans/2014/06/18/ba8a6ba6-f56e-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html">observed</a> nonchalantly that “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction,” a point that drove me to distraction.</p><p>Further putting me in a bad mood, the story’s first paragraph about the latest bloody debacle in Iraq declared: “The sudden collapse of Iraqi forces in the face of lightly armed insurgents has catalyzed an emotional debate within the U.S. military about a war that, just a few years ago, seemed on the brink of going down in history as a success.”</p><p>Fresh in my mind was Robert Parry’s <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/06/19/reviving-the-successful-surge-myth/">article</a>that same day (June 19) exposing the myth of the “successful surge” in Iraq. That, in turn, had prompted me to re-read my own <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/Print/2009/111709c.html">retrospective</a> on the celebrated “surge” of 2007, reconstructing the play-by-play on its genesis and how, with the help of media cheerleaders, that myth enabled President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to ride off into the sunset on Jan. 20, 2009, to all appearances not having lost the war in Iraq.</p><p>In the wake of recent events, the corporate-owned-and-operated media appears determined to apply its most imaginative legerdemain to convince us of this past “success” while moving to the blame-game mode of faulting President Barack Obama for the current mess.</p><p>The mainstream U.S. media still shies away from pointing fingers at war criminals Bush/Cheney et al, whose “decent interval” for getting out of office without a “defeat” on their record was purchased with much blood, both American and Iraqi.</p><p>The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed or wounded during the politically motivated “surge” and in the carnage both before and afterwards can remain, for folks like the neocons at the Post, “something of an abstraction.” And the media can avoid mention of the 1,000 U.S. troops killed in 2007 protecting what often amounted to sectarian Shia militias ethnically cleansing Baghdad of much of its Sunni population — as well as defending the Bush/Cheney legacy.</p><p>Yet, for the Post’s Jaffe and Maurer, U.S. troops – unlike Iraqis – are no “abstraction.” And so the writers indulge in the selective grieving over the cost of war. They quote a U.S. Army officer to whom they grant “anonymity so he could discuss his feelings” about the war: “My sadness is not for the Iraqis, but for the wasted effort so many of us gave and bought at so high a price.”</p><p>American lives, apparently, are the ones that matter.</p><p><strong>Remembering Tal Afar</strong></p><p>Even before reading the Post’s article, I had been getting more and more angry hearing reports that Tal Afar was “changing hands” again. Does Tal Afar ring any bells with you? This ancient city of a quarter-million people, strategically located in northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border, may jog your memory mostly for the many times it has “changed hands” over the past decade or so.</p><p>And here it goes again, you think to yourself. Last weekend it fell to jihadist insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; on Friday, Iraqi armed forces won back most of Tal Afar, but a battle raged nearby for control of the huge Baiji oil refinery and the airport.</p><p>But I remember Tal Afar chiefly for the killing/wounding of an Iraqi family there by U.S. troops on Jan. 18, 2004. It was a small massacre, as massacres go in Iraq. However, for some reason – perhaps the Post’s casual reference to Iraqis being an “abstraction” – I cannot get out of my head the desperate words of Linda, Willy Loman’s wife in “Death of a Salesman”:</p><p>“He’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”</p><p>In January 2005, photographer Chris Hondros was embedded with U.S. troops in Tal Afar, then the scene of frequent clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents. As the curfew was coming into force just after dusk, a red car rushed past the patrol, ignoring warning shots. Fearing a suicide attack, the soldiers opened fire.</p><p>Inside the car was an ethnic Turkoman family of eight. The parents, Camille and Hussein Hassan, were killed; the five children in the back wounded before the soldiers realized that it was a civilian car. They carried the traumatized children to the pavement and started binding their wounds.</p><p>Hondros’s photographs of the incident revealed not only the tragedy inflicted upon so many civilians in Iraq, but also highlighted the life-or-death decisions soldiers face under duress. Especially haunting was the picture of the youngest girl, Samar Hassan, crying and spattered with the blood of her parents. The blood on the pavement, her hands, and her face makes this photo an instantly disturbing image.</p><p>The U.S. military, which had been hugely successful in keeping such troubling photos out of the public eye, was outraged. Hondros’s embedded assignment was terminated. But the image of Samar Hassan made it through.</p><p>Interviewed by the New York Times six years later, she  <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/world/middleeast/07photo.html?pagewanted=1&amp;_r=2&amp;hp&amp;">explained</a> : “My brother was sick, and we were taking him to the hospital … [and] this happened … We just heard bullets. My mother and father were killed, just like that.”</p><p><strong>Moral Injury</strong></p><p>Linda Loman, I am convinced, was absolutely correct in insisting, “Attention Must be Paid,” and so I <a href="http://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2014/06/19/press-release-iraq-veterans-warn-obama-military-intervention">framed my remarks</a> at the Veterans For Peace press conference at the National Press Club on June 19 around that photo of Samar Hassan and, by some unusual luck, the <a href="http://m.military.com/daily-news/2014/06/20/veterans-groups-no-more-troops-in-iraq.html?comp=700001075741&amp;rank=1">story</a> was carried in the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes on Friday.</p><p>If the photo of Samar Hassan does not stir us with compassion and determination to do whatever we can do to prevent such tragedies in the future, we have been hardened beyond human. Attention must also be paid, I suggested at the press conference, to the legs of the U.S. soldier with the flashlight, standing beside Samar.</p><p>Those legs are attached to one of the soldiers we sent off to “serve” in a war of aggression in Iraq. Some of our soldiers may occasionally be trigger-happy, but they are not monsters. Nor are they immune to the kind of moral injury that comes from being part of such killing, such blood, such pain. Those legs were part of a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division out of Ft. Lewis, Washington.</p><p>Four years ago, the Stars and Stripes labeled Fort Lewis – now Fort Lewis-McChord – “the most troubled base in the military” due to its inability to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or address mental health problems. Fort Lewis-McChord consistently has had one of the highest suicide rates of army bases across the country. I find myself wondering if those legs are still part of a relatively normally functioning body and soul.</p><p>So, if another U.S. “surge” is needed, let it be a surge of compassion. And any finger-pointing has to include us, unless we wish to give up any pretense that America is still a democracy.</p><p>It is we who allow our soldiers to be put in such circumstances. Camille Hassan is our sister; Hussein Hassan our brother; Samar and her brothers and sisters our children. For those of us who really believe this to be true, let us be challenged by the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who spoke out so strongly against the war in Vietnam:</p><p>“Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. … Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”</p><p>As our policymakers plan next steps in Iraq, let us do all we can to prevent the Iraqi people from remaining “something of an abstraction.”</p> Sun, 22 Jun 2014 10:16:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1005560 at http://www.alternet.org World Media World media washington post iraq White House War-Pushers and Gutless Generals: The Real Villains of the Bergdahl Tale http://www.alternet.org/world/white-house-war-pushers-and-gutless-generals-real-villains-bergdahl-tale <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The media should direct its ire at the architects of the disastrous Iraq and Afghan wars who frivolously put many soldiers in harm’s way.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/4727976873_af48c86082_z.jpg?itok=svRB8SdD" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For me, the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl affair brings back angry memories of how, in 2009, President Barack Obama caved in to be-medaled and be-ribboned generals like David Petraeus and ordered a modified-limited-hangout-type “surge” of 33,000 troops into Afghanistan. Consequential cowardice at work – trading lives for political advantage – as bad as it gets.</p><p>Bergdahl was quick to discern that he and his comrades were pawns of a policy doing far more harm than good in terms of helping the Afghans. Emailing from Afghanistan in late June 2009, Bergdahl pointed out the main problem in these words: “In the US army you are cut down for being honest… but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit-bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want.”</p><p>But how far up the line did this behavior go? Did it include Petraeus, described by CENTCOM commander Admiral William “Fox” Fallon as “an ass-kissing little chickenshit” after a meeting at which Petraeus fawned over Fallon, then his superior? (Why is it that the Fox Fallons are the ones who get sacked? Although Petraeus’s charmed government career was finally done in by a sex scandal in December 2012.)</p><p>Do Fallon’s epithets toward Petraeus apply equally to commander-in-chief Obama who ordered the “surge” into Afghanistan, which – like its first still-born twin “surge” in Iraq two years earlier – predictably did little more than get a lot of folks killed and buy some time for the architects of the two misguided adventures to get some distance between their original decisions and the ultimate failures.</p><p>Those “decent intervals” achieved by the two “surges” were purchased with the lives of about 1,000 U.S. soldiers each, not to mention the many more deaths inflicted on the Iraqi and Afghan people. But the “surges” allowed Official Washington’s still-influential neocons to maintain the fiction that – if only – the “successful surges” had been extended indefinitely, everything would have worked out fine.</p><p>On May 28, for instance, the neocon-flagship Washington Post denounced President Obama for not maintaining U.S. military forces in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan apparently forever.</p><p>“You can’t fault President Obama for inconsistency,” the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-obama-continues-his-retreat-from-afghanistan/2014/05/27/ae01686e-e5c2-11e3-8f90-73e071f3d637_story.html">Post’s editors wrote snidely</a>. “After winning election in 2008, he reduced the U.S. military presence in Iraq to zero. After helping to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, he made sure no U.S. forces would remain. … And on Tuesday he promised to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results also have been consistent — consistently bad.”</p><p>Yet, while pretending that the two “surges” were super-successful may give the Post’s editors and other advocates for endless war some talking points at elegant Washington dinner parties where otherwise they might not be invited or dismissed as “losers,” the price for those more pleasant evenings was paid by the pawns – the Bergdahls of this world – who never seem to matter.</p><p>Bergdahl’s disenchantment with the Afghan War and his subsequent five-year captivity at the hands of the Taliban – ending only with a trade of five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison – have prompted right-wing talk shows and even some members of Congress to decry Bergdahl as a “deserter” who betrayed his country and his comrades.</p><p>But the real betrayers were the ones who devised and prosecuted the two failed wars – killing hundreds of thousands of people in the two countries and wasting the lives of nearly 7,000 U.S. soldiers (not to mention the tens of thousands maimed and otherwise damaged). Yet, the war architects and the shills remain respected members of Official Washington with their op-ed columns still read with great admiration and their sage advice sought on current crises in Syria and Ukraine.</p><p><strong>Expecting Too Much</strong></p><p>In 2009, as Obama was first getting rolled on the Afghan “surge,” I admitted that I had expected too much from the young President who struck me as bright albeit inexperienced. In an article entitled “Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President” on March 28, 2009, I <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/032809a.html">wrote</a>:</p><p>I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan.</p><p>I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders — from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians — he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”</p><p>And surely he would be fully briefed on the stupidity and deceit that left 58,000 U.S. troops — not to mention 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese — dead in Vietnam.</p><p>John Kennedy became President the year Obama was born. One cannot expect toddler-to-teenager Barack to remember much about the war in Vietnam, and it was probably too early for that searing, controversial experience to have found its way into the history texts as he was growing up.</p><p>But he was certainly old enough to absorb the fecklessness and brutality of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And his instincts at that time were good enough to see through the Bush administration’s duplicity.</p><p>And, with him now in the White House, surely some of his advisers would be able to brief him on both Vietnam and Iraq, and prevent him from making similar mistakes — this time in Afghanistan. Or so I thought.</p><p>Deflecting an off-the-topic question at his March 24, 2009 press conference, Obama said, “I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we’re going to fix the economy. … Right now the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged, and that is, are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe?”</p><p>Okay, it is understandable that President Obama has been totally absorbed with the financial crisis. But surely, unlike predecessors supposedly unable to do two things at the same time, our resourceful new President certainly could find enough time to solicit advice from a wide circle, get a better grip on the huge stakes in Afghanistan, and arrive at sensible decisions. Or so I thought.</p><p><strong>Getting Railroaded?</strong></p><p>It proved to be a bit awkward waiting for the President to appear…. a half-hour late for his own presentation. Was he for some reason reluctant?</p><p>Perhaps he had a sense of being railroaded by his advisers. Perhaps he paused on learning that just a few hours earlier a soldier of the Afghan army shot dead two U.S. troops and wounded a third before killing himself, and that Taliban fighters had stormed an Afghan police post and killed 10 police earlier that morning.</p><p>Should he weave that somehow into his speech?</p><p>Or maybe it was learning of the Taliban ambush of a police convoy which wounded seven other policemen; or the suicide bomber in the Afghan border area of Pakistan who demolished a mosque packed with hundreds of worshippers attending Friday prayers, killing some 50 and injuring scores more, according to preliminary reports.</p><p>Or, more simply, perhaps Obama’s instincts told him he was about to do something he will regret. Maybe that’s why he was embarrassingly late in coming to the podium. One look at the national security advisers arrayed behind the President was enough to see wooden-headedness.</p><p>In her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, historian Barbara Tuchman described this mindset: “Wooden-headedness assesses a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions, while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs … acting according to the wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.”</p><p>Tuchman pointed to 16th Century Philip II of Spain as a kind of Nobel laureate of wooden-headedness. Comparisons can be invidious, but the thing about Philip was that he drained state revenues by failed adventures overseas, leading to Spain’s decline.</p><p>It is wooden-headedness, in my view, that permeates the “comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” that the President announced in March 2009. Author Tuchman points succinctly to what flows from wooden-headedness:</p><p>“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it. … Adjustment is painful. For the ruler it is easier, once he has entered the policy box, to stay inside. For the lesser official it is better not to make waves, not to press evidence that the chief will find painful to accept. Psychologists call the process of screening out discordant information ‘cognitive dissonance,’ an academic disguise for ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts.’”</p><p>It seems only right and fitting that Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Foundation, has shown herself to be inoculated against “cognitive dissonance.”</p><p>A January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, “The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban.”</p><p>In any case, Obama explained his decision on more robust military intervention in Afghanistan as a result of a “careful policy review” by military commanders and diplomats, the Afghan and Pakistani governments, NATO allies, and international organizations.</p><p><strong>No Estimate? No Problem</strong></p><p>Know why he did not mention a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessing the likely effects of this slow surge in troops and trainers? Because there is none. Guess why. The reason is the same one accounting for the lack of a completed NIE before the “surge” in troop strength in Iraq in early 2007.</p><p>Apparently, Obama’s advisers did not wish to take the risk that honest analysts — ones who had been around a while, and maybe even knew something of Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan — might also be immune to “cognitive dissonance,” and ask hard questions regarding the basis of the new strategy.</p><p>Indeed, they might reach the same judgment they did in the April 2006 NIE on global terrorism. The authors of that estimate had few cognitive problems and simply declared their judgment that invasions and occupations (in 2006 the target then was Iraq) do not make us safer but lead instead to an upsurge in terrorism.</p><p>The prevailing attitude this time fits the modus operandi of Gen. David Petraeus, who late last year took the lead by default with the following approach: We know best, and can run our own policy review, thank you very much.</p><p>Which he did, without requesting the formal NIE that typically precedes and informs key policy decisions. It is highly regrettable that President Obama was deprived of the chance to benefit from a formal estimate. Recent NIEs have been relatively bereft of wooden-headedess. Obama might have made a more sensible decision on how to proceed in Afghanistan.</p><p>As one might imagine, NIEs can, and should, play a key role in such circumstances, with a premium on objectivity and courage in speaking truth to power. That is precisely why Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair appointed Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, the body that prepares NIEs — and why the Likud Lobby got him ousted.</p><p><strong>Estimates on Vietnam</strong></p><p>As one of the intelligence analysts watching Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, I worked on several of the NIEs produced before and during the war. Sensitive ones bore this unclassified title: “Probable Reactions to Various Courses of Action With Respect to North Vietnam.”</p><p>Typical of the kinds of question the President and his advisers wanted addressed were: Can we seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by bombing? If the U.S. were to introduce X thousand additional troops into South Vietnam, will Hanoi quit? Okay, how about XX thousand?</p><p>Our answers regularly earned us brickbats from the White House for not being “good team players.” But in those days we labored under a strong ethos dictating that we give it to policymakers straight, without fear or favor. We had career protection for doing that.</p><p>Our judgments (the unwelcome ones, anyway) were often pooh-poohed as negativism. Policymakers, of course, were in no way obliged to take them into account, and often didn’t.</p><p>The point is that they continued to be sought. Not even Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon would decide on a significant escalation without seeking our best estimate as to how U.S. adversaries would likely react to this or that escalatory step.</p><p>So, hats off, I suppose, to you, Gen. Petraeus and those who helped you elbow the substantive intelligence analysts off to the sidelines.</p><p>What might intelligence analysts have said on the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We will never know, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (or about Vietnam) would roll their eyes and wish Petraeus luck.</p><p>As for Iraq, what remains to be seen is against whom the various sectarian factions target their weapons and put their training into practice.</p><p><strong>The Training Mirage</strong></p><p>In his Afghanistan policy speech, Obama mentioned training 11 times. To those of us with some gray in our hair, this was all too reminiscent of the prevailing rhetoric at the start of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.</p><p>In February 1964, with John Kennedy dead and President Lyndon Johnson improvising on Vietnam, then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara prepared a major policy speech on defense, leaving out Vietnam, and sent it to the President to review. The Johnson tapes show the President finding fault:</p><p>LBJ: “I wonder if you shouldn’t find two minutes to devote to Vietnam.”</p><p>McN: “The problem is what to say about it.”</p><p>LBJ: “I would say that we have a commitment to Vietnamese freedom. … Our purpose is to train the [South Vietnamese] people, and our training’s going good.”</p><p>But our training was not going good then. And specialists who know Afghanistan, its various tribes and demographics tell me that training is not likely to go good there either. Ditto for training in Pakistan.</p><p>Obama’s alliterative rhetoric aside, it is going to be no easier to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan with more combat forces and training than it was to defeat the Viet Cong with these same tools in Vietnam.</p><p>Obama seemed to be protesting a bit too much: “Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course.” No sir!</p><p>There will be “metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable!” Yes, sir!</p><p>And he will enlist wide international support from countries like Russia, India and China that, according to President Obama, “should have a stake in the security of the region.” Right, sir!.</p><p>“The road ahead will be long,” said Obama in conclusion. He has that right about that. The strategy adopted virtually guarantees that.</p><p>That is why Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan publicly contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in late 2008 when Gates, protesting the widespread pessimism on Afghanistan, started talking up the prospect of a “surge” of troops in Afghanistan.</p><p>McKiernan insisted publicly that no Iraqi-style “surge” of forces would end the conflict in Afghanistan. “The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan stated, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution.</p><p>McKiernan has that right. But his boss Mr. Gates did not seem to get it.</p><p><strong>Bob Gates at the Gate</strong></p><p>In late 2008, as he maneuvered to stay on as Defense Secretary in the new administration, Gates hotly disputed the notion that things were getting out of control in Afghanistan. The argument that Gates used to support his professed optimism, however, made us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and other failed counterinsurgencies.</p><p>“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan, and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.</p><p>Our Secretary of Defense seemed to be insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. (Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact.”)</p><p>Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost.</p><p>In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.”</p><p>Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”</p><p>I don’t fault the senior military. Cancel that, I DO fault them. They resemble all too closely the gutless general officers who never looked down at what was really happening in Vietnam. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the time have been called, not without reason, “a sewer of deceit.”</p><p>The current crew is in better odor. And one may be tempted to make excuses for them, noting for example that if admirals/generals are the hammer, small wonder that to them everything looks like a nail. No, that does not excuse them.</p><p>The ones who were standing in back of Obama during his speech have smarts enough to have said, NO; IT’S A BAD IDEA, Mr. President. That should not be too much to expect.</p><p>Gallons of blood are likely to be poured unnecessarily in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan — probably over the next decade or longer. But not their blood.</p><p><strong>Sound Military Advice</strong></p><p>General officers seldom rise to the occasion. Exceptions are so few that they immediately spring to mind: French war hero Gen. Philippe LeClerc, for example, was sent to Indochina right after World War II with orders to report back on how many troops it would take to recapture Indochina. His report:  “It would require 500,000 men; and even with 500,000 France could not win.”</p><p>Equally relevant to Obama’s fateful decision, Gen. Douglas MacArthur told another young President in April 1961: “Anyone wanting to commit American ground forces to the mainland of Asia should have his head examined.”</p><p>When JFK’s top military advisers, critical of the President’s reluctance to go against that advice, virtually called him a traitor  — for pursuing a negotiated solution to the fighting in Laos, for example — Kennedy would tell them to convince Gen. MacArthur first, and then come back to him. (Alas, there seems to be no comparable Gen. MacArthur today.)</p><p>Kennedy recognized Vietnam as a potential quagmire, and was determined not to get sucked in — despite the misguided, ideologically-salted advice given him by Ivy League patricians like McGeorge Bundy.</p><p>Kennedy’s military adviser, Gen. Maxwell Taylor said later that MacArthur’s statement made a “hell of an impression on the President.”</p><p>MacArthur made another comment about the situation that President Kennedy had inherited in Indochina. This one struck the young President so much that he dictated it into a memorandum of conversation: Kennedy quoted MacArthur as saying to him, “The chickens are coming home to roost from the Eisenhower years, and you live in the chicken coop.”</p><p>Well, the chickens are coming home to roost after eight years of Cheney and Bush, but there is no sign that President Obama is listening to anyone capable of fresh thinking on Afghanistan. Obama has apparently decided to stay in the chicken coop.  And that can be called, well, chicken.</p><p>Can’t say I actually KNEW Jack Kennedy, but it was he who got so many of us down here to Washington to explore what we might do for our country.</p><p>Kennedy resisted the kind of pressures to which President Obama has now succumbed. (There are even some, like Jim Douglass in his book JFK and the Unspeakable, who conclude that this is what got President Kennedy killed.)</p><p>Mr. Obama, you need to find some advisers who are not still wet behind the ears and who are not brown noses — preferably some who have lived Vietnam and Iraq and have an established record of responsible, fact-based analysis.</p><p>You would also do well to read Douglass’s book, and to page through the “Pentagon Papers,” instead of trying to emulate the Lincoln portrayed in Team of Rivals. I, too, am a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin, but Daniel Ellsberg is an author far more relevant and nourishing for this point in time. Read his Secrets, and recognize the signs of the times.</p><p>There is still time to put the brakes on this disastrous policy. One key lesson of Vietnam is that an army trained and supplied by foreign occupiers can almost always be readily outmatched and out-waited in a guerrilla war, no matter how many billions of dollars are pumped in.</p><p>Professor Martin van Creveld of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the only non-American military historian on the U.S. Army’s list of required reading for officers, has accused former President George W. Bush of “launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them.”</p><p>Please do not feel you have to compete with your predecessor for such laurels.</p> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 12:30:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 1000222 at http://www.alternet.org World World Afghanistan iraq occupation war How NATO's Relentless Jabs at Russia Are Worsening the Ukraine Crisis http://www.alternet.org/world/how-natos-relentless-jabs-russia-are-worsening-ukraine-crisis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Moscow has been reacting to aggressive moves by Washington to expand NATO to Russia’s border.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6295883522_dfda3e75c9_z.jpg?itok=Z34R3_pa" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used Wednesday’s interview with Bloomberg News to address the overriding issue regarding the future of Ukraine, at least from Moscow’s perspective. Speaking in fluent English, he said Russia would be “categorically against” Ukraine joining NATO.</p><p>Lavrov said he welcomed the interviewer’s question regarding whether Ukraine can be part of NATO, recognizing it as a chance to shoehorn background information into the interview. It was an opportunity to explain Moscow’s position to a wide English-speaking international audience – first and foremost Americans. His comments seemed partly aimed at those so malnourished on “mainstream media” that they might be learning the history of NATO enlargement for the first time. Lavrov said:</p><p>“In my view, it all started … back in the 1990s, when in spite of all the pronouncements about how the Cold War was over and that there should be no winners – yet, NATO looked upon itself as a winner.”</p><p>Lavrov said U.S. and NATO reneged on a series of commitments: not to enlarge the Alliance; then (after NATO was expanded contrary to that commitment), not to deploy substantial forces on the territories of new NATO members; and then not to move NATO infrastructure to the Russian border.</p><p>“All these commitments have been, to one degree or another, violated,” said Lavrov, adding that “attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO would have a negative impact on the entire system of European security.” Lavrov said Russia’s national security interests and 25 years of recent history make this a key problem, not only for Ukraine and NATO, but also “an issue of Russia.”</p><p>Is Lavrov distorting the history? The answer is important – the more so inasmuch as the information needed to form cogent judgments is rarely found in the U.S. “mainstream media.” What happened in the months immediately before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9/10, 1989, is key to understanding Russia’s attitude now.</p><p><strong>No Dancing</strong></p><p>To his credit, President George H. W. Bush sent a reassuring message to the Soviets, saying, “I will not dance on the Berlin wall.” And just three weeks after it fell, Bush flew to Malta for a two-day summit with Gorbachev.</p><p>At a joint press conference on Dec. 3, 1989, Gorbachev said, “We are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting, peaceful era. The threat of force, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle should all be things of the past.”</p><p>In the same vein, Bush spoke of a new future just begun “right here in Malta” – one of lasting peace and enduring East-West cooperation. This came just six months after Bush had publicly called in a major speech in Mainz, West Germany, for “a Europe whole and free.” At the time it did not seem one had to be Pollyanna to hope that flesh could be pinned to the bones of that rhetoric.</p><p>According to Jack Matlock, then-U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. who took part in the Malta summit, the most basic agreement involved (1) Gorbachev’s pledge not to use force in Eastern Europe where the Russians had 24 divisions (some 350,000 troops) in East Germany alone, and (2) Bush’s promise not to “take advantage” of a Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe.</p><p>In early February 1990, Bush sent Secretary of State James Baker to work out the all-important details directly with Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Ambassador Matlock again was there and took careful notes on the negotiations, which focused on German reunification.</p><p>From memory, Matlock told me that Baker tried to convince Gorbachev that it was in Moscow’s interest to let a united Germany remain in NATO. Matlock recalled that Baker began his argument saying something like, “Assuming there is no expansion of NATO jurisdiction to the East, not one inch, what would you prefer, a Germany embedded in NATO, or one that can go independently in any direction it chooses.” [emphasis added]</p><p>The implication was that Germany might just opt to acquire nuclear weapons, were it not anchored in NATO. Gorbachev answered that he took Baker’s argument seriously, and wasted little time in agreeing to the deal.</p><p>Ambassador Matlock, one of the most widely respected experts on Russia, told me “the language used was absolute, and the entire negotiation was in the framework of a general agreement that there would be no use of force by the Soviets and no ‘taking advantage’ by the U.S.”</p><p>He added, “I don’t see how anybody could view the subsequent expansion of NATO as anything but ‘taking advantage,’ particularly since, by then, the U.S.S.R. was no more and Russia was hardly a credible threat.”</p><p>In his book Superpower Illusions, Matlock wrote that NATO enlargement was a function<br />of U.S. domestic politics not of foreign policy strategic thinking. It seems he got that right, too.</p><p><strong>Tough Guy Clinton</strong></p><p>From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.</p><p>President Clinton, thus, reneged on the pledges made by Baker to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Clinton lamely called upon Russia to view NATO’s enlargement as an arrangement that will “advance the security of everyone.”</p><p>Clinton’s tough-guy-ism toward Russia was, in part, a response to even more aggressive NATO plans from Clinton’s Republican opponent Bob Dole, who had been calling for incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as full members of NATO and had accused Clinton of “dragging his feet” on this. Clinton was not about to be out-toughed.</p><p>Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, starting a trend. By April 2009, nine more countries became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 – equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states.</p><p>Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”</p><p>“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”</p><p>If you are the “sole indispensable” country in the world, though, you are sorely tempted not to heed the worrywarts.</p><p><strong>Seeds of a Crisis</strong></p><p>On Wednesday, Lavrov said the seeds of the current Ukraine crisis were sown in April 2008 during the NATO summit in Bucharest when NATO leaders stated in a declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”</p><p>Were Lavrov not the consummate diplomat, he might have also told his interviewer that, two months before the Bucharest summit, he had warned U.S. Ambassador to Russia William J. Burns to anticipate a strong Russian reaction to including Ukraine and Georgia in NATO. But diplomats don’t generally permit themselves an “I told you so.”</p><p>Thanks to Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and WikiLeaks, we have the text of a State Department cable dated Feb. 1, 2008, from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow bearing the unusual title:  “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES.”</p><p>The IMMEDIATE precedence that the cable bears shows that Ambassador Burns (now Deputy Secretary of State) was addressing a priority issue under active consideration in Washington.  Though it was six years ago, Burns interlocutor was the same Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Here is Burns’s introductory summary of his discussions with Lavrov:</p><p>“Summary. Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO membership action plan at the [upcoming] Bucharest summit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.</p><p>“In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”</p><p>Ambassador Burns continued: “Russia has made it clear that it would have to ‘seriously review’ its entire relationship with Ukraine and Georgia in the event of NATO inviting them to join. This could include major impacts on energy, economic, and political-military engagement, with possible repercussions throughout the region and into Central and Western Europe.”</p><p>Burns’s closing comment: “Russia’s opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is both emotional and based on perceived strategic concerns about the impact on Russia’s interest in the region. … While Russian opposition to the first round of NATO enlargement in the mid-1990s was strong, Russia now feels itself able to respond more forcefully to what it perceives as actions contrary to its national interests.”</p><p>We don’t know whether Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice read Burns’s prescient remarks, but Lavrov’s warning clearly fell on deaf ears. On April 3, 2008, the NATO summit in Bucharest issued a formal declaration that “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”</p><p>Now, with events quickly spinning out of control in Ukraine, some policymakers need to tell President Obama that there can be even bigger trouble ahead, if Russia’s national security interests are not taken into account.</p> Thu, 15 May 2014 12:49:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 993018 at http://www.alternet.org World World russia ukraine The Russian Bear Lashes Out: Ukraine Is One Regime Change Too Many http://www.alternet.org/world/ukraine-one-regime-change-too-many <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sending armed forces into Crimea was a predictable reaction to attempts to fold Ukraine into the West.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6e57485ef6ebdc131fdc3b281b369b15cf6838d1.jpg?itok=UADIt2f5" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?</p><p>Russian President Vladimir Putin has given an unmistakable “yes” to those questions – in deeds, not words. His message is clear: “Back off our near-frontier!”</p><p>Moscow announced on Saturday that Russia’s parliament has approved Putin’s request for permission to use Russia’s armed forces “on the territory of the Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country.”</p><p>Putin described this move as necessary to protect ethnic Russians and military personnel stationed in Crimea in southern Ukraine, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet and other key military installations are located. But there is no indication that the Russian parliament has restricted the use of Russian armed forces to the Crimea.</p><p>Unless Obama is completely bereft of advisers who know something about Russia, it should have been a “known-known” (pardon the Rumsfeldian mal mot) that the Russians would react this way to a putsch removing Yanukovich. It would have been a no-brainer that Russia would use military force, if necessary, to counter attempts to use economic enticement and subversive incitement to slide Ukraine into the orbit of the West and eventually NATO.</p><p>This was all the more predictable in the case of Ukraine, where Putin – although the bête noirein corporate Western media – holds very high strategic cards geographically, militarily, economically and politically.</p><p><strong>Unlike ‘Prague Spring’ 1968</strong></p><p>Moscow’s advantage was not nearly as clear during the short-lived “Prague Spring” of 1968 when knee-jerk, non-thinking euphoria reigned in Washington and West European capitals. Thecognoscenti were, by and large, smugly convinced that reformer Alexander Dubcek could break Czechoslovakia away from the U.S.S.R.’s embrace and still keep the Russian bear at bay.</p><p>My CIA analyst portfolio at the time included Soviet policy toward Eastern Europe, and I was amazed to see analysts of Eastern Europe caught up in the euphoria that typically ended with, “And the Soviets can’t do a damned thing about it!”</p><p>That summer a new posting found me advising Radio Free Europe Director Ralph Walter who, virtually alone among his similarly euphoric colleagues, shared my view that Russian tanks would inevitably roll onto Prague’s Wenceslaus Square, which they did in late August.</p><p>Past is not always prologue. But it is easy for me to imagine the Russian Army cartographic agency busily preparing maps of the best routes for tanks into Independence Square in Kiev, and that before too many months have gone by, Russian tank commanders may be given orders to invade, if those stoking the fires of violent dissent in the western parts of Ukraine keep pushing too far.</p><p>That said, Putin has many other cards to play and time to play them. These include sitting back and doing nothing, cutting off Russia’s subsidies to Ukraine, making it ever more difficult for Yanukovich’s successors to cope with the harsh realities. And Moscow has ways to remind the rest of Europe of its dependence on Russian oil and gas.</p><p><strong>Another Interference</strong></p><p>There is one huge difference between Prague in 1968 and Kiev 2014. The “Prague Spring” revolution led by Dubcek enjoyed such widespread spontaneous popular support that it was difficult for Russian leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksey Kosygin to argue plausibly that it was spurred by subversion from the West.</p><p>Not so 45-plus years later. In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.”</p><p>We know that thanks to neocon prima donna Victoria Nuland, now Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, who seemed intent on giving new dimension to the “cookie-pushing” role of U.S. diplomats. Recall the photo showing Nuland in a metaphor of over-reach, as she reached deep into a large plastic bag to give each anti-government demonstrator on the square a cookie before the putsch.</p><p>More important, recall her amateurish, boorish use of an open telephone to plot regime change in Ukraine with a fellow neocon, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Crass U.S. interference in Ukrainian affairs can be seen (actually, better, heard) in an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4.</p><p><strong>Yikes! It’s Yats!</strong></p><p>Nuland was recorded as saying: “Yats is the guy. He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know. … Yats will need all the help he can get to stave off collapse in the ex-Soviet state. He has warned there is an urgent need for unpopular cutting of subsidies and social payments before Ukraine can improve.”</p><p>And guess what. The stopgap government formed after the coup designated Nuland’s guy Yats, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, prime minister! What luck! Yats is 39 and has served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister. And, as designated pinch-hitter-prime-minister, he has already talked about the overriding need for “responsible government,” one willing to commit “political suicide,” as he put it, by taking unpopular social measures.</p><p>U.S. meddling has been so obvious that at President Barack Obama’s hastily scheduled Friday press conference on Ukraine, Yats’s name seemed to get stuck in Obama’s throat. Toward the end of his scripted remarks, which he read verbatim, the President said: “Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister [pause] – the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.”</p><p>Obama doesn’t usually stumble like that – especially when reading a text, and is normally quite good at pronouncing foreign names. Perhaps he worried that one of the White House stenographic corps might shout out, “You mean our man, Yats?” Obama departed right after reading his prepared remarks, leaving no opportunity for such an outburst.</p><p>Western media was abuzz with the big question: Will the Russians apply military force? The answer came quickly, though President Obama chose the subjunctive mood in addressing the question on Friday.</p><p><strong>Throwing Down a Hanky</strong></p><p>There was a surreal quality to President Obama’s remarks, several hours after Russian (or pro-Russian) troops took control of key airports and other key installations in the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, and home to a large Russian naval base and other key Russian military installations.</p><p>Obama referred merely to “reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine” and warned piously that “any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.”</p><p>That Obama chose the subjunctive mood – when the indicative was, well, indicated – will not be lost on the Russians. Here was Obama, in his typically lawyerly way, trying to square the circle, giving a sop to his administration’s neocon holdovers and R2P courtiers, with a Milquetoasty expression of support for the new-Nuland-approved government (citing Biden’s assurances to old whatshisname/yatshisname).</p><p>While Obama stuck to the subjunctive tense, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk appealed to Russia to recall its forces and “stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine.”</p><p>Obama’s comments seemed almost designed to sound condescending – paternalistic, even – to the Russians. Already into his second paragraph of his scripted remarks, the President took a line larded with words likely to be regarded as a gratuitous insult by Moscow, post-putsch.</p><p>“We’ve made clear that they [Russian officials] can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.”</p><p>By now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is accustomed to Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, et al. telling the Kremlin where its interests lie, and I am sure he is appropriately grateful. Putin is likely to read more significance into these words of Obama:</p><p>“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine … and we will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies.”</p><p><strong>Fissures in Atlantic Alliance</strong></p><p>There are bound to be fissures in the international community and in the Western alliance on whether further provocation in Ukraine is advisable. Many countries have much to lose if Moscow uses its considerable economic leverage over natural gas supplies, for example.</p><p>And, aspiring diplomat though she may be, Victoria Nuland presumably has not endeared herself to the EC by her expressed “Fuck the EC” attitude.</p><p>Aside from the most servile allies of the U.S. there may be a growing caucus of Europeans who would like to return the compliment to Nuland. After all does anyone other than the most extreme neocon ideologue think that instigating a civil war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia is a good idea? Or that it makes sense to dump another economic basket case, which Ukraine surely is, on the EU’s doorstep while it’s still struggling to get its own economic house in order?</p><p>Europe has other reasons to feel annoyed about the overreach of U.S. power and arrogance. The NSA spying revelations – that continue, just like the eavesdropping itself does – seem to have done some permanent damage to transatlantic relationships.</p><p>In any case, Obama presumably knows by now that he pleased no one on Friday by reading that flaccid statement on Ukraine. And, more generally, the sooner he realizes that – without doing dumb and costly things – he can placate neither the neocons nor the R2P folks (naively well meaning though the latter may be), the better for everyone.</p><p>In sum, the Nulands of this world have bit off far more than they can chew; they need to be reined in before they cause even more dangerous harm. Broader issues than Ukraine are at stake. Like it or not, the United States can benefit from a cooperative relationship with Putin’s Russia – the kind of relationship that caused Putin to see merit last summer in pulling Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire on Syria, for example, and in helping address thorny issues with Iran.</p> Sun, 02 Mar 2014 10:39:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 965002 at http://www.alternet.org World World ukraine russia Crimea Open Letter To Government Employees From Whistleblowers http://www.alternet.org/activism/open-letter-government-employees-whistleblowers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Hidden away in offices of various government departments and intelligence agencies are dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into. One of them is you.&quot; </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_150166427.jpg?itok=RFNm6zw1" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies turned out<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/the-nsa-files"> post-Snowden</a>, to be not even the whole story.</p><p>What’s really remarkable is that we’ve been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. All is done in the name of “national security”, which has more or less become a chant to fence off debate and make sure governments aren’t held to account – that they can’t be held to account – because everything is being done in the dark. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever.</p><p>By and large the media have paid scant attention to this, even as more and more courageous, principled whistleblowers stepped forward. The unprecedented persecution of truth-tellers, initiated by the Bush administration and severely accelerated by the Obama administration, has been mostly ignored, while record numbers of well-meaning people are charged with serious felonies simply for letting their fellow citizens know what’s going on.</p><p>It’s one of the bitter ironies of our time that while <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/23/cia-whistleblower-john-kiriakou-leak">John Kiriakou</a> (ex-CIA) is in prison for blowing the whistle on US torture, the torturers and their enablers walk free.</p><p>Likewise <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/wikileaks" title="More from the Guardian on WikiLeaks">WikiLeaks</a>-source <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/21/bradley-manning-sentencing-wikileaks-live">Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning</a> was charged with – amongst other serious crimes – aiding the enemy (read: the public). Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison while the people who planned the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq in 2003 are still treated as dignitaries.</p><p>Numerous ex-<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/nsa" title="More from the Guardian on NSA">NSA</a> officials have come forward in the past decade, disclosing massive fraud, vast illegalities and abuse of power in said agency, including Thomas Drake, <a href="http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/homeland-security-a-human-rights/surveillance/nsa-whistleblowers-bill-binney-a-j-kirk-wiebe">William Binney and Kirk Wiebe</a>. The response was 100% persecution and 0% accountability by both the NSA and the rest of government. Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but despite the poor track record of western media, whistleblowing remains the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and upholding democracy – that fragile construct which Winston Churchill is quoted as calling “the worst form of government, except all the others”.</p><p>Since the summer of 2013, the public has witnessed a shift in debate over these matters. The reason is that one courageous person: <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/edward-snowden" title="More from the Guardian on Edward Snowden">Edward Snowden</a>. He not only blew the whistle on the litany of government abuses but made sure to supply an avalanche of supporting documents to a few trustworthy journalists. The echoes of his actions are still heard around the world – and there are still many revelations to come.</p><p>For every Daniel Ellsberg, Drake, Binney, Katharine Gun, Manning or Snowden, there are thousands of civil servants who go by their daily job of spying on everybody and feeding cooked or even made-up information to the public and parliament, destroying everything we as a society pretend to care about.</p><p>Some of them may feel favourable towards what they’re doing, but many of them are able to hear their inner Jiminy Cricket over the voices of their leaders and crooked politicians – and of the people whose intimate communication they’re tapping.