Posts Tagged ‘targeted assassinations’

Obama’s surge: killing spree on both sides of AfPak border

February 3, 2010

By Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, Feb 3, 2010

CIA drone missile attacks claimed the lives of 123 civilians last month alone in Pakistan, it was reported this week. Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, US Special Forces have launched an assassination campaign against alleged leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement in preparation for an imminent military offensive.

These killings are the product of the military “surge” ordered by the Obama administration, which is increasing the US troop deployment in the country by another 30,000. With other NATO countries providing between 5,000 and 10,000 additional soldiers, the occupation force in Afghanistan is set to swell to 150,000 by the fall of this year.

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Mubarak’s Iron Wall

January 17, 2010
Jeremy Salt, The Palestine Chronicle, Jan. 17, 2010
Mubarak is a rented president for the US and Israel, not for his own people.

Early in the 20th century the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote of the ‘iron wall’ that would have to be built between the settlers and the indigenous people of Palestine, whom he knew would resist the attempt to take their land to the end. What he meant by an ‘iron wall’ was the force the Zionists would have to use to subdue the Palestinians if they were to take their land. He did not actually mean a wall according to the dictionary definition of such a structure but that is what has now been built across the West Bank to pen the Palestinians up like the wild animals the Israeli historian Benny Morris says they are.

Indeed, the Palestinians have been ghettoised by a variety of walls and ‘fences’. There is the monstrous ‘separation ‘ wall weaving in and out of the rapidly disappearing ‘green line’ separating Palestinian land which had been occupied before the 1967 war from that which was occupied during it. The Gazans live in what has been described as the world’s largest open air prison. It could also be likened to a game reserve. Every season is open season and no weapon is banned. The Gazans are enclosed by the sea on one side, patrolled by the Israeli navy so that that fishing boats cannot get out and relief boats cannot get in. They face an Israeli fence on two other sides and a  concrete barrier on the border with Egypt. This is now being reinforced  by Husni Mubarak’s ‘iron wall’ of steel plates driven deep underground, destroying the tunnels through which Gazans have been supplied with desperately needed  food, fuel and medicine.

Choked since the beginning of the blockade in 2006, the Gazans are now to be throttled by international decree. This is the crime being committed by Israel, the US and Egypt, with the ‘international community’ lining up behind them with expressions of understanding of the need for the Gazans to be punished. Their torment is one of the great scandals of our age. They have been locked up in the strip for the past sixty years. They have been massacred and bombarded from the beginning.

People forget if they ever knew that the majority of Gazans are not native to this part of Palestine. They were driven there by Zionist militias in 1948. The attacks on civilians ordered by David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s and the massacres organised by Ariel Sharon in the 1970s lie buried under the weight of more murderous attacks. In the last two decades the Gazans (and Palestinians elsewhere) have been subjected to ‘targeted assassinations’ (i.e. premeditated murder by a state) and the destruction by land, sea and air of schools, apartment blocks and government buildings. The killing of children reached its apogee (or should we assume worse is yet to come?) during the onslaught of December 2009-January 2010 when more than 400 were killed, blown to bits in artillery and air assaults and shot dead by snipers.  These children had to die so Ehud Olmert could prove he was a tough guy. They had to die because the blockade imposed in 2006 after the election of the Hamas government had not brought the Palestinians to their knees.

The ‘international community’ does not mean you or me. It means Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and numerous other politicians lining up to defend Israel no matter what it does. They could understand why Israel had to attack Gaza in 2008. It was all those tunnels and all those rocket attacks that were the source of the problem and not 60 years of occupation. They could understand why Israel had to attack Lebanon in 2006, killing about the same number of people as they killed in Gaza three years later, although one or two of the fainthearted may have murmured ‘disproportionate’ as the newspapers published photographs of the bodies of children being lifted out of destroyed buildings. They are so understanding of Israel that Gordon Brown is promising to protect Israeli government ministers and military commanders from war crimes prosecution by changing the law. They are so understanding of Israel that the US Congress is going to close down Arab media outlets Israel does not like. They are so understanding of Israel that they can perfectly understand why it might have to launch air attacks on active nuclear installations in Iran. They are so understanding of Israel that they think the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes (including the bombing of UN buildings and Gaza’s main hospital) and crimes against humanity in Gaza is unbalanced and unfair.

