Posts Tagged ‘Glenn Greenwald’

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. drones targeting rescuers and mourners

February 7, 2012

Glenn Greenwald, uruknet.info, Feb 6, 2012

6border-drones-460x307.jpg

Images from a Predator B unmanned aircraft are seen on a monitored at the Naval Air Station, in November, in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Credit: AP)

(updated below – Update II – Update III)

On December 30 of last year, ABC News reported on a 16-year-old Pakistani boy, Tariq Khan, who was killed with his 12-year-old cousin when a car in which he was riding was hit with a missile fired by a U.S. drone. As I noted at the time, the report contained this extraordinary passage buried in the middle:

Asked for documentation of Tariq and Waheed’s deaths, Akbar did not provide pictures of the missile strike scene. Virtually none exist, since drones often target people who show up at the scene of an attack.

What made that sentence so amazing was that it basically amounts to a report that the U.S. first kills people with drones, then fires on the rescuers and others who arrive at the scene where the new corpses and injured victims lie.

Continues >>

A stark truth: Israeli arms, U.S. dollars

March 24, 2010
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, March 23, 2010

One does not normally see this truth stated so starkly in places like Time Magazine — from Michael Scherer’s interesting article on AIPAC’s current strategy to “storm Congress”:

The third “ask” that AIPAC supporters will make of Congress on Tuesday is to once again pass the $3 billion in U.S. aid provided annually to Israel. “It’s a very tough ask this year,” [AIPAC lobbyist Steve] Aserkoff admitted, noting the U.S. domestic budgetary and economic challenges. Among other major purchases, the Israeli government has announced plans to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets with new, American-made F-35 fighters, a major cost that Israel hopes will be substantially born for [sic] by American taxpayers.

Those would be the same “American taxpayers” who are now being told that they have to suffer cuts in Medicare and Social Security because of budgetary constraints, who are watching as the most basic social services (the hallmark of being a developed country) are being rapidly abolished (from the 12th Grade to basic care for children, the infirm and elderly), and are burdened with a national debt so large that America’s bond ratings are being degraded by the minute.  Why should those same American taxpayers bear the enormous costs of Israel’s military purchases (as Israel enjoys booming economic growth)?  Especially if the issue is presented as cleanly and honestly as Scherer did here, and especially if Israel continues to extend its proverbial middle finger to even the most basic U.S. requests that it cease activities that harm American interests, how much longer can this absurdity be sustained?

On a related note, a new Rasmussen Poll found that only 58% of Americans now view “Israel as an ally” — down from 70% just nine months ago.  The same poll found that 49% of Americans believe Israel should be “required” to stop building settlements, with only 22% disagreeing.  That’s why the primary objective now of AIPAC and its bipartisan cast of Congressional servants is — as Scherer put it — “to pressure the Obama Administration to avoid airing disagreements publically [sic].”  Indeed:  you can’t have the American people knowing anything about the U.S./Israel relationship and the ways in which the interests of the two countries diverge.

Having these issues discussed openly and having the American citizenry be informed might shatter all sorts of vital myths, which is exactly what has happened over the last month, which has, in turn, led to this change in public opinion (that, along with the fact that the Israeli Government, by being viewed as the opponent of Obama, has incurred the wrath of large numbers of Democrats who are loyal to Obama and automatically dislike any of his critics or opponents).  That’s why their overriding goal is to hide all these differences behind a wall of secrecy — “the Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way[s] to do so in private,” demanded Democratic Rep. Steve Israel — because an open examination of this “special relationship,” how it really functions, and the costs and benefits it entails, is what they want most to avoid.  It’s common in a democracy for government officials to openly air their differences with allies; why should this be any different?

Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think

July 29, 2009

Andy Worthington, July 29, 2009

Barack Obama signs the Executive Order relating to the closure of Guantanamo, January 2009

When the Obama administration’s Detention Policy Task Force, established by Executive Order on the President’s second day in office, conceded last week that it would miss its six-month deadline to issue its recommendations about how to close Guantánamo, many observers focused on whether this meant that Obama would fail to meet his deadline of Jan 21, 2010 for the closure of the prison, and missed the bigger story, which was only revealed through close scrutiny of the Task Force’s five-page interim report (PDF).

Continues >>

Should the U.S. also suppress evidence of civilian deaths in Afghanistan?

June 15, 2009

Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com, Friday June 12, 2009 07:13 EDT

Something that has happened repeatedly in Afghanistan over the last eight years happened yet again this week:

After U.S. Strike, Dispute Over Afghan Deaths

KABUL, Afghanistan — Sharply conflicting reports on an American airstrike this week continued to trickle out Friday from American military and Afghan officials as to whether the attack killed civilians.