</p><p>Hidden away in offices of various government departments, intelligence agencies, police forces and armed forces are dozens and dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into: at the very least, turnkey tyrannies.</p><p>One of them is you.</p><p>You’re thinking:</p><p>● Undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties isn’t put explicitly in your job contract.<br />● You grew up in a democratic society and want to keep it that way<br />● You were taught to respect ordinary people’s right to live a life in privacy<br />● You don’t really want a system of institutionalized strategic surveillance that would make the dreaded Stasi green with envy – do you?</p><p>Still, why bother? What can one person do? Well, Edward Snowden just showed you what one person can do. He stands out as a whistleblower both because of the severity of the crimes and misconduct that he is divulging to the public – and the sheer amount of evidence he has presented us with so far – more is coming. But Snowden shouldn’t have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn’t be the only ones.</p><p>You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activites are going on where you work.</p><p>There IS strength in numbers. You won’t be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what’s being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can’t be stopped. Crooked politicians will be held accountable. It’s in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process.</p><p>Courage is contagious.</p><p>Signed by:</p><p>Peter Kofod, ex-Human Shield in Iraq (Denmark)<br />Thomas Drake, whistleblower, former senior executive of the NSA (US)<br />Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower, former US military analyst (US)<br />Katharine Gun, whistleblower, former GCHQ (UK)<br />Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower, former Department of Justice (US)<br />Ray McGovern, former senior CIA analyst (US)<br />Coleen Rowley, whistleblower, former FBI agent (US)</p> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 13:19:00 -0800 Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Kofod, Thomas Drake, Katharine Gun, Jesselyn Radack, Ray McGovern, Ray McGovern, Popular Resistance 936511 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Human Rights whistleblowers Open Letter To Government Employees From Whistleblowers http://www.alternet.org/activism/open-letter-government-employees-whistleblowers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Hidden away in offices of various government departments and intelligence agencies are dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into. One of them is you.&quot; </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_150166427.jpg?itok=RFNm6zw1" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies turned out<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/the-nsa-files"> post-Snowden</a>, to be not even the whole story.</p><p>What’s really remarkable is that we’ve been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. All is done in the name of “national security”, which has more or less become a chant to fence off debate and make sure governments aren’t held to account – that they can’t be held to account – because everything is being done in the dark. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever.</p><p>By and large the media have paid scant attention to this, even as more and more courageous, principled whistleblowers stepped forward. The unprecedented persecution of truth-tellers, initiated by the Bush administration and severely accelerated by the Obama administration, has been mostly ignored, while record numbers of well-meaning people are charged with serious felonies simply for letting their fellow citizens know what’s going on.</p><p>It’s one of the bitter ironies of our time that while <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/23/cia-whistleblower-john-kiriakou-leak">John Kiriakou</a> (ex-CIA) is in prison for blowing the whistle on US torture, the torturers and their enablers walk free.</p><p>Likewise <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/wikileaks" title="More from the Guardian on WikiLeaks">WikiLeaks</a>-source <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/21/bradley-manning-sentencing-wikileaks-live">Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning</a> was charged with – amongst other serious crimes – aiding the enemy (read: the public). Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison while the people who planned the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq in 2003 are still treated as dignitaries.</p><p>Numerous ex-<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/nsa" title="More from the Guardian on NSA">NSA</a> officials have come forward in the past decade, disclosing massive fraud, vast illegalities and abuse of power in said agency, including Thomas Drake, <a href="http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/homeland-security-a-human-rights/surveillance/nsa-whistleblowers-bill-binney-a-j-kirk-wiebe">William Binney and Kirk Wiebe</a>. The response was 100% persecution and 0% accountability by both the NSA and the rest of government. Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but despite the poor track record of western media, whistleblowing remains the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and upholding democracy – that fragile construct which Winston Churchill is quoted as calling “the worst form of government, except all the others”.</p><p>Since the summer of 2013, the public has witnessed a shift in debate over these matters. The reason is that one courageous person: <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/edward-snowden" title="More from the Guardian on Edward Snowden">Edward Snowden</a>. He not only blew the whistle on the litany of government abuses but made sure to supply an avalanche of supporting documents to a few trustworthy journalists. The echoes of his actions are still heard around the world – and there are still many revelations to come.</p><p>For every Daniel Ellsberg, Drake, Binney, Katharine Gun, Manning or Snowden, there are thousands of civil servants who go by their daily job of spying on everybody and feeding cooked or even made-up information to the public and parliament, destroying everything we as a society pretend to care about.</p><p>Some of them may feel favourable towards what they’re doing, but many of them are able to hear their inner Jiminy Cricket over the voices of their leaders and crooked politicians – and of the people whose intimate communication they’re tapping.</p><p>Hidden away in offices of various government departments, intelligence agencies, police forces and armed forces are dozens and dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into: at the very least, turnkey tyrannies.</p><p>One of them is you.</p><p>You’re thinking:</p><p>● Undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties isn’t put explicitly in your job contract.<br />● You grew up in a democratic society and want to keep it that way<br />● You were taught to respect ordinary people’s right to live a life in privacy<br />● You don’t really want a system of institutionalized strategic surveillance that would make the dreaded Stasi green with envy – do you?</p><p>Still, why bother? What can one person do? Well, Edward Snowden just showed you what one person can do. He stands out as a whistleblower both because of the severity of the crimes and misconduct that he is divulging to the public – and the sheer amount of evidence he has presented us with so far – more is coming. But Snowden shouldn’t have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn’t be the only ones.</p><p>You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activites are going on where you work.</p><p>There IS strength in numbers. You won’t be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what’s being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can’t be stopped. Crooked politicians will be held accountable. It’s in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process.</p><p>Courage is contagious.</p><p>Signed by:</p><p>Peter Kofod, ex-Human Shield in Iraq (Denmark)<br />Thomas Drake, whistleblower, former senior executive of the NSA (US)<br />Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower, former US military analyst (US)<br />Katharine Gun, whistleblower, former GCHQ (UK)<br />Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower, former Department of Justice (US)<br />Ray McGovern, former senior CIA analyst (US)<br />Coleen Rowley, whistleblower, former FBI agent (US)</p> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 13:19:00 -0800 Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Kofod, Thomas Drake, Katharine Gun, Jesselyn Radack, Ray McGovern, Ray McGovern, Popular Resistance 936511 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Human Rights whistleblowers From Russia With Love: My Chat With Edward Snowden http://www.alternet.org/world/ray-mcgovern-talks-edward-snowden <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A former CIA official says that the NSA whistleblower is the embodiment of patriotism.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/edward_snowden_mirror.jpg?itok=ezNbcmpX" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I’ve had a couple of days to reflect after arriving back from Moscow where my whistleblower colleagues Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack, Tom Drake and I formally <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/10/10/snowden-accepts-whistleblower-award/">presented</a> former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with the annual Sam Adams Associates award for integrity in intelligence.</p><p>The thought that companioned me the entire time was the constant admonition of my Irish grandmother: “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are!” I cannot remember ever feeling so honored as I did by the company I kept over the past week.</p><p>That includes, of course, Snowden himself, WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (and “remotely” Julian Assange) who, together with Russian civil rights lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, helped arrange the visit, and – last but not least – the 3,000 Internet transparency/privacy activists at OHM2013 near Amsterdam, whom Tom, Jesselyn, Coleen and I addressed in early August and who decided to crowd-source our travel. (See: “In the Whistleblower Chalet” by Silkie Carlo;<a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/in-the-whistleblower-chalet" title="http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/in-the-whistleblower-chalet">http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/in-the-whistleblower-chalet</a>)</p><p>As representatives of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, we were in Moscow last Wednesday not only to honor Snowden with the award for integrity, but also to remind him (and ourselves) that we all stand on the shoulders of patriots who have gone before and pointed the way.</p><p>Because of speaking commitments he could not break, Pentagon Papers truth-teller Dan Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger called “the most dangerous man in America” and who in 1971 was vilified as acidly as Ed Snowden is being vilified now, could be with us only in spirit. He did send along with us for Ed the video of the award-winning documentary that uses Kissinger’s epithet as its title, together with Dan’s book Secrets, in which he had inscribed a very thoughtful note.</p><p>Ellsberg’s note thanked Snowden for his adroit – and already partially successful – attempt to thwart what Snowden has called “turnkey tyranny,” that is the terrifying prospect of a surveillance-driven government tyranny ready to go with the simple turn of a key.</p><p>Two at our table – Ed Snowden and Tom Drake – enjoy with Dan the dubious distinction of having been charged with espionage under the draconian Espionage Act of 1917 that is so much favored by the administration of President Barack Obama and other zealous protectors of the national security state and its multitude of secrets.</p><p>Call me naïve, but I had no sense that I was cavorting with treasonous criminals. Rather, it seemed crystal clear that Ed Snowden is simply the current embodiment of people so castigated when they feel compelled to speak out, as Ed did, against gross violations of the Fourth Amendment.</p><p>Compelled? Well, yes, compelled. Those of us like Snowden, who took a solemn oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic” recognize that our oath has no “expiration date.”</p><p>During interviews, I found it easy to put the Snowden disclosures into perspective regarding the seriousness of the Bush and Obama administration crimes against the Fourth Amendment by simply reciting that key part of our now-fractured Bill of Rights; it’s just one sentence:</p><p>“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”</p><p>Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may be able to tell Congress with impunity (in his own words) “clearly erroneous” things, but neither he, nor his duplicitous sidekick NSA Director Keith Alexander, nor complicit Senators and Representatives, nor the President himself can easily bend the Fourth Amendment that far out of shape once people read the text.</p><p>And that, of course, explains why co-conspirators in Congress like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein call the kettle black by branding Snowden a “traitor.” And it is also why former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden and House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers indicate publicly, as they did two weeks ago, that they would like to see Snowden’s name added to the infamous “Kill List” for the President’s approval.</p><p>That list renders the Fifth Amendment “quaint and obsolete,” the words used by George W. Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales when troublesome legal restrictions might otherwise impinge on what the White House wished to do.</p><p><strong>American Traditions</strong></p><p>At our dinner with Ed Snowden, Coleen Rowley reminded him that his willingness to expose injustice fit in with a patriotic tradition modeled by Founders like Benjamin Franklin even before the American Revolution.</p><p>Coleen recounted how Benjamin Franklin got himself in deep trouble in 1773, when he acquired and released confidential letters from the British governor of Massachusetts to the Crown showing that the colonial authorities did not think the American colonists should enjoy the same rights as British citizens in England. Franklin was fired from his post as Postmaster General and called a traitor and every other name in the book – many of them the same epithets hurled at Snowden.</p><p>More poignant still was a reading from Albert Camus beautifully rendered aloud by Jesselyn Radack, who related some of Camus writings to Snowden’s testimony (earlier read on his behalf by Jesselyn) to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on Sept. 30.</p><p>Snowden wrote: “The work of a generation is beginning here, with your hearings, and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support.”</p><p>What follows is how Jesselyn Radack presented the quotes from Camus:</p><p>Edward Snowden, you are in good company. “The Wager of Our Generation” is how Albert Camus described what you have called “The Work of a Generation,” when he spoke of a similar challenge in 1957, the year he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And the similarity between Snowden and Camus does not end there. The official Nobel Prize citation praised Camus for “his clear-sighted earnestness illuminating the problems of the human conscience of our times.”</p><p>In 1957, Camus expressed hope in “the quality of the new generation and its increased unwillingness to adopt slogans or ideologies and to return to more tangible values.” He wrote: “We have nothing to lose except everything. So let’s go ahead. This is the wager of our generation. If we are to fail, it is better, in any case, to have stood on the side of those who refuse to be dogs and are resolved to pay the price that must be paid so that man can be something more than a dog.”</p><p>Camus rejected what he called the “the paltry privileges granted to those who adapt themselves to this world,” adding that, “those individuals who refuse to give in will stand apart, and they must accept this. Personally, I have never wanted to stand apart. For there is a sort of solitude, which is certainly the harshest thing our era forces upon us. I feel its weight, believe me. But, nevertheless, I should not want to change eras, for I know and respect the greatness of this one. Moreover, I have always thought that the maximum danger implied the maximum hope.”</p><p>In December 1957, the month he won the Nobel Prize, Camus strongly warned against inaction: “Remaining aloof has always been possible in history. When people did not approve, they could always keep silent or talk of something else. Today everything is changed and even silence has dangerous implications.”</p><p>And concrete dangers – like “turnkey tyranny.”</p><p>A key figure in the French Resistance, Camus in July 1943 published a “Letter to German Friend,” which began as follows: “You said to me: ‘The greatness of my country [Germany] is beyond price. Anything is good that contributes to its greatness. Those who, like us young Germans, are lucky enough to find a meaning in the destiny of our nation must sacrifice everything else.’</p><p>“‘No,’ I told you, ‘I cannot believe that everything must be subordinate to a single end. There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want for my country a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.’ You retorted, ‘Well, then you don’t love your country.’”</p><p>Edward, that may have a familiar ring to you. But, of course, the truth is the very opposite. Let us take one more cue from Albert Camus, who emphasized that, “Truth needs witnesses.”</p><p>We are honored, Edward, to be here at this time and place to be your witnesses. You have the full measure of our gratitude and support.</p><p><strong>End of Jesselyn Radack’s presentation.</strong></p><p>People have been telling me how eloquent Ed Snowden was <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/14/edward_snowden_speaks_out_against_nsa">in responding</a> to the award. And although DemocracyNow! <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/14/edward_snowden_is_a_patriot_ex">hosted us</a> for 40 minutes on Monday, we four did not have time to point to small, but significant, things like the fact Ed’s remarks were totally ad lib; he did not know he would be asked to give remarks until I whispered it to him right after Tom Drake presented him with the traditional Sam Adams corner-brightener candlestick holder.</p><p>One of the things that impressed me most was Ed’s emphasis on the “younger generation” he represents – typically those who have grown up with the Internet – who have (scarcely-fathomable-to-my-generation) technical expertise and equally remarkable dedication to keeping it free – AND have a conscience. My first personal exposure to the depth, breadth and importance of this critical mass of those often dismissed as “hackers” came at the OHM2013 conference outside of Amsterdam in early August.</p><p>The James Clappers and Keith Alexanders of this world simply CANNOT do what they see as their job of snooping on the lot of us on this planet without this incredibly talented and dedicated generation. They CANNOT; and so they are in deep kimchi. If only a small percentage of this young generation have the integrity and courage of an Ed Snowden, the prospect is dim that repressive measures in violation of citizens’ rights previously taken for granted can succeed for very long without full disclosure.</p><p>That is the good news. And with each new Snowden-enabled disclosure of infringements on our liberties, it becomes more likely that an awakened public will create sustained pressure for restoration of our Constitutional rights, and for holding accountable those senior government officials who have crassly violated those rights, and continue to violate Ed Snowden’s rights simply because he made it possible for us to know the truth.</p> Tue, 15 Oct 2013 14:16:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 910403 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World Edward Snowden nsa Edward Snowden Honored By Intelligence Veterans: He 'Put His Life at Risk' to 'Expose Turnkey Tyranny' http://www.alternet.org/world/snowden-honored-intelligence-veterans <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The former NSA contractor was heralded as a courageous whistleblower by a group of former U.S. intelligence officials during a Moscow ceremony.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/edward_snowden_mirror.jpg?itok=ezNbcmpX" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, from his asylum in Russia, accepted an award on Wednesday from a group of former U.S. intelligence officials expressing support for his decision to divulge secrets about the NSA’s electronic surveillance of Americans and people around the globe.</p><p>The award, named in honor of the late CIA analyst Sam Adams, was presented to Snowden at a ceremony in Moscow by previous recipients of the award bestowed by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII). The presenters included former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, former NSA official Thomas Drake, and former Justice Department official Jesselyn Radack, now with the Government Accountability Project. (Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern also took part.)</p><p>Snowden received the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brighteneer Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of his courage in shining light into dark places. Besides the presentation of the award, several hours were spent in informal conversation during which there was a wide consensus that, under present circumstances, Russia seemed the safest place for Snowden to be and that it was fortunate that Russia had rebuffed pressure to violate international law by turning him away.</p><p>Snowden showed himself not only to be in good health, but also in good spirits, and very much on top of world events, including the attacks on him personally. Shaking his head in disbelief, he acknowledged that he was aware that former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, together with House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers, had hinted recently that he (Snowden) be put on the infamous “Kill List” for assassination.</p><p>In brief remarks from his visitors, Snowden was reassured — first and foremost — that he need no longer be worried that nothing significant would happen as a result of his decision to risk his future by revealing documentary proof that the U.S. government was playing fast and loose with the Constitutional rights of Americans.</p><p>Even amid the government shutdown, Establishment Washington and the normally docile “mainstream media” have not been able to deflect attention from the intrusive eavesdropping that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Even Congress is showing signs of awaking from its torpor.</p><p>In the somnolent Senate, a few hardy souls have gone so far as to express displeasure at having been lied to by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Keith Alexander — Clapper having formally apologized for telling the Senate Intelligence Committee eavesdropping-related things that were, in his words, “clearly erroneous” and Alexander having told now-discredited whoppers about the effectiveness of NSA’s intrusive and unconstitutional methods in combating terrorism.</p><p>Coleen Rowley, the first winner of the Sam Adams Award (2002), cited some little-known history to remind Snowden that he is in good company as a whistleblower — and not only because of previous Sam Adams honorees. She noted that in 1773, Benjamin Franklin leaked confidential information by releasing letters written by then-Lt. Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson to Thomas Whatley, an assistant to the British Prime Minister.</p><p>The letters suggested that it was impossible for the colonists to enjoy the same rights as subjects living in England and that “an abridgement of what are called English liberties” might be necessary. The content of the letters was so damaging to the British government that Benjamin Franklin was dismissed as colonial Postmaster General and had to endure an hour-long censure from British Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn.</p><p><strong>Who’s the Traitor?</strong></p><p>Like Edward Snowden, Franklin was called a traitor for whistleblowing the truth about what the government was doing. As Franklin’s biographer H.W. Brands wrote: “For an hour and a half [Wedderburn] hurled invective at Franklin, branding him a liar, a thief, an outcast from the company of all honest men, an ingrate. … So slanderous was Wedderburn’s diatribe that no London paper would print it.”</p><p>Hat tip for this interesting bit of history to Tom Mullen and his Aug. 9 article in the Washington Times titled ”Obama says Snowden no patriot. How would Ben Franklin’s leak be treated today?” Ms. Rowley also drew from Mullen’s comment:</p><p>“Tyrants slandering patriots is nothing new. History decided that Franklin was a patriot. It was not so kind to the Hutchinsons and Wedderburns. History will decide who the patriots were in the 21st century as well. It will not be concerned with health care programs or unemployment rates. More likely, it will be concerned with who attacked the fundamental principles of freedom and who risked everything to defend them.”</p><p>The award citation to Snowden read, in part, “Sam Adams Associates are proud to honor Mr. Snowden’s decision to heed his conscience and give priority to the Common Good over concerns about his own personal future. We are confident that others with similar moral fiber will follow his example in illuminating dark corners and exposing crimes that put our civil rights as free citizens in jeopardy. …</p><p>“Heeding the dictates of conscience and patriotism, Mr. Snowden sacrificed his career and put his very life at risk, in order to expose what he called ‘turnkey tyranny.’ His whistleblowing has exposed a National Security Agency leadership captured by the intrusive capabilities offered by modern technology, with little if any thought to the strictures of law and Constitution. The documents he released show an NSA enabled, rather than restrained, by senior officials in all three branches of the U.S. government.</p><p>“Just as Private Manning and Julian Assange exposed criminality with documentary evidence, Mr. Snowden’s beacon of light has pierced a thick cloud of deception. And, again like them, he has been denied some of the freedoms that whistleblowers have every right to enjoy.</p><p>“Mr. Snowden was also aware of the cruel indignities to which other courageous officials had been subjected — whistleblowers like Sam Adams Award honorees (ex aequo in 2011) Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack — when they tried to go through government channels to report abuses. Mr. Snowden was able to outmaneuver those who, as events have shown, are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to curtail his freedom and quarrel with his revelations. We are gratified that he has found a place of sanctuary where his rights under international law are respected.</p><p>“Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a Sam Adams ‘Awardee Emeritus,’ has asserted that Mr. Snowden’s whistleblowing has given U.S. citizens the possibility to roll back an ‘executive coup against the Constitution.’ This is a mark of the seriousness and importance of what Mr. Snowden has done.</p><p>“Like other truth-tellers before him, Edward Snowden took seriously his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. He was thus legally and morally obliged to let his fellow Americans know that their Fourth Amendment rights were being violated.</p><p>“The past few years have shown that courage is contagious. Thus, we expect that still others will now be emboldened to follow their consciences in blowing the whistle on other abuses of our liberties and in this way help stave off ‘turnkey tyranny.’</p><p>“Presented this 9th day of October 2013 by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.”</p><p>The Sam Adams associates also expressed gratitude for those who made this unusual gathering possible: Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer for Snowden and founder and head of The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Moscow; WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange (SAAII award winner in 2010); Sarah Harrison, also of WikiLeaks, who facilitated Mr. Snowden’s extrication from Hong Kong and has been a constant presence with him since; other Internet transparency and privacy activists rendering encouragement and support, and, of course, Mr. Snowden himself for agreeing to host the first such visit to express solidarity with him in Russia.</p><p>The Sam Adams Award, named in honor of the late CIA analyst Sam Adams, has been given in previous years to truth-tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance; former U.S. Army Sergeant at Abu Ghraib; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; Thomas Drake, former senior NSA official; Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights, Government Accountability Project; and Thomas Fingar, former Assistant Secretary of State and Director, National Intelligence Council.</p><p>Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence was established in 2002 by colleagues and admirers of the late CIA intelligence analyst Sam Adams to recognize those who uphold his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. In honoring Adams’s memory, SAAII confers an award each year to someone in intelligence or related work who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.</p><p>It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms. This was roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus.</p> Fri, 11 Oct 2013 08:29:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 908780 at http://www.alternet.org World Activism Human Rights World Edward Snowden nsa Target Iran: What Bombing Syria Is Really About http://www.alternet.org/world/iran-and-attack-syria <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The broader framework of the Syrian crisis involves the Israeli-Iranian dispute and the future of regional peace.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1333658624_iranusflag.jpg?itok=bMp3mc2v" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Amid the increased likelihood that President Barack Obama will cave in to pressure from foreign policy hawks to “Libya-ize” Syria and to accord Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the same treatment meted out to Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the main question is WHY? Obviously, there is concern about the human rights catastrophe in Syria, but is the main target Syria’s main ally, Iran, as many suspect?</p><p>Surely, the objective has got to be more than simply giving Secretary of State John Kerry a chance to brag, in the manner of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, regarding Gaddafi, “We came, we saw, he died.” And, there is little expectation – however many Cruise missiles the United States fires at Syrian targets in a fury over disputed claims about chemical weapons – that lives are likely to be saved.</p><p>So, what are Iran’s new leaders likely to see as the real driving force behind Obama’s felt need to acquiesce, again, in a march of folly? And why does it matter?</p><p>Iran’s leaders need not be paranoid to see themselves as a principal target of external meddling in Syria. While there seem to be as many interests being pursued – as there are rag-tag groups pursuing them – Tehran is not likely to see the common interests of Israel and the U.S. as very complicated. Both appear determined to exploit the chaotic duel among the thugs in Syria as an opportunity to deal a blow to Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel’s near-frontier and to isolate Iran still further, and perhaps even advance Israel’s ultimate aim of “regime change” in Tehran.</p><p>In the nearer term, are the neocons in Washington revving up to nip in the bud any unwelcome olive branches from the Iran’s new leaders as new talks on nuclear matters loom on the horizon?</p><p><strong>The Not-So-Clean Break</strong></p><p>“<a href="http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm" target="_blank" title="http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm">A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm</a>,” a policy document prepared in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, laid out a new approach to solving Israel’s principal security challenges. Essentially, the point was to shatter the frustrating cycle of negotiations with the Palestinians and instead force regime change on hostile states in the region, thus isolating Israel’s close-in adversaries.</p><p>Among the plan’s features was “the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting their possession of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’” The following “Clean-Break” paragraph is, no doubt, part of the discussion in Iran’s leadership councils:</p><p>“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/20/the-mysterious-why-of-the-iraq-war/" target="_blank" title="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/20/the-mysterious-why-of-the-iraq-war/">The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War</a>.”]</p><p>Against this background, what is Iran likely to think of the two-year old mantra of Hillary Clinton, repeated by Obama that “Assad Must Go?” Or what to think of Obama’s gratuitous pledge a half year later, on Super Bowl Sunday 2012, that the U.S. will “work in lockstep” with Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Assuming they checked Webster’s, Iran’s leaders have taken note that one primary definition offered for “in lockstep” is: “in perfect, rigid, often mindless conformity or unison.”</p><p>In that pre-game interview, Obama also made the bizarre charge that the Iranians must declare, “We will pursue peaceful nuclear power; we will not pursue a nuclear weapon.” In actuality, Iran has been saying precisely that for years.</p><p>Still more odd, Obama insisted, “Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program.” The Israelis could hardly have expected the President to regurgitate their claims about Iran working on a nuclear weapon, but that is what he did – despite the fact that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had said on TV just four weeks before that Iran was NOT doing so.</p><p>Of course, Panetta was simply reiterating the consensus conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that declared in 2007 that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that it did not appear that such work had resumed.</p><p>And even if you don’t want to believe the U.S. intelligence community and Panetta, there was the acknowledgement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israeli intelligence had reached the same judgment. Barak gave an interview on Jan. 18, 2002, the day before JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey arrived for talks in Israel:</p><p>“Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?</p><p>Barak: … confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case. …</p><p>Question: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?</p><p>Barak: I don’t know; one has to estimate. … Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, etc.</p><p>Why haven’t they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that … when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that.”</p><p>So, for those of you just now joining us, Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon ten years ago. That is the unanimous judgment expressed by all U.S. intelligence agencies “with high confidence” in 2007, and has been revalidated every year since. Thus, Israel’s aim can be seen as “regime change” in Tehran, not the halting of a nuclear weapons program that stopped ten years ago. (It should be noted, too, that Israel possesses a sophisticated and undeclared nuclear arsenal that President Obama and other U.S. leaders have politely refused to acknowledge publicly.)</p><p>No one knows all this better than the Iranians themselves. But, for Israel, Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani poses a more subtle threat than the easier-to-demonize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more moderate and polished Rouhani – IF he can calm those Iranians who consider Washington a Siamese twin to Tel Aviv – may be able to enter renewed talks on the nuclear issue with concessions that the West would find difficult to refuse.</p><p>This would rattle the Israelis and the neocons in Washington who must be pining for the days when Ahmadinejad made it easier to mask the very real concessions made while he was president. Israeli and neocon hardliners have amply demonstrated that – despite their public face – they have little concern over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. Quite simply, they would like to get the U.S. to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. Period.</p><p><strong>Israel Riding High Again</strong></p><p>Dealing with more moderate leaders in Iran remains one of Israel’s major headaches, even as Israel has ridden a string of geopolitical successes over the past several weeks. First and foremost, the Israelis were able to persuade Washington to represent the military coup d’état in Cairo as something other than a military coup, which enabled U.S. military and other aid to keep flowing to the Israel-friendly Egyptian military.</p><p>After shielding this blood-stained Egyptian military from geopolitical pressure, Israel was rewarded by the generals’ decision to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/world/middleeast/pressure-mounts-on-hamas-as-economic-lifelines-are-severed.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" title="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/world/middleeast/pressure-mounts-on-hamas-as-economic-lifelines-are-severed.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">choke off Gaza’s lifeline</a> to the outside world via Egypt and thus further punish the Gazans for having the temerity to elect the more militant Hamas as their leadership.</p><p>With the Palestinians reeling – as their international backers face internal and external pressures — Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has found it timely to return to the bargaining table to discuss what undesirable land might be left for the Palestinians to live on as Netanyahu’s government continues to approve expansions of Jewish settlements on the more appealing patches of Palestinian territory.</p><p>The Israeli position vis a vis its Muslim adversaries is also improved by the spreading of sectarian conflicts pitting Sunni vs. Shiite, a rift that was turned into a chasm – and made much bloodier – by the neocon-inspired U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now, similar divisions are shattering Syria in a chaotic civil war with the growing likelihood that the Obama administration will soon weigh in militarily against the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is being challenged by a Sunni-led rebellion. Alawites stem from the Shiite branch of Islam and Assad is allied with Shiite-ruled Iran.</p><p>The more the Sunni and Shiite are fighting each other – and thus expending their resources on internecine warfare – the better for Israel, at least in the view of neocon hardliners like those who crafted Netanyahu’s “clean-break” strategy in the 1990s. That strategy would see the snuffing out of the Syrian regime as a signature accomplishment.</p><p><strong>Hardliners on Both Sides</strong></p><p>As these regional pressures build, Westerners tend to forget that there is a hard-line equivalent in Tehran with whom Rouhani has to deal. The hardliners in Tehran believe, with ample justification, that many American officials have the virus that George Washington so pointedly warned against; i.e., a “passionate-attachment” to a country with priorities and interests that may differ from one’s own country – in this case, Israel.</p><p>The Iranian hawks do not trust the U.S. especially on the nuclear issue, and developments over recent years – including statements like President Obama’s cited above – feed that distrust. So, President Rouhani faces tough sledding should he wish to offer the kinds of concessions Iran made in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, when Ahmadinejad’s government offered to export much of its low-enriched uranium.</p><p>That promising beginning was sabotaged in October 2009 when, after Iran had agreed in principle to a deal involving the shipping of two-thirds to three-quarters of it low-enriched uranium out of country, a terrorist attack killed five generals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, just before the talk to flesh out that deal. A similar deal was worked out with the help of Turkey and Brazil in early 2010 (with the written encouragement of President Obama) only to fall victim to Secretary of State Clinton and other hawks who preferred the route of sanctions.</p><p>As if the prospect of U.S. military involvement regarding Syria was not delicate enough, the hardliners in Tehran are bound to make hay out of two major stories recently playing in the U.S. media.</p><p>The first is a detailed account of precisely how the CIA and British Intelligence succeeded in 1953 in removing Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and installing the Shah with his secret police. A detailed account was released responding to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. Much had been already known about the coup, but the play-by-play is riveting and, presumably, highly offensive to Iranians.</p><p>The second exposé came in a detailed report published by Foreign Policy Magazine on Monday entitled: “<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran" target="_blank" title="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran">CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran</a>.” This account, replete with declassified CIA and other documents, will likewise be a highly painful reminder of the troubled past and great grist for those Iranians bent on exposing U.S. treachery.</p><p>In sum, the Foreign Policy report by Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid provides a wealth of detail on how Washington was aware that the Iraqis were using mustard and Sarin nerve gas in their war with Iran in the 1980s, and nonetheless enabled the Iraqis to use it to maximum effect by providing all manner of intelligence, including up-to-date information from satellites.</p><p>The nerve gas, in particular, was effective in thwarting the last major Iranian offensives and left thousands dead. The impression given by the documents is that toward the end of the war, Iran had the upper hand and may have ultimately prevailed were it not for Washington’s precise intelligence support for Iraq and blind eye to the first major use of chemical warfare since it was banned after World War I.</p><p>A CIA memo dated Nov. 4, 1983, is titled “Iran’s Likely Reaction to Iraqi Use of Chemical Weapons” included this paragraph: “Iran is unlikely to be deterred from pursuing the war because of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. … Iran will be forced to adjust its military tactics and acquire additional protective gear but it will continue to launch attacks on Iraq. We have no evidence that Iran has lethal chemical agents or that it is making an effort to acquire any.”</p><p>These will be very painful reminders of the tragic history of Iranian-American relations and seem bound to make negotiations even more difficult.</p> Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:20:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 888937 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel iran syria The Moral Imperative of Activism In a Crisis-Ridden World http://www.alternet.org/activism/moral-imperative-activism-crisis-ridden-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The imperative to do something in the face of injustice defines one’s moral place in the universe.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_133007990.jpg?itok=qVF2XFfF" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>That America is in deep moral and legal trouble was pretty much obvious to everyone before Edward Snowden released official documents showing the extent to which the U.S. government has been playing fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.</p><p>Snowden’s revelations – as explosive as they are – were, in one sense, merely the latest challenge to those of us who took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That has been a commitment tested repeatedly in recent years, especially since the 9/11 attacks.</p><p>After all the many troubling disclosures — from torture to ”extraordinary renditions” to aggressive war under false pretenses to warrantless wiretaps to lethal drone strikes to whistleblowers prosecutions to the expanded “surveillance state” – it might be time to take a moment for what the Germans call “eine Denkpause,” a “thinking break.” And it is high time to heed and honor the Noah Principle: “No more awards for predicting rain; awards only for building arks.”</p><p>This is our summer of discontent. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether that discontent will move us to action. Never in my lifetime have there been such serious challenges to whether the Republic established by the Founders will survive. Immediately after the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin told a questioner that the new structure created “a Republic, if you can keep it.” He was right, of course; it is up to us.</p><p>So let’s face it. The Obama White House and its co-conspirators in Congress and the Judiciary have thrown the gauntlet down at our feet. It turned out that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. As Annie Dillard, one of my favorite theologians, has put it, “There is only us; there never has been any other.” And as one of my favorite activists/prophets continued to insist, “Do not say there are not enough of us. There ARE enough of us!”</p><p>Besides threats to basic constitutional rights and gross violations of international law, there are other pressing issues for Americans, especially the obscene, growing chasm between the very rich and the jobless (and often homeless) poor. There is widespread reluctance, even so, to ask the key questions?</p><p>Is it right to fire teachers, police and firefighters; to close libraries; leave students in permanent debt; gut safety-net programs – all by feigning lack of money? Yet, simultaneously, is it moral to squander on the Pentagon and military contractors half of the country’s discretionary income from taxes – an outlay equivalent to what the whole rest of the world put together spends for defense?</p><p>It seems we are guided far more by profits than by prophets. And without prophetic vision, the people perish.</p><p><strong>Profit Margin</strong></p><p>America’s lucrative war-making industry operates within a fiendishly self-perpetuating business model: U.S. military interventions around the world (including security arrangements to prop up unpopular allies and thus to thwart the will of large segments of national populations) guarantee an inexhaustible supply of “militants, insurgents, terrorists or simply ‘bad guys’” – a list that sometimes comes to include American citizens.</p><p>These troublemakers must be hunted down and vaporized by our remote killing machines, which inflict enough destruction and stir up enough outrage to generate even more “militants, insurgents, terrorists or simply ‘bad guys.’”</p><p>And, in turn, the blowback toward the United States — the occasional terrorist attack — creates enough fear at home to “justify” the introduction of draconian Third Reich-style “Enabling Act” legislation not very different from the unconstitutional laws ushering in the abuses in Germany 80 years ago.</p><p>With only muted murmur from “progressive” supporters, the Obama administration has continued much of the post-9/11 assault on constitutional rights begun by George W. Bush – and in regard to Barack Obama’s aggressive prosecutorial campaign against “leakers,” Obama has taken these transgressions even further.</p><p>Are we to look on, like the proverbial “obedient Germans,” as Establishment Washington validates the truth of James Madison’s warning: “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”</p><p>Yet, while countless billions of dollars are spent on “security” against “terrorism,” little attention is devoted to the truly existential threat from global warming. Can we adults in good conscience continue to shun the dire implications of climate change?</p><p>This question was again brought home to me personally on Aug. 6, as our ninth grandchild pushed her way out into a world with challenges undreamed of just decades ago. When she is my age, will she rue joining us last Tuesday? I can only hope she will forgive me and my generation for not having the guts to face down those whose unconscionable greed continues to rape what seemed to be a rather pure and pleasant planet when I made my appearance seven short decades ago.</p><p><strong>Prophets on the Margin</strong><br /><br />And, then there is the worship of “free market” idolatry which has savaged America’s Great Middle Class and expanded the ranks of the desperate poor. The late Rabbi Abraham Heschel had challenging words for us: Decrying the agony of the “plundered poor,” Heschel insisted that wherever injustice takes place, “few are guilty, but all are responsible.” He added that, “Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.”</p><p>Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned: “A time comes when silence is betrayal … We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak…. There is such a thing as being too late…. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity…. Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’”</p><p>Amid these daunting challenges – endless war, encroachment on liberties, environmental devastation and economic disparity – there is also the question: Are our churches riding shotgun for the System.</p><p>As truly historic events unfold in our country and abroad, I often think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who founded the Confessing Church as an alternative to the overwhelming number of Catholics and Lutherans who gave priority to protecting themselves by going along with Hitler. How deeply disappointed Bonhoeffer was at the failure of the institutional church in Germany to put itself “where the battle rages.”</p><p>This is the phrase Martin Luther himself used centuries before: “If, I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield, except there, is mere flight and disgrace if one flinches at that point.”</p><p>No one has put it better than a precious new friend I met on a “cruise” in June/July 2011 hoping to reach Gaza – author and poet Alice Walker – who said: “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”</p><p>As some of you know, that attitude found her a passenger on “The Audacity of Hope” — the U.S. Boat to Gaza. On July 1, 2011, we made an activist break for the open sea and Gaza but were able to sail only nine nautical miles out of Athens before the Greek government, under strong pressure from the White House, ordered its Coast Guard to intercept us, bring us back to port, and impound our boat.</p><p><strong>Okay to be Angry?</strong><br /><br />Recalling the anger I felt at the time, I was reminded that, all too often, people are conflicted about whether or not to allow themselves to be angry at such injustice – whether it be in Gaza, on the Aegean, or elsewhere. I had been in that category of doubt, until I remembered learning that none other than Thomas Aquinas had something very useful to say about anger.</p><p>In the Thirteenth Century, Aquinas wrote a lot about virtue and got quite angry when he realized there was no word in Latin for just the right amount of anger — for the virtue of anger. He had to go back to what Fourth-Century Doctor of the Church John Chrysostom said on the subject: “He or she who is not angry, when there is just cause for anger, sins.”</p><p>Why? Because as John Chrysostom put it, “Anger respicit bonum justitiae, anger looks to the good of Justice, and if you can live amid injustice without anger you are unjust.”</p><p>Aquinas added his own corollary; he railed against what he called “unreasoned patience,” which, he said, “sows the seeds of vice, nourishes negligence, and persuades not only evil people but good people to do evil.”</p><p>Frankly, I have not thought of us activists being virtuous — but maybe we are, at least in our willingness to channel our anger into challenging and changing the many injustices here and around the world. There should be no room these days for “unreasoned patience.”</p><p>One saving grace peculiar not only to the ancient prophets and theologians but to the Alice Walkers and Medea Benjamins of today is that they did not get hung up on the all-too-familiar drive for success. That drive, I think, is a distinctly American trait. We generally do not want to embark on some significant course of action without there being a reasonable prospect of success, do we? Who enjoys becoming the object of ridicule?</p><p>The felt imperative to be “successful” can be a real impediment to acting for Justice. One prophet/activist from whom I have drawn inspiration is Dan Berrigan. I’d like to share some of the wisdom that seeps through his autobiography, To Dwell in Peace.