They don’t understand why the Gazans are firing home-made missiles into Israel in response to massacres, targeted assassination and the destruction of infrastructure including sewage and water works. They are appalled. ‘Violence is not the way’. They say it all the time. The phrase rolls off Tony Blair’s tongue like softened honey. Violence is not the way unless it is Israeli violence, or their own violence, delivered daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Yemen coming up as a new target in their ‘war on terrorism’. This violence does not appeal them all.  Of course they are shocked by the war dead, but the war dead are their soldiers who have been killed and not the vast number of civilians killed by the war machine of which these soldiers are part. The ‘deaths’ of hundreds of thousands of civilians in these countries in the last two decades is merely tragic or unfortunate. The torture of others, or their removal to third world countries so they can be tortured there is something they simply don’t talk about.

Now we have Mubarak’s steel wall. The ‘international community’ understands why it has to be built. Israel is facing an existential threat from these tunnels.  If the Gazans behave, if they hand back their captured Israeli soldier, if they accept Israel’s ‘right’ to exist on their stolen land,  if they accept that they have no right to go back to it, if they accept whatever demand Israeli makes,  if they accept that Israel has the right to attack and they have no right to defend themselves, with the paltry weapons they have, then of course the blockade will be lifted and they can have a bit more food and medicine depending on how they behave themselves.  Along with the steel wall shutting off the Palestinians is another wall Israel is going to build with Egypt’s consent along the Auja pocket, formerly a demilitarized zone seized by Israel decades ago.

Mubarak is not Egypt. The will of the country is not represented in his parliament and his government. He is a rented president, a president for the US and Israel, not for his own people. He is as much an extension of the US government as the company known as Blackwater until the murder of civilians by its contractors in Iraq caused such a scandal that it had to change its name. Mubarak is a contractor. He helps to run the Middle East for the US.  Egypt is his responsibility and those who would get in his way, Muslim activist or secular liberal, he crushes.

Were fair elections to be held in Egypt, Mubarak and his National Democratic Party would be finished. On the question of Palestine, whatever their other differences, there is no difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition parties and movements. Outside the ranks of Mubarak’s party there is no support for the actions he has taken, including his recent prevention of the Viva  Palestina convoy from delivering aid to Gaza.  The Egyptian people are with the Palestinians and amongst them there is a deep sense of shame at what Mubarak is doing. This is the country of the revolution of 1952, the staunch defender of the Palestinians, of the Third World struggle against imperialism and colonialism, turned into a humiliating dish rag by the west’s satrap in the presidential palace in Cairo.

– Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

US steps up drone attacks, assassinations in AfPak “surge”

December 28, 2009

By Bill Van Auken, wsws.org,  Dec 28, 2009

Missiles from US Predator drones struck a village in Pakistan over the weekend, killing at least 13 people. The attack coincided with reports of intensified operations by US Special Forces killing squads on the Afghanistan side of the border.

Amounting to targeted assassinations, these forms of warfare are the most evident feature in the first stages of the “surge” ordered earlier this month by President Barack Obama, who is sending at least 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan.

The methods are indicative of a dirty colonial-style war to suppress resistance to an occupation that is aimed at establishing Washington’s dominance in the energy-rich and strategically vital region of Central Asia.

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The Secret US War In Pakistan

December 7, 2009

By Jeremy ScahillZNet, Dec 7, 2009
Source: The Nation
Jeremy Scahill’s ZSpace Page

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

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Barack Obama: From anti-war law lecturer to warmonger in 100 days

May 21, 2009

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to swing behind targeted assassinations and bombing raids, says Alexander Cockburn

By Alexander Cockburn | The First Post, May 19, 2009

How long does it take a mild-mannered, anti-war, black professor [lecturer] of constitutional law, trained as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, ‘decapitation’ strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses at the far end of the globe?

There’s nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson, in the early 20th century, American liberalism has been swift to flex its imperial muscle and whistle up the Marines. High-explosive has always been in the hormone shot.

The nearest parallel to Obama in eager deference to the bloodthirsty counsels of his counter-insurgency advisors is John F. Kennedy. It is not surprising that bright young presidents relish quick-fix, ‘outside the box’ scenarios for victory.

Obama’s course is set and his presidency is already stained the familiar blood-red

Whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan the counsel of regular Army generals tends to be drear and unappetising: vast, costly deployments of troops by the hundreds of thousands, mounting casualties, uncertain prospects for any long-term success ­ all adding up to dismaying political costs on the home front.