The airstrike in Ghor Province in western Afghanistan Tuesday had targeted a local Taliban militant, Mullah Mustafa, but instead killed 10 civilians and 12 insurgents, according to Sayed Iqbal Munib, the governor of Ghor Province.

But American officials Friday said the strike killed up to 16 militants and no civilians.

I obviously don’t know what the truth is about this latest incident, but let’s assume just for the sake of argument that — as has been true so many times before — it is the claim of local Afghan officials, rather than the U.S. military, that is accurate, and Afghan civilians, once again, really were killed by our airstrike.

Continued >>

Obama’s Embrace of Bush Terrorism Policies is Celebrated as “Centrism”

May 20, 2009

by Glenn Greenwald |  Salon.com, May 19, 2009

I wonder how many people from across the political spectrum will have to point this out before Obama defenders will finally admit that it’s true.  From Harvard Law Professor and former Bush OLC lawyer Jack Goldsmith, systematically assessing Obama’s “terrorism” policies in The New Republic:

Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence.  But there is a different problem with Cheney’s criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. . . .

[A]t the end of the day, Obama practices will be much closer to late Bush practices than almost anyone expected in January 2009.

Most critically, Goldsmith expresses admiration for Obama’s rhetorical and symbolic changes — such as Obama’s emphasis on obtaining Congressional support for Bush’s  policies while highlighting his deep concern for “civil liberties” — because Goldsmith believes that Obama’s rhetoric vests Bush’s policies with more credibility, ensures more bipartisan and Congressional support for these policies, makes them more palatable to Democrats, and thus ensures that those policies will endure in a stronger and longer-lasting form:

The new president was a critic of Bush administration terrorism policies, a champion of civil liberties, and an opponent of the invasion of Iraq. His decision (after absorbing the classified intelligence and considering the various options) to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China. . . .

If this analysis is right, then the former vice president is wrong to say that the new president is dismantling the Bush approach to terrorism. President Obama has not changed much of substance from the late Bush practices, and the changes he has made, including changes in presentation, are designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run. Viewed this way, President Obama is in the process of strengthening the presidency to fight terrorism.

What’s most striking about the denial of so many Obama supporters about all of this is that Obama officials haven’t really tried to hide it.  White House counsel Greg Craig told The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage back in February that Obama “is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency.”  It was in that same article where Savage — a favorite of Bush critics when Bush was president — warned that after the first week of Executive Orders, “the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.”

Notably, Savage’s article was written almost three months ago, well before Obama’s announcement that he was adopting many of the most extreme Bush policies.  At the time of Savage’s February article, I wrote: “while believing that Savage’s article is of great value in sounding the right alarm bells, I think that he paints a slightly more pessimistic picture on the civil liberties front than is warranted by the evidence thus far (though only slightly).”  But as it turns out, it was Savage who was clearly right.  As Politico‘s Josh Gerstein recently wrote about Obama’s Terrorism policies:  “A few, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have even hurled the left’s ultimate epithet — suggesting that Obama’s turning into George W. Bush.”

* * * * *

In his New Republic article today, Goldsmith reviews what he calls the “eleven essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy” and documents how — with only a couple of minor exceptions — Obama has embraced all of them.  In those cases where Obama has purported to “change” these elements, those changes are almost all symbolic and ceremonial, and the few changes that have any substance to them (banning the already-empty CIA black sites and prohibiting no-longer-authorized torture techniques) are far less substantial than Obama officials purport.  None of Goldsmith’s analysis is grounded in the proposition that Obama hasn’t yet acted to change Bush policies, thus rendering a nonsequitur the response that “Obama needs more time; it’s only been 4 months.”  Goldsmith is describing affirmative steps Obama has already announced to adopt the core Bush “terrorism” policies.

Just consider some of Goldsmith’s examples:  Obama makes a melodramatic showing of ordering Guantanamo closed but then re-creates its systematic denial of detainee rights in Bagram, and “[l]ast month Secretary of Defense Gates hinted that up to 100 suspected terrorists would be detained without trial.”  Obama announces that all interrogations must comply with the Army Field Manual but then has his CIA Director announce that he will seek greater interrogation authority whenever it is needed and convenes a task force to determine which enhanced interrogation methods beyond the Field Manual should be authorized.  He railed against Bush’s Guantanamo military commissions but then preserved them with changes that are plainly cosmetic.