<br />Berrigan writes that after he, his brother Phil, and a small group of others had used homemade napalm to burn draft cards in Catonsville, Maryland, in May 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, Dan mused about why he took such a risk:</p><p>“I came upon a precious insight. … Something like this: presupposing integrity and discipline, one is justified in entering upon a large risk; not indeed because the outcome is assured, but because the integrity and value of the act have spoken aloud. …</p><p>“Success or efficiency are placed where they belong: in the background. They are not irrelevant, but they are far from central. I was in need of such reflections as we faced the public after our crime. … All sides agreed — we were fools or renegades or plain crazy. …</p><p>“One had very little to go on; and one went ahead nonetheless. … The act was let go, its truth and goodness were entrusted to the four winds. Indeed, good consequences were of small matter to me, compared with the integrity of the action, the need responded to, the spirits lifted.”</p><p>The more recent prophets and activists I have known have generally been able to do this — to release the truth of the act to the four winds. And I am sure that helps them avoid taking themselves too seriously.</p><p><strong>Anticipate the Jut-Jaw</strong><br /><br />Here’s how Dan Berrigan recounts the immediate aftermath of the action at Catonsville:</p><p>“We sat in custody in the back room of the Catonsville Post Office, weak with relief. …  Three or four FBI honchos entered portentously. Their leader, a jut-jawed paradigm, surveyed us from the doorway. His eagle-eye lit on Philip. He roared out: ‘Him again! Good God, I’m changing my religion!’</p><p>“I could think of no greater tribute to my brother.”</p><p>The Berrigans help affirm for me that this God of ours is a God of laughter, and we are the entertainment. And that’s just one reason a light touch seems to be required. Will we be successful? Wrong question. The right one is will we be faithful? Will we dare to go with the Berrigans to where the battle rages.</p><p>I am very much looking forward to being able to refresh my spirit, and also my sense of humor, with some later-day prophets at the upcoming Conference on the Moral Imperative of Activism, Aug. 16-17, at the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda, New York.</p><p>Let me close with a poem written by the German writer Peter Gan in 1935 during the Third Reich. I think it summons us in a thoughtful way to contemplate who we are and what we are called to do – today.</p><p>But first the most important thing:<br />“What are you doing in these great times?</p><p>“Great, I say, for times seem great<br />to me, when each man driven<br />half to death by the era’s hate,<br />and standing in the place he’s given,</p><p>“Must willy-nilly contemplate<br />no less a thing than his own BEING!<br />A little breath, a second’s wait<br />May well suffice – you catch my meaning?”</p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 10:04:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 882077 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Human Rights World activism Promise to Not Execute Snowden Exposes America's Twisted Moral Compass http://www.alternet.org/world/vow-not-kill-snowden-exposed-americas-twisted-moral-compass <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The vow that the U.S. wouldn&#039;t torture or execute Snowden is a reminder to the world of how far Washington has strayed from civilized behavior.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/edward_snowden_mirror.jpg?itok=ezNbcmpX" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The main question now on the fate of truth-teller Edward Snowden is whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will see any benefit in helping stop the United States from further embarrassing itself as it prances around the globe acting like a “pitiful, helpless giant.” That image was coined by President Richard Nixon, who insisted that the giant of America would merit those adjectives if it did not prevail in South Vietnam.</p><p>It is no secret that Putin is chuckling as Attorney General Eric Holder and other empty-shirts-cum-corporate-law-office-silk-ties – assisted ably by White House spokesperson Jay Carney – proceed willy-nilly to transform the Snowden case from a red-faced diplomatic embarrassment for the United States into a huge geopolitical black eye before the rest of the world.</p><p>Reminding the planet how out of step the United States has been from most of the civilized world, Holder offered a written promise to the Russians on July 9 (and released on Friday) that Snowden would neither be tortured nor put to death for disclosing secrets about how the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans and pretty much everybody else on Earth.</p><p>Holder assured the Russian Justice Minister that the U.S. “would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States.” Holder also saw fit to reassure his Russian counterpart that, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.” Wow, that’s a relief!</p><p>The United States is so refined in its views on human rights that it won’t torture or execute a whistleblower. Of course, that only reminded everyone that the United States is one of the few advanced societies that still puts lots of people to death and was caught just last decade torturing detainees at CIA “black sites,” not to mention the brutal treatment of other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.</p><p>And, there was the humiliating treatment afforded another American whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning, whose forced nudity and long periods in solitary confinement during eight months of confinement at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. prompted international accusations of torture.</p><p>Holder’s strange promise may have been designed to undercut Snowden’s bid for asylum, but it also reminded the world of America’s abysmal behavior on human rights. And, even if the United States promises not to torture someone, government lawyers have shown how they can play games with the definition of the term or just outright lie. Holder’s reputation for veracity is just a thin notch above that of National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who admits he has chosen to testify under oath to the “least untruthful” things.</p><p>Perhaps no one has told Holder how shockingly out of step with other civilized nations the U.S. finds itself on the issue of capital punishment. Just calling attention to that is a diplomatic gaffe of some proportion. The global trend toward abolition of the death penalty is unmistakable and increasing. The United States even is the outlier on this issue when compared to “brutal” Russia. In Russia, there has been a moratorium on executions since 1996, although it is still technically lawful.</p><p>The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty, and the abolition of capital punishment is a pre-condition for entry into the Union. The U.S. enjoys the dubious distinction of joining a list with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia as the leaders in executing people.</p><p><strong>Closing the Barn Door Too Late</strong></p><p>Holder’s high-profile push to get the Russians to hand over Snowden damages the United States in other ways, too, such as reminding the world how the U.S. government has violated the privacy rights of people everywhere, including in allied countries. There is a reasonable argument to be made that the smartest U.S. move would be to simply leave Snowden alone.</p><p>Depending on your perspective, Edward Snowden has already done his damage – or, in my view, accomplished his patriotic duty of truth-telling – demonstrating with documents how the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have trashed the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.</p><p>Moreover, Snowden apparently had the foresight to handle his revelations in such way that, to the degree there are still more genies about to be let out of the bottle, it will be near impossible to stuff them back in. Indeed, he has said as much, in indicating how easily he can accede to Putin’s condition that he does “no further harm” to the U.S. Snowden has even been specific in acknowledging that he cannot prevent journalist Glenn Greenwald and others from publishing more of the material he made available.</p><p>So why the hue and cry from Washington? While the Obama White House has utterly failed to honor Obama’s earlier promises to run a transparent administration, there is one area in which it has been as transparent as Saran Wrap. And that is its fixation with pursuing whistleblowers “to the full extent of the law” … and then some.</p><p>The administration has been transparently vindictive, revengeful and determined to exact retribution on “leakers” as a warning to others whose consciences might trouble them enough to reveal war crimes, as Bradley Manning did, or crass violations of our rights as citizens, as Edward Snowden did.</p><p>But the recent thrashing around — demanding and cajoling Putin to turn over Snowden — has further made the United States look petulant and inept. Meanwhile, Putin has demonstrated a much more deft touch in handling this delicate international incident.</p><p>After making it clear that “we do not extradite,” Putin has had the good sense to put some distance between himself and the Snowden affair. As Secretary of State John Kerry bemoaned (from Saudi Arabia, of all places) about “standards of behavior between sovereign nations,” and (of all things) “respect for the rule of law,” Putin said the issue is simple:</p><p>“Should such people [as Snowden] be extradited to be jailed, or not? In any case, I would prefer not to deal with such issues, because this is just the same as shaving a piglet – too much noise but too little hair.”</p><p><strong>Will Putin Cave?</strong></p><p>Do the feckless folks running President Barack Obama’s foreign policy really think they can force Putin to back down? Can they actually believe they can achieve that by putting into play what they apparently consider a diplomatic “nuclear option”? The thinly veiled threat surfaced ten days ago that Obama will snub Putin by canceling their planned tete-a-tete before the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in September.</p><p>Can they possibly think that by pouting, jibing and stamping their feet, they will frighten Putin into “behaving” as obediently as the malleable Italians, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Austrians did when they forced down Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane for inspection? Morales was en route home from a visit to Russia when someone provided the U.S. with a “tip” that Snowden was hiding on Morales’s plane.</p><p>I find myself wondering who provided Washington with that great tip, and whether it is no longer the practice among U.S. intelligence agencies to take rudimentary steps to verify such tips before they let their masters get greasy diplomatic egg all over their faces?</p><p>Finally, how many more times does Putin have to say, as he did through his spokesman again Friday that: “Russia has never extradited anyone, and will not extradite [Snowden].”</p><p>Months ago, former UK MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon coined the term “asymmetric extradition law” referring to U.S. policy, which, in the vernacular, might be called “pick-and-choose.” While there is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia, there has been one between the U.S. and Italy for 30 years. Yet, Washington has turned a deaf ear to Italy’s appeals to extradite convicted kidnapper Robert Seldon Lady, former head of the CIA worker bees in Milan where the CIA mounted an “extraordinary rendition” against the Muslim cleric known as Abu Omar off the streets in 2003. Omar was given over to the tender mercies of Egyptian intelligence interrogators.</p><p>In 2005, when Lady got a tip that the Italian police were coming for him, he reportedly fled his villa without destroying sensitive files on the CIA’s mission. Italy convicted Lady and 22 other U.S. operatives in absentia and gave them hefty jail sentences. Last December, Italy’s justice minister signed a warrant for Lady’s arrest. On July 18, Lady was identified and detained in Panama, but slipped away the next day on a plane headed toward the U.S.</p><p>Few were surprised that Panama was pressured into joining the servile company of the four U.S.-crony European countries that had already embarrassed themselves as accessories to the Washington’s latest Excellent Adventure regarding Evo Morales’s plane – a fiasco code-named OARR (for Operation Airline Rest Room) after the suspected place where Snowden was believed stowed away.</p><p>But when it came to extraditing a convicted kidnapper from Panama to Italy? Puleeze. Great powers don’t have to do that kind of thing, treaty or not. Except for Russia, you see. Moscow must surrender Snowden, even absent a U.S.-Russia extradition treaty. And Putin should understand that, no?</p><p>It must have been that kind of superpower-think that prompted Jay Carney on July 12 to add insult to injury, as he jibed at the Russian government to “afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow transit lounge.” That kind of comment is sure to endear the White House to the Kremlin.</p><p>Vladimir Volokh, head of the Russian Migration Service, seemed to welcome a chance to retaliate in kind. Rubbing in the awkwardness of Snowden’s present status because of actions by Washington, Volokh told the Interfax news agency Friday: “We know that he is Edward Snowden only from his words. The passport he has has been canceled. … He is under protection in the transit area for his safety.  He is an individual being pursued and his life is in danger.”</p><p>The Russians, and pretty much everyone else, are smart enough to realize that, given Washington’s transparent motives, there is nothing to be gained by serving Snowden up to American “justice,” such as it has become. Russia is no banana republic, so it beggars belief that President Putin will follow the supine example of Panama. Nor is the fawning example of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal something Putin would wish to emulate.</p><p><strong>Russian History</strong></p><p>Scholars of Russian history make an important point that is relevant here: it is Russia’s deeply embedded inferiority complex vis-à-vis the West. Recite to Vladimir Putin the familiar adage, “Scratch the Russian and find the Tatar,” and see what happens.</p><p>In short, while Europe was coming out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance, the Russians were for more than two centuries under the likes of Genghis Khan and his hordes – a period the Russians call the “Tatar Yoke.” This reality had very serious consequences and is deeply embedded in the Russian consciousness. In a sense, the Russians have been playing catch-up ball ever since.</p><p>Their struggle seems never ending, but now and again they reach high ground. L’Affaire Snowden is one of those “nows.” Russia occupies the high moral ground, helped immeasurably by the behavior of the Bush and Obama administrations, which have squandered the moral advantage the U.S. used to enjoy.</p><p>Worse still, from President Obama’s perspective, there is little leverage he can bring to bear on the Russian Bear. If Putin thought Obama was really running things in Washington, he might try to barter Snowden’s freedom for some significant concession. But Moscow is not likely to believe Obama could deliver on any such concession, and Russian officials are probably right.</p><p>Obama, Holder, Carney and the rest would be well advised not to push any more geopolitical chips onto the table in a risky bet on winning back Snowden. Russia has the better cards on this one, and it is a mark of realism, as well as intelligence, to recognize “when to fold them.”</p><p>Otherwise, and particularly if Putin keeps seeing the pastel-tie empty suits pontificating on how Russia must do its duty in surrendering Edward Snowden, there is a chance we may see Putin take Snowden to asylum in Latin America on his own plane, overflying Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Panama en route.</p> Mon, 29 Jul 2013 08:27:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 875383 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World Snowden nsa holder russia Why President Obama's War on Terror Speech Was Full of Half-Truths and Deception http://www.alternet.org/world/president-obamas-terrorism-speech-was-deceptive <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama&#039;s record on drone strikes and Guantanamo should produce doubt about the president&#039;s resolve to do right.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1367695196083-1-0_13.jpg?itok=Vy6uk-cN" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>An <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/06/AR2010070604005.html">article</a> in the Washington Post on July 6, 2010, reported me standing before the White House, announcing a new epithet for President Barack Obama: “Wuss – a person who will not stand up for what he knows is right.”</p><p>The report is correct – and so, I believe, is the epithet. And after the sleight-of-tongue speech given by the President of the United States at the National Defense University on May 23, I feel I can rest my case. (Caution: my wife insists that I mention at the outset that I’ve been angry since I listened to the speech.)</p><p>The day after Obama’s speech I found myself struck by Scott Wilson’s article on the front page of the Post, in which he highlighted the “unusual ambivalence from a commander-in-chief over the morality of his administration’s counterterrorism policies.”</p><p>And someone at the Post also had the courage that day to insert into a more reportorial article by Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller a hitting-the-nail-right-on-the-head quote from Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at Brookings: “To put it crassly, the President sought to rebuke his own administration for taking the positions it has – but also to make sure that it could continue to do so.”</p><p>Call me naïve for putting the wish before the thought, but two days later my hopes zoomed when I saw that page A5 of the Post was dominated by a long article by Glenn Kessler, the Post’s normally soporific “fact checker.” After the first seven words of the banner headline – “Red herrings, dissemblance and misleading statements …” – Kessler had me, so to speak.</p><p>You will understand my disappointment, then, when I read the rest of the headline: “… from the IRS’s Lerner,” not from Obama.</p><p>And so I read Obama’s speech again, initially with the thought of doing Kessler’s job for him. But the lies, half-truths and pettifoggery are legion and the task truly Herculean. Besides, many readers will decipher Obama’s new “transparency” as transparently self-serving, without any help from me.</p><p><strong>Hooray! Obama ‘Gets It’</strong></p><p>Some progressive pundits have noted, correctly, that Obama’s speech shows that he does “get it” when it comes to the many constitutional problems with his preferred violent approach to meeting external threats and his infringement on civil rights at home.</p><p>But it seems to me that this now-open sensitivity-to-the-problem is to be applauded ONLY if he also summons the courage to change course. One gets the idea from Obama’s words that he may indeed wish to, IF only this, or IF only that. … Have we not tired of applauding Obama in the subjunctive mood? I certainly have.</p><p>He has now been unusually candid about the dilemmas he faces. But lacking is any real sign – there is just hope – that he will change character. From his speech we know that he understands he needs to change course in order to discharge his duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”</p><p>But I, for one, see little basis for hope that he will go beyond the carefully crafted all-things-to-all-people rhetoric in his speech. In my view, this makes him even more culpable – an even more transparent flouter of his oath to defend the Constitution.</p><p>Ah, but what about the oft-expressed hope that Obama will be freer to act more responsibly in his second term? The four months we have witnessed thus far in his second term bring to mind Samuel Johnson’s quip that a second marriage is “the triumph of hope over experience.”</p><p>We have had four years and four months of experience with Obama. Those of us who care about the Constitution and rule of law now need to be guided by experience and to stop cutting him still more slack.</p><p><strong>Presidential Whining</strong></p><p>The whiny tone of Obama’s speech offended me as much as his faux transparency and disingenuous words. I asked myself, are we supposed to find reassurance that, while our President is a wimp, he is an empathetic one?; that from time to time he experiences a pang or two of conscience when ordering people killed by drone?; that he claims that being responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians will haunt him for as long as he lives? Can we feel his pain?</p><p>“I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States,” the President reminded us. “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone or a shotgun – without due process,” says he – the day after the Attorney General admitted that this is precisely what happened to New Mexico-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.</p><p>Could it be that the commander-in-chief has a trace of PTSD? He seems to be appealing for our understanding about how conflicted he is about ordering people killed, entreating us to imagine his anguish, to appreciate how hard it is for him – a constitutional lawyer, no less – to do these terrible things anyway.</p><p>And then the kicker: “Remember,” he adds, “that the terrorists we are after target civilians.” (Whatever happened to the “But we are better than that.”)</p><p>On Guantanamo, Obama expressed regret over how the prison “has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law” (and in the very next sentence trivializes this, lamenting only that “our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO).”</p><p>Again regarding Guantanamo, he asks, “Is that who we are? … Is that the America we want to leave to our children?” And he notes disapprovingly that “we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike.”</p><p>And so I keep asking myself, who is this “we?” Does the President style himself as some sort of extraterrestrial creature looking from afar on the abomination of Guantanamo? Has he forfeited his role as the leader of “we?” What kind of leadership is this, anyway?</p><p><strong>History of Leadership</strong></p><p>In a speech on March 21, second-term Obama gave us a big clue regarding his concept of leadership – one that is marked primarily by political risk-avoidance and a penchant for “leading from behind”: “Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.”</p><p>John Kennedy was willing to take huge risks in reaching out to the USSR and ending the war in Vietnam. That willingness to take risks may have gotten him assassinated, as James Douglass argues in his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable.</p><p>Martin Luther King, Jr., also took great risks and met the same end. There is more than just surmise that this weighs heavily on Barack Obama’s mind. Last year, pressed by progressive donors at a dinner party to act more like the progressive they thought he was, Obama responded sharply, “Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?”</p><p>It is not as though Obama had no tutors. He entered Harvard Law School 113 years after one of its most distinguished alumni, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, began to study there. I find myself wondering if Brandeis has been redacted out of the lectures at Harvard Law.</p><p>Slick lawyers have done an effective job over the past dozen years trying, in effect, to render one of Brandeis’s most penetrating remarks “quaint” and “obsolete.” Following is a paragraph, acutely relevant to today’s circumstances; Brandeis wrote it to warn us all about how the government sets a key example on respect for the law:</p><p>“The government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes — would bring terrible retribution.”</p><p><strong>Protesting Too Much</strong></p><p>Let me provide a couple of examples from Obama’s speech that illustrate the value of Brandeis’s warning:</p><p>One could easily infer that the President is protesting too much (four times in the speech) in claiming that his “preference” is to capture terrorists rather than kill them. Clearly, though, Obama has made targeted killing his tactic of choice. What do former insiders say? The lawyer who drew up the initial White House policy on lethal drone strikes has accused the Obama administration of overusing them because of its reluctance to capture prisoners. Holding prisoners is such a nuisance.</p><p>John Bellinger, who was a lawyer on George W. Bush’s National Security Council and worked on the legal framework for both detention of suspected terrorists and targeted drone killings, <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/05/03/Lawyer-US-drone-strikes-substitute-for-Guantanamo/UPI-65341367564400/#ixzz2UVmuZ38J">said</a> on May 1 at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington: “This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida, they are going to kill them.”</p><p>It should be noted that Bellinger is not opposed to targeted killings and argues that they are not only lawful but “can be good.” He said the big issue was not the administration’s claimed legality of targeted killings but rather international acceptance of Washington’s so-called global war on terrorism:</p><p>“The issue really here … is that there is a fundamental disagreement around the world, which I experienced when I was the legal adviser, as to whether the United States really is in a war at all. And we are about the only country in the world that really thinks that we are in an armed conflict with al-Qaida.”</p><p>But Obama said, four times, that his preference is capture over killing. Someone is not telling the truth.</p><p>Here’s how Spencer Ackerman posed the question in <a href="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/detention-fubar/">a recent piece</a> for Wired: “Obama turned more than a few heads by declaring his ‘strong preference’ for ‘the detention and prosecution of terrorists’ over sending an armed robot to end their lives. It’s hard to know what to make of that. The simplest interpretation is that it’s a lie. Whatever Obama’s preferences are, he has killed exponentially more people than he has detained and prosecuted.”</p><p><strong>Guantanamo Prison</strong></p><p>Over 100 hunger strikers in the Guantanamo prison are being force-fed to prevent them from the only method of release they see open to them – death. In this part of his speech, too, Obama keeps giving a bad name to hypocrisy. His handwringing sounds as though he were some kind of liberal pundit on MSNBC; as though he were powerless to do anything; as though his hands are tied by Congress. He said:</p><p>“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees… . Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children.”</p><p>Interrupting Obama, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin appealed to the President to “release those 86 prisoners” (more than half of the 166 prisoners still held at Guantanamo) already cleared for release. On Jan. 22, 2010, those 86 were pronounced cleared after a year-long investigation of their individual cases by an interagency task force of officials at the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and others.</p><p>But Congress has tied the President’s hands, you may be thinking. Congress, to be sure, has posed legal obstacles, but is not the only fly in the ointment. Congress has also given Obama considerable leeway; but he has not had the courage to take advantage of it. One of Congress’s most powerful members, Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, sent the White House a letter on May 6 reminding the President that, thanks to the efforts of Levin and others, Obama can release the 86 without further delay.</p><p>In other words, Medea Benjamin was right, though you would never know it from the mainstream media. Referring to congressional restrictions on detainee transfers, Levin reminded Obama: “I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases; i.e., to make sure the certification requirements do not constitute an effective prohibition.”</p><p>Moreover, Obama did say that he will lift the restrictions he himself imposed on sending detainees to Yemen. After Obama’s speech, attorney Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=767&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=10232">told</a> Paul Jay of the Real News Network:</p><p>“All that has to happen is for the President to certify, as he is required to do by law, and send the detainees to Yemen. But then he [the President] says, “I’m going to do this on a case-by-case basis. They have already been cleared on a case-by-case basis.  So Obama is going to go back through it?</p><p>“The proof will be in the pudding even on Yemen. Will he actually do it? How slowly will he do it? You know, what he should actually do is just do it     and get it done and then move on to the next thing.  So we’ll have to see…”</p><p><strong>Summing Up: An Epochal Speech</strong></p><p>Benjamin Wittes of Brookings (quoted above) is hardly alone in characterizing Obama’s May 23 speech as a rebuke to his own administration for taking the positions it has and then a defense of its intention to continue to do so.</p><p>Here’s what Norman Pollack had to say about all this, in <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/27/obamas-militarism-imperialism-lite/?utm_source=feedly">an article</a> he titled “Obama’s Militarism-Imperialism Lite”:</p><p>“A tissue of lies? No, the whole Kleenex box – one tissue interleaved with all the others. Obama is fortunate to be presiding over a country steeped in false consciousness on essentials (war, sacrifice of the social safety net for the glories of militarism, and … authoritarian submission, a political-cultural disposition to strong leadership reinforced by appeals to patriotism and pressures toward conformity). …</p><p>“His May 23rd address therefore fell on receptive national ears, a desperate will to believe that immorality is moral, illegality, legal, and war, the necessary defense of Homeland in its centuries’-old quest for peace, honor, the rule of law. How comforting!</p><p>“Liberals and progressives especially have taken heart in POTUS’s rhetoric that a new day in American foreign policy is dawning — has already dawned, by the simple fact of self-declaration that the United States is always bound by the constraints of the rule of law. … All else is enemy propaganda.</p><p>“With that as background (and a solid phalanx of flags as his backdrop) Obama spoke with becoming assurance — to me, arrogance — as the leader of the Enlightened World in its struggle against the forces of ignorance, darkness, covetousness, wholly oblivious to America’s moral sense and good intentions. Such a masterful speech (as judged by the New York Times and mainstream media opinion) deserves a closer look — but not too close, lest the luster wear off.”</p><p>My gratitude to those who have read down this far. And my apologies for not coming across Pollack’s article earlier. It’s pretty much what I wanted to say all along; and he says it better – and shorter.</p> Fri, 31 May 2013 11:57:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 848530 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World obama drones guantanámo Can America Come to Terms with Boston Bombing Suspect's Stated Motives? http://www.alternet.org/world/can-america-come-terms-boston-bombing-suspects-stated-motives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We must take grievances about America’s Mideast oppression seriously.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bostonsuspect2.jpg?itok=mYdiUN0Q" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Quick, somebody tell CIA Director John Brennan about the handwriting on the inside wall of the boat in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding before Boston-area police riddled it and him with bullets. Tell Brennan that Tsarnaev’s note is in plain English and that it needs neither translation nor interpretation in solving the mystery: “why do they hate us?”</p><p>And, if Brennan will listen, remind him of when his high school teachers, the Irish Christian Brothers, taught him the meaning of “handwriting on the wall” in the Book of Daniel and why it became an idiom for predetermined, imminent doom.</p><p>CBS senior correspondent John Miller, who before joining CBS served in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, broke <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57584771/boston-bombings-suspect-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-left-note-in-boat-he-hid-in-sources-say/">the handwritten-note story</a> Thursday onCBS This Morning. He described what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scribbled on the side of the boat as he lay bleeding “from multiple gunshot wounds” in the boat. Here, according to Miller’s sources, is what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s note said:</p><p>“The [Boston] bombings were in retribution for the U.S. crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan [and] that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in U.S. wars around the world.  Summing up, that when you attack one Muslim you attack all Muslims.”</p><p>My experience with now-CBS-This-Morning’s Charlie Rose is that he does listen closely. Thus, I believe it is to his credit that he seemed determined, with his follow-up question, to drive home what I think is by far the most important point:</p><p>Co-anchor Charlie Rose: “Does it [the note] answer questions about motives?”</p><p>Miller: “Well it does … there it is in black and white – literally.”</p><p>Co-anchor Norah O’Donnell: “But they still believe he was self-radicalized and not part of a larger group, right?”</p><p>Miller: “That’s right. …”</p><p><strong>Note to CIA Director Brennan</strong></p><p>If you didn’t understand much about such motives three years ago, after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, here’s a chance to learn. I actually felt embarrassed for you when you – then-White House counter-terrorism adviser – were asked on Jan. 7, 2010, two weeks after the almost-catastrophe over Detroit, to explain why people want to kill Americans. I’m sure you remember; it turned out to be Helen Thomas’s swan song.</p><p>It took the questioning of the then-89-year old veteran correspondent Thomas to show how little you were willing to share (or how little you knew) about what leads terrorists to do what they do. As her catatonic White House press colleagues took their customary dictation, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.</p><p>She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.” It was a highly revealing dialogue; this is how it went. Remember?</p><p>You: “Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”</p><p>Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”</p><p>You: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”</p><p>Thomas: “Why?”</p><p>You: “I think this is a — long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p><p>Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”</p><p>Actually, there is a ton of information explaining why people try, for example, to explode bombs in Times Square, in airliners over Detroit, in remote CIA outposts in Afghanistan just to kill Americans, even when it means killing themselves. [See, for example, Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/010810b.html">Answering Helen Thomas on Why</a>.”]</p><p>It was painful to watch you suggest on Jan. 7, 2010, that, apparently in some mysterious way, some folks are hard-wired at birth for the “wanton slaughter of innocents,” and your contention that – in the case of Abdulmutallab – al-Qaeda/Persian Gulf was able to jump-start that privileged 23-year old Nigerian, inculcate in him the acquired characteristics of a terrorist, and persuade him to do the bidding of al-Qaeda/Persian Gulf.</p><p>Your words were a real stretch as to how the well-heeled Abdulmutallab, without apparent prior terrorist affiliations, was suddenly transformed into an international terrorist ready to die while killing innocents.</p><p>Perhaps no one told you that the young Nigerian had particular trouble with Israel’s wanton slaughter of more than a thousand civilians in Gaza the year before, a brutal campaign defended by Washington as justifiable self-defense. You ought to take the time to learn about these things.</p><p>Till next time, Ray.</p><p><strong>How to Spin This One</strong></p><p>An important element in intelligence analysis is to understand the why, what’s the motive. That doesn’t mean you sympathize with what someone did. It does mean that you understand that knowing why is an important starting point for future prevention of similar acts.</p><p>Yet, virtually no one in the U.S. political/media hierarchy has dared to discuss, in a candid way, the issue of motivation. All the American people normally get is boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men.</p><p>There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks. So how will the media spin Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s handwritten note?</p><p>Well, we’ve already watched CBS’s Norah O’Donnell come up with the familiar “self-radicalization” shibboleth. She tied the concept to a lack of ties with a larger group, but “self-radicalization” is normally employed to create the impression that hard-wired “violent Muslim extremists” simply look in the mirror one day and say to themselves, My, this looks like a good day to self-radicalize.</p><p>Also regularly trotted out is the “homegrown-violent-extremists” moniker employed as recently as Thursday by FBI Director Robert Mueller III in Senate testimony.</p><p>Other “mainstream media” and government officials will keep blaming terrorism on Islam, as the Wall Street Journal does Friday in repeating the claim that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the FBI earlier that he and his dead brother “were acting as jihadists motivated by Muslim religious anger at the U.S.” (In other words, pay no heed to what he scribbled on the side of the boat as he thought he was dying.)</p><p>Rarely has there been any official or quasi-official acknowledgement of the main problem. But there was a major exception in the fall of 2004 in an unclassified study published by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board. Directly contradicting what President George W. Bush was saying at the time, the board stated:</p><p>“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.”</p><p>That’s not spin. That’s the assessment of professionals who were reading the handwriting on the wall.</p> Fri, 17 May 2013 14:15:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 842052 at http://www.alternet.org World World terrorism boston marathon Congress Turns a Blind Eye to the Deep Shame of Guantanamo Bay http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/congress-turns-blind-eye-deep-shame-guantanamo-bay <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">An emerging humanitarian crisis sparked by a mass hunger strike is drawing only scant attention.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/hoodedprisoners.jpg?itok=RRQTZyk0" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There have been nine congressional hearings on the Benghazi controversy – with more to come – but almost no one in Congress dares put the spotlight on the unfolding scandal surrounding the Guantanamo Bay prison where most of the remaining 166 inmates have opted to “escape” from indefinite detention via the only way open to them – starving themselves to death.</p><p>One exception to the congressional cowardice is Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, who sponsored a highly instructive panel discussion on the prison at Guantanamo last Friday. Why simply a “briefing,” rather than a formal House hearing? Simple. Not one of the majority Republicans who currently chair committees in the House and have the power to call hearings wants Americans to hear the details of this blight on the nation’s conscience.</p><p>To be completely fair, the reigning reluctance seems, actually, to be a bipartisan affair. Moran is one of the few Democrats possessed of a conscience and enough moral courage to let the American people know what is being done in their name. For other lawmakers, it is a mite too risky.</p><p>Folksy folks like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a member of the Armed Services Committee which is supposed to exercise oversight of the lethal operations carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, make no bones about the dilemma they prefer to duck when it comes to letting detainees die at Guantanamo or letting the president blow up suspected terrorists via drone strikes.</p><p>Here’s Graham <a href="http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/congress-drone-strike-oversight-10520312" target="_blank" title="http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/congress-drone-strike-oversight-10520312">quoted</a> in Esquire magazine last summer on why Congress has engaged in so little oversight of the lethal drone program: “Who wants to be the congressman or senator holding the hearing as to whether the president should be aggressively going after terrorists? Nobody. And that’s why Congress has been AWOL in this whole area.” The same thinking applies to showing any mercy for the people held at Guantanamo.</p><p>It seems to me that Guantanamo is a three-fold scandal: (1) the abomination of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment given those prisoners; (2) the reality that most of those remaining were cleared for release more than three years ago; and (3) the fact that Moran’s was the very first congressionally sponsored public “briefing” of its kind – more than 11 years late.</p><p>While there has been endless attention paid to how the Benghazi talking points were drafted for use on Sunday talk shows last September, the American people have been spared high-profile testimony about how 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners at Guantanamo were cleared for release more than three years ago following a year-long investigation of their cases by an interagency <a href="http://www.justice.gov/ag/guantanamo-review-final-report.pdf" target="_blank" title="http://www.justice.gov/ag/guantanamo-review-final-report.pdf">task force</a> of officials at the Departments of Justice, Defense, State, and Homeland Security.</p><p>How might Americans feel if they knew that most of these 86 are now on a prolonged hunger strike and that many are being force-fed against their will, a notoriously painful, degrading and even illegal practice. Two weeks ago, <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/02/the-writhing-miserable-reality-of-force-feeding-at-guant-namo-bay.html" target="_blank" title="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/02/the-writhing-miserable-reality-of-force-feeding-at-guant-namo-bay.html">40 additional military medical personnel were sent to Guantanamo </a>to assist with the force-feedings.</p><p>The American Medical Association has condemned such force-feedings as a violation of “core ethical values of the medical profession.” The United Nations has condemned the practice as torture and a breach of international law.</p><p><strong>Concerned Citizens</strong></p><p>Friday’s unusual “briefing” sprang from an initiative by a group of concerned citizens mostly from Moran’s district in northern Virginia. On April 30, Kristine Huskey led a small group of us to meet with Moran, one of the very few members of Congress to speak out against the obscenity called Guantanamo. We put our shoulders to the wheel (and enlisted the willing shoulders of many other pro-justice people) and brought about the briefing in nine days.</p><p>C-Span <a href="http://www.c-span.org/" target="_blank" title="http://www.c-span.org/">filmed</a> the entire hour and a half. You will not be at all bored if you tune in. And that goes in spades if the disinterest by the corporate media has left you wondering how it came about that America is fast losing its soul. You can find the video under the title, “Panel Holds Discussion on Guantanamo Detainees,” May 10, 10:00-11:30 in Rayburn B-354. Participants included:</p><p>Pardiss Kebriaei, Esq. (Center for Constitutional Rights; attorney for several Guantanamo prisoners)</p><p>David Irvine, Esq. (Brig. Gen., USA – ret., &amp; Member, Constitution Project Task Force on Detainee Treatment)</p><p>Larry Wilkerson (Col., USA – ret., &amp; former State Department Chief of Staff)</p><p>Dr. George Hunsinger, (Professor, Princeton Theological Seminary, &amp; founder, National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT);</p><p>Moderator Kristine Huskey, Esq., counsel on Rasul v Bush (2004) and Boumediene v Bush (2008): Adjunct Professor, Georgetown U. Law Center.</p><p>Toward the end of the Q &amp; A (at 1:29:50), I asked why Bush administration lawyers such as Alberto Gonzales and David Addington have not been held accountable by the legal profession. Official documents released by the Bush administration show them to have been responsible for advising President George W. Bush to disregard international law, including the key Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.</p><p>It occurred to me that three of the four panelists, plus Rep. Moran, moderator Huskey and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, Col. Morris Davis, USAF (ret.), who joined the panel when Moran had to leave after the first hour, are lawyers. The response I got was: “I’m not sure there’s an answer to that.”</p><p>In fairness, I need to point out that the panel had been under way for almost an hour and a half, and my question had already been described as “the last one.” Still, I was left wondering: can it be true that there is no answer to that?</p><p>I thought of the many lawyers in my immediate family – and especially of my father, Joseph W. McGovern, a long-time professor of law at Fordham University who loved the law as if the law itself were a member of our family. Dad also served for 14 years on the New York State Board of Regents including six years as Chancellor (1968-75), whose broad mandate included holding accountable professionals licensed to practice in the State of New York. I could sense him rolling over in his grave at the proposition that there is no answer to the question of holding the likes of Gonzales and Addington accountable.</p><p>Dad took particular pride in the principled way in which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War II at the Nuremberg Tribunals. Jackson said this about the purpose of Nuremberg: “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it.”</p><p>The intent was to establish a precedent against aggressive war – like, say, Iraq, just 57 years later. Jackson said: “Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose, it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment. …</p><p>“We are able to do away with domestic tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of their own people only when we make all men answerable to the law. This trial represents mankind’s desperate effort to apply the discipline of the law to statesmen who have used their powers of state to attack the foundations of the world’s peace and to commit aggression against the rights of their neighbors.”</p><p><strong>Including Lawyers?</strong></p><p>On April 24, 1946, Nazi defendant Wilhelm Frick, for example, told the Tribunal, “I wanted things done legally. After all, I am a lawyer.” Of course, not all laws are good things.</p><p>Frick drafted, signed and administered laws that suppressed trade unions and persecuted Jews (including the infamous Nuremberg Laws). He insisted he had drafted the Nuremberg Laws for “scientific reasons,” to protect the purity of German blood. Frick also knew that the insane, aged and disabled (“useless eaters”) were being systematically killed, but did nothing to stop it.</p><p>Frick was one of 11 defendants sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Tribunal. He was hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.</p><p>Lest I be misunderstood, I do not advocate capital punishment – even for the likes of Gonzales and Addington. I simply want them held accountable, as their faux-lawyer Nazi counterparts were. Otherwise, we have made a liar out of Justice Jackson and made a mockery of the Nuremberg principles, which will be revealed as just another case of “victor’s justice” despite Jackson’s promises to the contrary.</p><p>I haven’t a clue as to how the legal profession tries to hold lawyers accountable. But here I was among a group of fine lawyers: Pardiss Kebriaei, David Irvine, Kristine Huskey, Moe Davis and Jim Moran. Had they no idea either? Or were we just out of time.</p><p>Indeed, we as Americans may be running out of time in a moral sense – and running out of time to spare innocent Guantanamo detainees from death. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned many years ago, “There is such a thing as too late.”</p><p>Ringing in my ears was George W. Bush’s response to a question by NBC’s Matt Lauer on Nov. 8, 2010:</p><p>Lauer: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?</p><p>Bush: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of the people around you, and I do.</p><p>Are American lawyers going to let that kind of thing stand?</p> Tue, 14 May 2013 11:26:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 840160 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights World guantánamo bay Lift Sanctions, Normalize Relations: What President Obama Should Say Tonight to Close the Deal With Iran http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/lift-sanctions-normalize-relations-what-president-obama-should-say-tonight-close <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The State of the Union offers President Obama a high-profile opportunity to finally close the deal with Iran over its nuclear program by accepting the need for U.S. concessions on sanctions.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1333658624_iranusflag.jpg?itok=bMp3mc2v" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Dear Mr. President: As you put the final touches to your State of the Union Address, I urge you to avoid overstating the “threat” from Iran. Indeed, I hope you might take this august occasion to declare your willingness to lift sanctions on Iran as a final step toward a deal permanently constraining Iran’s nuclear program and to begin normalizing relations with this important country.</p><p>In recent months, Iranian leaders have signaled a readiness to reach a nuclear accord and open a broader dialogue with your administration on other pressing regional issues – if only the United States would start treating Iran with some respect, rather than endlessly buffeting the country with insults, threats and punishments.</p><p>People often criticize Iranians for interminable haggling, part of their “bazaar culture,” but this looks like a moment when it is the Americans who won’t take yes for an answer. Iranian officials have repeatedly disavowed a desire to build nuclear weapons, have insisted that they are only interested in nuclear energy and have expressed a willingness to transfer much of their enriched uranium out of the country. But what they want in return is meaningful relief from economic sanctions and a repudiation from U.S. policymakers that their real goal is “regime change.”</p><p>Since the stated rationale of the sanctions was to compel Iran to accept guarantees on its nuclear program – not to overthrow the country’s Islamic republic – it would seem to be a no-brainer: pocket the nuclear guarantees in exchange for sanction relief.</p><p>But there is growing bafflement among some involved in these negotiations over what the hold-up is on your end. Yes, you’ve been installing a new national security team, and the likes of Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham would get angry if you concluded a peace agreement with Iran. But they’re already threatening to filibuster Chuck Hagel at Defense and John Brennan at CIA over the Benghazi incident. So what do you have to lose? If you unveiled a dramatic gesture for peace and stability in the Middle East, it might make their obstruction look even pettier.</p><p>Plus, if you truly do want to change the arc of history, why not show that you can be as forceful as Richard Nixon when he ended years of hostility between the United States and Communist China by engaging its leaders despite his disdain for their political/economic system? Those ideological differences have not prevented the two countries from becoming important trading partners and collaborating on many mutual interests.</p><p>You could do the same for the Middle East by striking a nuclear deal with Iran and exploring other areas of possible agreement and cooperation. By delaying further on the nuclear talks, you only give troublemakers on all sides more opportunities to sabotage an agreement and prod the United States and Iran toward a violent confrontation.</p><p><strong>Dubious Anniversary</strong></p><p>This State of the Union also represents a dubious anniversary of sorts, coming a decade after George W. Bush’s address in which he framed his mendacious case for invading Iraq, including his infamous “16 words” based on forged documents: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”</p><p>You, Mr. President, could put a capstone to that era of unnecessary hostilities in the Middle East by announcing a new framework for peace.</p><p>I should note here that a decade ago I issued a public plea to President Bush to change direction from his course toward war. I <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/15035/caveat_preemptor!?page=0%2C0">urged</a> him to “beware the consequences of favoring ideologues and spin-doctors over the professional intelligence officers paid to serve you.” Obviously, my appeal was unsuccessful. The die was already cast. His mind was set on war and the “intel” that he would cite had been carefully crafted to serve that purpose.</p><p>It is important that you take this opportunity to travel down a different path, respecting the intelligence professionals who have concluded for half a decade that Iran has – over the past decade – NOT been building a nuclear bomb.