Amid Camelot’s dawn in 1961, Kennedy swiftly bent an ear to the advice of men like Ed Lansdale, a special ops man who wore rakishly the halo of victory over the Communist guerillas in the Philippines and who promised results in Vietnam.

By the time he himself had become the victim of Lee Harvey Oswald’s ‘decapitation’ strategy, brought to successful conclusion in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy had set in motion the secret counter-insurgency operations, complete with programs of assassination and torture, that turned South-East Asia and Latin America into charnel houses for the next 20 years.

Another Democrat who strode into the White House with the word ‘peace’ springing from his lips was Jimmy Carter. It was he who first decreed that ‘freedom’ and the war on terror required a $3.5bn investment in a secret CIA-led war in Afghanistan, plus the deployment of Argentinian torturers to advise US military teams in counter-insurgency ops in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Obama campaigned on a pledge to ‘decapitate’ al-Qaeda, meaning the assassination of its leaders. It was his short-hand way of advertising that he had the right stuff. Now, like Kennedy, he’s summoned the exponents of unconventional, short-cut paths to success in that mission.

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal now replaces General David McKiernan as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s expertise is precisely in assassination and ‘decapitation’. As commander of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for nearly five years starting in 2003, McChrystal was in charge of death squad ops, his best advertised success being the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The phrase ‘sophisticated networks’ tends to crop up in assessments of McChrystal’s Iraq years. Actually there’s nothing fresh or sophisticated in what he did. Programmes of targeted assassination aren’t new in counter-insurgency. The most infamous and best known was the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, designed to identify and eliminate cadres of Vietnam’s National Liberation Front, informally known as the Viet Cong, of whom, on some estimates, at least 40,000 were duly assassinated.

In such enterprises two outcomes are inevitable. Identification of the human targets requires either voluntary informants or captives. In the latter instance torture is certain, whatever rhetorical pledges are proclaimed back home. There may be intelligence officers who rely on patient, non-violent interrogation, as the US officer who elicited the whereabouts of al-Zarqawi claims he did.

But there will be others who will reach for the garden hose and the face towel. (McChrystal, not uncoincidentally, was involved in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Camp Nama. He also played a sordid role in the cover-up of the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.)

Whatever the technique, a second certainty is the killing of large numbers of civilians in the final ‘targeted assassination’. At one point in the first war on Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, a huge component of US air sorties was devoted each day to bombing places where US intelligence had concluded Saddam might be hiding. Time after time, after the mangled bodies of men, women and children had been scrutinised, came the crestfallen tidings that Saddam was not among them.

Already in Afghanistan public opinion has been inflamed by the weekly bulletins of deadly bombardments either by drones or manned bombers. Still in the headlines is the US bombardment of Bala Boluk in Farah province, which yielded 140 dead villagers torn apart by high explosives, including 93 children. Only 22 were male and over 18.

Perhaps ‘sophisticated intelligence’ had identified one of these as an al-Qaeda man, or a Taliban captain, or maybe someone an Afghan informant to the US military just didn’t care for. Maybe electronic eavesdropping simply screwed up the coordinates. If we ever know, it won’t be for a very long time. Obama has managed a terse apology, even as he installs McChrystal, thus ensuring more of the same.

Obama is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush in trampling on constitutional rights

The logic of targeted assassinations was on display in Gaza even as Obama worked on the uplifting phrases of his inaugural address in January. The Israelis claimed they were targeting only Hamas even as the body counts of women and children methodically refuted these claims and finally extorted from Obama a terse phrase of regret.

He may soon weary of uttering them. His course is set and his presidency already permanently stained the ever-familiar blood-red tint. There’s no short-cut in counter-insurgency. A targeted bombing yields up Bala Boluk, and the incandescent enmity of most Afghans. The war on al-Qaeda mutates into the war on the Taliban, and 850,000 refugees in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

The mild-mannered professor is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush and Cheney in trampling on constitutional rights. He’s planning to restore Bush’s kangaroo courts for prisoners at Guantanamo who’ve never even been formally charged with a crime! He’s threatening to hold some prisoners indefinitely in the US without trial.

He’s even been awarded a hearty editorial clap on the back from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that civilians courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favoured by Dick Cheney.”

It didn’t take long. But it’s what we’ve got ­ for the rest of Obama-time.


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