Obama has been at least as aggressive as Bush was in asserting radical secrecy doctrines in order to prevent courts from ruling on illegal torture and spying programs and to block victims from having a day in court.  He has continued and even “ramped up” so-called “targeted killings” in Pakistan and Afghanistan which, as Goldsmith puts it, “have predictably caused more collateral damage to innocent civilians.”  He has maintained not only Bush’s rendition policy but also the standard used to determine to which countries a suspect can be rendered, and has kept Bush’s domestic surveillance policies in place and unchanged.  Most of all, he has emphatically endorsed the Bush/Cheney paradigm that we are engaged in a “war” against Terrorists — with all of the accompanying presidential “war powers” — rather than the law enforcement challenge that John Kerry, among others, advocated.

* * * * *

What is, in my view, most noteworthy about all of this is how it gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism.  Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country’s institutions — particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media — acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it  And they still do.

Nothing has produced as much media praise for Obama as his embrace of what Goldsmith calls the “essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy.”   That’s because — contrary to the ceremonial displays of regret and denouncements of Bush — the dominant media view is this:  the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism was right; those policies are “centrist”; Obama is acting commendably by embracing them; most of the country wants those policies; and only the Far Left opposes the Bush/Cheney approach.

Anyone who doubts that should consider this most extraordinary paragraph from Associated Press’ Liz Sidoti:

Increasingly, President Barack Obama and Democrats who run Congress are being pulled between the competing interests of party liberals and the rest of the country on Bush-era wartime matters of torture, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

When it comes to torture and Bush’s Terrorism policies, it’s the Far Left (which opposes those things) versus “the rest of the country” (which favors them).  And she described Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies as “governing from the center.”  Apparently, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies are Centrist.  Who knew?  Her AP colleague Tom Raum said virtually the same thing today:

Internationally, Obama reversed course and is seeking to block the court-ordered release of detainee-abuse photos, revived military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and is markedly increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. . . .

Still, even though Obama may be irritating liberal purists on both national security and domestic policy, he has no real choice but to move toward the middle.

Adopting the Bush/Cheney approach to war and Terrorism is to “move toward the middle.”  That’s because only “liberal purists” oppose those policies.  The Washington Post‘s CIA spokesman David Ignatius (who I would choose if I had to identify one individual who most embodies the rot of the American political press) celebrated Obama’s recent embrace of Bush Terrorism policies as his “Sister Souljah moment” as he “polished his credentials as a centrist,” and then returned again to announce that “Obama put his responsibilities as commander in chief first — and his loyalty to fellow Democrats second.”

As Maureen Dowd pointed out in the non-plagiarized part of her column on Sunday, the reason Bush was able to do what he did is because “very few watchdogs – in the Democratic Party or the press – were pushing back against the Bush horde in 2002 and 2003, when magazines were gushing about W. and Cheney as conquering heroes.”  But all of this recent media commentary makes clear that media stars and Democratic leaders now are only pretending to find Bush/Cheney policies repugnant because Bush is now so unpopular and his policies were proven to be failures.  As a result, a new face is needed for those policies, but the belief in the rightness of those policies hasn’t changed.  They still consider Bush/Cheney policies “centrist” and responsible — only Leftist Purists oppose them — and thus heap praise on Obama for embracing them.  We’re still the same country we were in 2003.  Our media stars and political leaders from both parties still think the same way.  That’s why the more Obama embraces the Bush/Cheney approach, the more praise he gets for Centrism.

What is most damaging about all of this is exactly what Goldsmith celebrated:  that Obama’s political skills, combined with his status as a Democrat, is strengthening Bush/Cheney terrorism policies and solidifying them further.  For the last eight years, roughly half the country — Republicans, Bush followers — was trained to cheer for indefinite detention, presidential secrecy, military commissions, warrantless eavesdropping, denial of due process, a blind acceptance of any presidential assertion that these policies are necessary to Keep Us Safe, and the claim that only fringe Far Leftist Purists — civil liberties extremists — could possibly object to any of that.

Now, much of the other half of the country, the one that once opposed those policies — Democrats, Obama supporters — are now reciting the same lines, adopting the same mentality, because doing so is necessary to justify what Obama is doing.   It’s hard to dispute the Right’s claim that Bush’s Terrorism approach is being vindicated by Obama’s embrace of its “essential elements.”  That’s what Goldsmith means when he says that Obama is making these policies stronger and more palatable, and it’s what media stars mean when they describe Bush/Cheney policies as Centrist:  now that it’s not just an unpopular Republican President but also a highly charismatic and popular Democratic President advocating and defending these core Bush/Cheney policies, they do become the political consensus of the United States.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.