</p><p>What you might find a bit disquieting is this: it appears you have a choice between two mutually contradictory tacks to take on Iran. John Brennan, your nominee for CIA director, in his prepared remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7, claimed that Iran is “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons.” (emphasis added)</p><p>In making that claim, Brennan has put himself in company with evidence-deprived Bush/Cheney leftovers and lingering neoconservatives who have been largely discredited in their warning of gloom and doom from Iran (as well as, earlier, from Iraq). (See Consortiumnews.com’s,  “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2013/02/09/john-brennans-tenet-like-testimony/">John Brennan’s Tenet-Like Testimony</a>.”)</p><p>You will remember that after fraudulent intelligence was served up ten years ago to “justify” attacking Iraq, new management was put in place in 2005 to manage National Intelligence Estimates. An NIE on Iran became the first order of the day, since it was no secret that Iran was next, after Iraq, on the Bush/Cheney list to attack.</p><p>The National Intelligence Estimate completed in November 2007 concluded, unanimously and “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on nuclear weaponization in 2003 and had not resumed that work – a judgment revalidated each year since by the Director of National Intelligence.</p><p>This has not prevented neocons and their favorite media personalities from trying to make Iran’s nuclear program seem more menacing. On Meet the Press on Feb. 3, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was the subject of attempted mousetrapping by NBC’s Chuck Todd, who was hoping Panetta could be maneuvered into contradicting the NIE.</p><p>It was awkward for Panetta, but – to his credit – rather than apologize when Todd accused him of believing “the Iranians were not pursuing nuclear weapons,” Panetta held firm, under considerable goading.</p><p>Finally, after conferring with co-panelist Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Panetta said, with some exasperation:  “I– no, I can’t tell you because– I can’t tell you they’re in fact pursuing a weapon because that’s not what intelligence says we– we– we’re– they’re doing right now. …” (emphasis added)</p><p>So you have an odd choice, Mr. President. On this crucial issue, you can go with the professional intelligence analysts who have scoured the evidence for signs that Iran had restarted the weapons part of its nuclear development program – and who came up empty – the position embraced by your outgoing Defense Secretary who also was your first CIA director. Or you can go with the stated view of your current nominee to lead the CIA, John Brennan, which dovetails with more alarmist warnings from the same discredited quarters that claimed Iraq had all manner of weapons of mass destruction.</p><p>Perhaps the way around this awkward situation is to advance the debate beyond this contradiction over intelligence and to declare that the United States is ready to formalize a permanent deal with Iran to prevent it from resuming work on nuclear weaponization. That would be an accomplishment worth cheering.</p><div> </div> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 09:20:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 793349 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World iran False Testimony Redux: How Future CIA Head John Brennan Banged the Drums of War on Iran http://www.alternet.org/world/false-testimony-redux-how-future-cia-head-john-brennan-banged-drums-war-iran <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Though false intelligence was at the center of the disastrous Iraq War, CIA Director-to-be John Brennan played fast and loose on Iran’s nuclear program in his Senate testimony.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/brennan.jpg?itok=gqkWrK1V" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>CIA Director-designate John Brennan’s assertion to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran is “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons” is precisely the kind of dangerous “mistake” made by his mentor, former CIA Director George Tenet, who made many such “mistakes” a decade ago in greasing the skids for war on Iraq.</p><p>Of course, the appropriate word is not “mistake” but “fraud.” And perhaps what should disqualify Brennan as much as anything is his intimate connection to the lies and abuses perpetrated by the thoroughly discredited Tenet. As one of Tenet’s former protégés, Brennan could not even bring himself to admit on Thursday that waterboarding was torture.</p><p>Brennan’s misleading statement on Iran was both “sly” and “intriguing.” It also did not come as an off-the-cuff answer to a question, but rather was embedded in the written text of his “Opening Statement for the Record” for his confirmation hearing. His disingenuousness on this neuralgic issue is another reason to reject his nomination to be CIA director.</p><p>Brennan’s assertion about Iran’s nuclear ambitions stands on its head the unanimous intelligence community judgment in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) – revalidated every year since – that Iran stopped working on nuclear weaponization at the end of 2003 and has not resumed that work.</p><p>One might have thought that an indication from the next CIA director-to-be that he was predisposed to overturn the considered judgment of the intelligence community’s top analysts – and take the politically preferred “tough-guy” position toward Iran – would have set off alarm bells with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which (commendably though belatedly) excoriated the politicization of intelligence that led to the Iraq War.</p><p>But committee members instead had <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=9653#.URaIW4U7_-k">their prepared posturing to do</a>, and thus let the statement on Iran slide by without noticing – much less challenging – it. And, luckily for Brennan, by that point in his prepared testimony, committee chair Dianne Feinstein had removed from the hearing room the many Code Pink-led protesters, who would have been the only ones knowledgeable and courageous enough to call loud attention to Brennan’s dishonesty.</p><p><strong>Anatomy of a ‘Mistake’</strong></p><p>In that part of his testimony, Brennan warned the senators that the “regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang remain bent on pursuing nuclear weapons…”  (Emphasis added)</p><p>When “practicing casuistry,” half-truths and conflating two very different situations often work better than straight-out lies. They are, as the Jesuits might attest, very old rhetorical tricks. Is North Korea “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons?” A definitive “Yes” has been the answer to that question for several years. Indeed, the North Koreans apparently already have a few.</p><p>But the case is different for Iran, as the U.S. intelligence community has asserted since 2007. For instance, let’s compare Brennan’s phrasing to the most recent congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Jan. 31, 2012:</p><p>“We judge North Korea has tested two nuclear devices. Its October 2006 nuclear test is consistent with our longstanding assessment that it produced a nuclear device, although we judge the test itself was a partial failure. The North’s probable nuclear test in May 2009 had a yield of roughly two kilotons TNT equivalent and was apparently more successful than the 2006 test. These tests strengthen our assessment that North Korea has produced nuclear weapons.”</p><p>But what about Iran? Are the Iranians, too, “bent on pursuing nuclear weapons?” Clapper’s words were much more conditional in that part of his testimony: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.</p><p>“Iran nevertheless is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes.  … [We judge] that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses. … We judge Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran.”</p><p>It is likely that Clapper, like Brennan a political appointee, is going as far as he can in presenting a frightening case regarding Iran, yet – unlike Brennan – is staying within the parameters of the less alarming assessment of professional intelligence analysts.</p><p>Brennan instead edged past that line with his rhetorical sleight-of-hand – lumping Iran in with North Korea – the sort of trickery that he witnessed up close as a Tenet favorite during the early excesses of the “war on terror” and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.</p><p>After all, Iran has been a front-burner issue for the past several years. It beggars belief that Brennan has forgotten the key judgment of the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 in which all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred, “with high confidence,” that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapon design and weaponization work in 2003 – a judgment reaffirmed every year since by the Director of National Intelligence in sworn testimony to Congress.</p><p><strong>Careful Distinctions</strong></p><p>Brennan also can hardly claim memory lapse. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated that judgment as recently as Feb. 3 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Panetta, who also served as President Obama’s first CIA director, stuck to the NIE’s judgment despite goading from Chuck Todd:</p><p>TODD: “You have said a couple of times that you did not believe the Iranians were pursuing a nuclear weapon, that they have been pursuing the capabilities on — on nuclear energy …  not pursuing nuclear weapons. Are … you still confident they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon?”</p><p>PANETTA: “Right. What I’ve said, and I will say today, is that the intelligence we have is they have not made the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon. They’re developing and enriching uranium. …”</p><p>TODD: “Why do you believe they’re doing that?”</p><p>PANETTA: “I think — I think the — it’s a clear indication they say they’re doing it in order to develop their own energy source. I think it is suspect that they continue to — to enrich uranium because that is dangerous, and that violates international laws…”</p><p>TODD: “And you do believe they’re probably pursuing a weapon, but you don’t — the intelligence doesn’t know what…”</p><p>(Cross talk with JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey, who was also on the program.)</p><p>PANETTA: “I– no, I can’t tell you because– I can’t tell you they’re in fact pursuing a weapon because that’s not what intelligence says we– we– we’re– they’re doing right now. …” (emphasis added)</p><p>The contrast between Panetta’s careful distinction and Brennan’s careless distortion is no small matter. The difference suggests that Brennan, like his mentor Tenet, cares more about positioning himself within the favored contours of Washington’s group think than in standing up to those pressures and standing behind independent-minded analysts of the intelligence community.</p><p><strong>Professional Analysts</strong></p><p>Former Director of the National Intelligence Council Thomas Fingar, who supervised preparation of the landmark NIE saying Iran had stopped working on nuclear weaponization, was given the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence last month at a ceremony in Oxford, where he is now teaching in Stanford University’s overseas study program.</p><p>Fingar, who had been Director of Intelligence at the State Department, <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=9591#.URa4xIU7_-k">recruited analysts</a> who had as much integrity as they had expertise. They jettisoned the “if-the-White House-says-two-plus-two-is-five-we-need-to-conjure-up-the-evidence-to-prove-that-it’s-true” behavior of Tenet and his deputy at CIA, John McLaughlin.</p><p>Fingar and his co-workers made a substantial contribution in restoring integrity to the challenging discipline of intelligence analysis after the debacle on Iraq. Acting with all deliberate speed (accent on the deliberate), they drafted an empirical, bottom-up assessment of all prior evidence about Iran’s nuclear program and, fortuitously, benefited from fresh intelligence acquired and analyzed in 2007.</p><p>The result was a tell-it-like-it-is conclusion that played a huge role in thwarting plans by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to attack Iran in 2008, their last year in office.</p><p>Since the Estimate marked such a sharp departure from earlier assessments of Iran’s nuclear program it was considered a sure bet to leak, so, on White House orders, the authors prepared an unclassified version of the key judgments for publication. Once that hit the streets, with the understandable public reaction at home and abroad, the effect was to fortify the longstanding opposition of the most senior military officers to war on Iran.</p><p>It became politically impossible for Cheney and Bush to have their war with Iran. Bush admits as much in his memoir, Decision Points, in which he laments that the “eye-popping” findings of the 2007 NIE stayed his hand: “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” Indeed.</p><p>What does all this have to do with John Brennan? Brennan’s career path must be understood in its relation to Tenet, who served as President Bill Clinton’s last CIA director and was kept on in that job by President George W. Bush. Tenet made Brennan his chief of staff in 1999 and then elevated Brennan to be the CIA’s deputy executive director in March 2001. In 2003 and 2004, Brennan also served as director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was criticized for distributing politicized threat assessments, such an infamous “Orange Terror Alert” over Christmas 2003.</p><p>Not long after Tenet left the U.S. government in 2004, Brennan followed in 2005, moving on to high-paying intelligence-related jobs in the private sector. He supported Barack Obama in Campaign 2008 and was considered a top choice to become CIA director after Obama’s victory. But the nomination was scrapped because of questions about Brennan’s work for Tenet. Instead, Brennan filled a White House post as President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.</p><p>Former colleagues of mine who were at the CIA during the lead-up to war on Iraq assure me that, given his protégé-mentor relationship with then-CIA Director Tenet and also Brennan’s very senior position as deputy executive director, it is almost certain that Brennan was aware of what Sen. Jay Rockefeller later called the “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent” nature of the intelligence conjured up to “justify” war with Iraq. Rockefeller made this public comment on June 5, 2008, when, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he announced the bipartisan findings of a five-year committee investigation.</p><p>Rockefeller all but said it outright. Not just “mistakes” – as Bush, Tenet and much of the mainstream news media insist – but outright intelligence fraud and a conspiracy to launch an aggressive war, what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal called “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole,” i.e. unleashing abuses like torture and other human rights violations.</p><p>The Iraq War conspiracy peaked ten years ago when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told a pack of lies to the UN Security Council. Were Brennan to have been asked about this at Thursday’s hearing, he probably would have disclaimed responsibility, saying (as he did on the torture issue) that, although he had “awareness” and “some visibility” into what was afoot, he was not in the “chain of command” and, thus, chose to do nothing.</p><p>But the reality is that John Brennan owed his major career advancements to Tenet, who personally gave Powell’s deceptive speech the CIA’s stamp of approval by physically sitting behind the Secretary of State as he delivered lies and distortions to the Security Council. If Brennan had spoken out against this fraud at that time, he would have surely seen his spectacular career grind to a halt.</p><p><strong>VIPS’ Maiden Effort</strong></p><p>When our fledgling Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (which was established in January 2003 to protest the obvious perversion of the intelligence on Iraq) learned that Powell would address the UN, we decided to do a same-day analytic assessment – the kind we used to do when someone like Khrushchev, or Gorbachev, or Gromyko, or Mao, or Castro gave a major address.</p><p>We were well accustomed to the imperative to beat the media with our commentary. Coordinating our Powell effort via e-mail, we put VIPS’ first Memorandum for the President on the wire at 5:15 p.m. – “Subject: Today’s Speech by Secretary Powell at the UN.”</p><p>Our understanding at that time was far from perfect. It was not yet completely clear to us, for example, that Saddam Hussein had for the most part been abiding by, rather than flouting, UN resolutions. We stressed, though, that the key question was whether any of this justified war: “This is the question the world is asking. Secretary Powell’s presentation does not come close to answering it.”</p><p>And we warned President Bush: “Intelligence community analysts are finding it hard to make themselves heard above the drumbeat for war.” And we voiced our distress at “the politicization of intelligence,” as well as the deep flaws: “Your Pentagon advisers draw a connection between war with Iraq and terrorism, but for the wrong reasons. The connection takes on much more reality in a post-US invasion scenario.” [bold in original]</p><p>“Indeed, it is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat it would enhance it exponentially.”</p><p>Dissociating VIPS from Powell’s bravado rhetoric claiming that the evidence he presented was “irrefutable,” we noted, “No one has a corner on the truth,” and warned the President: “But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced you would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond violations of Resolution 1441, and beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”</p><p>It’s clear today that nothing would have dissuaded President Bush and Vice President Cheney from plunging ahead with their “war of choice.” But that is no excuse for intelligence officials, like Brennan, or America’s leading newspapers abnegating their duty to ask tough questions and to speak truth to power whatever the consequences.</p><p>We also know today that the chief co-conspirators in the Iraqi intelligence fraud – like the torturers in the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program – have escaped accountability for their malfeasance. But that doesn’t mean now that their obedient subordinates, who kept quiet in the face of these crimes, should be rewarded with top jobs.</p><p>When officials are not held accountable – for crimes of both commission and omission – it is an invitation for others to follow in their footsteps. It remains to be seen how closely Brennan will retrace the path marked by his mentor Tenet – one of cooking the intelligence to the tastes of the White House – this time to facilitate war with Iran.</p><p>The Senate Intelligence Committee got a sampling of how Brennan might add some jesuitical spices to such recipes when he proffered a crafty explanation of why it was fine for President Obama to release the legal opinion on Bush-era “enhanced interrogations” but not the legal justification for the lethal drone program.</p><p>The former activity, Brennan noted, was over, while the latter one was ongoing. Yet, why the American people should be denied the constitutional arguments for such executive powers until they are no longer in use was never explained. It would seem the opposite logic should prevail, that it is more important to know the justification when something is occurring than when it is over, especially since the drone killings along with the “war on terror” may go on indefinitely.</p><p>But — as Brennan seems headed toward Senate confirmation — his deceptive comments on legal transparency as well as on Iran’s nuclear program are not a good sign.</p> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 10:27:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 792854 at http://www.alternet.org World World john brennan cia Drone Assassination Memo Puts Likely CIA Chief John Brennan On the Spot http://www.alternet.org/world/drone-assassination-memo-puts-likely-cia-chief-john-brennan-spot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">President Obama is giving the congressional Intelligence Committees a look at a legal opinion justifying the killing of Americans as the Senate considers John Brennan to be CIA director.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1329593841669-1-0.jpg?itok=x4WAHgC3" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director presents a rare public opportunity for Congress to insist that the White House publicly defend whatever legal reasoning has been adduced to justify the killing of alleged American terrorists working with al-Qaeda on plots to attack the United States.</p><p>Brennan, from his position as President Barack Obama’s adviser on counterterrorism, is widely (and correctly) seen as the promoter and implementer of policies that ignore a citizen’s traditional constitutional protections, which require some form of judicial procedure before the government can take life or property, a structure of due process that has been thoroughly trampled since 9/11 and the “war on terror.”</p><p>The question before the Senate Intelligence Committee is whether the members will demand serious answers regarding the rationale for these extrajudicial killings and whether those answers can be squared somehow with the U.S. Constitution.</p><p>Will Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-California, allow the public curtain to be lifted on the key legal issues involved in the killings as well as on narrower operational aspects? Recent congressional practice – especially since 9/11 – has been to acquiesce to even the most blatant CIA evasions and to halt the rare truthful briefing by declaring, in effect, “OK, that’s enough; I don’t need to know any more.”</p><p>With very few exceptions, congressional overseers have transitioned into congressional overlookers. This goes in spades when the word “terrorism” is raised; members face an unwelcome dilemma between choosing to remain unwitting (and, thus, have plausible denial) on the one hand or to acquire complicit knowledge on the other. A high-profile public hearing like the one on Brennan’s nomination makes it more difficult than usual to maintain the desired ambiguity.</p><p>I am reminded of the lame lament by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who — after an unusually long tenure on the House Intelligence Committee — complained that she had been lied to by the CIA about torture. But CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs quickly dug out memoranda of conversations with Pelosi alleging that she had been let in on the dirty secret. The California Democrat suddenly fell silent.</p><p>If further proof of congressional obsequiousness were needed, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has openly described Congress’ abnegation of responsibility, <a href="http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/congress-drone-strike-oversight-10520312">noting</a> last year, with uncommon candor: “Who wants to be the congressman or senator holding the hearing as to whether the President should be aggressively going after terrorists? Nobody. And that’s why Congress has been AWOL in this whole area.”</p><p>Graham does not sit on the Intelligence Committee, but this attitude is widely shared. And, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he does oversee/overlook lethal operations by the Joint Special Operations Command.</p><p><strong>Hiding Behind Secrecy</strong></p><p>Congress has shown little interest in grappling with nettlesome constitutional issues, like the secret legal opinions that seek to justify “targeted killings” of suspected terrorists, including Americans, by stretching presidential war powers to far corners of the world, distant from any active battlefield, wherever someone might be plotting some threat to the American homeland. The evidence, like the legal justification, remains secret.</p><p>Only on the eve of Brennan’s confirmation hearing did Obama finally order the detailed 2010 legal memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to be shared with the Intelligence Committees. The memo justified the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who became a leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen and allegedly participated in operational planning for terrorist attacks on the United States. Awlaki was killed in a CIA drone strike in September 2011.</p><p>Until Obama’s announcement, the administration had not even openly acknowledged the existence of the documents. It also remains unclear how publicly the legal memo will be discussed during Brennan’s confirmation hearing on Thursday.</p><p>If Feinstein takes the discussion behind the closed doors of an executive session, Americans will be deprived of a chance to learn who is “authorized” to kill suspected terrorists, with what kind of “due process,” and for what “suspected” activity. Hearing these details may be troubling but at least the explanation would finally be out in the open where citizens can make informed judgments.</p><p>In my view, it would be shameful for Feinstein and her committee colleagues to shirk their duty again by evading the need for public debate. There is ample evidence that John Brennan (a mediocre analyst at CIA before he ingratiated himself with CIA Director George Tenet) is not up to the job substantively. Nowhere is this clearer than when, as chief of counterterrorism, he has been asked to address the issue of what motivates terrorists.</p><p>At a press conference on Jan. 7, 2010, two weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, President Obama criticized the intelligence failures that contributed to the near catastrophe. He then turned the stage over to the official where the counterterrorist buck was supposed to stop – John Brennan.</p><p>It took the questioning of then 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to show how little Brennan knows – or is willing to admit – about what leads terrorists to do what they do. As her catatonic White House press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.</p><p>Thomas asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”</p><p>Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents… They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”</p><p>Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”</p><p>Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”</p><p>Thomas: “Why?”</p><p>Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p><p>Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”</p><p>Leading off that press conference, President Obama had not done any better than Brennan in getting to what motivates terrorists. Before relinquishing the podium to Brennan, Obama had said:</p><p>“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”</p><p>But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress?”</p><p><strong>Slow Learner But Some Progress</strong></p><p>In a major speech on April 30, 2012 on drones and killing, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.”</p><p>Did Brennan really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles at the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?</p><p>Brennan is on a first-name basis with some of the leaders of Yemen. Have they not told him that the number of al-Qaeda members and sympathizers has more than tripled under the impact of three years of U.S. airstrikes initially disingenuously disguised as conducted by the Yemeni armed forces?</p><p>One can only hope that some senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee will show the mettle of Helen Thomas and ask real questions about the counterproductive results stemming from the tactics favored by Brennan in countering terrorism.</p><div> </div> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 10:36:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 790881 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World john brennan cia The Moral Torment of Leon Panetta: Former CIA Head Leaves Legacy of Deaths by Drone http://www.alternet.org/world/moral-torment-leon-panetta-former-cia-head-leaves-legacy-deaths-drone <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The current Secretary of Defense returned to government in 2009 amid hopes he could cleanse the CIA&#039;s failings, but after four years it is Leon Panetta who departs morally compromised.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1329155163465-2-0.jpg?itok=1fFsYFGQ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a practicing Catholic, sought a blessing on Wednesday from Pope Benedict XVI. Afterward Panetta reported that the Pope said, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe” to which Panetta replied, “Pray for me.”</p><p>In seeking those prayers, Panetta knows better than the Pope what moral compromises have surrounded him during his four years inside the Obama administration, as CIA director overseeing the covert war against al-Qaeda and as Defense Secretary deploying the largest military on earth.</p><p>For me and others who initially had high hopes for Panetta, his performance in both jobs has been a bitter disappointment. Before accepting the CIA post, Panetta had criticized the moral and constitutional violations in George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” especially the use of torture.</p><p>Taking note of Panetta’s outspoken comments, I hailed Panetta’s selection on Jan. 8, 2009, <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/010809a.html">writing</a>: “At long last. Change we can believe in. In choosing Leon Panetta to take charge of the CIA, President-elect Barack Obama has shown he is determined to put an abrupt end to the lawlessness and deceit with which the administration of George W. Bush has corrupted intelligence operations and analysis. …</p><p>“Character counts. And so does integrity. With those qualities, and the backing of a new President, Panetta is equipped to lead the CIA out of the wilderness into which it was taken by sycophantic directors with very flexible attitudes toward truth, honesty and the law — directors who deemed it their duty to do the President’s bidding — legal or illegal; honest or dishonest.</p><p>“In a city in which lapel-flags have been seen as adequate substitutes for the Constitution, Panetta will bring a rigid adherence to the rule of law. For Panetta this is no battlefield conversion. On torture, for example, this is what <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2008/0801.panetta.html">he wrote a year ago</a>:</p><p>“‘We cannot simply suspend [American ideals of human rights] in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground. We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.’”</p><p>While it may be true that Panetta did end the CIA’s torture of detainees, he didn’t exactly live up to his broader commitment to observe higher standards of human rights. At the CIA, Panetta presided over an expansion of a lethal drone program that targeted al-Qaeda operatives (and whoever happened to be near them at the time) with sudden, violent death.</p><p>Even some neocons from the Bush administration – their own hands stained with blood from Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq and their consciences untouched by their rationalizations for waterboarding and other forms of torture – chided the Obama administration for replacing “enhanced interrogation techniques” with expanded drone strikes.</p><p><strong>Panetta’s Defense</strong></p><p>Of course, we may not know for many years exactly what Panetta’s private counsel to Obama was in connection with the drones and other counterterrorism strategies. He may have been in the classic predicament of a person who has accepted a position of extraordinary power and then faced the need to compromise on moral principles for what he might justify as the greater good.</p><p>None of us who have been in or close to such situations take those choices lightly. As easy as it is to be cynical, I have known many dedicated public servants who have tried to steer policies toward less destructive ends, something they only could do by working inside the government. Others have struggled over balancing the choice of resigning in protest against staying and continuing to fight the good fight.</p><p>Some Panetta defenders say that he saw his role as ratcheting down the levels of violence from the indiscriminate slaughter associated with Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – and has tried to steer the United States away from a new possibly even more destructive war with Iran. As CIA director, he did stand by the brave analysts regarding their assessment that Iran had discarded its nuclear weapons program.</p><p>According to this favorable view of Panetta, his tradeoff – to avoid the mass killings from general warfare – has been to support targeted killings of suspected terrorists. In other words, Panetta has been in the camp generally associated with Vice President Joe Biden, urging narrower counterterrorism operations rather than broader counterinsurgency war.</p><p>Yet, this idea of tallying up possible large-scale civilian deaths – like the hundreds of thousands who died in Bush’s Iraq War – versus the smaller but still significant deaths from drone strikes makes for a difficult moral equation. It may explain why Leon Panetta was so eager to have Pope Benedict “pray for me.”</p><p>So, while it’s possible that historians will discover in decades to come that Panetta gave President Obama sage advice and tried to bend the arc of U.S. military violence downward, I, for one, remain deeply disappointed with Panetta and regretful of my earlier optimism.</p><p>I had the preconceived and, it turns out, misguided notion that Panetta, who a year earlier had denounced torture, and who brought with him a wealth of experience and innumerable contacts on Capitol Hill and in the federal bureaucracy, would be not only determined but also able clean up the mess at the CIA.</p><p>Moreover, I persuaded myself that I could expect from Panetta, a contemporary with the same education I received at the hands of the Jesuits including moral theology/ethics, might wear some insulation from power that corrupts.</p><p>I have learned, though, that no one is immune from the sirens of power, which is an alternative way to explain Panetta’s actions over the past four years. As for Jesuits, there are justice Jesuits like Dan Berrigan – and others like the ones that now run my alma mater Fordham.</p><p>The latter brand – either knowingly, or out of what Church theologians call “invincible ignorance” – seem to be happy riding shotgun for the system, including aggressive war, kidnapping, torture, the whole nine yards.  (For a recent, insightful essay on this issue, see “<a href="http://www.thepolemicist.net/2013/01/sticks-and-drones-and-company-men.html">Sticks and Drones, and Company Men: The Selective Outrage of the Liberal Caste,</a>” by Jim Kavanagh.)</p><p>To me, it was painful to watch Panetta make the decision to become the CIA’s defense lawyer, rather than take charge as its director. He left in place virtually all those responsible for the “dark-side” abuses of the Cheney/Bush administration, and bent flexibly with the prevailing wind toward holding no one accountable.</p><p>Long forgotten is the fact that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder initially gave some lip service to the concept of no one being above the law. Rhetoric is one thing, though; action another.</p><p><strong>Counterattack on Torture</strong></p><p>When Obama’s timid Attorney General, Eric Holder, gathered the courage to begin an investigation of torture and other war crimes implicating CIA officials past and present, he ran into a buzz saw operated by those inside the CIA and in key media outlets, like the neocon-dominated Washington Post. Those forces pulled out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation.</p><p>This effort reached bizarre proportions when seven previous CIA directors — including three who were themselves implicated in planning and conducting torture and other abuses — <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/091909a.html">wrote to the President</a> in September 2009, asking him to call off Holder. The letter and the motivation behind it could not have been more transparent or inappropriate.</p><p>Obama and Holder caved. By all accounts, Panetta supported the former directors who, in my view, deserve the sobriquet “the seven moral dwarfs.”</p><p>Leon Panetta, like me, was commissioned in the U.S. Army when he graduated from college – he from the University of Santa Clara (I from Fordham). Entering the Army may have been the first time each of us swore a solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” but it was hardly the last time.</p><p>Panetta, however, has displayed a willingness to disrespect the Constitution when it encumbers what the Obama administration wishes to do. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution reserves to Congress the power to declare or authorize war.</p><p>Granted, an unprecedentedly craven Congress has shown itself all too willing to abnegate that responsibility in recent years. Only a few members of the House and Senate seem to care very much when presidents act like kings and send off troops drawn largely from a poverty draft to wars not authorized (or simply rubber-stamped) by Congress. This sad state of affairs, however, does not absolve the Executive Branch from its duty to abide by Article 1, Section 8.</p><p>This matters – and matters very much. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, pursued this issue with Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. Chafing belatedly over the unauthorized nature of the war in Libya, Sessions asked repeatedly what “legal basis” would the Obama administration rely on to do in Syria what it did in Libya.</p><p>Watching that part of the testimony it seemed to me that Sessions, a conservative Southern lawyer, was not at all faking it when he pronounced himself “almost breathless” as Panetta stonewalled time after time. Panetta made it explicitly clear that the administration does not believe it needs to seek congressional approval for wars like the one in Libya in which the United States contributed air power and intelligence support, though not ground troops.</p><p>Sessions: “I am really baffled. … The only legal authority that’s required to deploy the U.S. military [in combat] is the Congress and the President and the law and the Constitution.”</p><p>Panetta: “Let me just for the record be clear again, Senator, so there is no misunderstanding. When it comes to national defense, the President has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country, and we will, Sir.” (Here is the entire <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/07/Shocking%20Defense%20Secretary%20Says%20International%20Permission%20Trumps%20Congressional%20Permission" target="_blank" title="http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/07/Shocking Defense Secretary Says International Permission Trumps Congressional Permission">7-minute video clip</a>.) </p><p>Panetta was also the first senior Obama official to assert that American citizens who are branded “terrorists” and are suspected of “trying to kill our people” can be targeted for death on Executive power alone.</p><p><a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7396830n&amp;tag=contentBody;storyMediaBox" target="_blank">In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes‘ Scott Pelley</a>, Panetta was asked about the secret process the Obama administration uses to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism. He explained that the President himself approves the decision based on recommendations from top national security officials.</p><p>Panetta said, “if someone is a citizen of the United States, and is a terrorist, who wants to attack our people and kill Americans, in my book that person is a terrorist. And the reality is that under our laws, that person is a terrorist. And we’re required under a process of law, to be able to justify, that despite the fact that person may be a citizen, he is first and foremost a terrorist who threatens our people, and for that reason, we can establish a legal basis on which we oughta go after that individual, just as we go after bin Laden, just as we go after other terrorists. Why? Because their goal is to kill our people, and for that reason we have to defend ourselves.”</p><p>Now, after four years in this swamp of moral and legal relativism, Panetta has turned to Pope Benedict for prayers and blessings, an ironic choice since Benedict himself has shown a high tolerance for sloshing around in this muck.</p><p>In April 2008, Benedict visited the United States amid sordid disclosures about the Bush administration’s practices of torture and worldwide recognition that Bush had ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on false claims about WMD and ties to al-Qaeda.</p><p>On torture, reporting by ABC depicted George W. Bush’s most senior aides (Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice and Tenet) meeting multiple times in the White House during 2002-03 to sort out – complete with practical demonstrations – the most efficient mix of torture techniques for captured “terrorists.” When initially ABC attempted to insulate the President from this sordid activity, Bush responded that he knew all about it and had approved.</p><p>But Benedict maintained a discreet silence, placing feel-good scenes of happy Catholics cheering his presence over a moral obligation to condemn wrongdoing, a pattern that has recurred far too frequently in the history of the Vatican.</p><p>When I visited Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum in West Jerusalem a few years ago, I experienced painful reminders of what happens when the Church allows itself to be captured by Empire. An acquiescent church loses whatever residual moral authority it may have had.</p><p>At the entrance to the museum, a quotation by German essayist Kurt Tucholsky set a universally applicable tone: “A country is not just what it does – it is also what it tolerates.”</p><p>Still more compelling words came from Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who put his own life at grave risk by helping to save Jews from the concentration camps: “I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’”</p><p>It is a question that Leon Panetta may want to ask himself as he retires from government service at age 74 and retreats to his walnut farm in California. For Panetta’s sake, let’s hope papal prayer will help him sort it all out.</p> Sun, 20 Jan 2013 15:27:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 780348 at http://www.alternet.org World World leon panetta torture drones The Israel Lobby vs. President Obama: What the Chuck Hagel Fight Really Means http://www.alternet.org/world/israel-lobby-vs-president-obama-what-chuck-hagel-fight-really-means <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The up-in-the-air nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary has become a test of whether the Israel Lobby can still shoot down an American public servant who is deemed insufficiently passionate regarding Israel.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/hagel.jpg?itok=Y9v1auWZ" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Israel Lobby is hell bent on sabotaging President Barack Obama’s tentative plan to appoint former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. And – with Obama now dithering about this selection – the Lobby and its neocon allies sense another impending victory.</p><p>Perhaps The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/chuck-hagel-and-his-enemies.html#ixzz2GLj5fEJp">described</a> Hagel’s predicament best in assessing why the Israel Lobby is so determined to destroy the Nebraska Republican though he is “a committed supporter of Israel.”</p><p>But, as Bruck explained, “Hagel did not make the obeisance to the lobby that the overwhelming majority of his Congressional colleagues do. And he further violated a taboo by talking about the lobby, and its power.” Hagel had the audacity, in an interview for a 2008 book, to say something that you are not supposed to say in Official Washington, that the Israel Lobby pulls the strings on many members of Congress.</p><p>In Aaron Miller’s book, The Much Too Promised Land, Hagel is quoted as saying that Congress “is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage.” He added that when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, “you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters” — because, he added, they were “stupid.”</p><p><strong>Finding Other Reasons</strong></p><p>Yes, it’s true that when the neocon editors of the Washington Post <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chuck-hagel-is-not-right-for-defense-secretary/2012/12/18/07e03e20-493c-11e2-ad54-580638ede391_story.html">decried</a> the prospect of Hagel’s appointment to run the Pentagon, they cited a bunch of other reasons without mentioning Hagel’s independent thinking regarding Israel. For instance, the Post’s editors fretted over a September 2011 <a href="http://video.ft.com/v/1138459180001/Former-Republican-senator-criticises-party">interview with the Financial Times</a>, in which Hagel said, “The Defense Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated. … So I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.” What heresy!</p><p>The Post’s editors also questioned Hagel’s interest in avoiding another war with Iran, calling his interest in meaningful engagement with Iran “isolated.” The Post noted that Hagel “repeatedly voted against sanctions, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which at the time was orchestrating devastating bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Mr. Hagel argued that direct negotiations, rather than sanctions, were the best means to alter Iran’s behavior.”</p><p>Though the Post noted that Hagel also wrote an <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-us-needs-to-discuss-whats-at-stake-in-iran-war/2012/09/28/44530a8a-fd34-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_story.html">op-ed</a> last September that contained the usual refrain about “keeping all options on the table,” the neocon editors worried that a Defense Secretary Hagel might not be enthusiastic enough in carrying out the war option against Iran. Obama “will need a defense secretary ready to support and effectively implement such a decision,” the Post wrote.</p><p>Yet, despite the Post’s avoidance of any mention about the controversy over Hagel and the Israel Lobby, you can bet that the editors were particularly worried that Hagel might become a strong voice within the Obama administration against simply following Israel’s lead on issues in the Middle East.</p><p>If Obama were to actually nominate Hagel– rather than just float his name as a trial balloon and recoil at all the efforts to prick holes in it – the message would be a strong one to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel Lobby that the old rules for the game are changing, that they can no longer blackball American public servants from key jobs in Washington.</p><p><strong>Defecting on Iraq War</strong></p><p>As a two-term senator, Chuck Hagel’s other real sin was that he was one of the few defectors among congressional Republicans regarding the Iraq War. Though Hagel voted for President George W. Bush’s war authorization, he eventually recognized his mistake and fessed up.</p><p>Hagel said he believes the Iraq War was one of the biggest blunders in U.S. history. He sharply criticized the Bush/Cheney foreign policy as “reckless,” saying it was playing “ping pong with American lives.” Such comments have made Hagel particularly unpopular with the top tier of hawkish Republican senators, such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona.</p><p>But Hagel’s ultimate offense, as far as Official Washington is concerned, is his unusual record of independent thinking that could, in Israel’s eyes, endanger or even derail business as usual with the U.S.  He is considered a realist, a pragmatist. Moreover, there can hardly be a more offensive remark to Israeli ears than the one made by Hagel to author Aaron Miller reflecting the sad state of affairs in Congress:</p><p>“The Jewish Lobby intimidates a lot of people up here” [on the Hill], but “I’m a United States Senator.  I’m not an Israeli senator.”</p><p>This remark, and others like it, have raised doubts in Israeli and pro-Israeli circles as to whether Hagel has the requisite degree of “passionate attachment” to Israel. This has generated a volley of vicious invective characterized so well by former Ambassador Chas Freeman in “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/12/24/israel-lobby-takes-aim-again/">Israel Lobby Takes Aim Again</a>.” This invective is aimed at forcing Obama to drop any plan to put Hagel in charge of the Pentagon. After all, it takes courage to counter character assassination.</p><p><strong>Why the Fear?</strong></p><p>What really lies behind this? I suspect the fear is that, were Hagel to become Secretary of Defense, he would take a leaf out of his book as Senator and openly insist, in effect, that he is the American Secretary of Defense and not the Israeli Defense Minister.</p><p>This, in turn, gives rise to a huge question being whispered in more and more corridors of power in Washington: Is Israel an asset or a liability to the U.S., when looked at dispassionately in the perspective of our equities in the Middle East and our general strategic defense?</p><p>Hardly a new conundrum. Many decades ago, Albert Einstein, who feared the consequences of creating a “Jewish state” by displacing or offending Arabs, wrote:</p><p>“There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us [Jews] and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done us [in the western world], we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people. … Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.”</p><p>Realpolitik, including the increasing isolation of Israel and the U.S. in the Middle East, is breathing some life into this old attitude and generating consideration of a new approach – necessity being the mother of invention.</p><p>Few have been as blunt, though, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has been described as the “unofficial dean of the realist school of American foreign policy experts.”  In a recent talk, the former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter minced no words:</p><p>“I don’t think there is an implicit obligation for the United States to follow like a stupid mule whatever the Israelis do. If they decide to start a war, simply on the assumption that we’ll automatically be drawn into it, I think it is the obligation of friendship to say, ‘you’re not going to be making national decisions for us.’ I think that the United States has the right to have its own national security policy.”</p><p><strong>Even Petraeus Lets It Slip Out</strong></p><p>Back when Gen. David Petraeus was head of CENTCOM, he addressed this issue, gingerly but clearly, in prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2010 on the “challenges to security and stability” faced by the U.S.:</p><p>“The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests. … The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.</p><p>“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships … in the area and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.  Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”</p><p>Petraeus’s testimony provoked a sharp rejoinder from Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the leading American Zionist lobby groups. Foxman protested:</p><p>“Gen. Petraeus simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. … in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived favoritism for Israel.  This linkage is dangerous and counterproductive.”</p><p>Petraeus or someone on his staff had inadvertently touched a live-wire reality that is becoming increasingly debated in official circles but remains taboo when it comes to saying it out loud. Fearful that he would be dubbed an “anti-Semite,” Petraeus began a frantic attempt to take back the words, which he noted were only in his prepared testimony and were not repeated in his oral presentation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/070810.html">Neocons, Likud Conquer DC, Again</a>.”]</p><p>As Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada describes it, this taboo proscribes “stating publicly that U.S. ‘interests’ and Israeli ‘interests’ are not identical, and that Israel might be a strategic burden, rather than an asset to the United States.”</p><p>Ironically, while Foxman and hardline Zionists were objecting vociferously, Meir Dagan, then-Israel’s Mossad chief told a Knesset committee, “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.”</p><p>Taboo or not, an un-passionately-attached realist like Chuck Hagel presumably would be able to see that reality – anathema in Zionist circles – for what it is.</p><p>As prospective Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel would bring something else that would be extremely valuable to the job, a real-life understanding of the horrors of war. He volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967 at the height of the fighting there, rejecting his local draft board’s suggestion that he re-enroll in college to avoid Vietnam. A combat infantry squad leader, he was twice wounded in that crucible. Do not let anyone tell you that this does not have a lasting effect on a man.</p><p><strong>First in Three Decades</strong></p><p>Were Hagel to become Secretary of Defense, he would become the first in 30 years to bring to the job direct battle experience of war. One must trace 14 former secretaries of defense all the way back to Melvin Laird (1969-1973) for one who has seen war up-close and personal.  (Like Hagel, Laird enlisted and eventually earned a Purple Heart as a seaman in the Pacific theater during WWII.)</p><p>Given this real world experience, the Israelis and their supporters in the U.S. might well conclude that Hagel would not be as blasé as his predecessors when it comes to sending troops off to war – and even less so for a war like the prospective one with Iran.</p><p>Hagel’s past statements suggest he would urge more flexibility in talks with Iran on the nuclear issue and on Palestine, as well. This leaves him vulnerable to charges from the Israel Lobby, but even some pro-Israel stalwarts reject the far-fetched notion that this makes him “anti-Semitic.”</p><p>In comments to the New Yorker’s Connie Bruck, for example, Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, has drawn a sensible contrast between Hagel’s apparent inclination toward more flexibility with Iran on the nuclear issue and the more familiar attitude – which Ackerman described as: “You know ‘Let’s bomb them before the sun comes up.’”</p><p>If recent reports are correct in suggesting that Obama intends to enter more than just pro forma negotiations with Iran, he would have in Hagel the kind of ally he would need in top policy-making circles, someone who would support, not sabotage, chances for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.</p><p>Recall that in 2010 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to put the kibosh on a plan that had been suggested by Obama himself, and carefully worked out with Tehran by the President of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Turkey, that would have been a major step toward resolving the dispute over Iran’s enrichment of uranium. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/051910a.html">U.S./Israel Challenged on Iran</a>.”]</p><p><strong>Avoiding “Complicity”</strong></p><p>The year just ending has been a rollercoaster for U.S.-Israeli relations. It started with Obama’s rather extreme professions of fealty to Israel. In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Matt Lauer on Feb. 5, the President said:</p><p>“My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we’re going to make sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this problem [Iran], hopefully diplomatically.”</p><p>Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March – amid suggestions that his devotion to Israel was still not enough – Obama again used the first person in assuring the pro-Israel lobby group: “when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”</p><p>By late August, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was suggesting that Israel might ignore Obama’s sanctions strategy on Iran and launch a preemptive strike on its own, Obama used Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to say that he (Dempsey) did not wish to be “complicit,” if the Israelis chose to attack Iran. In September, Secretary Clinton was publicly brushing aside Netanyahu’s pleading for U. S. endorsement of his various “red lines,” and Obama was too busy to receive Netanyahu when he came to the U.N.</p><p>What lies in store for U.S.-Israeli relations in Obama’s second term? It is too early to tell. But whether or not the President decides to tough it out and nominate Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is likely to provide a good clue.</p> Sat, 29 Dec 2012 10:53:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 768436 at http://www.alternet.org World World chuck hagel president obama israel lobby Promoting Occupation, Shilling For Invasion: Why We Should Say No to Susan Rice http://www.alternet.org/world/promoting-occupation-shilling-invasion-why-we-should-say-no-susan-rice <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Key Republicans object to Susan Rice getting a promotion from UN ambassador to Secretary of State, citing her flawed account of the Benghazi assault. But a more legitimate concern is her lack of judgment on the Iraq War.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1354136336635-2-0_0.jpg?itok=dSg6WtoY" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>President Barack Obama should ditch the idea of nominating U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State on substantive grounds, not because she may have – knowingly or not – fudged the truth about the attack on the poorly guarded CIA installation in Benghazi, Libya.</p><p>Rice’s biggest disqualification is the fact that she has shown little willingness to challenge the frequently wrongheaded conventional wisdom of Official Washington, including on the critical question of invading Iraq in 2003. At that pivotal moment, Rice essentially went with the flow, rather than standing up for the principles of international law or exposing the pro-war deceptions.</p><p>In fall 2002, as President George W. Bush and his administration were pounding the drums for war, Rice wasn’t exactly a profile in courage. A senior fellow at the centrist Brookings Institution, she echoed the neoconservative demands for “regime change” in Iraq and doubted the “need [for] a further [U.N. Security] Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions” on Iraq, according a compilation of her Iraq War comments <a href="http://www.accuracy.org/release/1737-background-of-obamas-foreign-policy-group/">compiled</a> by the Institute for Public Accuracy.</p><p>In an NPR interview on Dec. 20, 2002, Rice joined the bellicose chorus, declaring: “It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side.”</p><p>Rice also was wowed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deceptive speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. The next day, again on NPR, Rice said, “I think he has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.”</p><p>After the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Rice foresaw an open-ended U.S. occupation of Iraq. In a Washington Post <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/03/special/world/sp_iraq-brookings041103.htm">online forum</a>, she declared, ““To maximize our likelihood of success, the US is going to have to remain committed to and focused on reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq for many years to come. This administration and future ones will need to demonstrate a longer attention span than we have in Afghanistan, and we will have to embrace rather than evade the essential tasks of peacekeeping and nation building.”</p><p>Only later, when the Iraq War began going badly and especially after she became an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, did Rice take a less hawkish position. She opposed President Bush’s troop “surge” in 2007, a stance in line with Obama’s anti-Iraq War posture. During Campaign 2008, she also mocked one of Sen. John McCain’s trips to the Baghdad as “strolling around the market in a flak jacket.”</p><p><strong>The Ambitious Staffer</strong></p><p>In other words, Rice fits the mold more of an ambitious staffer – ever mindful of the safe boundaries for permissible thought in Official Washington and eager to serve one’s political patron – than of a courageous foreign policy thinker who can see around the corners to spot the actual threats looming for the United States and the world.</p><p>Though Rice’s defenders might say there is nothing unusual in an aspiring foreign policy operative following the consensus or the instructions of a superior, there are plenty of troubling examples of innocent people getting killed when careerism overwhelmed wisdom and judgment. For instance, in 2003, CIA Director George Tenet, a malleable former congressional staffer, helped pave the way for the disastrous Iraq War.</p><p>Ironically, Rice’s eagerness to play the Washington game also landed her in the middle of the current “scandal” over her statements regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.</p><p>On Sept. 16, Rice appeared on five (count them) Sunday TV shows, adhering closely to the CIA-provided “talking points,” which cited the likelihood of a spontaneous protest preceding the violent assault but which alluded to the tenuousness of the evidence available at the time.</p><p>Blinded by the limelight, Rice seems to have blundered into the controversy, giving little thought to the possibility that she was being put out front by then-CIA Director David Petraeus and Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, who is the usual administration spokesman regarding terrorist attacks.  Brennan immediately flew off to Libya on a fact-finding trip, leaving Rice in the unaccustomed role of ‘splaining the attack in Benghazi.</p><p>Rice also wasn’t overly curious as to why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begged off on grounds she was “not going to offer any hypothetical explanations.”</p><p>Was Ambassador Rice too ambitious and/or too naïve?  For her it is a cruel irony that by letting her vision be blurred by the allure of five sets of klieg lights in one day, and the opportunity to embellish her persona for the top job at State, she has imperiled her own candidacy.</p><p>Loyal functionaries like Rice, with a penchant for doing whatever they are told do not expect to be mouse-trapped by their colleagues. But, if you can’t see that kind of thing coming – particularly when folks like Brennan and Petraeus are involved – you should not expect to become Secretary of State.</p><p><strong>Understanding Benghazi</strong></p><p>It also might have been smart for Rice to have taken the trouble to learn what U.S. officials were doing in Benghazi.  Did she know that, as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has revealed, that the word “consulate” in the draft “talking points” was carefully changed to “mission.”</p><p>A prospective Secretary of State should know the difference. A “mission” is a group of officials abroad normally headed by a diplomat while a consulate is headed by a consul who normally handles commercial interests, serves the needs of citizens abroad and issues visas.</p><p>The difference between consulate and mission is more than semantic. Consulates, understandably, perform consular duties. Missions can do whatever. As my former CIA analyst colleague, Melvin A. Goodman pointed out in “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/11/04/the-why-behind-the-benghazi-attack/">The Why Behind the Benghazi Attack</a>,” the hidden reality in Benghazi was not the alleged deception by Rice or the inadequate security measures.</p><p>The key secret was that the U.S. government had transformed the Benghazi “mission” into an operational CIA base spying on and seeking to neutralize extremist militias operating in eastern Libya. Thus, the “mission” was an inviting target for attack. In a limited sense, one could say the primary security failure was in not adequately anticipating this risk.</p><p>The more significant point is that, because of the anger resulting from U.S. policy in the area and the CIA role in implementing it, there is great doubt that “missions” like the one in Benghazi can ever be protected from the kind of organized assault launched on Sept. 11, 2012. And that probably includes gigantic, fortified installations like the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.</p><p>A month before the U.S. presidential election, House Government Affairs Committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, conducted a public hearing, in an attempt to prove that with adequate security measures the attack on the Benghazi “mission” could have been thwarted and American lives saved.</p><p>Issa’s star witness, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, joined others in bemoaning State’s refusal to provide additional security (partly due to congressional refusal to appropriate all the requested funds).</p><p>But Nordstrom shot a wide hole in the notion that more security could have saved the day. A 14-year veteran of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Nordstrom said the kind of attack mounted in Benghazi could not have been prevented.</p><p>“Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault,” Nordstrom said. “The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/10/15/the-real-blame-for-deaths-in-libya/">The Real Blame for Deaths in Libya</a>.”]</p><p>Whether media pundits are conscious of this or not, the interminable focus on what Susan Rice said and when she said it, as well as the inadequate security, divert attention from what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. No Establishment figure or media pundit wants to focus on that. And, as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, recently conceded, no politician wants to risk appearing reluctant to support covert action against “terrorism.”</p><p>But a source with excellent access, so to speak, to former CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell, said publicly on Oct. 26 that CIA was interrogating prisoners in Benghazi and that this may have been the reason the CIA base was so brutally attacked. More bizarre still, her comments were corroborated by Fox News!</p><p>If Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were genuinely interested in what happened in Benghazi and why, would they not wish to look into that?</p><p><strong>A C-Minus on Substance</strong></p><p>President Obama has defended Rice against those who would “besmirch” her reputation, saying she “has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, professionalism, and toughness, and grace.”</p><p>Obama also said she had “nothing to do with Benghazi.” However, this does not appear to be entirely accurate. It is an open secret that Susan Rice, together with Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, now ensconced at Obama’s National Security Council, were big promoters of the so-called “responsibility to protect” and thus acted as prime movers behind the U.S. excellent adventure in Libya.</p><p>The charitable explanation is that last year, with a thoroughly naïve “Gaddafi-bad-guys-vs.-maybe-good-guys” approach, blissfully unaware of which elements they might be “protecting” or “liberating” in Benghazi, and with little planning regarding who might replace Gaddafi, they made their mark on Libya.</p><p>Are we to believe that they gave not a thought to the imperative felt by key NATO partners to exploit the fledgling “Libyan Arab spring” to ensure the continuing flow of high-grade crude? And did none of them take any lessons from the excellent adventure of going into Iraq with no serious plan for what might come next?</p><p>As for Ambassador Rice, as some have suggested, her judgment may be compromised by well-deserved guilt at having done nothing to stop the killing of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994 when she was White House referent for African affairs at the NSC under President Bill Clinton and acquiesced in his reluctance to call genocide “genocide.”</p><p>This presumably was why, when President Bill Clinton nominated Susan Rice to be Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997, the Congressional Black Caucus objected to the nomination, citing her membership in “Washington’s assimilationist black elite.”</p><p>The caucus got that right. Susan Rice has moved up the ladder by demonstrating an uncanny ability to ignore the interests of the oppressed – black or brown – whether in Rwanda or in Gaza. Her selective judgment on when to intervene in a foreign crisis normally follows the conventional wisdom of Official Washington, such as with Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011.</p><p><strong>Ignoring Palestine’s Plight</strong></p><p>Thus, her empathy for the “good guys” (whoever they may be) in Libya does not extend to the Palestinians. Like other myopic policymakers and spokespersons, Rice ignores the misery in Gaza and the West Bank because to do otherwise would cast her outside Official Washington’s perceived wisdom, which holds that no smart politician or pundit confronts Israel too directly or too frequently.</p><p>However, the fact that last Thursday the United States could muster only eight votes (beside its own), from the 193 member states of the General Assembly, to oppose giving Palestine the status of non-member observer state is surely a harbinger of defeats to come on this key issue.</p><p>Rice’s one-sided defense of Israel as it pummeled the defenseless Gazans last month was not only unconscionable, but in the long run counterproductive – not only for the U.S. but for Israel. Granted, Rice was speaking for the Obama administration but there are no indications that she has used her influence with the President to reshape U.S. policy significantly.</p><p>Her failure to dissent, which would surely undo her careful construction of a Washington career, continues even as Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yashai has acknowledged that Israel’s goal was to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages” and other Israeli officials casually liken their periodic bloodletting in Gaza to “mowing the grass.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “<a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/11/16/likening-palestinians-to-blades-of-grass/">Likening Palestinians to Blades of Grass.</a>”]</p><p>Washington’s public support for the carnage no doubt has left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a sense of invulnerability even in the face of the stinging vote in the U.N. Thus, he retaliated for the U.N.’s affront by authoring 3,000 new homes for Jewish settlers and plans for thousands more in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.</p><p>On Friday, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor replied lamely, “We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction and announcements.”</p><p>As the Biblical advice states: By their fruits shall you know them. So look at the fruits of Rice’s policymaking, including her one-sided defense of Israel before a world audience increasingly aware of U.S. hypocrisy, particularly on the key issue of Palestine.</p><p>It can surely be assumed that Susan Rice is intelligent enough to understand the moral depravity of U.S. policy on Palestine. Then why does she fall so easily in with extreme pro-Israel hawks and neocons on such issues? Presumably, she understands that such positioning is how to get ahead.</p><p>In playing for support from her fellow hawks, Rice remains the ambitious staffer more than the wise diplomat. And like an ambitious staffer, she senses that hawkishness is usually a safer career path than thoughtful diplomacy. This is not the kind of person anyone should want as Secretary of State.</p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:56:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 754483 at http://www.alternet.org World World susan rice iraq palestine obama Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment: The Humiliation of Private Bradley Manning http://www.alternet.org/world/cruel-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-humiliation-private-bradley-manning <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Pvt. Bradley Manning’s court martial for leaking documents about U.S. wrongdoing has turned up evidence that even Manning’s Marine jailers were worried about the controversy over his degrading treatment in their custody.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/manning.jpg?itok=omIvmsrK" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It is a bitter irony that Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, whose conscience compelled him to leak evidence about the U.S. military brass ignoring evidence of torture in Iraq, was himself the victim of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment while other military officers privately took note but did nothing.</p><p>That was one of the revelations at Manning’s pre-trial hearing at Ft. Meade, Maryland, on Tuesday, as Manning’s defense counsel David Coombs used e-mail exchanges to show Marine officers grousing that the Marines had been left holding the bag on Manning’s detention at their base in Quantico, Virginia, though he was an Army soldier.</p><p>At Quantico, Manning, who is accused of giving hundreds of thousands of pages of classified material to WikiLeaks, was subjected to harsh treatment. He was locked in a 6-foot-by-8-foot cell for 23 hours a day and was kept naked for long periods. His incarceration led the UN Rapporteur for Torture to complain that Manning was being subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.</p><p>According to the e-mail evidence, the controversy over the rough handling of Manning prompted Quantico commander, Marine Col. Daniel Choike, to complain bitterly that not one Army officer was in the chain of blame. Choike’s lament prompted an e-mail reply from his commander, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, offering assurances that Choike and Quantico would not be left “holding the bag.”</p><p>However, concerns about possible repercussions from softening up Manning did little to ease the conditions that Manning faced. His Marine captors seemed eager to give him the business and make him an example to any other prospective whistleblowers. Only after a sustained public outcry was Manning transferred to the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.</p><p>Though his treatment was less harsh there, Manning still has faced 2 ½ years of incarceration without trial and could face up to life imprisonment after a court martial into his act of conscience, i.e. releasing extensive evidence of wrongdoing by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and questionable foreign policies carried out by the U.S. State Department.</p><p>The release of the documents led to hundreds of news stories, including some that revealed the willful inaction of U.S. military brass when informed of torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners held by the U.S.-backed Iraqi military.</p><p><strong>Manning’s Conscience</strong></p><p>As a young intelligence analyst in Iraq, Pvt. Manning grew disgusted with evidence passing through his computer terminal revealing the secretive dark side of the U.S. military occupation, including this pattern of high-level disinterest in Iraqi-on-Iraqi torture, which resulted from a directive known as Frago 242, guidelines from senior Pentagon officials not to interfere with abusive treatment of Iraqi government detainees.</p><p>As the UK Guardian <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/22/iraq-detainee-abuse-torture-saddam">reported</a> in 2010 based on the leaked documents, Frago 242 was a “fragmentary order” summarizing a complex requirement, in this case, one issued in June 2004 ordering American troops not to investigate torture violations unless they involved members of the occupying coalition led by the United States.</p><p>When alleged abuse was inflicted by Iraqis on Iraqis, “only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ,” the Guardian reported, adding: “Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands. In effect, it means that the [Iraqi] regime has been forced to change its political constitution but allowed to retain its use of torture.”</p><p>Some cases of torture were flagrant, according to the disregarded “initial” reports. For instance, the Guardian cited a log report of “a man who was detained by Iraqi soldiers in an underground bunker [and] reported that he had been subjected to the notoriously painful strappado position: with his hands tied behind his back, he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists.</p><p>“The soldiers had then whipped him with plastic piping and used electric drills on him. The log records that the man was treated by US medics; the paperwork was sent through the necessary channels; but yet again, no investigation was required. …</p><p>“Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim – bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated – who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains.</p><p>“At the torturer’s whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water – and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required.</p><p>“Most of the victims are young men, but there are also logs which record serious and sexual assaults on women; on young people, including a boy of 16 who was hung from the ceiling and beaten; the old and vulnerable, including a disabled man whose damaged leg was deliberately attacked. The logs identify perpetrators from every corner of the Iraqi security apparatus – soldiers, police officers, prison guards, border enforcement patrols.</p><p>“There is no question of the coalition forces not knowing that their Iraqi comrades are doing this: the leaked war logs are the internal records of those forces. There is no question of the allegations all being false. Some clearly are, but most are supported by medical evidence and some involve incidents that were witnessed directly by coalition forces.”</p><p>Possessing such evidence – and knowing that the U.S. high command was systematically ignoring these and other crimes – Manning was driven by a sense of morality to get the evidence to the American people and to the world.</p><p><strong>Punishing Morality</strong></p><p>For his act of conscience, Manning has become the subject of harsh incarceration himself, as some U.S. pundits and even members of Congress have called for his execution as a traitor. At minimum, however, he has been made an example to anyone else tempted to tell hard truths.</p><p>Many in Official Washington find nothing wrong with humiliating Manning with forced nudity and breaking down his psychiatric health through prolonged isolation. After all, they say, his release of classified information might have put the lives of some U.S. allies at risk (although there is no known evidence to support that concern).</p><p>There also are legal constraints upon the United States dishing out particularly nasty treatment to Pvt. Manning. Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners is expressly banned by the UN Convention Against Torture, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the Senate in 1994.</p><p>And there are no exceptions for “wartime” whistleblowers like Manning. Here’s what the Convention says: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture” and “an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture” (Art. 2 (2-3)).”</p><p>Personally, when I attended the Tuesday proceeding, I dreaded sitting through another “pre-trial hearing,” having been bored stiff at earlier sessions. But it was a welcome surprise to witness first-hand proof that military courts can still hold orderly proceedings bereft (on Tuesday, at least) of “command influence.”</p><p>Most illuminating at Tuesday’s hearing was the central fact that the virtually indestructible nature of e-mail facilitates the kind of documentary evidence that lawyers lust after – whether they be attorneys, FBI investigators or just plain folks fed up with lies and faux history.</p><p>To the Marine Corps’ credit, I suppose, there was no evidence at the hearing that anyone had tried to expunge the e-mail correspondence revealing the fears about being left “holding the bag” on the harsh treatment of Manning.</p><p><strong>E-Mail vs. Petraeus</strong></p><p>So the availability of e-mail is the major new reality playing out in several major ways. As we have seen, former Gen. David Petraeus is a notable recent victim of the truth that can turn up in e-mail.</p><p>I used to call him “Petraeus ex Machina” for the faux-success of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, which cost almost 1,000 additional U.S. troops dead (and many more Iraqis) to buy a “decent interval” for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to get out of town without a clear-cut military defeat hung around their necks.</p><p>As it turned out, “Petraeus ex Machina,” after a little more than a year as CIA director, was undone in a sex scandal exposed by the modern “machine” of e-mail.</p><p>More to the point, the torrent of e-mail and the “Collateral Murder” video that Manning now acknowledges giving to WikiLeaks as a matter of conscience were, of course, highly illuminating to students of real history. And the e-mails (and State Department cables) also were rather unflattering regarding the aims of U.S. policy and military actions around the globe.</p><p>So how did the White House, the State Department and military brass respond? There was a strongly felt need to make an object lesson of Bradley Manning to show what happens to people whose conscience prompts them to expose deceit and serious wrongdoing, especially through official documents that can’t be denied or spun.</p><p>In Manning’s case, he was delivered to the Marines, famous for their hard-headed determination to follow orders and to get the job done. So, his jailers took Manning’s clothes away and made him stand naked, supposedly out of concern that otherwise he might be “a risk to himself.” To further “protect” him, he was kept in a 23-hour lockdown in a tiny cell.</p><p>The treatment of Manning at Quantico was too much for State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, a 26-year Air Force veteran and former colonel. Crowley was of the old school on the treatment of prisoners; his father, a B-17 pilot spent two years in a German POW camp.</p><p>On March 10, 2011, Crowley went public, telling an audience that Manning was being “mistreated” by the Defense Department; Crowley branded Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”</p><p>Three days later, Crowley resigned with this parting shot: “The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.”</p><p>At Ft. Meade, the pre-trial hearings are continuing, including testimony about how the advice of health professionals regarding Manning was disregarded by the Marine officers and his jailers at Quantico. Later this week, Manning himself is expected to take the stand.</p><p>Again, the fair and orderly manner in which Tuesday’s hearing was conducted was a reassuring sign that not everyone is prepared to cave before “command influence.” The judge, Col. Denise Lind, upon whom all depends, listened attentively and asked several good questions at the end.</p><p>Let’s hope the kangaroos can be kept at bay.</p> Fri, 30 Nov 2012 08:52:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 753020 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World wikileaks bradley manning Pundit Tears Come Pouring Out Over the Fall of CIA Head David Petraeus http://www.alternet.org/world/pundit-tears-come-pouring-out-over-fall-cia-head-david-petraeus <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Much of official Washington is in mourning after David Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair and resigned as head of the CIA. Top pundits were as smitten by the former four-star general as his mistress was.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/petraeus2.jpg?itok=PWdLWd0_" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A day after the surprise announcement that CIA Director David Petraeus was resigning because of marital infidelity, the pundits continue to miss the supreme irony. None other than the head of the CIA (and former bemedaled four-star general) has become the first really big fish netted by the intrusive monitoring of the communications of American citizens implemented after 9/11.</p><p>It is unclear whether it is true that, according to initial reports, Petraeus’s alleged mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, was caught trying to hack into his e-mail. What does seem clear is that the FBI discovered that she had “unusual access” (to borrow the delicate wording of this morning’s New York Times) to Petraeus during his time as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from July 2010 to July 2011. The potential for compromise of sensitive information is equally clear.</p><p>Not surprisingly, Establishment pundits are disconsolate that their beloved David Petraeus has been brought down in such a tawdry way. They are already at work trying to salvage his legacy as the implementer of George W. Bush’s much-heralded “successful surge” in Iraq (even though the sacrifice of nearly 1,000 more dead U.S. soldiers did little more than provide a “decent interval” between Bush’s departure from office in 2009 and the final U.S. withdrawal/defeat at the end of 2011).</p><p>Among those lionizing/eulogizing Petraeus on the morning after his resignation was Washington Post columnist (and longtime CIA apologist) David Ignatius, who argued that Petraeus “achieved genuinely great things.” Ignatius’s lamented Petraeus’s admission of the extramarital affair with the poignancy you might find in a novel by Leo Tolstoy or Victor Hugo about an admirable but ill-fated hero.</p><p>Ignatius, too, was a writer who was embedded with Petraeus and was dazzled by his charm. Ignatius wrote that he “spent nearly three weeks traveling with [Petraeus] during his CENTOM assignment, and saw how he fused the political and military aspects of command, as he met with sheiks and presidents and intelligence chiefs, in a way that should have been captured in a textbook for future commanders.”</p><p>But Ignatius inadvertently acknowledged the futility of Petraeus’s approach to Bush’s wars. The Post columnist wrote: “For all Petraeus’s counter-insurgency doctrine, his Afghanistan command often appeared to be the equivalent of building on quicksand. No sooner were the Afghan forces ‘stood up’ than they would begin to slip away, back into the culture that was deeply, stubbornly resistant to outside pressure. In his last month in Kabul, Petraeus had all the tools of victory in hand except one — the Afghan people and institutions.”</p><p>So much for Petraeus’s “brilliant” counter-insurgency doctrine. He had all the tools except the Afghan people and institutions, the two requisites for winning a counter-insurgency war!</p><p><strong>So What’s the Big Idea?</strong></p><p>Ignatius adoringly adduces the following quote from Petraeus as proof of the ex-general’s acute vision: “As I see it, strategic leadership is fundamentally about big ideas, and, in particular, about four tasks connected with big ideas. First, of course, you have to get the big ideas right — you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings to accomplish your organization’s mission.</p><p>“Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively through the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee the implementation of the big ideas. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from the implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.”</p><p>Got that? That’s probably right out of Petraeus’s PhD dissertation at Princeton, or from a how-to book that might be called “Management Rhetoric for Dummies.”</p><p>If only Petraeus and his colleague generals remembered the smaller – but far more relevant – ideas inculcated in all of us Army officers in Infantry School at Fort Benning in the early Sixties. This is what I recall from memory regarding what an infantry officer needed to do before launching an operation – big or small – division or squad size.</p><p>Corny (and gratuitous) as it may sound, we were taught that the absolute requirement was to do an “Estimate of the Situation” that included the following key factors: Enemy strength, numbers and weapons; Enemy disposition, where are they?; Terrain; Weather; and Lines of communication and supply (LOCS). In other words, we were trained to take into account those “little ideas,” like facts and feasibility that, if ignored, could turn the “big ideas” into a March of Folly that would get a lot of people killed for no good reason.</p><p>Could it be that they stopped teaching these fundamentals as Petraeus went through West Point and Benning several years later? Did military history no longer include the futile efforts of imperial armies to avoid falling into the “graveyard of empires” in Afghanistan?</p><p>What about those LOCS?  When you can’t get there from here, is it really a good idea to send troops and armaments the length of Pakistan and then over the Hindu Kush? And does anyone know how much that kind of adventure might end up costing?</p><p>To Army officers schooled in the basics, it was VERY hard to understand why the top Army leadership persuaded President Barack Obama to double down, twice, in reinforcing troops for a fool’s errand. And let’s face it, unless you posit that the generals and the neoconservative strategic “experts” at Brookings and AEI were clueless, the doubling down was not only dumb but unconscionable.</p><p>Small wonder all the talk about “long war” and Petraeus’s glib prediction that our grandchildren will still be fighting the kind of wars in which he impressed the likes of David Ignatius.</p><p>As commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus was able to elbow the substantive intelligence analysts in Washington off to the sidelines. What might those analysts have said about LOCS, or about the key point of training the Afghan army and police? We don’t know for sure, but it is a safe bet those analysts who know something about Afghanistan (and, better still, about Vietnam) would have rolled their eyes and wished Gen. Westmoreland – oops, I mean Petraeus – good luck.</p><p>As for winning hearts and minds, it was Petraeus who shocked Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s aides by <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022103256.html">claiming</a>that Afghan parents might have burned their own children in order to blame the casualties on U.S. military operations.</p><p>And the same Petraeus eagerly increased the incredibly myopic drone strikes in Pakistan, killing thousands of civilian “militants” and creating thousands more to contend with in the “long war” now alienating a nuclear-armed country of 185 million people.</p><p><strong>Good Riddance</strong></p><p>If, by now, you get the idea that I think David Petraeus is a charlatan (and I am not referring to sexual escapades), you would be correct. The next question, however, is his replacement and whether the policies will change.</p><p>Mr. President, with the mandate you have just won, you have a golden chance to reverse the March of Folly in Afghanistan. You can select a person with a proven record of integrity and courage to speak truth, without fear or favor, and with savvy and experience in matters of State and Defense.</p><p>There are still some very good people with integrity and courage around – former Ambassador Chas Freeman would be an excellent candidate. Go ahead, Mr. President. Show that you can stand up to the Israel lobby that succeeded in getting <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2009/031109a.html">Freeman ousted</a> on March 10, 2009, after just six hours on the job as Director of the National Intelligence Council.</p><p>And there are still some genuine experts around to help you enlist Afghanistan’s neighbors in an effort to ease U.S. troop withdrawal well before the 2014 deadline. The faux experts – the neocon specialists at Brookings, AEI and elsewhere – have had their chance. For God’s sake, take away their White House visiting badges at once.</p><p>Create White House badges for genuine experts like former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East Paul Pillar, former State Department Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and military historian and practitioner Andrew Bacevich (Lt. Col., USA, ret.). These are straight-shooters; they have no interest in “long wars”; they will tell you the truth; all you need do is listen.</p><p>Do NOT listen this time to the likes of your counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, a former CIA functionary who was staff director for CIA Director George “slam-dunk” Tenet. Brennan will probably push for you to nominate Petraeus’s deputy and now Acting CIA Director <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2011/08/29/rise-of-another-cia-yes-man/">Michael Morell</a>, who did the same dirty work for Tenet that Brennan did.</p><p>Morell is even more likely to take his cues from Brennan and tell you what he and Brennan want you to hear. At best, Morell is likely to let things drift until you move on Petraeus’s replacement. And this is no time for drift.</p><p>There is absolutely no reason to prolong the agony in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Doubling down on Afghanistan might have seemed a smart political move at the time, but you now should face the fact that it was a major blunder. Troops out now!</p> Sun, 11 Nov 2012 17:41:00 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 743167 at http://www.alternet.org World Media World david petraeus washington post media david ignatius American Bombs in the Muslim World: The Real Reason Why U.S. Citizens Were Killed in Libya http://www.alternet.org/world/american-bombs-muslim-world-real-reason-why-us-citizens-were-killed-libya <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">While the Republicans make political hay from last month’s killings in Libya, the real source of U.S. woes in the Middle East goes unsaid.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_33898807.jpg?itok=LJTx2yI5" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If you prefer charade to reality, inquisition to investigation, trees over forest – the House Government Oversight Committee hearing last Tuesday on “Security Failures of Benghazi” was the thing for you.</p><p>The hearing was the latest example of the myopic negligence and misfeasance of elected representatives too personally self-absorbed – and politically self-aggrandizing – to head off misbegotten wars and then too quick to blame everyone but themselves for the inevitable blowback.</p><p>“So what’s the problem?” a friend asked, as I bemoaned the narrowly focused, thoroughly politicized charges and countercharges at the hearing. “It’s just a few weeks before the election; it’s high political season; I found the whole farce entertaining.”</p><p>The problem? One is that the partisan one-upmanship of committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and others soft-pedaled the virtual certainty that the murder of four American officials in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, was a harbinger of more such killings to come. Worse still, few of the committee members seemed to care.</p><p>As I listened to the inane discussion, I wanted to shout: “It’s the policy, stupid!” The tightest security measures reinforced by squads of Marines cannot compensate for the fallout from a stupid policy of bombing and violent “regime change” in Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim world.</p><p>Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, one of Issa’s top lieutenants, stated his “personal belief” that “with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards,” the lives of the Americans could have been saved. Unfortunately for Chaffetz and Issa, their star witness, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, shot a wide hole, so to speak, into Chaffetz’s professed personal belief.</p><p>While joining with others in bemoaning State’s repeated refusal to honor pleas from the field for additional security in Libya, Nordstrom admitted that, even with additional security forces, the attack would not have been prevented. Nordstrom, a 14-year veteran of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, was quite specific:</p><p>“Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault,” Nordstrom said. “The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service.”</p><p>For any but the most partisan listener this key observation punctured the festive, Issa/Chaffetz carnival balloon that had assigned most of the blame for the Benghazi murders to bureaucratic indifference of State Department functionaries in Washington.</p><p>Also falling rather flat were partisan attempts to exploit understandable inconsistencies in earlier depictions of the Benghazi attack and twist them into a soft pretzel showing that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism or conducting a “cover-up.”</p><p>There is also the reality that diplomatic service in hostile parts of the world is never safe, especially after U.S. policy has stirred up or infuriated many of “the locals.” For decades, as populations have chafed under what they regard as U.S. military and political interference, U.S. embassies and other outposts have become targets for attacks, some far more lethal than the one in Benghazi.</p><p>To recall just a few such incidents: Iranian resentment at longtime U.S. support for the Shah led to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran under President Jimmy Carter; anger at U.S. involvement in Lebanon led to bombings of the U.S. Embassy and a U.S. Marine barracks killing more than 300 under President Ronald Reagan; U.S. embassies in Africa were bombed under President Bill Clinton; and the violence was brought to the U.S. mainland on 9/11 and also against numerous U.S. facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.</p><p><strong>John Brennan, the Avenger</strong></p><p>However, in this political season, the Republicans want to gain some political advantage by stirring up doubts about President Barack Obama’s toughness on terrorism – and the Obama administration is looking for ways to blunt those rhetorical attacks by launching retaliatory strikes in Libya or elsewhere.</p><p>Thus, it was small comfort to learn that Teflon-coated John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, had flown to Tripoli, hoping to unearth some interim Libyan government officials to consult with on the Benghazi attack. With the embassy’s help, he no doubt identified Libyan officials with some claim to purview over “terrorism.”</p><p>But Brennan is not about investigation. Retribution is his bag. It is likely that some Libyan interlocutor was brought forth who would give him <em>carte blanche</em> to retaliate against any and all those “suspected” of having had some role in the Benghazi murders.</p><p>So, look for “surgical” drone strike or Abbottabad-style special forces attack – possibly before the Nov. 6 election – on whomever is labeled a “suspect.” Sound wild?  It is.  However, considering Brennan’s penchant for acting-first-thinking-later, plus the entrée and extraordinary influence he enjoys with President Obama, drone and/or special forces attacks are, in my opinion, more likely than not. (This is the same Brennan, after all, who compiles for Obama lists of nominees for assassination by drone.)</p><p>If in Tuesday’s debate with ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama is pressed, as expected on his supposed weakness in handling Benghazi, attacks on “terrorists,” real or “suspect,” become still more likely. Brennan and other White House functionaries might succeed in persuading the President that such attacks would be just what the doctor ordered for his wheezing poll numbers.</p><p>But what about tit-for-tat terrorist retaliation for those kinds of attacks? Not to worry.  With some luck, the inevitable terrorist response might not be possible until after the voting. Obama’s advisers would hardly have to remind him of the big but brief bounce after killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.</p><p>Mindless vengeance has been a popular political sell since 9/11. And so have drones. Both dovetail neatly with Brennan’s simplistic approach to terrorism; namely, just kill the “bad guys” – the comic-book moniker so often used for “suspected” militants, terrorists, insurgents and still other folks with an enduring hatred for America.</p><p>Where is Helen Thomas when we need her! She was the only journalist not to genuflect before Brennan’s inanities, and had the temerity to ask him directly to explain what motivates terrorists.</p><p>At an awkward press conference on Jan. 7, 2010, two weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab (the so-called “underwear bomber”) slipped through Brennan’s counter-terrorism net and nearly brought down an airliner over Detroit, Helen Thomas tried to move the discussion beyond preventive gimmicks like improved body-imaging scanners and “behavior detection officers” at airports. She asked Brennan about motivation; why did Abdulmuttalab do what he did.</p><p><strong>Thomas:</strong> “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”</p><p><strong>Brennan:</strong> “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”</p><p><strong>Thomas:</strong> “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”</p><p><strong>Brennan:</strong> “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”</p><p><strong>Thomas:</strong> “Why?”</p><p><strong>Brennan:</strong> “I think this is a – long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p><p><strong>Thomas:</strong> “But you haven’t explained why.”</p><p>Seldom does anyone have the guts to explain why. There is virtually no adult discussion in our mass media about the underlying causes of terrorism. We are generally asked to take it on faith that many Muslims are hardwired at birth or through appeals to their Islamic faith to “hate America.” And, as Brennan would have us believe, that’s why they resort to violence.</p><p><strong>Chickens Home to Roost</strong></p><p>It was no surprise, then, that almost completely absent from the discussion at last Tuesday’s hearing was any attempt to figure out why a well-armed, well-organized group of terrorists wanted to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and kill the diplomats there.</p><p>Were it not for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, impressionable listeners would have been left with the idea that the attack had nothing to do with Washington’s hare-brained, bomb-heavy policies, from which al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups are more beneficiary than victim, as in Libya.</p><p>Not for the first time, Kucinich rose to the occasion at Tuesday’s hearing:</p><p>“You’d think that after ten years in Iraq and after eleven years in Afghanistan that the U.S. would have learned the consequences and the limits of interventionism. … Today we’re engaging in a discussion about the security failures of Benghazi. The security situation did not happen overnight because of a decision made by someone at the State Department. …</p><p>“We owe it to the diplomatic corps, who serves our nation, to start at the beginning and that’s what I shall do. Security threats in Libya, including the unchecked extremist groups who are armed to the teeth, exist because our nation spurred on a civil war destroying the security and stability of Libya. … We bombed Libya. We destroyed their army. We obliterated their police stations …  Al Qaeda expanded its presence.</p><p>“Weapons are everywhere. Thousands of shoulder-to-air missiles are on the loose. Our military intervention led to greater instability in Libya. … It’s not surprising that the State Department was not able to adequately protect our diplomats from this predictable threat. It’s not surprising and it’s also not acceptable. …</p><p>“We want to stop attacks on our embassies? Let’s stop trying to overthrow governments. This should not be a partisan issue. Let’s avoid the hype. Let’s look at the real situation here. Interventions do not make us safer. They do not protect our nation. They are themselves a threat to America.”</p><p>Congressman Kucinich went on to ask the witnesses if they knew how many shoulder-to-air missiles were on the loose in Libya. Nordstrom: “Ten to twenty thousand.”</p><p>And were the witnesses aware of al-Qaeda’s growing presence in Libya, Kucinich asked. One of the witnesses, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, an Army Green Beret who led a 16-member Special Forces security team to protect Americans in Libya from February to August, replied that al-Qaeda’s “presence grows every day. They are certainly more established than we are.”</p><p>Bottom line: Americans are not safer; virtually no one is safer because of what the United States did to Libya to remove the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Q.E.D.</p><p>I was able to listen to most of the hearing on my car radio, and found it difficult to contain my reaction to the farce. So I was glad to get a call from RT TV, asking me to come at once to the studio and comment on the RT news program at 5:00 p.m. I cannot say I enjoyed trying to draw out the dreary implications. But, in this case, they were clear enough to enable “instant analysis.” And <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2zZGDdpD4A&amp;feature=plcp" target="_blank" title="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2zZGDdpD4A&amp;feature=plcp">those ten minutes on camera</a> were, for me, like lancing a boil.</p><p><strong>Dead Consciences</strong></p><p>We are told we should not speak ill of the dead. Dead consciences, though, should be fair game. In my view, the U.S. Secretary of State did herself no credit the morning after the killing of four of her employees, when she said:</p><p>“I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be. But we have to be clear-eyed, even in our grief.”</p><p>But some things are confounding only to those suppressing their own responsibility for untold death and misery abroad. Secretary Clinton continues to preen about the U.S. role in the attack on Libya. And, of Gaddafi’s gory death, she exclaimed on camera with a joyous cackle, “We came; we saw; he died.”</p><p>Can it come as a surprise to Clinton that this kind of attitude and behavior can set a tone, spawning still more violence?</p><p>The Secretary of State may, arguably, be brighter than some of her immediate predecessors, but her public remarks since the tragedy at Benghazi show her to be at least as equally bereft of conscience as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and yes-we-think-the-price-of-a-half-million-Iraqi-children-dead-because-of-our-sanctions-is-worth-it Madeleine Albright.</p><p>Like Albright, Clinton appears to suffer from Compassion Deficit Disorder (CDD), especially when it comes to people who do not look like most Americans. (She does make occasional exceptions for annoying <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/18/ex_cia_analyst_ray_mcgovern_beaten" target="_blank" title="http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/18/ex_cia_analyst_ray_mcgovern_beaten">people like me</a> who also merit her disdain).</p><p>Given that she is plagued with CDD, it would have been too much to expect, I suppose, for Clinton to have taken some responsibility for the murder of four of her employees – much less the killing, maiming and destruction caused by the illegal attack on Libya. But if she really wants to get “clear-eyed,” holding herself accountable would be a good start.</p><p>Was it dereliction of duty for Clinton to have failed to ensure that people working for her would honor urgent requests for security reinforcement in places like Benghazi? I believe it was. The buck, after all, has to stop somewhere.</p><p>In my view, counterterrorism guru Brennan shares the blame for this and other failures. But he has a strong allergy to acknowledging such responsibility. And he enjoys more Teflon protection from his perch closer to the President in the White House.</p><p>The back-and-forth bickering over the tragedy in Benghazi has focused on so many trees that the forest never came into view. Not only did the hearing fall far short in establishing genuine accountability, it was bereft of vision. Without vision, the old proverb says, the people perish – and that includes American diplomats.</p><p>The killings in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, validate that wisdom. If the U.S. does not change the way it relates to the rest of the world, and especially to the Muslim world, more and more people will perish.</p><p>If we persist on the aggressive path we are on, Americans will in no way be safer. As for our diplomats, in my view it is just a matter of time before our next embassy, consulate or residence is attacked.</p><p><strong>Role of Congress</strong></p><p>It is a lot easier, of course, to attack a defenseless Muslim country, like Libya, when a supine House of Representatives forfeits the prerogative reserved to Congress by the Constitution to authorize and fund wars – or to refuse to authorize and fund them.</p><p>At Tuesday’s hearing, Kucinich noted that in Libya “we intervened, absent constitutional authority.” Most of his colleagues reacted with the equivalent of a deep yawn, as though Kucinich had said something “quaint” and “obsolete.” Like most of their colleagues in the House, most Oversight Committee members continue to duck this key issue, which directly involves one of the most important powers/duties given the Congress in Article I of the Constitution.</p><p>Such was their behavior last Tuesday, with most members preferring to indulge in hypocritical posturing aimed at scoring cheap political points. Palpable in that hearing room was one of the dangers our country’s Founders feared the most – that, for reasons of power, position and money, legislators might eventually be seduced into the kind of cowardice and expediency that would lead them to forfeit their power and their duty to prevent a president from making war at will.</p><p>Many of those now doing their best to make political hay out of the Benghazi “scandal” are the same legislators who appealed strongly for the U.S. to bomb Libya and remove Gaddafi. This, despite it having been clear from the start that eastern Libya had become a new beachhead for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. From the start, it was highly uncertain who would fill the power vacuums in the east and in Tripoli.</p><p>In short, Oversight Committee members were among those in Congress who thought war on Libya was a great idea, with many criticizing Obama for not doing more, sooner, for “leading from behind” rather than “leading from the front.” Now, they’re making cheap political points from the consequences of a war for which they strongly pushed.</p><p><strong>War? What War?</strong></p><p>As Congress failed to exercise its constitutional duties – to debate and vote on wars – Obama, along with his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton, took a page out of the Bush/Cheney book and jumped into a new war. Just don’t call it war, said the White House. It’s merely a “kinetic humanitarian action.”</p><p>You see, our friends in Europe covet that pure Libyan oil and Gaddafi had been a problem to the West for a long time. So, it was assumed that there would be enough anti-Gaddafi Libyans that a new “democratic” government could be created and talented diplomats, like Ambassador Christopher Stevens, could explain to “the locals” how missiles and bombs were in the long-term interest of Libyans.</p><p>On Libya, the Obama administration dissed Congress even more blatantly than Cheney and Bush did on Iraq, where there was at least the charade of a public debate, albeit perverted by false claims about Iraq’s WMD and Saddam Hussein’s ties to al-Qaeda.</p><p>And so Defense Secretary Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton stepped off cheerily to strike Libya with the same kind of post-war plan that Cheney, Bush, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had for Iraq – none.</p><p>Small wonder chaos reigns in Benghazi and other parts of the country. Can it be that privileged politicians like Clinton and Panetta and the many “one-percenters” in Congress and elsewhere really do not understand that, when the U.S. does what it did to Libya, there will be folks who don’t like it; that they will be armed; that there will be blowback; that U.S. diplomats, given an impossible task, will die?</p><p><strong>Libya: Precedent for Syria</strong></p><p>Constitutionally, the craven Congress is a huge part of the problem. Only a few members of the House and Senate seem to care very much when presidents act like kings and send off troops drawn largely by a poverty draft to wars not authorized (or simply rubber-stamped) by Congress.</p><p>Last Tuesday, Kucinich’s voice was alone crying in the wilderness, so to speak. (And, because of redistricting and his loss in a primary that pitted two incumbent Democrats against each other, he will not be a member of the new Congress in January.)</p><p>This matters – and matters very much. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, pursued this key issue with Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.</p><p>Chafing e<em>x post facto</em>at the unauthorized nature of the war in Libya, Sessions asked repeatedly what “legal basis” would the Obama administration rely on to do in Syria what it did in Libya.</p><p>Watching that part of the testimony it seemed to me that Sessions, a conservative Southern lawyer, was not at all faking when he pronounced himself “almost breathless,” as Panetta stonewalled time after time. Panetta made it explicitly clear that the administration does not believe it needs to seek congressional approval for wars like Libya. At times he seemed to be quoting verses from the Book of Cheney.</p><p><strong>Sessions:</strong> “I am really baffled … The only legal authority that’s required to deploy the U.S. military [in combat] is the Congress and the President and the law and the Constitution.”</p><p><strong>Panetta</strong>: “Let me just for the record be clear again, Senator, so there is no misunderstanding. When it comes to national defense, the President has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country, and we will, Sir.”</p><p>(If you care about the Constitution and the rule of law, I strongly recommend that you view the entire <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/07/Shocking%20Defense%20Secretary%20Says%20International%20Permission%20Trumps%20Congressional%20Permission" target="_blank" title="http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/07/Shocking Defense Secretary Says International Permission Trumps Congressional Permission">7-minute video clip</a>.)</p><p>Lawyers all: Sessions, Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Obama. In my view, the latter three need to be called out on this. If they see ambiguity in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, they should explain the reasoning behind their flexible interpretation.</p><p>Cannot the legal profession give us some clarity on this key point before legally trained leaders with a penchant for abiding by the Constitution only when it suits them take our country to war in Syria without the authorization of our elected representatives?</p> Mon, 15 Oct 2012 10:53:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 727347 at http://www.alternet.org World World libya terrorism al qaeda drones It's Not About a Film: The Real Reason Why the Middle East Exploded http://www.alternet.org/world/its-not-about-film-real-reason-why-middle-east-exploded <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The conventional wisdom about the recent explosion of protest in the Middle East--that Muslims are way too sensitive or irrational--is dead wrong.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/film.jpg?itok=0yYbbmE5" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“Why Is the Arab world so easily offended?” asks the headline atop an article by Fouad Ajami, which the <em>Washington Post</em> published online last Friday to give perspective to the recent anti-American violence in Muslim capitals.</p><p>While the <em>Post</em> described Ajami simply as a “senior fellow” at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, Wikipedia gives a more instructive perspective on his checkered career and dubious credibility.</p><p>An outspoken supporter of the war on Iraq, Ajami was still calling it a “noble effort” well after it went south. He is a friend and colleague of one of the war’s intellectual authors, neocon Paul Wolfowitz, and also advised Condoleezza Rice. It was apparently Wolfowitz or Rice who fed Ajami’s analyses to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who cited Ajami’s views repeatedly in speeches.</p><p>The most telling example of this came in Cheney’s VFW address on August 26, 2002, in which the Vice President laid down the terms of reference for the planned attack on Iraq. Attempting to assuage concerns about the upcoming invasion, Cheney cited Ajami’s analysis: “As for the reaction of the Arab ‘street,’ the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are ‘sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.’”</p><p>In his writings, Ajami did warn, in a condescending way, that one could expect some “road rage … of a thwarted Arab world – the congenital condition of a culture yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds.” He then added:</p><p>“There is no need to pay excessive deference to the political pieties and givens of the region. Indeed, this is one of those settings where a reforming foreign power’s simpler guidelines offer a better way than the region’s age-old prohibitions and defects.”</p><p><strong>No One Better?</strong></p><p>Ignoring the albatross of tarnished credentials hanging around Ajami’s neck, the <em>Post</em> apparently saw him as just the right academician to put perspective on the violence of last week in Middle East capitals. As for his record of credibility: Well, who takes the trouble to go to Wikipedia for information on pundits?</p><p>Nor were the <em>Post’s</em>editors going to take any chances that its newspaper readers might miss the benefit of Ajami’s wisdom. So the <em>Post</em> gave pride of place to the same article in Sunday’s Outlook section, as well. What the <em>Post</em> and other mainstream media want us to believe comes through clearly in the title given to the article’s jump portion, which dominates page 5: “Why a YouTube trailer ignited Muslim rage.”</p><p>Setting off the article were large, scary photos: on page one, a photo of men brandishing steel pipes to hack into the windows of the U.S. embassy in Yemen; the page-5 photo showed a masked protester, as he “ran from a burning vehicle near the U.S. embassy in Cairo.”</p><p>So – to recapitulate – the <em>Post’s</em> favored editorial narrative of the Mideast turmoil is that hypersensitive, anti-American Muslims are doing irrational stuff like killing U.S. diplomats and torching our installations. This violence was the result of Arabs all too ready to take offense at a video trailer disrespectful of the Prophet.</p><p>Nonetheless, it seems to be true that the trailer did have some immediate impact and will have more. According to an eyewitness, the 30 local guards who were supposed to protect the U.S. consulate in Benghazi simply ran away as the violent crowd approached on Tuesday night.</p><p>Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the video trailer which made the guards abandon their post.</p><p>“There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”</p><p><strong>Pretext and Catalyst</strong></p><p>Predictably, Islamophobes and Muslim haters with influence over Western media coverage are citing the violence as the kind of “irrational” over-reaction that “exposes” Islam’s intolerance and incompatibility with democratic values and demonstrates that Islam is on a collision course with the West.</p><p>It is no surprise that Ajami gives no attention to the many additional factual reasons explaining popular outrage against the U.S. and its representatives – reasons that go far deeper than a video trailer, offensive though it was. Ajami steers clear of the dismal effects of various U.S. policies over the years on people across the Muslim world – in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya, Afghanistan. (The list stretches as far as distant Indonesia, the most populous Muslim state.)</p><p>Last week’s violence not only reflects the deep anger at and distrust of the U.S. across the Islamic world, but also provides insight into the challenges posed by the power now enjoyed by the forces of extremism long held in check by the dictators toppled by last year’s wave of revolutions.</p><p><strong>Cui Bono?</strong></p><p>Who are the main beneficiaries of misleading narratives like that of Ajami. He himself concedes, “It is never hard to assemble a crowd of young protesters in the teeming cities of the Muslim world. American embassies and consulates are magnets for the disgruntled.”</p><p>So, does that mean the notorious video trailer is best regarded as a catalyst for the angry protests rather than the underlying cause? In other words, if the video served as the spark, who or what laid the kindling? Who profits from the narrative that neocons are trying so hard to embed in American minds?</p><p>Broad hints can be seen in the <em>Washington Post’s</em> coverage over recent days – including a long piece by its Editorial Board, “Washington’s role amid the Mideast struggle for power,” published the same day Ajami’s article appeared online.</p><p>What the two have in common is that the word “Israel” appears in neither piece. One wonders how and why the <em>Post‘s</em> editors could craft a long editorial on the “Mideast struggle for power” — and give editorial prominence to Ajami’s article — without mentioning Israel.</p><p>Presumably because the <em>Post’s</em>readers aren’t supposed to associate the fury on the Arab “street” with anger felt by the vast majority Arabs over what they see as U.S. favoritism toward Israel and neglect for the plight of the Palestinians. The Israeli elephant, with the antipathy and resentment its policies engender, simply cannot be allowed into the discussion.</p><p>In the circumstances of last week, Israel may be less a centerpiece than the ugly Islamophobia that has found a home in America. But these factors tend to build on and reinforce each other. And the indignities suffered at the hand of Israel certainly has resonance is the larger context of Muslims who feel their religion and culture are under attack in a variety of ways.</p><p><strong>“Why Do They Hate Us?”</strong></p><p>On Saturday, during a live interview on Al-jazeera, I tried to inject some balance into the discussion. I noted that one key reason for the antipathy toward the U.S. among Muslims is the close identification of the U.S. with Israel and the widespread realization that support from Washington enables Israel’s policies of oppression and warmongering against the Palestinians and its regional neighbors.</p><p>As to “why they hate us,” I had time to recall three very telling things I had mentioned in <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/052209a.html">an earlier article</a> on this sensitive topic.</p><p>1 — From the 9/11 Commission Report of July 2004, page 147, regarding the motivation of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”</p><p>2 — The mainstream-media-neglected report from the Pentagon-appointed Defense Science Board, a report that took direct issue with the notion that they hate us for our freedom. Amazingly, in their Sept. 23, 2004, report to Rumsfeld, the DSB directly contradicted what Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush had been saying about “why they hate us.” Here’s part of what the DSB said:</p><p>“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”</p><p>The <em>New York Times</em> ignored the Defense Science Board’s startling explanation (as it has other references to the elephant plopped on the sofa). On Nov. 24, 2004, the erstwhile “newspaper of record” did publish a story on the board’s report — but performed some highly interesting surgery.</p><p>Thom Shanker of the <em>Times</em> quoted the paragraph beginning with “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom’” (see above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following sentence about what Muslims do object to, i.e., U.S. “one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights” and support for tyrannical regimes.</p><p>The <em>Times</em> then included the sentence immediately after the omitted one. In other words, it was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the offending middle sentence was surgically removed.</p><p>Equally important — and equally missing — there is never any sensible examination of the motives that might be driving what Cheney called this “same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers [who] are still there.” We are left with Ajami’s image of hypersensitive or irrational Muslims unwilling to confront their own cultural failings.</p><p>3 – On May 21, 2009, just four months after he left office, Dick Cheney gave a speech at the neocon America Enterprise Institute and blurted out some uncharacteristic honesty. He explained why terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world — for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences.”</p><p>However, no longer enjoying the services of a functionary to vet his rhetoric, Cheney slipped up (and so did the reporters covering the event).  Expanding on the complaints of the terrorists, Cheney said:</p><p>“They have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … <strong>our support for Israel</strong>(emphasis added) — these are the true sources of resentment.”</p><p>“Our support for Israel” – a true source of resentment. Cheney got that part right.</p><p><strong>One Brief Shining Moment</strong></p><p>My mind wandered back to June 2004, when former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer published his insightful book<em>, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.</em> The book won him interviews with the likes of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, and – to his credit – Scheuer rose to the occasion with candor rarely heard in mainstream media before or since.</p><p>On June 23, 2004, he told Mitchell:</p><p>“It’s very hard in this country to debate policy regarding Israel … bin Laden’s ‘genius’  lies in his ability to exploit those U.S. policies most offensive to Muslims – our support for Israel, our presence on the Arabian peninsula, in Afghanistan and Iraq, our support for governments that Muslims believe oppress Muslims.”</p><p>Scheuer went on to say that bin Laden regarded the war on Iraq as proof of America’s hostility toward Muslims, and of the reality that America “is willing to do almost anything to defend Israel. The war is certainly viewed as an action meant to assist the Israeli state. It is … a godsend for those Muslims who believe as bin Laden does.”</p><p>In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” he added that failure to change American policies to better match realities in the Middle East could mean decades of war. Only if the American people learn the truth could more effective strategies be fashioned and implemented, he added.</p><p>By and large, the truth-telling did not happen, so there has been but negligible pressure from the American people. The situation today differs little from then.</p><p>Indeed, in the same time frame of Scheuer’s book, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld grappled publicly with a troubling “unknown” that followed along the same lines, i.e., “whether the extremists … are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. It is quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this.”</p><p>Since then, eight years have come and gone – with still no coherent approach and with continued media camouflaging of the bedrock reasons as to “why they hate us.”</p><p>Among the chief beneficiaries of this woodenheaded approach? One can look at the military-industrial-congressional-media-security complex, especially the war profiteers and their favored politicians who stoke fear of the “evildoers.” All the better to scare you with.</p> Mon, 17 Sep 2012 14:20:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 711975 at http://www.alternet.org World World islamophobia washington post fouad ajami middle east Obama Ruling Shields Torturers--What Horrors From the CIA Can We Expect Next? http://www.alternet.org/world/obama-ruling-shields-torturers-what-horrors-cia-can-we-expect-next <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to prosecute CIA torturers in two high-profile homicides bows to the political difficulty of going after field agents while sparing superiors.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1347007910155-3-0_0.jpg?itok=69CT6Ipj" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>When Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu said last week that the ex-leaders of the U.S. and U.K. should be made to “answer for their actions” in attacking Iraq on the basis of lies, Western savants and pundits greeted the remarks from the retired archbishop of South Africa with an all-too-familiar knowing, dismissive shrug.</p><p>It was the same condescending shrug with which U.S. media dismissed the undisputed documentary evidence in the Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002, clearly showing that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” plan to attack Iraq.</p><p>But in his op-ed of Sept. 2 in London’s <em>Observer</em>, Tutu pulled no punches: “Those responsible for this suffering and loss of life [in Iraq] should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.”</p><p>Tutu noted that shortly before George W. Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, he called the White House urging that the U.N. inspectors be given more time to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice “demurred, saying there was too much risk and the President would not postpone [the attack] any longer.”</p><p>Mincing few words about the fraudulent “justification” for the attack, Tutu wrote, “The then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies. … They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of [new conflicts in] Syria and Iran before us. …</p><p>Tutu continued, “If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?”</p><p><strong>Tutu and Brandeis</strong></p><p>What leaped to mind is the famous (but largely unobserved) warning of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in 1928 – a strong admonition with such sad relevance today:</p><p>“The government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes — would bring terrible retribution.”</p><p>Before this century, it was not unknown for the U.S. government to break the law. What distinguishes the first dozen years of the 21<sup>st</sup> Century is Washington’s utter disregard for law – both national and international – and its backsliding into the law of the jungle, where might makes right.</p><p>Nowhere is this clearer than in reluctance of the Obama administration to hold practitioners of the most flagrant abuses – torture, for example – to account. As Marjorie Cohn <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/09/03/an-all-clear-for-bushs-torturers/">has pointed out</a>, Attorney General Eric Holder, in announcing on Aug. 31 the closure of the last two criminal investigations of deaths apparently from CIA torture, Holder conferred amnesty on countless officials, lawyers and interrogators who set and carried out the policy of cruel treatment.</p><p>Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department will not prosecute CIA officials responsible for the deaths of detainee Gul Rahman in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002 and Manadel al-Jamadi in Iraq in 2003 is tantamount to giving CIA operatives license to torture and kill with impunity.</p><p>Rahman froze to death after being beaten, stripped and shackled to a concrete wall at the CIA’s infamous “Salt Pit.” A U.S. military autopsy ruled al-Jamadi’s death a homicide. This came as no surprise to the millions who saw the photo of his beaten, lifeless body packed in ice and wrapped in plastic, lying on the ground at Abu Ghraib.</p><p>These two cases had been the only ones still open, after President Barack Obama decided not to prosecute other CIA officials involved in abusing detainees. Applying a novel approach to this heinous chapter, the President insisted on not “laying blame for the past” but “instead come together on behalf of our common future.”</p><p><strong>The Seven Moral Dwarfs</strong></p><p>One of the most powerful pressures intimidating Obama was the vocal opposition of seven previous CIA directors, supported by a sympathetic “mainstream” media, to the very thought of holding CIA officials accountable for torture and other abuses. Although it has been long since forgotten, Obama and Holder initially gave some lip service to the concept of no one being above the law.</p><p>Unable to prevent Holder from starting an investigation of torture and other war crimes implicating CIA officials past and present, some of those same CIA officials, together with what in intelligence circles are called “agents of influence” in the media, pulled out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation.</p><p>In a bizarre twist, seven CIA directors — including three who were themselves implicated in planning and conducting torture and other abuses — <a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/091909a.html">wrote to the President</a> in September 2009, asking him to call off Holder. The letter and the motivation behind it could not have been more transparent or inappropriate, in my judgment.</p><p><strong>Afraid of the CIA?</strong></p><p>In these circumstances, Obama refused to honor his Constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” For the same reason – fear – he kept on duty the CIA managers, lawyers and operatives implementing the kidnapping, torture, secret prisons and other abuses of the Bush/Cheney years.</p><p>The CIA director in place before Obama took office, Michael Hayden, made the mistake of threatening Obama, none to subtly, that there would be insubordination in the ranks, were he to allow CIA officials to be held accountable for war crimes and other abuses. So Obama dispatched Hayden unceremoniously, replacing him with a much more politically astute, malleable, well-connected politician/lawyer named Leon Panetta as CIA director.</p><p>Panetta at once took on the function of defense lawyer for the CIA. Virtually all those responsible for the abuses of the Bush/Cheney-era continued in place. And to this day, those operations officers loudly sing Panetta’s praise for protecting them.</p><p>The only CIA manager who paid something of a price for his open advocacy of “extraordinary rendition” (aka kidnapping and sending captives abroad for torture) and other abuses was John Brennan, one of former CIA director George Tenet’s closest lieutenants.</p><p><strong>Brennan Too Tainted</strong></p><p>Obama had appointed Brennan to lead his advance team at the CIA and it became quickly clear that, initially, Brennan was in line to become CIA Director. But the Senate Intelligence Committee had the book on Brennan, and warned Obama’s staffers of the likelihood of a Donnybrook at any confirmation hearings, were Obama to nominate Brennan to become CIA director.</p><p>The Senate Intelligence Committee has spent the last three years researching the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, in which Brennan played a key role, and reportedly has completed its report.  According to a reliable source with good access, Brennan is shown to be one of the senior officials complicit in the worst abuses and that, partly for this reason, the Senate committee will not make the report public until after the November election.</p><p>That Brennan had a very soft landing within the Obama administration speaks volumes. Apparently, Obama felt it not quite possible to just let him go, since Brennan knew where a lot of the bodies were buried, so to speak, and would be less dangerous (and maybe even an asset) if kept on the inside.</p><p>In any case, whether out of fear of a jilted Brennan or regard for his experience on what Cheney called the “dark side,” Obama decided to give Brennan a White House job in which he could still wield considerable influence on intelligence operations without having to go through a contentious confirmation proceeding.</p><p>Brennan became deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, with White House writ over several key functions related to “covert action” – like compiling lists of terrorism “suspects,” including American citizens, to be summarily assassinated – and CIA-led drone operations.</p><p><strong>A Congenital Structural Fault in CIA</strong></p><p>It was an unfortunate accident of history that, after World War II, covert action operatives were given a home in a CIA created by President Harry Truman for a completely different purpose – to give him prompt, no-holds-barred intelligence analysis and prevent another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor. The State Department’s George Kennan, on the other hand, wanted to create a strong capability to checkmate the U.S.S.R. by covert action, including overthrowing governments (known today as “regime change”).</p><p>Kennan and his supporters cleverly shoehorned the covert operations function and its practitioners into the CIA by inserting one sentence into the National Security Act of 1947. That sentence charged the CIA director with performing “such other functions and duties related to intelligence” as the President might assign.</p><p>Presidents like George W. Bush have interpreted that sentence as <em>carte blanche</em> to use the CIA as their own personal <em>Gestapo</em>. Do not blanche before the word G<em>estapo,</em>the name for Adolf Hitler’s secret police. Once out of office, Truman himself was quoted as using it while bemoaning what had become of the CIA he created to provide him with objective intelligence upon which to base well informed policy decisions.</p><p>In a <em>Washington Post</em> op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence,” Truman complained that the CIA had been “diverted from its original assignment … from its intended role.” He argued that the CIA’s “operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.”</p><p>Correspondence between Truman and a former intelligence aide, Admiral Sidney Souers, suggests that the timing of the op-ed, one month after President John Kennedy’s assassination, was no accident.  Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after the assassination, Truman sketched out what he wanted to say in the op-ed.</p><p>The mainstream media moved quickly to prevent further distribution of Truman’s op-ed. Moreover, it was reportedly pulled from subsequent editions of that day’s <em>Washington Post</em> itself. Apparently, covert action, including the use of “agents of influence” within the U.S. media, was alive and well in 1963.</p><p><strong>Accumulated Evil</strong></p><p>Fast forward four decades to George W. Bush’s decision to mount a “global war on terror” and to attack Iraq under conditions identical to what the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal defined as a “war of aggression.” Nuremberg depicted such a war as the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”</p><p>It fell to then-CIA Director George Tenet to structure and staff the accumulated evils of kidnapping, torture, secret prisons – and God knows what else. Tenet performed “such other functions and duties” with aplomb – with only a tiny trace of soul searching.</p><p>In his memoir, <em>At the Center of the Storm</em>, Tenet notes that the CIA needed “the right authorities” to do the President’s bidding: “We would be given as many authorities as CIA had ever had. Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers our new freedom to act.” (p. 178)</p><p>But Tenet and his White House masters concluded, correctly, that given the mood of the times and the lack of spine among lawmakers, congressional “overseers” would bend into their post-9/11 role of serving as congressional “overlookers.”</p><p>That left only the federal prosecutors to worry about. With Holder’s announcement last week, any lingering fear that Obama or Holder might summon the courage to prosecute CIA officials, operating within those “authorities” or beyond them, has now evaporated.</p><p><strong>Back at CIA</strong></p><p>What effect, I wonder, will the exoneration of all those “dark-side” CIA officials have on the agency’s efforts to recruit new employees? What kinds of recruits are likely to be attracted at the prospect of engaging in this kind of work with “no worries?” And what will it be like eating in the CIA cafeteria, wondering whether the folks at the next table have had blood on their hands.</p><p>What kind of chilling effect will Holder’s announcement have on CIA and military employees with a conscience, who might consider blowing the whistle, in the hope that the crimes be stopped and the perpetrators held to account?</p><p>Now, not only will they be acutely aware that by sticking their necks out they will risk their own livelihoods and more, but they would also have to reckon with the likelihood that the crimes they might try to expose would be covered up and their perpetrators protected.</p><p>Bottom line? Nothing will be done about it anyway, so why take any risk at all? That is the message intelligence officials are likely to take from the announcement of our chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Eric Holder, that no one is to be prosecuted for grievous crimes of state.</p> Fri, 07 Sep 2012 10:31:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 706574 at http://www.alternet.org World Human Rights World torture cia bush obama How Pussy Riot's Protest Recalls the Spirit of Mary, Mother of Jesus http://www.alternet.org/world/how-pussy-riots-protest-recalls-spirit-mary-mother-jesus <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Pussy Riot song performed at a church asked Jesus’s mother Mary to become a feminist, but Mary always was a feminist through and through.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2012-07-29_at_2.06.02_pm.png?itok=bIS8gCdC" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The song to which the punk band “Pussy Riot” danced on Feb. 21 in Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral ends with a prayer asking Jesus’s mother Mary to “become a feminist,” but Mary always was a feminist through and through, with a voice speaking strongly for justice.</p><p>Centuries of saccharine portraits and iconography have obscured a more reality-based appreciation of this gutsy young woman. But recent scripture study throws light on how Mary implanted a vision of inclusive justice into the heart of Jesus.</p><p>Though Mary is not given a lot of airtime by the men who wrote the scriptures, it is not hard to figure out where she was coming from. Just give her a brief sound bite and those within earshot would have found her profoundly subversive of a corrupt system not unlike that existing today in the punk band’s Russia.</p><p>In Mary’s time, the religious authorities in Palestine were working hand in glove with the Herod-type sycophants of Caesar — and doing quite well, thank you very much. (No invidious comparison with Emperor Putin and the successfully co-opted Russian Orthodox prelates is intended, of course.)</p><p>Mary is thought to have been several years younger than the courageous women of “Pussy Riot,” but she clearly shared both their outspoken exuberance and belief that God was, in the end, a God of justice and would deliver. Here’s Mary upon learning she was to be the mother of Jesus, who might just deliver the Jewish people from their oppressors:</p><p><em>I am bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song …</em></p><p><em>God has shown strength,</em></p><p><em>Scattering the bluffing braggarts.</em></p><p><em>God knocked tyrants off their high horses,</em></p><p><em>Pulled victims out of the mud.</em></p><p><em>The starving poor sat down to a banquet;</em></p><p><em>The callous rich were left out in the cold. …</em></p><p><em>It’s exactly what God promised, beginning          </em></p><p><em>With Abraham and right up to now.”</em></p><p><em>(Luke 1: 50-55 – Eugene Peterson translation)</em></p><p>As the passage shows, Mary was outspoken in her advocacy of inclusive justice — the biblical precondition for Shalom, which can be defined as peace, completeness or the elusive moment when everything is right. For in the biblical perspective, <strong>peace is no more nor less than the experience of justice</strong>.</p><p>Mary was in good company. Indeed, her views fit within the tradition of Miriam and other women prophets. Those familiar with the Hebrew scriptures may recall the part of Exodus recording the song and dancing of Miriam right after the Israelites make it to dry land just ahead of the ill-fated “horses and chariots of Pharaoh”:</p><p><em>The prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all he women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain:</em></p><p><em>Sing to God gloriously triumphant;</em></p><p><em>Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.</em></p><p><em>(Exodus 15:20-21 – The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition)</em></p><p>Bible accounts include a long line of courageous women celebrating freedom, justice and Shalom. These stories of women include what is perhaps the first celebration of highly imaginative, as well as bold, nonviolent civil disobedience.</p><p>Who remembers Shiphrah and Puah from the first chapter of Genesis? Okay, here’s a brief refresher. They were the two midwives who defied Pharaoh’s order to snuff out the lives of all male Hebrew babies at birth. “Despite Pharaoh’s command,” says Genesis, “they feared God and refused to kill the boy babies.”</p><p>When Egypt’s homeland security operatives told Pharaoh of this defiance, he called Shiphrah and Puah on the carpet. They provided an artful alibi: “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. Hebrews deliver their babies very quickly, before the midwives can get to them.”</p><p>Obstetrics at the time being at their infancy, so to speak, it is possible that Pharaoh’s physicians concurred. I am no biblical exegete and have read no biographies of that particular Pharaoh, but it seems to me equally possible that he was so bemused by their grit and imagination — and perhaps even by their instinctive rejection of infanticide — that he decided to let them off the hook.</p><p>In any case, without the fabled courage of Shiphrah and Puah, as the story goes, Moses and his big brother Aaron would never have gotten anywhere near the Red Sea. It strikes me as of a kind with the example set not only by “Pussy Riot,” but also strong American women witnesses for justice — in the Catholic Worker movement, for example, and in Code Pink.</p><p>And so back to the witness of the three women of “Pussy Riot,” sentenced to two years of prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The facts strongly suggest that it was not “religious hatred,” but rather hatred of the undisguised, pandering role to which the Russian Orthodox Church has reverted in giving unqualified political support for President Vladimir Putin, as it did for the Tsars.</p><p>This can be seen in the following verses of their offending song, which clearly refer to Tsar Putin, formerly a senior official in the KGB and later head of the FSB, a successor agency to the KGB:</p><p><em>“Black robe, golden epaulettes</em></p><p><em>All parishioners crawl to bow</em></p><p><em>The phantom of liberty is in heaven …</em></p><p><em> </em><em>The head of the KGB, their chief saint.</em></p><p><em>Leads protesters to prison under escort</em></p><p><em>In order not to offend his Holiness …”</em></p><p>The punk musician JD Samson, interviewed on “Democracy Now,” shared this word of praise for the courage of the young Russian women in standing up to the highly authoritarian Russian government:</p><p>“One of the things that’s really strong for everyone is that they are staying so incredibly confident and strong. They’re standing there in handcuffs in a cage smiling, because they know that what they’ve done is ignite a fire in the rest of the world, and they’re extremely happy to have done so. And, yeah.”</p><p>And yeah.</p> Tue, 21 Aug 2012 13:49:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 696867 at http://www.alternet.org World LGBTQ World Get Ready for a Catastrophic War: Israel Likely to Strike Iran Before November Elections http://www.alternet.org/world/get-ready-catastrophic-war-israel-likely-strike-iran-november-elections <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Israeli government is exploiting the American political timetable to pressure President Obama to support an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1329676457120-2-0.jpg?itok=mnHcJFRu" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>More Washington insiders are coming to the conclusion that Israel’s leaders are planning to attack Iran before the U.S. election in November in the expectation that American forces will be drawn in. There is widespread recognition that, without U.S. military involvement, an Israeli attack would be highly risky and, at best, only marginally successful.</p><p>At this point, to dissuade Israeli leaders from mounting such an attack might require a public statement by President Barack Obama warning Israel not to count on U.S. forces — not even for the “clean-up.” Though Obama has done pretty much everything short of making such a public statement, he clearly wants to avoid a confrontation with Israel in the weeks before the election.</p><p>However, Obama’s silence regarding a public warning speaks volumes to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.</p><p>The recent pilgrimages to Israel by very senior U.S. officials — including the Secretaries of State and Defense carrying identical “PLEASE DON’T BOMB IRAN JUST YET” banners — has met stony faces and stone walls.</p><p>Like the Guns of August in 1914, the dynamic for war appears inexorable. Senior U.S. and Israeli officials focus publicly on a “window of opportunity,” but different ones.</p><p>On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized the need to allow the “most stringent sanctions ever imposed on any country time to work.” That, said Carney, is the “window of opportunity to persuade Iran … to forgo its nuclear weapons ambitions.”</p><p>That same day a National Security Council spokesman dismissed Israeli claims that U.S. intelligence had received alarming new information about Iran’s nuclear program. “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon,” the spokesman said.</p><p>Still, Israel’s window of opportunity (what it calls the “zone of immunity” for Iran building a nuclear bomb without Israel alone being able to prevent it) is ostensibly focused on Iran’s continued burrowing under mountains to render its nuclear facilities immune to Israeli air strikes, attacks that would seek to maintain Israel’s regional nuclear-weapons monopoly.</p><p>But another Israeli “window” or “zone” has to do with the pre-election period of the next 12 weeks in the United States. Last week, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevi <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=8692">told</a> Israeli TV viewers, “The next 12 weeks are  very critical in trying to assess whether Israel will attack Iran, with or without American backup.”</p><p>It would be all too understandable, given Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s experience with President Obama, that Netanyahu has come away with the impression that Obama can be bullied, particularly when he finds himself in a tight political spot.</p><p>For Netanyahu, the President’s perceived need to outdistance Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the love-for-Israel department puts Obama in a box. This, I believe, is the key “window of opportunity” that is uppermost in Netanyahu’s calculations.</p><p>Virtually precluded, in Netanyahu’s view, is any possibility that Obama could keep U.S. military forces on the sidelines if Israel and Iran became embroiled in serious hostilities. What I believe the Israeli leader worries most about is the possibility that a second-term Obama would feel much freer not to commit U.S. forces on Israel’s side. A second-term Obama also might use U.S. leverage to force Israeli concessions on thorny issues relating to Palestine.</p><p>If preventing Obama from getting that second term is also part of Netanyahu’s calculation, then he also surely knows that even a minor dustup with Iran, whether it escalates or not, would drive up the price of gasoline just before the election — an unwelcome prospect for Team Obama.</p><p>It’s obvious that hard-line Israeli leaders would much rather have Mitt Romney to deal with for the next four years. The former Massachusetts governor recently was given a warm reception when he<strong></strong>traveled to Jerusalem with a number of Jewish-American financial backers in tow to express his solidarity with Netanyahu and his policies.</p><p>Against this high-stakes political background, I’ve personally come by some new anecdotal information that I find particularly troubling. On July 30, the <em>Baltimore Sun</em> posted <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-israel-iran-20120730,0,5791324.story" title="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-israel-iran-20120730,0,5791324.story">my op-ed</a>, “Is Israel fixing the intelligence to justify an attack on Iran?” Information acquired the very next day increased my suspicion and concern.</p><p>Former intelligence analysts and I were preparing a proposal to establish direct communications links between the U.S. and Iranian navies, in order to prevent an accident or provocation in the Persian Gulf from spiraling out of control. Learning that an official Pentagon draft paper on that same issue has been languishing in the Senate for more than a month did not make us feel any better when our own proposal was ignored. (Still, it is difficult to understand why anyone wishing to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf would delay, or outright oppose, such fail-safe measures.)</p><p>Seeking<strong></strong>input from other<strong></strong>sources with insight into U.S. military preparations, I learned that, although many U.S. military moves have been announced, others, with the express purpose of preparation for hostilities with Iran, have not been made public.</p><p>One source reported that U.S. forces are on hair-trigger alert and that covert operations inside Iran (many of them acts of war, by any reasonable standard) have been increased. Bottom line: we were warned that the train had left the station; that any initiative to prevent miscalculation or provocation in the Gulf was bound to be far too late to prevent escalation into a shooting war.</p><p><strong>SEARCHING FOR A <em>CASUS BELLI</em></strong></p><p>A <em>casus belli</em> — real or contrived — would be highly desirable prior to an attack on Iran. A provocation in the Gulf would be one way to achieve this. Iran’s alleged fomenting of terrorism would be another.</p><p>In my op-ed of July 30, I suggested that Netanyahu’s incredibly swift blaming of Iran for the terrorist killing of five Israelis in Bulgaria on July 18 may have been intended as a pretext for attacking Iran. If so, sadly for Netanyahu, it didn’t work. It seems the Obama administration didn’t buy the “rock-solid evidence” Netanyahu adduced to tie Iran to the attack in Bulgaria.</p><p>If at first you don’t succeed … Here’s another idea: let’s say there is new reporting that shows Iran to be dangerously close to getting a nuclear weapon, and that previous estimates that Iran had stopped work on weaponization was either wrong or overtaken by new evidence.</p><p>According to recent Israeli and Western media reports, citing Western diplomats and senior Israeli officials, U.S. intelligence has acquired new information — “a bombshell” report — that shows precisely that. Imagine.</p><p>Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Radio that the new report is “very close to our [Israel’s] own estimates, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates. It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one.”</p><p><em>Washington Post</em> neocon pundit Jennifer Rubin was <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/iran-closing-in-on-its-goal-nuclear-weaponization/2012/08/09/39f1f246-e226-11e1-a25e-15067bb31849_blog.html" title="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/iran-closing-in-on-its-goal-nuclear-weaponization/2012/08/09/39f1f246-e226-11e1-a25e-15067bb31849_blog.html">quick to pick up</a> the cue, expressing a wistful hope on Thursday that the new report on the Iranian nuclear program “would be a complete turnabout from the infamous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that asserted that Iran had dropped its nuclear weapons program.”</p><p>“Infamous?” Indeed. Rubin warned, “The 2007 NIE report stands as a tribute and warning regarding the determined obliviousness of our national intelligence apparatus,” adding that “no responsible policymaker thinks the 2007 NIE is accurate.”</p><p>Yet, the NIE still stands as the prevailing U.S. intelligence assessment on Iran’s nuclear intentions, reaffirmed by top U.S. officials repeatedly over the past five years. Rubin’s definition of “responsible” seems to apply only to U.S. policymakers who would cede control of U.S. foreign policy to Netanyahu.</p><p>The 2007 NIE reported, with “high confidence,” the unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon in the fall of 2003 and had not restarted it. George W. Bush’s own memoir and remarks by Dick Cheney make it clear that this honest NIE shoved a steel rod into the wheels of the juggernaut that had begun rolling off toward war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration.</p><p>The key judgments of the 2007 NIE have been re-asserted every year since by the Director of National Intelligence in formal testimony to Congress.</p><p>And, unfortunately for Rubin and others hoping to parlay the reportedly “new,” more alarmist “intelligence” into an even more bellicose posture toward Iran, a National Security Council spokesman on Thursday threw cold water on the “new” information, saying that “the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran’s nuclear activities had not changed.”</p><p>Relying on the unconfirmed Israeli claim about “new” U.S. information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Rubin had already declared the Obama administration’s Iran policy a failure, writing:</p><p>“Foreign policy experts can debate whether a sanctions strategy was flawed from its inception, incorrectly assessing the motivations of the Iranian regime, or they can debate whether the execution of sanctions policy (too slow, too porous) was to blame. But we are more than 3 1/2 years into the Obama administration, and Iran is much closer to its goal than at the start. By any reasonable measure, the Obama approach has been a failure, whatever the NIE report might say.”</p><p><strong>Pressures Will Persist</strong></p><p>The NSC’s putdown of the Israeli report does not necessarily guarantee, however, that President Obama will continue to withstand pressure from Israel and its supporters to “fix” the intelligence to “justify” supporting an attack on Iran.</p><p>Promise can be seen in Obama’s refusal to buy Netanyahu’s new “rock-solid evidence” on Iran’s responsibility for the terrorist attack in Bulgaria. Hope can also be seen in White House reluctance so far to give credulity to the latest “evidence” on Iran’s nuclear weapons plans.</p><p>An agreed-upon <em>casus belli</em> can be hard to create when one partner wants war within the next 12 weeks and the other does not. The pressure from Netanyahu and neocon cheerleaders like Jennifer Rubin — not to mention Mitt Romney — will increase as the election draws nearer, agreed-upon <em>casus belli</em> or not.</p><p>Netanyahu gives every evidence of believing that — for the next 12 weeks — he is in the catbird seat and that, if he provokes hostilities with Iran, Obama will feel compelled to jump in with both feet, i. e., selecting from the vast array of forces already assembled in the area.</p><p>Sadly, I believe Netanyahu is probably correct in that calculation. Batten down the hatches.</p> Mon, 13 Aug 2012 07:56:00 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 692202 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel iran netanyahu obama A Decade Ago, Fixed Intelligence Led to a Disastrous War--Is It Happening Again With Iran? http://www.alternet.org/story/156432/a_decade_ago%2C_fixed_intelligence_led_to_a_disastrous_war--is_it_happening_again_with_iran <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is John Sawers, the head of British intelligence, laying the groundwork for a war with Iran?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1343069956_bushblair.jpeg?itok=M7jqbLb0" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> Recent remarks by Sir John Sawers, who heads Britain’s MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service that is Britain’s CIA counterpart), leave us wondering if Sawers is preparing to “fix” intelligence on Iran, as his immediate predecessor, Sir John Scarlett, did on Iraq.</p> <p> Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in creating “dodgy dossiers” hyping the threat of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” is relatively well known. On July 4, the red warning light for politicization was again flashing brightly in London, as Sawers told British senior civil servants that Iran is “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9396360/MI6-chief-Sir-John-Sawers-We-foiled-Iranian-nuclear-weapons-bid.html" title="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9396360/MI6-chief-Sir-John-Sawers-We-foiled-Iranian-nuclear-weapons-bid.html">two years away</a>” from becoming a “nuclear weapons state.” How did Sawers come up with “two years?”</p> <p> Since late 2007, the benchmark for weighing Iran’s nuclear program has been the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7125701.stm" title="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7125701.stm">unanimous assessment</a> by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restarted it. Those judgments have been revalidated every year since, despite strong pressure to bow to more ominous — but evidence-starved — assessments by Israel and its neo-conservative supporters.</p> <p> The 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate helped thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. This shines through in George Bush’s own memoir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-popping declaration: ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.’”</p> <p> Bush continues, “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” (Decision Points, p. 419)</p> <p> Hands tied on the military side, U.S. covert operations flowered, with $400 million appropriated at that same time for a major escalation of the dark-side struggle against Iran, according to military, intelligence, and congressional sources <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh#ixzz21InpWOP3" title="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh#ixzz21InpWOP3">cited</a> by Seymour Hersh in 2008.</p> <p> The clandestine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with computer viruses, the murders of Iranian scientists, and what the Israelis call the “unnatural” demise of senior officials like Revolutionary Guards Major General Hassan Moghaddam, father of Iran’s missile program.</p> <p> Moghaddam was killed in a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/14/iran-missile-death-mossad-mission" title="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/14/iran-missile-death-mossad-mission">large explosion</a> last November, with Time magazine citing a “western intelligence source” as saying the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast. More threatening still to Iran are the severe economic sanctions laid upon it, sanctions which are tantamount to an act of war.</p> <p> Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel neo-conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere have been pushing hard for an attack on Iran, seizing every pretext they can find.  Netanyahu was suspiciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claiming that Iran was behind the tragic terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18, despite Bulgarian authorities and even the White House warning that it is too early to attribute responsibility.</p> <p> Netanyahu’s instant indictment of Iran strongly suggests he is looking for excuses to up the ante. With the Persian Gulf looking like an accident waiting to happen, stocked as it is with warships from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere — and with no fail-safe way of communicating with Iranian naval commanders — an escalation-generating accident or provocation is now <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NG19Ak03.html" title="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NG19Ak03.html">more likely than ever</a>.</p> <p> <strong>July 23, a Day of Infamy</strong></p> <p> Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an important date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for British and U.S. intelligence on Iraq. On July 23, 2002 at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dearlove, <a href="http://www.tompaine.com/articles/proof_bush_fixed_the_facts.php">briefed</a> Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials on his talks with his American counterpart, CIA Director George Tenet, in Washington three days before.</p> <p> In the official minutes of that briefing (now known as the <a href="http://downingstreetmemo.com/" title="http://downingstreetmemo.com/">Downing Street Memo</a>), which were leaked to theLondon Times and published on May 1, 2005, Dearlove explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”</p> <p> When then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dearlove explains matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”</p> <p> There is no sign in the minutes that anyone hiccupped — much less demurred — at <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/12/iraq-dossier-case-for-war" title="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/12/iraq-dossier-case-for-war">making a case for war</a> and furthering Blair’s determination to join Bush in launching the kind of “war of aggression” outlawed by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II and by the United Nations Charter.</p> <p> Helped by the acquiescence of its chief spies, the Blair government mainlined into the body politic un-assessed, raw intelligence and forged documents, with disastrous consequences for the world.</p> <p> UK citizens were spoon-fed fake intelligence in the <a href="https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/September_Dossier" title="https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/September_Dossier">September Dossier</a> (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “<a href="https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Iraq_Dossier" title="https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Iraq_Dossier">Dodgy Dossier</a>,” based largely on a 12-year old <a href="http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2002/issue3/jv6n3a1.html" title="http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2002/issue3/jv6n3a1.html">PhD thesis</a> culled from the Internet — all presented by spy and politician alike as ominous premonitory intelligence.</p> <p> So was made the case for war. All lies, resulting in hundreds of thousands dead and maimed and millions of Iraqis displaced — yet no one held to account.</p> <p> Sir Richard Dearlove, who might have prevented this had he had the integrity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full honors and became the Master of a Cambridge college. John Scarlett, who as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee signed off on the fraudulent dossiers, was rewarded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knighthood. George W. Bush gave George Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award.</p> <p> What need have we for further proof? “So are they all, all honorable men” — reminiscent of those standing with Brutus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Antony to expose them and stir the appropriate popular reaction.</p> <p> Therein lies the problem: instead of being held accountable, these “honorable men” were, well, honored. Their soft landings offer a noxious object lesson for ambitious bureaucrats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the prevailing winds.</p> <p> Ill-begot honors offer neither deterrent nor disincentive to current and future intelligence chiefs tempted to follow suit and corrupt intelligence rather than challenge their political leaders with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integrity? In this milieu integrity brings one knowing smirks rather than honors. And it can get you kicked out of the club.</p> <p> <strong>Fixing Intelligence on Iran</strong></p> <p> Are we in for another round of “fixing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing the terrorist attack in Bulgaria, has already provided what amounts to a variation on Dearlove’s ten-year-old theme regarding how war can be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”</p> <p> According to the Jerusalem Post on July 17, <a href="http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=278175" title="http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=278175">Netanyahu said</a> all countries that understand that Iran is an exporter of world terror must join Israel in “stating that fact clearly,” in order to emphasize the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.</p> <p> Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday as well as on Fox News Sunday, Netanyahu returned to that theme. Blaming the July 18 terrorist attack in Bulgaria on Hezbollah supported by Iran, he asked TV viewers to imagine what would happen if the world’s most dangerous regime got the world’s most dangerous weapons.</p> <p> This has too familiar a ring. Has it been just ten years?</p> <p> Will MI6 chief Sawers model his conduct today on that of his predecessors who, ten years ago, “justified” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intelligence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Parliamentary overseers should demand a briefing from Sawers forthwith, before erstwhile bulldog Britain is again dragged like a poodle into another unnecessary war.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service </div></div></div> Mon, 23 Jul 2012 08:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Annie Machon, Consortium News 679979 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran nuclear israel intelligence united states britain New Mystery Surrounds Yasser Arafat's Death: Was He Poisoned By Israel? http://www.alternet.org/story/156248/new_mystery_surrounds_yasser_arafat%27s_death%3A_was_he_poisoned_by_israel <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The recent discovery of polonium on Yasser Arafat’s clothing has increased an already widespread suspicion that Israel was involved in his sudden demise.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1341946927_yasserarafat19992.jpg?itok=MPQIMIB7" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> We may never know with complete certainty whether the still unexplained health crisis that suddenly did in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was due to natural or unnatural causes. But the recent discovery of polonium on Arafat’s clothing, added to a considerable body of circumstantial evidence, has increased an already widespread suspicion that Israel was involved in his sudden demise.</p> <p> Last week, Al Jazeera reported findings by pathologists in Switzerland that Arafat may have been poisoned by polonium; they based this observation on their examination of parts of Arafat’s clothing provided by his widow, Suha. She has now asked that his body be exhumed and examined.</p> <p> Polonium is the lethal radioactive substance that was used in the high-profile assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, in London in 2006. John Croft, a retired British radiation expert who worked on the Litvinenko case, said a dose large enough to kill would probably have to come from a government with either civilian or military nuclear capabilities.</p> <p> Suha Arafat says that, after her husband died, she stored some of his clothing in her lawyer’s office before making them available to the Swiss. Nevertheless, there are sure to be important questions relating to the chain of custody. Doubts on that score could be allayed IF the necessary permissions for a carefully monitored exhumation are granted and IF suspicious traces of polonium are found on Arafat’s body, which is interred in a grave in Ramallah on the West Bank.</p> <p> A radiological science expert at University College London, Derek Hill, has said that, despite the natural decay of the substance after almost eight years, an autopsy should be able to tell “with pretty high confidence” whether Arafat had polonium in his body when he died.</p> <p> A credible exhumation/examination undertaking, however, would require the cooperation of Israel (itself a suspect) and of Palestinian National Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, who many believe was himself complicit, at least in covering up what happened to Arafat.</p> <p> In other words, there are many possible slips between cup and lip — that is, there is no guarantee that more definitive physical evidence will emerge and even if it does, there is virtually no prospect that it will be undisputed.</p> <p> This iffy prognosis takes into account how little is known about polonium poisoning, as well as the entirely predictable challenges by scientists, some of whom can be expected to be serving political agendas. Polonium aside, the upsurge in speculation on the cause of Arafat’s death has already injected still more poison into the atmosphere of relations between the Palestinians and Israelis.</p> <p> The latest news has already fueled unrest in the West Bank and could conceivably lead to more violence. On the other hand, almost eight years have gone by since Arafat’s death, and the great majority of Palestinians have long since concluded that Israel was responsible for his demise. Besides, Arafat had been losing popularity among Palestinians even before then.</p> <p> Just the same, when a major world leader dies under suspicious circumstances, it seems worth trying to discern what facts one can before speculating on what actually happened.</p> <p> <strong>What is Known</strong></p> <p> -Arafat seemed in good health until he fell suddenly ill on Oct. 12, 2004.</p> <p> -Doctors in Lausanne, Switzerland, and elsewhere have ruled out a range of rumored causes of death, based on Arafat’s original medical file provided by his wife.</p> <p> -The director of Lausanne’s University Center of Legal Medicine, Patrice Mangin, M.D., a forensic pathologist, has said: “There was not liver cirrhosis, apparently no traces of cancer, no leukemia. Concerning HIV, AIDS – there was no sign, and the symptomology was not suggesting these things.”</p> <p> -The Swiss pathologists had hoped to study the blood and urine samples taken from Arafat while he was at Percy Military Hospital in France. But when Suha attempted to obtain them, she was told that those samples had been destroyed. Adding to the confusion, a senior French military doctor has told the Associated Press, “Samples taken in the hospital remain in the hospital.”</p> <p> -The suspicions of Arafat’s longtime personal physician, Dr. Ashraf al Kurdi, zoomed immediately after Arafat’s death, when Abbas blocked an autopsy. In an interview in early 2005, Kudri called Arafat’s death “stealth assassination.” Kudri examined Arafat on day 16 of his 29-day illness and noted what he believed to be signs of poisoning — a reddish patch on his face and skin with a metallic yellow coloring, as well as severe weight loss.</p> <p> -In an interview five months after Arafat died, Kudri said: “If someone (of the Islamic faith) dies of unknown causes, it is mandatory to have an autopsy — mandatory. … I suspect Arafat died of a ‘killing poison’ … The death was due to this.”</p> <p> -Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian intelligence officer mentioned above, who became a harsh critic of the Russian government is the first person known to have been deliberately killed by plutonium poisoning. Hospitalized in London in November 2006, he died three weeks later. Traces of polonium were found in his teacup.</p> <p> -In <a href="http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2007/01/former-longtime-confidant-accuses.html">a blog</a> on Jan. 2, 2007, journalist Stephen Lendman (to whom I am indebted for some of the data on this wrap-up list) commented on a book titled Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait” by Uri Dan, a confidant of Ariel Sharon. Dan accused the former Israeli Prime Minister of poisoning Arafat, with the prior approval of President George W. Bush.</p> <p> -Lendman also notes that 14 months before Arafat died, the Israeli security cabinet decided to “remove” the Palestinian leader, using deliberately vague language that could mean expulsion or killing.</p> <p> Ehud Olmert (then Israeli vice prime minister under Sharon) went public telling Israeli radio after the cabinet decision: “The question is – How are we going to do it (remove him, that is)? Expulsion is certainly one of the options, and killing is also one of the options.” Other Israeli officials rang changes on this theme, but Olmert was the closest confidant of Sharon to state that Arafat might be killed.</p> <p> -Dov Weisglass, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Sharon, insisted in a radio interview Thursday that “Israeli officials never considered killing Arafat.”</p> <p> -Israeli officials are making a major effort to belittle the Swiss findings. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor has said, “Making up conspiracy theories based on pretend evidence is so ludicrous that it befits the comedy channel and not a news channel.” (Jon Stewart take note.)</p> <p> <strong><strong>I</strong>srael’s PR Counteroffensive</strong></p> <p> Like their official Israeli counterparts, Israeli and American pro-Israel commentators have been coming out of the woodwork to discredit the polonium story.</p> <p> Hussein Ibish, one of the neocons’ favorite Arab commentators, quickly placed an article in Foreign Policy in which he dismisses the “orgy of conspiratorial theorizing” as “utterly baseless.”  In what may be the most unkindest cut of all, Ibish compares the Al Jazeera editors to Glenn Beck and his “conspiracy-minded talk show.”</p> <p> My personal favorite, though, is a Jerusalem Post article by Yaakov Lappin, titled “Polonium found on Arafat’s clothing was planted,” quoting at length a Dr. Ely Karmon.  According to Lappin, Karmon is “a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism, working at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya’s Institute for Counterterrorism.”</p> <p> Dr. Karmon claims that the half-life of the polonium in question would make it impossible for it to have been discovered at such high levels if it had been used to kill Arafat eight years ago.</p> <p> And Karmon should know: he holds a B.A. in English and French Culture from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a license in International Relations and a license in Bantu Languages from universities in Paris, and a PhD in political science from Haifa University. His bio on the Herzliya Web site says nothing about where Dr. Karmon acquired expertise related to chemistry, biology, radiology, or nuclear matters.</p> <p> <strong>The Supremes to Bush to Sharon</strong></p> <p> Who is primarily responsible for Arafat’s demise? Ultimately, you could say the same Supreme Court that gave the 2000 election to George W. Bush with his flair for sizing up people and his jaunty compassion-deficit disorder.</p> <p> Experience showed President Bush to be an impressionable sort with a roulette penchant for putting great premium on initial impressions and latching onto people believed to be kindred souls – be it Russian President Vladimir Putin (trust at first sight), or Ariel Sharon.</p> <p> As for Sharon, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, did not like what he was seeing under the second President Bush. A master of discretion with the media, Scowcroft nevertheless saw fit to tell the London Financial Times on Oct. 14, 2004 that Sharon had Bush “mesmerized” and “wrapped around his little finger.”</p> <p> At the time, Scowcroft was chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and thus well positioned to watch the U.S.-Israeli relationship unfold. He was summarily fired after making the Sharon-Bush comments.</p> <p> George W. Bush first met Sharon in 1998, when the Texas governor was taken on a tour of the Middle East by Matthew Brooks, then executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Sharon was foreign minister and took Bush on a helicopter tour over the Israeli occupied territories. An Aug. 3, 2006, McClatchy wire story by <a href="http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/15191004.htm">Ron Hutcheson quotes Matthew Brooks</a>:</p> <p> “If there’s a starting point for George W. Bush’s attachment to Israel, it’s the day in late 1998, when he stood on a hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, with eyes brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience. He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he came away profoundly moved.”</p> <p> Bush made a highly revealing reference to that trip at the very first meeting of his National Security Council (NSC) on Jan. 30, 2001. After announcing he would abandon the decades-long role of honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians and would tilt pronouncedly toward Israel, Bush said he had decided to let Sharon do whatever he saw fit to do.</p> <p> At that point Bush brought up his trip to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition and the flight over Palestinian camps, but there was no trace of concern for the Palestinians. In <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Pretext-War-Americas-Intelligence-Agencies/dp/140003034X/antiwarbookstore/">A Pretext for War</a>, James Bamford quotes Bush: “Looked real bad down there,” he said with a frown. Then he said it was time to end America’s efforts in the region. “I don’t see much we can do over there at this point,” he said.</p> <p> As for Yasser Arafat, he quickly became bête noire for Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as for Sharon. And the Israeli Prime Minister played Bush and Cheney like a violin and viola. A few months before Arafat’s death, George W. Bush arbitrarily withdrew U.S. recognition of Arafat and the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”</p> <p> On July 18, 2004, in an interview in Le Figaro, Bush dismissed Arafat as a negotiating partner, saying, “The real problem is that there is no leadership that is able to say ‘help us establish a state and we will fight terror and answer the needs of the Palestinians.’”</p> <p> That departure by Bush was criticized by the European Union and Russia, who were part of the quartet leading negotiations between Israel and the PLO. Sharon had already said what Bush said.</p> <p> <strong>Irony in Arafat’s Death</strong></p> <p> On many levels, Arafat was very cooperative with Israel and the U.S. , which is why he became so deeply despised by many Palestinians. They saw him as a sellout to Israel for going along with the land-grab sham (also known as “the peace process”), enriching himself and his cohorts in the process, and establishing a narrow, repressive and authoritarian regime.</p> <p> Ironically, Arafat usually jumped when Israel said jump, but he wasn’t able to deliver anything to his people, because the Israelis were not really interested in anything like the peace that most Palestinians envisage.</p> <p> So Tel Aviv had a malleable puppet, but also an increasingly restive Palestinian population tired of no progress/reforms, worsening poverty, a growing popularity/respectability of relatively non-corrupt groups like Hamas and others opposed to Arafat, who had outlived his usefulness.</p> <p> Here, with some dates highlighted, is a short chronology of important pre-Arafat-disposal events:</p> <p> On Oct. 14, 2004, the usually taciturn Brent Scowcroft tells the Financial Times:  “Sharon just has him [George W. Bush] wrapped around his little finger; I think the president is mesmerized.” By then it was well known that Bush agreed with Sharon that Arafat had to be replaced. How much the Bush White House was aware beforehand of the circumstances of Arafat’s demise is not known — yet.</p> <p> On Oct. 25, 2004, Arafat falls seriously ill from as yet unknown causes.  He died on Nov. 11, 2004 of the identical unknown causes. Shortly thereafter, Arafat’s relatives and friends — and countless others — speculated that he died an “unnatural” death.</p> <p> It is well known that Israel’s Mossad has a branch of scientists and operatives who are experts in lethal poisons (shades of the Soviet KGB’s “Mokryie Dela” [wet affairs] department). And, as is well known, the operatives in Israel’s Knocking-Off-Iranian-Scientists Branch have been chalking up merit commendations, so to speak, over recent years.</p> <p> Senior Israeli officials take considerable pride in this “wet-affairs” capability, and have taken to brag about it. On Jan. 11, 2012, for example, Israeli armed forces chief Benny Gantz warned Parliament: “2012 is expected to be a critical year for Iran,” mentioning the nuclear issue and “continued international pressure” on Iran. Still on Iran, Gantz made a point of adding “things that happen to it unnaturally.”</p> <p> Less than a day after Gantz’s warning, a 32-year-old Iranian scientist, father of two, was killed by assassins on motorcycles, an attack that the Associated Press called “almost certainly the work of Israel.”</p> <p> Last November, when Iranian Revolutionary Guards Gen. Hassan Moghadam, one of the driving forces behind Iran’s advanced ballistic missile program, was killed in a large explosion, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak commented publicly the next day that he would like to see more such explosions in Iran.</p> <p> Time magazine cited a Western intelligence source as saying Israel’s Mossad was behind the explosion at the Iranian military base. “Don’t believe the Iranians that it was an accident,” the official said. The source added that more acts of sabotage were in the works as part of an effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program. “There are more bullets in the magazine,” he added.</p> <p> <strong>And More Polonium Too?</strong></p> <p> Israeli investigative journalist Michael Karpin wrote about polonium in his 2006 book, The Bomb in the Basement: How Israel Went Nuclear and What that Means for the World. Karpin reveals that exposure to polonium, the radioactive substance used to poison Litvinenko, killed several Israeli scientists a few decades ago.</p> <p> These Weizmann Institute scientists were exposed to the same dangerous substance that was found at a number of London sites Litvinenko had visited, as well as in three British Airways planes that flew the Moscow-London route.</p> <p> According to Karpin, in 1957 a leak was discovered at a Weizmann Institute laboratory operated by Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The Israeli authorities did not admit that the leak and the deaths were connected, but people close to one fatal casualty confirmed that the state took responsibility for the accident and compensated his family.</p> <p> Having learned how lethal polonium can be, it seems clear in retrospect that Israeli scientists set out to learn all they could about polonium poisoning. From Litvinenko’s demise it seems clear the Russians have had a parallel program. Or, maybe … do you suppose…?</p> <p> Israel runs a major defense research institute specializing in biology, medicinal chemistry and environmental science at Nes Ziona, 20 miles south of Tel Aviv; it is called the Israel Institute for Biological Research. With 350 employees, including 150 scientists, it is suspected of also developing biological toxins for use by Israeli intelligence for assassinations. This is probably where Israel conducts its research on polonium.</p> <p> More bullets in the magazine; polonium/“stealth assassination”; drones with “hellfire” missiles — whatever. Life (the life of some, that is) is cheap. And assassinations are us. O Tempora, O Mores!</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Tue, 10 Jul 2012 08:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 671591 at http://www.alternet.org World World israel palestine george w. bush ariel sharon mahmoud abbas plo poison yasser arafat polonium Why Julian Assange's Ecuador Move is Brilliant http://www.alternet.org/story/155966/why_julian_assange%27s_ecuador_move_is_brilliant <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Julian Assange’s appeal for asylum in Ecuador may spare him a prison stay in Sweden or the United States.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>  </p> <p> Barring a CIA drone strike on the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s sudden appeal for asylum there may spare him a prison stay in Sweden or possibly the United States. Assange’s freedom now depends largely on Ecuadorian President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, a new breed of independent-minded leader like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.</p> <p> Correa has been a harsh critic of U.S. behavior toward Ecuador and its Latin American neighbors as well as an outspoken fan of WikiLeaks. Atypically for the region, Ecuador is not a major recipient of U.S. economic or military aid, so Washington’s leverage is limited. This suggests that the Ecuadorian government may decide to defy Washington, accept Assange’s request for asylum, and have him flown to Ecuador pronto.</p> <p>  </p> <p> In which case, most British “justice” officials will probably say good riddance and breathe a sigh of relief — literally. They have been holding their noses for weeks against the odor of their obeisance to U.S. diktat, after the British High Court rejected Assange’s argument that he should not be extradited to Sweden.</p> <p> Although Swedish “justice” officials have not charged Assange with any crime, they insist that he be extradited to face questions resulting from allegations by two women of sexual assault. This is widely — and in my view correctly — perceived as a subterfuge to deliver Assange into Swedish hands to facilitate his eventual extradition to the U.S. to face even more serious charges for publishing classified information highly embarrassing to Washington.</p> <p> There have been persistent reports that Assange has been the target of a secret grand jury investigating disclosures of classified U.S. documents allegedly slipped to WikiLeaks by Army Pvt. Bradley Manning. A leaked 2011 e-mail from Fred Burton, a vice president of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, informed colleagues that “we have a sealed indictment on Assange,” but that claim has not been confirmed. Manning, however, is facing a court martial for allegedly leaking U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.</p> <p> <strong>Giving the Brits the Slip</strong></p> <p> Interesting, is it not, that Assange — just days before he was to be extradited to Sweden — was able to (I guess) slip out of his ankle monitor, sneak through the cordon of Bobbies on watch at the estate where he was under house arrest, dodge other Bobbies and security chaps, and hit pay dirt inside the Ecuadorian embassy.</p> <p> There is no denying that Assange is a clever chap. But unless you think him some kind of Houdini, there has to be some more likely explanation as to how he slipped through the various police checkpoints and walked into the embassy, which is located behind the popular Harrods department store in London.</p> <p> Were the British security forces all out for tea? Or were they just as happy to have the Assange case – and all the pressure from Washington – focused elsewhere?</p> <p> Certainly, the British had enough clues that, <em>in extremis</em>, Assange might attempt to make it to the Ecuadorian embassy. In late November 2010, Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Kintoo Lucas publicly offered Julian Assange residency in Ecuador, saying that Ecuador was “very concerned” by information revealed by WikiLeaks linking U.S. diplomats with spying on friendly governments.</p> <p> “We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions,” Mr. Lucas said.</p> <p> President Correa promptly backtracked, saying that Kintto Lucas’s remarks were unauthorized and that no formal invitation had been extended to Assange, and noting that residency for him would require legal review in the event he requested it. (This came just one week before Assange was arrested, imprisoned, and then put under house arrest.)</p> <p> <strong>Now I’m Requesting It</strong></p> <p> Ecuador’s embassy in London, announcing Assange’s arrival Tuesday afternoon, said he was seeking asylum, and added:</p> <p> “As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito,” Ecuador’s capital. “While the department assesses Mr. Assange’s application, Mr. Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government.”</p> <p> The embassy added that the bid for asylum “should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”</p> <p> Temporizing diplomatic phrasing of this kind seems <em>de rigueur</em>, as President Correa and his associates take time to choose how to react to the <em>fait accompli</em> of Julian Assange in Ecuador’s custody. In Quito, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters that his country “is studying and analyzing the request [for asylum].”</p> <p> <strong>Like Mother, Like Son</strong></p> <p> Assange’s mother not only applauded her son’s decision to seek asylum, but summed up the situation concisely, telling the press:</p> <p> “I hope Ecuador will grant him asylum, and if not, another third-world country. I hope the third world can stand up for what’s morally right when the first world can’t and won’t because they’ve got their snouts in the trough, rolling over for U.S. greed and big business.</p> <p> “Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist, a publisher of the truth about corruption, war crimes, kidnapping, blackmail, and manipulation. … He remains uncharged and unquestioned on a crime which, if you explore it, has absolutely no basis. Of course he would seek asylum.”</p> <p> She added that her son was a victim of decisions by the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia to abandon proper legal process.</p> <p> <strong>How 20<sup>th</sup> Century!</strong></p> <p> Abandoning proper legal process? Such thinking seems so — to borrow words from the eminent legal scholar Alberto Gonzales — so “quaint,” so “obsolete,” so pre-9/11! Abandoning proper legal process post-9/11 has become the “new paradigm” adopted not only by the Bush, but also by the Obama administration.</p> <p> Not only is Julian Assange within his rights to seek asylum, he is also in his right mind. Consider this: he was about to be sent to faux-neutral Sweden, which has a recent history of bowing to U.S. demands in dealing with those that Washington says are some kind of threat to U.S. security. Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday provided an example:</p> <p> “In December 2001, Sweden handed over two asylum seekers to the CIA, which then rendered them to be tortured in Egypt. A ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Committee found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for its role in that rendition (the two individuals later received a substantial settlement from the Swedish government).”</p> <p> For those of you thinking, Oh, but that was under the Bush administration and that kind of thing is over, think again. In 2010 and 2011, the hysteria surrounding WikiLeaks’ disclosures of U.S. misconduct and crimes around the world brought cries from prominent American political figures seeking Assange’s designation as a terrorist, his prosecution as a spy and even his assassination.</p> <p> Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has called for WikiLeaks to be declared a terrorist organization and Assange to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, a position shared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who wrote in a Wall Street Journal <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703989004575653280626335258.html" style="text-decoration: none; outline-style: none; outline-width: initial; outline-color: initial; color: rgb(204, 0, 0); ">op-ed</a>:</p> <p> “The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”</p> <p> Others have gone even further, demanding that Assange be put to death, either by judicial or extrajudicial means. For instance, a former Canadian official Tom Flanagan has urged Assange’s assassination.</p> <p> Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin denounced Assange as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and said he should be treated no differently than an al-Qaeda terrorist.</p> <p> In a Facebook posting, Palin said Assange was no more a journalist than “the ‘editor’ of al-Qaida’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist.’” She added: “His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders?”</p> <p> So, put yourself in Julian Assange’s place. If the <em>New York Times</em> accurately described President Barack Obama as saying it was an “easy” decision to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen alleged to have participated in terrorist operations against U.S. targets, how confident would you be that the onetime constitutional scholar would resist the political pressure to get rid of you?</p> <p> A drone strike over London can be ruled out. But Assange understandably could fear a covert operation by Britain’s FBI and CIA counterparts — MI-5 and MI-6 — to eliminate him “with extreme prejudice,” in old CIA parlance.</p> <p> As melodramatic as that might sound, it should be remembered that nine years have gone by since British Ministry of Defense biologist and U.N. weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly’s “suicide.” Yet there remains considerable circumstantial evidence that his “suicide” was not self-inflicted.</p> <p> Kelly was found “guilty” of disclosing accurate information regarding the bogus nature of the “evidence” of Iraqi WMD and, conveniently, was removed from the scene, supposedly by his own hand. Ecuadorian embassy dwellers may wish to hire beefeaters to taste the foie gras, truffles, or cakes ordered from nearby Harrods.</p> <p> <strong>Correa on TV With Assange</strong></p> <p> Four weeks before Assange sought asylum, he interviewed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for Episode 6 of <em>The World Tomorrow </em>(Assange’s program Tuesdays on RT). Assange asked Correa why he has advocated that WikiLeaks release all its cables.  Correa responded:</p> <p> “First, you don’t owe anything, have nothing to fear. We have nothing to hide. Your WikiLeaks have made us stronger” with the damaging revelations showing the attitude of the U.S. embassy toward the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian government.</p> <p> Correa continued: “On the other hand, WikiLeaks wrote a lot about the goals that the national media pursue, about the power groups who seek help and report to foreign embassies. … Let them publish everything they have about the Ecuadorian government.  You will see how many things about those who oppose the civil revolution in Ecuador will come to light. Things to do with opportunism, betrayal, and being self serving.”</p> <p> Correa made the point that when WikiLeaks cables became available to the national media in Ecuador, they chose not to publish them — partly because the documents aired so much “dirty linen” about the media themselves. He added that when he took office in January 2007, five out of seven privately owned TV channels in Ecuador were run by bankers. The bankers were using the guise of journalism to interfere in politics and to destabilize governments, for fear of losing power.</p> <p> <strong>Ecuador and the United States</strong></p> <p> Correa, 49, educated in Belgium at the Université Catholique de Louvain and at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (for four years, where he earned both a masters and a PhD), said he “admires the American people a great deal.” But the U.S. government can be a different matter.</p> <p> Assange and Correa discussed Correa’s decision to send the U.S. ambassador, Heather Hodges, packing as a result of the disclosures in the WikiLeaks cables, as well as her “arrogance,” and the Ecuadorian president’s unilateral closure of the U.S. military base at Manta.</p> <p> Still, Correa seems to have had high hopes that things would improve under the Obama administration. The Ecuadorian president once commented that Hugo Chávez’s description of George W. Bush as Satan was unfair to the Devil and that the previous administration had made Latin America “invisible.”</p> <p> Regarding Ecuador’s general relationship with the U.S., Correa underscored on Assange’s program that it must be “a framework of mutual respect and sovereignty.”  That wished-for mutual respect and especially Washington’s regard for Ecuadorian sovereignty are likely to be put to the test in the coming weeks.</p> <p> Hillary Clinton may be having second thoughts about the energy she expended earlier this month on her first visit to Sweden as Secretary of State. If Assange succeeds in skirting Sweden and makes it to Ecuador, she may now have to put Quito back on her travel schedule.</p> <p> A Clinton visit to Ecuador two years ago was marred by protests, but she found President Correa a gracious host. But that was before WikiLeaks disclosed Ambassador Hodges’s pejorative comments on Correa et al. and Correa decided to expel her from the country for “arrogance.”</p> <p> Correa does seem to have developed an allergy to arrogance, so Clinton may wish to consider sending someone in her stead to try to persuade Ecuador to surrender Assange to the tender mercies of American “justice.”</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 20 Jun 2012 11:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 671322 at http://www.alternet.org World World ecuador wikileaks rafael correa julian assange Separating Fact from Fiction on Iran's Nuclear Program http://www.alternet.org/story/155775/separating_fact_from_fiction_on_iran%27s_nuclear_program <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Those agitating for confrontation keep playing games with the facts regarding Iran&#039;s nuclear program.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>Editor Note: Neocons, including the Washington Post’s editors, keep playing games with the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The plan apparently is to guide the United States into a military confrontation whether President Obama and the American people want one or not.</em></p> <p>On the issue of Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” you hear one thing on Monday, a different thing on Tuesday. “It’s a puzzlement!” to quote Yul Brunner’s famous line in The King and I. But in this case, the confusion is hardly insignificant.</p> <p>In a speech on March 4 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Barack Obama drew a new red line, saying that if diplomacy and sanctions fail, he would use military force to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.</p> <p>So, it’s important to try to separate fact from opinion, taking our cue from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”</p> <p>On May 26, the editors of the Washington Post claimed that Iran has “no right” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to process uranium. In a Letter to the Editor published by the Post on Saturday (June 2), Alireza Miryousefi of Iran’s mission to the UN wrote that the Post was simply wrong on that key point.</p> <p>The Iranian diplomat seemed to be quoting from the NPT in saying that it unambiguously recognized “the inalienable right of all of the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” It turns out that it is word-for-word from the Treaty text.</p> <p>“Peaceful purposes” would include fueling nuclear power plants to generate electricity. But why, some ask, would Iran need those when it has so much oil and natural gas? President Gerald Ford asked that same question in 1976, before he was persuaded to approve a deal with the Shah of Iran, under which Westinghouse and General Electric were to make billions of dollars by supplying essentially the same full nuclear fuel cycle capability to Iran that Tehran now claims the right to create on its own.</p> <p>Ford’s principal aides, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, reminded the President that Iran’s demand for electrical power would inevitably increase and that its oil and gas resources would be depleted one day. In the interim, they explained, Iran coveted the hard currency it earns from selling its gas and oil on the international market.</p> <p>The deal fell apart when the Shah fell from power. That this history is not widely known has made it easier for some U.S. and Israeli officials and pundits to argue that that the primary aim of Iran’s nuclear development program must be to build nuclear weapons. For those hoping to stir up a crisis with Iran, it’s helpful to shove down the memory hole that Rumsfeld/Cheney once advocated for Iran having a nuclear program.</p> <p>Part of the problem (not to mention the confusion) lies in the fact that the uranium enrichment technology used for power plants can also be used to create a nuclear weapon, assuming it is refined to a much higher purity. And the prospect of a nuclear-weapon-capable Iran is widely considered a frightening prospect in view of Iran’s supposed threat to “wipe Israel off the map.” President Obama himself alluded to this in his March 4 address before AIPAC.</p> <p>But a fact-checking problem is that no senior Iranian official has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, who is also Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, reluctantly conceded the point during an interview with Aljazeera on April 14. Meridor agreed that Iranian leaders “didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe Israel out.’”</p> <p>But, still, “everyone knows” that Iran is secretly working on a nuclear weapon. The trouble there is that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated definitively on Jan. 8 that Iran is not doing that; and ten days later his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, agreed.</p> <p>According to the official U.S. government translation of Barak’s interview on Jan. 18 with Razi Barkay of Israeli Army Radio, Barak stated that Iran “is evidently not trying to procure nuclear weapons.”</p> <p>Barkay: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it [Iran’s nuclear program] into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?</p> <p>Barak: … It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran will have to … announce its departure from the control regime [UN inspections], to stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, and so forth. They haven’t done that. Why? Because then it is clear to everyone that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. …</p> <p>NOTE: Tomorrow (Thursday, June 7) I’ll be speaking at Random Row Books, 315 West Main St., Charlottesville, Virginia, where, hopefully, more of the confusion can be dispelled.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 09:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 671101 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran israel Law-Abiding Murder: How the Obama Administration Uses 'Just War' Theory to Rationalize 'Kill Lists' http://www.alternet.org/story/155662/law-abiding_murder%3A_how_the_obama_administration_uses_%27just_war%27_theory_to_rationalize_%27kill_lists%27 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It is a moral and legal impossibility to square “kill lists” for extrajudicial murders with traditional legal and moral American values.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In an extraordinary article in Tuesday’s New York Times, “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all">Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will</a>,” authors Jo Becker and Scott Shane throw macabre light on the consigliere-cum-priestly role that counterterrorist adviser John Brennan provides President Barack Obama.</p> <p>At the outset, Becker and Shane note that, although Obama vowed to “align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values,” he has now ordered the obedient Brennan to prepare a top secret “nominations” list of people whom the President may decide to order killed, without charge or trial, including American citizens.</p> <p> </p><p>The authors understate this as “a moral and legal conundrum.” It is, in fact, a moral and legal impossibility to square “kill lists” for extrajudicial murders with traditional legal and moral American values.</p> <p>Enter the legal consiglieres. Attorney General Eric Holder and Harold Koh, the State Department’s top lawyer, seem to have adopted the retro (pre-1215) practices of their immediate predecessors (think Ashcroft, Gonzales, Mukasey) with their extraordinary ability to make just about anything “legal.”</p> <p>Even torture? No problem for the earlier trio. Was not George W. Bush well-armed with the perfect squelch, when NBC’s Matt Lauer asked him about waterboarding in November 2010?</p> <p>Lauer: Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?</p> <p>Bush: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of the people around you, and I do.</p> <p>So there! You gotta trust those lawyers. The legal issue taken care of – though early in his presidency, Bush had ridiculed other lawyers who thought international law should apply to him. “International law?” he asked in mock fear. “I better call my lawyer.” He surely knew his lawyer would tell him what he wanted to hear.</p> <p><strong>The Moral</strong></p> <p>President Obama has adopted a similar attitude toward the moral conundrum of targeted killings around the world. Just turn to Consigliere John Brennan for some “just war” theorizing. We have it from Harold Koh that Brennan is “a person of genuine moral rectitude. … It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”</p> <p>So, like the Caesars of old or the generals of World War I, Obama consults a priest or minister before having folks killed. And in this case the “priest” is Brennan, “whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the President’s attempt to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict,” write Becker and Shane.</p> <p>If, as the New York Times writers claim, President Obama is a student of the writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he seems to be getting very warped exegesis from Brennan.</p> <p>Cameron Munter, Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, is just one who seems inadequately schooled in those theories. According to Becker and Shane, Munter has complained to his colleagues that the CIA’s strikes are driving American policy in Pakistan, saying, “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.”</p> <p>Western news reports have Munter leaving his post this summer, after less than two years — an ambassador’s typical tenure.</p> <p><strong>Bellying-Up</strong></p> <p>Now, don’t “mis-underestimate” John Brennan. His heart is in the right place, we’re told. The authors quote him as insisting, “The President, and I think all of us here, don’t like the fact that people have to die.” Yes, it really is too bad, don’t you know; but, hey, sometimes you just have to belly-up to the really tough decisions.</p> <p>In Brennan’s and Obama’s world, some suspects just have to die, partly because they seem to look/act like “militants,” and partly because it is infeasible to capture them (while unprecedentedly easy, and safe, to kill them — by missiles from drones).</p> <p>Thus far, the words of today’s Gospel by post-9/11 “Christian philosophers.” No doubt, these “just war” enthusiasts would brand hopelessly naïve, or “quaint-and-obsolete,” the words seen recently on a bumper sticker: “When Jesus told us to love our enemies, I think he probably meant not to kill them.”</p> <p>Not one of the thousand cars driving onto the Bronx campus of Fordham University for commencement on May 19 was sporting that bumper sticker, nor was there any attention given to the general concept at commencement.</p> <p>That kind of thinking was hardly welcome that day at the “Jesuit University of New York City,” after the Jesuits and their trustees decided to give Brennan the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, and asked him to give the commencement address.</p> <p>Several of the Fordham graduates, though, did take the trouble to learn more about Brennan’s role in “war-on-terror” practices like kidnapping, torture, black-site prisons, illegal eavesdropping on Americans, and extrajudicial murder by drone. They found it preposterous that Obama would seek “priestly” advice from Brennan. At commencement, they orchestrated some <a href="http://warcriminalswatch.org/index.php/take-action/66-videos-a-reports-of-demonstrations/1297-5-24-12-weekend-of-protests-around-john-brennan-a-drones-at-fordham-univiersity?tmpl=component&amp;print=1&amp;page=">imaginative protests</a>.</p> <p><strong>Fordham and the Prestige Virus</strong></p> <p>Fordham is the college that blessed the “priest” that blessed the president that killed from a list compiled in a White House that slaves built. And looking on silently from his commencement seat of honor atop the steps to Fordham’s Keating Hall was fellow honorary doctorate awardee, “pro-life” Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.</p> <p>I wonder if it occurred to Dolan that from these same steps an honorary degree was conferred in 1936 on Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, author of the Vatican’s Concordat with Nazi Germany. Later, as Pope Pius XII, Pacelli could not find his voice to speak out forcefully against the wars and other abuses of the Third Reich, including genocide against the Jews.</p> <p>So too, the new archbishop of New York and his fellow bishops cannot find their voice on the transcendent issues of aggressive war and its accumulated evil, preferring to focus on pelvic issues.</p> <p>A few summers ago, I spent a couple of hours in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in West Jerusalem. Decades earlier while serving in Germany, I had made it a custom to devote the last day of a visitor’s stay to Dachau, the first concentration camp, established in 1933.</p> <p>At the end of the barracks at Dachau stands the famous caution from Santayana, “Those who do not remember history are condemned to relive it.” That dictum kept racing through my mind as past and present merged on the walls of Yad Vashem, mocking the ubiquitous “Never Again.”</p> <p>There were parallels that stood stark naked for any thinking American to see: parallels between Hitler’s success in grabbing dictatorial power in Germany — largely because of a supine Parliament, an acquiescent Church, a careerist Army leadership, and a fearful populace — and the situation we Americans face today with “kill lists,” unconstitutional “laws,” and Gestapo-style police armed to the teeth.</p> <p>Pledging Allegiance</p> <p>There they were in photos on the walls. It was 1934, and the German Army generals were in the limelight swearing allegiance to Hitler — not the German Constitution (what was left of it); the German Supreme Court swearing allegiance to Hitler — not to the law and Constitution; and, not least, the Reich’s bishops swearing allegiance to Hitler — not to God and the people they were supposed to serve.</p> <p>I noticed that one of the English-speaking guides pointed to the generals and jurists but avoided mentioning the bishops, so I insisted he make full disclosure. (It occurred to me that Hitler might have been stymied, had the Catholic and Lutheran bishops been able to find their voice.)</p> <p>On an adjacent wall was the Hamlet-like Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, trying to make up his mind on whether he should put the Catholic Church at risk, while Jews were being murdered by the train-full.</p> <p>The most compelling story was that of Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who, like many other Hungarians, put their own lives at grave peril by trying to save fugitive Jews. Asked to explain, Bathory said that because of his actions:</p> <p>“I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain; ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’”</p> <p>At Fordham’s commencement, one would have taken considerable risk in alluding to the crying-out blood of Iraqis and Afghans. Only happy, prideful talk is de rigueur on such occasions, together with honoring prominent people — with little heed paid to how they earned such prominence. A White House post suffices.</p> <p><strong>From the Grave, Albert Camus</strong></p> <p>In 1948, still under the dark cloud of what had been a disastrous world war, the French author/philosopher Albert Camus accepted an invitation to come to the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg.</p> <p>To their credit, the Dominicans wanted to know what an “unbeliever” thought about Christians in the light of their behavior during the Thirties and Forties. Camus’s words seem so terribly relevant today that it is difficult to trim them down:</p> <p>“For a long time during those frightful years I waited for a great voice to speak up in Rome. I, an unbeliever? Precisely. For I knew that the spirit would be lost if it did not utter a cry of condemnation…</p> <p>“It has been explained to me since, that the condemnation was indeed voiced. But that it was in the style of the encyclicals, which is not all that clear. The condemnation was voiced and it was not understood. Who could fail to feel where the true condemnation lies in this case?</p> <p>“What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.</p> <p>“It may be … that Christianity will insist on maintaining a compromise, or else on giving its condemnations the obscure form of the encyclical. Possibly it will insist on losing once and for all the virtue of revolt and indignation that belonged to it long ago.</p> <p>“What I know – and what sometimes creates a deep longing in me – is that if Christians made up their mind to it, millions of voices – millions, I say – throughout the world would be added to the appeal of a handful of isolated individuals, who, without any sort of affiliation, today intercede almost everywhere and ceaselessly for children and other people.” (Excerpted from Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays)</p> <p>It may be that the Dominican monks took Camus seriously; monks tend to listen. Vatican functionaries, on the other hand, tend to know it all, and to urge pope, cardinals and bishops to be highly “discreet” in what they say and do.</p> <p><strong>Help From the Outside</strong></p> <p>Sometimes it takes a truth-telling outsider to throw light on our moral failures.</p> <p>South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey, erstwhile chaplain to Nelson Mandela in prison and outspoken opponent of Apartheid, has this to say to the platitude-inclined, patriotism-preaching American clergy in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks:</p> <p>“We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly or indirectly, by the poor of the earth.</p> <p>“You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. All around the world there are those who long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”</p> <p>Albert Camus and Peter Storey are among the true prophets of our time. I think the late Madeleine L’Engle also had it right when she wrote:</p> <p>“I think if we speak the truth and are not afraid to be disagreed with, we can make big changes.” The biggest obstacle is often within us, she observes. “We get so frightful.”</p> <p>In A Stone for a Pillow: L’Engle adds:</p> <p>“The true prophet seldom predicts the future. The true prophet warns us of our present hardness of heart, our prideful presuming to know God’s mind.</p> <p>“We must be careful … that we are not being false prophets fearing only for our own selves, our own families, our own country. Our concern must be for everybody, for our entire fragile planet, and everybody on it. …</p> <p>“Indeed, we must protest with loving concern for the entire universe. A mark of the true prophet in any age is humility. … And the final test of the true prophet is love.”</p> <p>After ten years of ecclesiastical silence regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be a cop-out — pure and simple — to expect the leaders of the institutional “Christian” churches in the United States to act any differently from the way the German churches did during the Thirties in Germany.</p> <p>Americans can no longer in good conscience expect bold action for true justice from the largely domesticated clergy; nor can we use that feckless expectation as an excuse to do nothing ourselves. As theologian Annie Dillard has put it: “There is only us; there never has been any other.”</p> <p>And, she might have added, we don’t do “kill lists.”</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 30 May 2012 13:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 671013 at http://www.alternet.org World World obama john brennan drones How the Neocons Are Distorting History to Pave the Way for War with Iran http://www.alternet.org/story/155497/how_the_neocons_are_distorting_history_to_pave_the_way_for_war_with_iran <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer are promoting the misleading Israeli narrative of the 1967 war in their efforts to sell an attack on Iran.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>With the 45th anniversary of the Six-Day War of June 1967 coming early next month, pro-Israel pundits like syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer are again promoting Israel’s faux-narrative on the reasons behind Israel’s decision to attack its neighbors.</p> <p>The Krauthammers of our domesticated, corporate media seem bent on waging pre-emptive war against an accurate historical rendering of the actual objectives behind that Israeli offensive that overwhelmed Arab armies and seized large swaths of Arab territory, land that hard-line Zionists refer to as “Greater Israel,” i.e. rightly theirs.</p> <p>With its surprise attacks on June 5, 1967, Israel rapidly defeated the armies of its Arab neighbors. It gained control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.</p> <p>The Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1979 as a result of the Camp David peace accord, a land-for-peace swap that U.S. President Jimmy Carter demanded and that then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin deeply resented.</p> <p>Jewish settlement has proceeded apace on other territories conquered in the Six-Day War, particularly in the Palestinian West Bank, which Israel’s ruling Likud Party refers to by its Biblical names Judea and Samaria.</p> <p>Likud’s charter declares that “the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. … The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”</p> <p>In other words, in the Six-Day War, Israel seized land that hard-line Zionists consider to be part of their ancestral legacy. The surprise attack in 1967 was the means to that end. The Likud Party emerged several years later with the explicit intent of consolidating that control through a settlement policy called “changing the facts on the ground.”</p> <p><strong>Time to Worry</strong></p> <p>Yet, despite Israel’s continued expansion into those Palestinian lands, pro-Israel pundits are in a defensive mood these days, and with good reason. They see a particular need this year to whitewash Israel’s surprise attack on its Arab neighbors 45 years ago – not only because the anniversary is likely to draw more than the usual attention – but also because Israel’s strategic position has deteriorated markedly in the past year.</p> <p>For instance, the 80 million-plus Egyptians are no longer neutered by the joint Mubarak-Israel-U.S. effort to repress them and co-opt them into passivity vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Serious contenders in the upcoming Egyptian election have said they would reconsider the Egypt-Israel Treaty of 1979.</p> <p>Some leading Egyptian politicians have added that they would fling wide open Egypt’s border with Gaza, where about 1.5 million Palestinians live in what amounts to an open-air prison. These Egyptians also are saying strongly sympathetic things about the widespread suffering in Gaza and the West Bank.</p> <p>Equally important, Egypt’s present government has already nullified the sweetheart arrangement under which Egypt was providing natural gas to Israel at bargain basement prices.  (That alone is a very big deal.)</p> <p>And, in sad contrast to the deafening silence of senior American officials regarding Israel’s reckless killing of U.S. citizens, such as Rachel Corrie in 2003, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to demand an apology for Israel’s killing of Turkish citizens aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.</p> <p>The result of that dispute is a sharp diminution in what used to be very close military ties between Turkey and Israel — not to mention a lot of ill will, which can be very corrosive over the longer run.</p> <p><strong>Misinformed Americans</strong></p> <p>Regarding the events of 1967, America’s pro-Israel pundit class knows only too well that Egyptians, Turks, Syrians, Jordanians and other audiences in the Middle East will not buy Israel’s faux-history of the Six-Day War — many having been on the receiving end of it.</p> <p>Thus, it is abundantly clear that the primary targets of the disinformation are Americans like those who subscribe to the neoconservative Washington Post, whose editors in recent decades have been careful to keep their readers malnourished on the thin gruel of watered-down (or unreliable) facts about the Middle East (think, Iraq’s WMDs).</p> <p>So, it would be simply too much to acknowledge, as former Israeli Prime Minister Begin did 30 years ago, in an uncommon burst of hubris-tinged honesty, that Israel’s attack on its neighbors in 1967 was in no way a defensive war — or even a “pre-emptive” war (there being no really dangerous Egyptian or other threat to pre-empt).</p> <p>While Prime Minister in 1982, Begin declared: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches (did) not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”</p> <p>Such real history would lift the veil now shrouding Israel’s version that plays up the “threat” posed by Egypt and disguises the grand enterprise to expand Israel’s borders and — in double-contravention of international law — to colonize the occupied territories.</p> <p>To bolster Israel’s heroic rendition of the Six-Day War – and to apply its supposed lessons to Israel’s current plans to bomb Iran – Krauthammer <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/echoes-of-67-israel-unites/2012/05/10/gIQA9tUaGU_story.html">reprised</a> that triumphal version of Israel masterfully defending itself against imminent destruction by the Arabs.</p> <p>“On June 5 (1967), Israel launched a preemptive strike on the Egyptian air force, then proceeded to lightning victories on three fronts,” Krauthammer wrote, cooing: “The Six-Day War is legend.”</p> <p>He then overlaid that gauzy history onto today’s confrontation with Iran: “Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence — nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israel’s annihilation — since May ’67. The world is again telling Israelis to do nothing as it looks for a way out. But if such a way is not found — as in ’67 — Israelis know that they will once again have to defend themselves, by themselves.”</p> <p>Noting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent coalition with the rival Kadima Party, Krauthammer also mocked the importance of former Israeli intelligence chiefs cautioning against a rush to war with Iran.</p> <p>He wrote: “So much for the recent media hype about some great domestic resistance to Netanyahu’s hard line on Iran. Two notable <a data-xslt="_http" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/former-israeli-premier-olmert-joins-israeli-opposition-to-strike-at-iranian-nuclear-sites/2012/04/29/gIQAb1uopT_story.html">retired intelligence figures were widely covered</a> here for coming out against him. Little noted was that one had been passed over by Netanyahu to be the head of Mossad, while the other had been fired by Netanyahu as Mossad chief (hence the job opening). …</p> <p>“The [new] wall-to-wall coalition demonstrates Israel’s political readiness to attack, if necessary. (Its <a data-xslt="_http" href="http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4219190,00.html">military readiness</a> is not in doubt.) Those counseling Israeli submission, resignation or just endless patience can no longer dismiss Israel’s tough stance as the work of irredeemable right-wingers.”</p> <p>After reading this Krauthammer op-ed in the May 10 Washington Post, I decided, against my better judgment, to invest a half-hour writing a letter to the editor, trying to make it as factual as possible. Several days after its submission, I have given up any meager hope I may have harbored that the Post would actually print it.</p> <p>Perhaps that half-hour investment will not have been a complete waste of time if I can share the result with you:</p> <p>Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, May 13, 2012</p> <p>In his May 10 op-ed column, “Echoes of ’67: Israel unites,” Charles Krauthammer refers to May 1967 as “Israel’s most fearful, desperate month” and compares it to today, claiming that Iran poses “the greatest threat” to Israel’s existence.</p> <p>It ain’t necessarily so. In August 1982, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin admitted publicly: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches (did) not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”</p> <p>Today’s “threat” from Iran is equally ephemeral. Krauthammer, though, warns ominously about “nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israel’s annihilation.”</p> <p>The allusion is to an illusion — the alleged threat by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to “wipe Israel off the map.”  But he never said that, an inconvenient reality <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/04/25/how-obama-recycled-a-lie-about-iran/">reluctantly acknowledged</a> by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor early last month. And in January, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Israeli counterpart both publicly affirmed the unanimous assessment of U.S. intelligence that Iran is not working on a nuclear weapon.</p> <p>Who, then, is being apocalyptic? Krauthammer’s agenda is so transparent that a rigorous Fact Check should be de rigueur.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Fri, 18 May 2012 11:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 670840 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran israel The Obama Team Just Doesn't Get It: US Violence and Occupation Spark Terrorism http://www.alternet.org/story/155246/the_obama_team_just_doesn%27t_get_it%3A_us_violence_and_occupation_spark_terrorism <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1333744205_brennan.jpg?itok=H5vTMYnT" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counter-terrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”</p> <p>In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?</p> <p>Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 8, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do:</p> <p>Brennan: “Al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p> <p>Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”</p> <p>Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:</p> <p>Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.</p> <p>After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.</p> <p>It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.</p> <p>Thomas recognized the John &amp; Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.</p> <p>She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”</p> <p>Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”</p> <p>Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”</p> <p>Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”</p> <p>Thomas: “Why?”</p> <p>Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”</p> <p>Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”</p> <p>Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.</p> <p><strong>Obama’s Non-Answer</strong></p> <p>I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:</p> <p>“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”</p> <p>But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?</p> <p>Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?</p> <p>Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?</p> <p><strong>Peeking Behind the Screen</strong></p> <p>We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)</p> <p>When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a Donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.</p> <p>The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”</p> <p>Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.</p> <p>Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.</p> <p>Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.</p> <p>But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thusly: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”</p> <p>Better communication. That’s the ticket.</p> <p><strong>Hypocrisy and Double Talk</strong></p> <p>But Napolitano doesn’t acknowledge the underlying problem, which is that many Muslims have watched Washington’s behavior closely for many years and view U.S. declarations about peace, justice, democracy and human rights as infuriating examples of hypocrisy and double talk. So, Washington’s sanitized discussion about motives for terrorism seems more intended for the U.S. domestic audience than the Muslim world.</p> <p>After all, people in the Middle East already know how Palestinians have been mistreated for decades; how Washington has propped up Arab dictatorships; how Muslims have been locked away at Guantanamo without charges; how the U.S. military has killed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; how U.S. mercenaries have escaped punishment for slaughtering innocents.</p> <p>The purpose of U.S. “public diplomacy” appears more designed to shield Americans from this unpleasant reality, offering instead feel-good palliatives about the beneficence of U.S. actions. Most American journalists and politicians go along with the charade out of fear that otherwise they would be accused of lacking patriotism or sympathizing with “the enemy.”</p> <p>Commentators who are neither naïve nor afraid are simply shut out of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald, for example, has complained loudly about “how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels terrorism directed at the U.S.,” and how it is taboo to point this out.</p> <p>Greenwald recently called attention to a little-noticed Associated Press report on the possible motives of the 23-year-old Nigerian Abdulmutallab. The report quoted his Yemeni friends to the effect that the he was “not overtly extremist.” But they noted that he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. (Emphasis added)</p> <p>Former CIA specialist on al Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, has been still more outspoken on what he sees as Israel’s tying down the American Gulliver in the Middle East. Speaking Monday on C-SPAN, he complained bitterly that any debate on the issue of American support for Israel and its effects is normally squelched. Scheuer added that the Israel Lobby had just succeeded in getting him removed from his job at the Jamestown Foundation think tank for saying that Obama was “doing what I call the Tel Aviv Two Step.”</p> <p>More to the point, Scheuer asserted: “For anyone to say that our support for Israel doesn’t hurt us in the Muslim world … is to just defy reality.”</p> <p>Beyond loss of work, those who speak out can expect ugly accusations. The Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, which is considered the voice of the settler movement, weighed in strongly, citing Scheuer’s C-SPAN remarks and branding them “blatantly anti-Semitic.”</p> <p><strong>Media Squelching</strong></p> <p>As for media squelching, I continue to be amazed at how otherwise informed folks express total surprise when I refer them to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s statement about his motivation for attacking the United States, as cited on page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”</p> <p>And one can understand how even those following such things closely can get confused. Five years after the 9/11 Commission Report, on Aug. 30, 2009, readers of the neoconservative Washington Post were given a diametrically different view, based on what the Post called “an intelligence summary”:</p> <p>“KSM’s limited and negative experience in the United States — which included a brief jail stay because of unpaid bills — almost certainly helped propel him on his path to becoming a terrorist … He stated that his contact with Americans, while minimal, confirmed his view that the United States was a debauched and racist country.”</p> <p>Apparently, the Post found this revisionist version politically more convenient, in that it obscured Mohammed’s other explanation implicating “U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” It’s much more comforting to view KSM as a disgruntled visitor who nursed his personal grievances into justification for mass murder.</p> <p>An unusually candid view of the dangers accruing from the U.S. identification with Israel’s policies appeared five years ago in an unclassified study published by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board on Sept. 23, 2004. Contradicting President George W. Bush, the board stated:</p> <p>“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.</p> <p>“Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”</p> <p><strong>Abdulmutallab’s Attack</strong></p> <p>Getting back to Abdulmutallab and his motive in trying to blow up the airliner, how was this individual without prior terrorist affiliations suddenly transformed into an international terrorist ready to die while killing innocents?</p> <p>If, as John Brennan seems to suggest, al Qaeda terrorists are hard-wired for terrorism at birth for the “wanton slaughter of innocents,” how are they able to jump-start a privileged 23-year old Nigerian, inculcate him with the acquired characteristics of a terrorist, and persuade him to do the bidding of al Qaeda/Persian Gulf?</p> <p>As indicated above, the young Nigerian seems to have had particular trouble with Israel’s wanton slaughter of more than a thousand civilians in Gaza a year ago, a brutal campaign that was defended in Washington as justifiable self-defense.</p> <p>Moreover, it appears that Abdulmuttallab is not the only anti-American “terrorist” so motivated. When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda announced that they were uniting into “al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula,” their combined rhetoric railed against the Israeli attack on Gaza.</p> <p>And on Dec. 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a 32-year-old Jordanian physician from a family of Palestinian origin, killed seven American CIA operatives and one Jordanian intelligence officer near Khost, Afghanistan, when he detonated a suicide bomb. Though most U.S. media stories treated al-Balawi as a fanatical double-agent driven by irrational hatreds, other motivations could be gleaned by carefully reading articles about his personal history.</p> <p>Al-Balawi’s mother told Agence France-Presse that her son had never been an “extremist.” Al-Balawi’s widow, Defne Bayrak, made a similar statement to Newsweek.  In a New York Times article, al-Balawi’s brother was quoted as describing him as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor.”</p> <p>So what led al-Balawi to take his own life in order to kill U.S. and Jordanian intelligence operatives? Al-Balawi’s widow said her husband “started to change” after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. His brother said al-Balawi “changed” during last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.</p> <p>When al-Balawi volunteered with a medical organization to treat injured Palestinians in Gaza, he was arrested by Jordanian authorities, his brother said. It was after that arrest that the Jordanian intelligence service apparently coerced or “recruited” al-Balawi to become a spy who would penetrate al Qaeda’s hierarchy and provide actionable intelligence to the CIA.</p> <p>“If you catch a cat and put it in a corner, she will jump on you,” the brother said in explaining why al-Balawi would turn to a suicide attack.</p> <p>“My husband was anti-American; so am I,” his widow said, adding that her two little girls would grow up fatherless but that she had no regrets.</p> <p><strong>Answering Helen</strong></p> <p>Are we starting to get the picture of what the United States is up against in the Muslim world? Does Helen Thomas deserve an adult answer to her question about motive? Has President Obama been able to assimilate all this? Or is the U.S. political/media establishment incapable of confronting this reality and/or taking meaningful action to alleviate the underlying causes of the violence?</p> <p>Is the reported reaction of a CIA official to al-Balawi’s attack the appropriate one: “Last week’s attack will be avenged. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day.” Revenge has not always turned out very well in the past.</p> <p>Does anyone remember the brutal killing of four Blackwater contractors on March 31, 2004, when they took a wrong turn and ended up in the Iraqi city of Fallujah — and how U.S. forces virtually leveled that large city in retribution after George W. Bush won his second term the following November?</p> <p>If you read only the Fawning Corporate Media, you would blissfully think that the killing of the four Blackwater operatives was the work of fanatical animals who got – along with their neighbors – what they deserved. You wouldn’t know that the killings represented the second turn in that specific cycle of violence.</p> <p>On March 22, 2004, Israeli forces assassinated the then-spiritual leader of Hamas in Gaza, Sheikh Yassin — a withering old man, blind and confined to a wheelchair. That murder, plus sloppy navigation by the Blackwater men, set the stage for the next set of brutalities. The Blackwater operatives were killed by a group that described itself as the “Sheikh Yassin Revenge Brigade.” Pamphlets and posters were all over the scene of the attack; one of the trucks that pulled around body parts of the mercenaries had a poster of Yassin in its window, as did store fronts all over Fallujah.</p> <p>We can wish Janet Napolitano luck with her “counter-radicalization” project and President Obama with his effort to “communicate clearly to Muslims,” but there will be no diminution in the endless cycles of violence unless legitimate grievances are addressed on all sides. It might also help if the American people were finally let in on the root causes for what otherwise get dismissed as irrational actions by Muslims.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 02 May 2012 21:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 670604 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics World terrorism john brennan Render to Caesar, Extraordinarily http://www.alternet.org/story/154893/render_to_caesar%2C_extraordinarily <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">John Brennan, who championed kidnapping, torture and illegal eavesdropping, has been invited to give the commencement address at Fordham University.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1333744205_brennan.jpg?itok=H5vTMYnT" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Some of us pause on Good Friday to mark the torture and death of a high-value detainee rendered, extraordinarily, to Roman occupiers.</p> <p>Although the charges against Jesus of Nazareth were trumped up, the Romans decided to err on the safe side by going to the “dark side.” They applied enhanced torture techniques with the ultimate hanging.</p> <p>I try my best to follow the example set by that fellow from Nazareth. I do get beat up on occasion for “knowing where I stand and standing there,” as Dan Berrigan has told us. But I don’t expect to be tortured — much less hung up to die. Those things just happen to folks who don’t look like me.</p> <p>In my worst nightmares I never dreamed that my country of birth, the country I love, would resort to torturing prisoners. Still less, did I expect my alma mater, Fordham University, to honor a person known to have championed kidnapping and torture (as well as illegal eavesdropping on Americans), <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2012/03/22/mcgovern-protests-brennans-speech/">by inviting him</a> to give the commencement address.</p> <p>What’s the big deal? I have been asked. Aren’t you proud to have a fellow Fordham alumnus at the right hand of the President as deputy national security adviser? When I answer, “Not proud, but shamed,” I am met with a quizzical look.</p> <p>When the shock wears off, I realize this should come as no surprise. The findings of a Pew poll conducted three years ago should have accustomed me to the shame. Those polled were white non-Hispanic Catholics, white Evangelicals, and white mainline Protestants. A majority of those who attend church regularly (54 percent) said torture could be “justified,” while a majority of those not attending church regularly responded that torture was rarely or never justified.</p> <p>I let myself wonder whether similar results might obtain, if a similar poll were conducted today at Fordham. And then I remembered that most of the college students at Fordham had not yet reached their teens, when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to resort to techniques developed for the Spanish Inquisition and honed by the Nazis — “enhanced” methods to use on suspected terrorists.</p> <p>Here’s some background for those just coming of age — and a refresher for others — with particular attention to what you should know about John Brennan (College, 1977).</p> <p><strong>Brennan’s Role in Torture</strong></p> <p>John Brennan had been CIA Director George Tenet’s chief of staff for two years when Tenet promoted him to be CIA’s Deputy Executive Director in March 2001. In that post he continued to function as one of Tenet’s closest aides – after the 9/11 attacks – as President Bush and Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA onto what Cheney (and later Brennan himself) came to call the “dark side.”</p> <p>A Bush Executive Order of Feb. 7, 2002, made the highly dubious claim that al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees were not covered by Geneva Convention protections. And the order had consequences.</p> <p>On Dec. 11, 2008, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Carl Levin released the summary of a Senate Armed Services Committee report, issued without dissent, indicating that Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, Memorandum, had “opened the way to considering aggressive techniques.” And a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, published in the spring of 2009, recounted in gory detail the torture of so-called “high-value” detainees.</p> <p>However, back in the early days of the “war on terror,” Bush had to choose between rivals for “jurisdiction” and interrogation of such detainees. Tenet was able to use his daily sessions with Bush to win the battle over whether the CIA or the FBI should control the “dark-side” handling of “high-value” detainees. (To be absolutely clear, Tenet wanted it; he got it.)</p> <p>Recently released <a href="http://truth-out.org/news/item/8278-exclusive-guidebook-to-false-confessions-key-document-john-yoo-used-to-draft-torture-memo-released">documents</a> provide chapter and verse about White House meetings in spring 2002 on the “high-value” detainees, including discussion of a “Guidebook to False Confessions.” The main objective was to determine which harsh interrogation techniques would be approved.</p> <p>Last week, Philip Zelikow openly branded much of what was approved “torture.” This was something of a surprise, since Zelikow had been a very close confidant of Bush’s national security adviser (and later Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and is very protective of her.</p> <p>Chairing the White House meetings on torture techniques, Rice famously sent off the malleable, affable, can-do Tenet with: “This is your baby, go do it.” And so he did.</p> <p>Zelikow later worked for Rice as Counselor of the State Department, where in early 2006 he wrote a memo, the text of which has just been released, which identified several of the CIA interrogation techniques as illegal. Not surprisingly, all copies of that memo were ordered destroyed. But, alas, one was squirreled away, reportedly at State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It is <a href="http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/04/secret-torture-memo/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WiredDangerRoom+%28Blog+-+Danger+Room%29">now available</a>.</p> <p>Brennan’s very close working relationship with then-CIA Director George Tenet on torture issues landed him in the room as Tenet’s aide when the “Principals” met in the White House on torture techniques. (It was not until 2003 that Tenet appointed Brennan to head the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a unit also very much involved with the issue of interrogation.)</p> <p>The “Principals” included Rice, Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Tenet.</p> <p>The evidence is overwhelming that Brennan was deeply involved not only in the discussion of various “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but also in the planning of the faux-legal memoranda from Ashcroft’s Justice Department.</p> <p>Those “legal opinions” made it possible for George W. Bush to tell NBC’s Matt Lauer in November 2010 that waterboarding is legal “because the lawyer said it was legal. … I’m not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do.”</p> <p>Reports this week that the Polish government is going after Polish officials who allowed the CIA to establish a black site in Poland for “high-value” detainees brings to mind what Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker in 2007 about black sites:</p> <p>“Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, ‘It all comes down to individual moral barometers.’ …</p> <p>“Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, ‘All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.’”</p> <p><strong>Brennan In His Own Words</strong></p> <p>Perhaps the most damning evidence on Brennan’s role in torture, rendition (aka kidnapping), black prisons and such comes from his own mouth. Here are excerpts from the PBS “NewsHour” with Margaret Warner on Dec. 5, 2005:</p> <p>MARGARET WARNER: This issue [rendition of terrorist suspects to third countries] and the separate one of reported secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe is expected to come up during her [Condoleezza Rice’s] five-day European tour. … So are renditions necessary and effective in fighting terrorism?</p> <p>JOHN BRENNAN: I think it’s an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.</p> <p>WARNER: So is it — are you saying both in two ways — both in getting terrorists off the streets and also in the interrogation?</p> <p>BRENNAN: Yes. The rendition is the practice or the process of rendering somebody from one place to another place. It is moving them and the U.S. Government will frequently facilitate that movement from one country to another. …</p> <p>Quite frankly I think it’s rather arrogant to think that we are the best in every case in terms of eliciting information from terror suspects. So other countries and other services have a long experience in dealing with this challenge because they are confronting terrorism on a day-to-day basis.</p> <p>Oops!</p> <p>Brennan later tried to square the circle in defending his role in this “dark side” business, in <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/interviews/brennan.html">an interview</a> with PBS’s Frontline in 2006 in which he spoke directly of CIA Director Tenet’s concern to have explicit legal approval for what Zelikow and many others now concede was torture. In fact, Brennan came close to making an “act of contrition,” saying:</p> <p>“Hopefully, that ‘dark side’ is not going to be something that’s going to forever tarnish the image of the United States abroad, and that we’re going to look back on this time and regret some of the things that we did, because it is not in keeping with our values.”</p> <p>After Obama assumed office, Brennan was one of those most fiercely opposed to Obama’s release of the “torture memos,” lest they expose his own guilty knowledge and activist role. The Senate Intelligence Committee started looking into all this several years ago and, reportedly, is still doing so.</p> <p>All this may be a large part of the reason that President-Elect Barack Obama was told that the Committee already had enough on Brennan to make any confirmation process very painful, should Obama follow through with his original plan to nominate Brennan to be CIA Director.</p> <p><strong>Audacity of Hope</strong></p> <p>Some of you may recall that I was privileged to be a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, the U.S. Boat to Gaza, last June. It was a tense time. Stuffing my backpack before flying to Athens, I got a familiar call from a puzzled friend, who said as gently as the words allow, “You know you can get killed, don’t you?”</p> <p>This was not the first such expression of concern. From some others — who have zero interest in the plight of Gazans, and/or did not wish us passengers well – similar words carried an edge: “Aren’t you just asking for it?”</p> <p>Before I left the U.S., I was pointedly disabused of any notion that the U.S. government would do something to protect us American citizens sailing on an American-flagged boat from the kind of violence used by the Israelis against a similar flotilla led by a Turkish boat in May 2010. As reported to me, the warning came from a source with access to senior officials at the National Security Council.</p> <p>I was told that the Obama administration planned to do absolutely nothing to protect our boat from Israeli attack or illegal boarding, and that White House officials “would be happy if something happened to us.” They were, I was told, “perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of activists shown on American TV.”</p> <p>Can you guess who was the ultimate source? Last week, I went back to my original source and asked if the source could tell me who uttered those words.  The answer: John Brennan,</p> <p>I included mention of that warning in an article I wrote before boarding the boat. The warning stretched credulity to the breaking point for a good friend, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who blogged:</p> <p>“While I know Ray to be an extremely honest man, I thought it was possible that his source was exaggerating. I therefore set my own diplomatic sources to work in Washington, without giving them any indication of Ray’s information.</p> <p>“They came back with an independent report from a different source – close to Hillary Clinton rather than the White House – with exactly the same result of which Ray was warned. … Fatalities would be ‘not a problem’ for Obama.”</p> <p>That the macho, Israeli-friendly Brennan, turns out to be the White House policy official behind the official bluster surprises me not in the least, though it is nice, I suppose, to have confirmation.</p> <p>As things turned out, Obama had the presence of mind to seek out and heed some adult advice. After trying unsuccessfully to extract a promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to shoot us up, Obama decided to pressure the Greeks to deny us permission to sail for Gaza — which they did, holding their noses.</p> <p>Blockade Legal or Illegal?</p> <p>Were we within our rights? Was/is Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza legal under international law? No. And that’s why, to its credit, the legal section of our Department of State will not prostitute itself by calling it legal.</p> <p>On June 24, while we were stranded, literally, in Athens, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland danced around the question at one of the most bizarre press conferences in memory.</p> <p>AP reporter Matt Lee and some of his colleagues decided to be more matter-of-fact than diplomatic with Nuland, a former national security adviser to Vice President Cheney (from 2003 to 2005) and the wife of neoconservative writer Robert Kagan.</p> <p>Asked directly, three times, whether the U.S. government considers the Israeli blockade of Gaza legal, Ms. Nuland would give no answer.</p> <p>“I am not a Law of the Sea expert,” she insisted (four times). Her talking points were that the U.S. Boat to Gaza should not be a “repeat of what happened last year” (four times).  It was as though last year’s flotilla was responsible for the attacks by Israeli naval commandos and this year’s flotilla would be considered responsible as well.</p> <p>Audacity of Hope organizer/leader Ann Wright and I asked Craig Murray for a straightforward opinion on the legality issue, since he is an expert. We knew he had worked on preparing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and — more to the point — that he had become an internationally recognized authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues.</p> <p>When he was Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving real-time political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN-authorized blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments.</p> <p>On June 20, 2011, he wrote the following one-paragraph comment and then gave his considered appreciation of the legal situation:</p> <p>“The boarding of a U.S. flagged ship on the High Seas is something which, in any other circumstances, the U.S. would never tolerate, and I am hoping that it will give (Secretary) Clinton a headache now. … What is for certain, is that a U.S. court would have jurisdiction over any incidents that happen on board, and I cannot imagine any U.S. judge would renounce that jurisdiction.”</p> <p>Murray then added: “The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12-mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. … The vessel is entitled to free passage. …</p> <p>“This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident that takes place upon a U.S. flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.”</p> <p>Law – Quaint; Humans – Real</p> <p>I don’t think Brennan was in the White House bunker with top national security officials on the evening of 9/11, when President Bush set the tone by declaring, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say.” But, clearly, Brennan caught the drift. And, saddest of all, that tone persists today — with respect to rendition, as well as on legal niceties like the Law of the Sea.</p> <p>Granted, now that drones have come into their own, it is much easier to kill folks rather than to capture and “render” them — like Jesus was rendered to the Romans by the corrupt religious authorities.</p> <p>Good Friday is a day for pondering such things. While I believe what happened to Jesus gives those of us of Judeo-Christian heritage an additional, highly poignant reason to do so, my atheist friends have warned me against attitudes boarding on snobbery.</p> <p>One said, “You don’t have to be a Christian, Ray, to know instinctively that human beings simply must not torture other human beings.” He is right, of course.</p> <p>And my friend’s caution reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Kurt Vonnegut who, at one point named himself Honorary President of the American Humanist Association:</p> <p>“How do humanists feel about Jesus? I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, ‘If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?’</p> <p>“But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.</p> <p>“I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.”</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 11 Apr 2012 10:00:01 -0700 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 670304 at http://www.alternet.org World World john brennan History Will Judge Bradley Manning And Laud Him For Telling The Truth http://www.alternet.org/story/153539/history_will_judge_bradley_manning_and_laud_him_for_telling_the_truth <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A former career intelligence officer and longtime critic of America&#039;s overseas debacles compares Bradley Manning to America&#039;s greatest patriots.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1324517357_freebradlg.jpg?itok=gDXoNmlj" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>When I was asked to speak at last Saturday’s rally at Fort Meade in support of Pvt. Bradley Manning, I wondered how I might provide some context around what Manning is alleged to have done. (In <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4174QK1emtQ">my talk</a>, so as not to think I had to insert the word “alleged” into every sentence, I asked for unanimous consent to using the indicative rather than the subjunctive mood.) </p> <p>What jumped into my mind was the letter Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham City jail in April 1963, from which I remembered this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."</p></blockquote> <p>I suggested that this is precisely what Bradley Manning did when he saw the need to uncover war crimes like the indiscriminate murder of civilians and torture he witnessed in Baghdad and read about in cables.</p> <p>What he had become witness to was the inevitable result of aggressive war, which the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime,” differing from other war crimes only inasmuch as it contains within itself the “accumulated evil of the whole.” Was he to obey orders to keep his mouth shut? Or was he to follow his conscience and lance this ugly boil of accumulated evil?</p> <p>What I especially admire in Bradley Manning is this: his ability, at the age of 22, to discern that there can be a hierarchy of sometimes conflicting values, and that from a moral standpoint some values dwarf others in importance.</p> <p>Apparently, Manning saw in ending the mindless slaughter of aggressive war, with its accumulated evil — its torture and other pus-flowing ugliness — what ethicists define as a “supervening value,” one that outweighs lesser values like keeping a secrecy promise required as a condition of employment.</p> <p>Manning chose to break that promise. And Dr. King, in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, addressed something analogous. King insisted “an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust,” and risks jail in order “to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”</p> <p><strong>When Generals Lie</strong></p> <p>Bradley Manning’s courage hits a personal nerve in me. At age 28, I had an opportunity to blow the whistle on the lies of the senior U.S. military in Saigon. The evidence was documentary (a SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon); indeed, it was hard for me to believe the generals would put their deceit so explicitly in writing, but they did.</p> <p>Younger readers need to be reminded that, at the time (August 1967) there was no WikiLeaks, but the<em> New York Times</em>was an independent newspaper prone to publishing documentary evidence critical of the government. The <em>Times</em>had not yet gotten into the habit of seeking prior approval from the White House.</p> <p>Six years older than Bradley Manning was when he summoned the courage to do the right thing — and with college courses in ethics in my moral quiver — I nonetheless, well, quivered.</p> <p>I blew a unique opportunity to let Americans know that, duty, honor, country be damned, unconscionable corruption at senior levels in Saigon and in Washington had badly misled us on the war and that our GIs and the Vietnamese were being chewed up in a March of Folly.</p> <p>And that opportunity came months before so many got chewed up in the January-February 1968 Communist countrywide offensive, ushering in the second half of the bloody war in Vietnam. (I discussed this last year, in connection with the WikiLeaks disclosures, in “<a href="http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/081510a.html">How the Truth Can Save Lives</a>.”)</p> <p>As for Bradley Manning, he would not sequester himself in a moral vacuum. He had the insight and summoned the moral courage to follow his conscience and act with integrity.</p> <p><strong>Manning’s Motive</strong></p> <p>In his correspondence with Adrian Lamo, the man who betrayed him, Manning said he wanted people “to see the truth, because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” He wrote that he hoped his disclosures would lead to “world-wide discussion, debate and reform.”</p> <p>Manning’s first disclosure that came to light was the Apache helicopter gun-barrel video, with sound, showing the indiscriminate murder of a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists and the wounding of two little children. The <a href="http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/media/panor165.html">incident was duly “investigated”</a> by the Army, and the shooting was deemed to be consistent with what is permitted by the Army’s Rules of Engagement.</p> <p>Whoa! Official Washington cannot tolerate such disclosures if it remains intent on waging aggressive war, with its accumulated evil, in secret. So the Obama administration set out to make Bradley Manning an object lesson about what will happen to anyone tempted to divulge these sorts of secrets.</p> <p>For such truth-telling, this is what you can expect: solitary confinement, cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment; and a very long wait before being brought to the military pre-trial charade that I watched with others at Fort Meade, Maryland, last weekend.</p> <p>President Barack Obama, commander-in-chief of Bradley Manning, and those trying him have already said Manning “broke the law” – and be damned with the countervailing moral imperative of truth-telling when faced with clear evidence of unpunished war crimes.</p> <p>Command influence, anyone? What’s wrong with this picture? Quick. Someone explain to me how those subordinate to the commander-in-chief can be expected to hold an impartial inquiry, since they already know Manning “broke the law.” The top boss said so.</p> <p><strong>What About the Damage?</strong></p> <p>Still, whatever the measure of Manning’s technical “guilt,” the government’s hand-wringing over the alleged damage from the disclosures of diplomatic cables has been “significantly overwrought.” How do we know? Defense Secretary Robert Gates said so, in those words. And this time he was telling the truth.</p> <p>Gates mocked the professional alarums sounded by officialdom and dismissed the negative impact of the disclosed cables as “fairly modest.” He had learned a lesson from the earlier WikiLeaks disclosures of documents about Afghanistan and Iraq, when normally sober folks like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen were accusing Manning of having “blood on his hands.”</p> <p>When Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, asked Gates to provide proof in writing of such claims, Gates could adduce no evidence that actual people — as opposed to reputations — had been harmed.</p> <p>It’s also instructive to see how selective prosecutions work in Official Washington. Manning may face life imprisonment for exposing the slaughter of civilians and other serious crimes (as well as for revealing the absurd over-classification of U.S. government documents).</p> <p>However, when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney confess that they ordered waterboarding and other acts that have long been regarded as illegal torture, they and their subordinates are spared prosecution, presumably because to do otherwise would stir up a political mess.</p> <p>Suddenly, clear violations of the law must be set aside as being outweighed by larger national considerations, i.e. political comity in Washington. But no such balancing act is available to spare Pvt. Manning possible life imprisonment for truth-telling, even when many experts believe much good has come from the disclosures, including inspiration for the Arab Spring’s ouster of dictators whose brutality and corruption were frankly described in the WikiLeaks cables.</p> <p>Daniel Ellsberg has called Bradley Manning a hero, and that’s what he is. We need to find ways to tell the American people the full story. These days, they are not going to get the whole truth (or anything close to it) from the<em> New York Times</em>.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. </div></div></div> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 14:00:01 -0800 Ray McGovern, Consortium News 668888 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Human Rights dick cheney barack obama george w. bush martin luther king daniel ellsberg bradley manning