Posts Tagged ‘war on terror’

Torture: America’s policy, Europe’s shame

June 18, 2009

Jan Egeland, Mariano Aguirre| openDemocracy, June 17, 2009

The degrading treatment meted out to prisoners of the United States-led “war on terror” over seven years has yet to be subject to proper legal scrutiny and accountability. But the responsibility is Europe’s too, say Jan Egeland & Mariano Aguirre.

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In the very heart of the western world, Europe’s major ally has tortured prisoners to death – in an operation that we Europeans too were involved in. The fourteen “techniques” authorised by the George W Bush administration include semi-drowning (“waterboarding’), confinement in cramped and dark boxes, psychological torture and deprivation of sleep for up to eleven days and nights (see  Mark Danner, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites” [New York Review of Books, 9 April & 30 April 2009]).

An undefined number of prisoners have died or committed suicide as a result of mistreatment in interrogation chambers run by the United States and its allies (the last one was a Yemeni in Guantánamo). It may be recalled that Japanese military jailors who employed these techniques during the second world war were adjudged war criminals by the US’s own military-legal experts.

This, to emphasise the point, is not about the despicable actions of some far-away dictator, nor the atrocities committed by Nazis and communists in Europe in the years of totalitarianism and genocide. No, these acts were part of a larger operation involving our own western, liberal democracies. Europeans  were there – with troops, intelligence, logistics and funding – taking part in the “war on terror” that formed the backdrop to these war crimes. After the US secret services had been authorised to mistreat prisoners held in American custody, the CIA was allowed to undertake its “extraordinary renditions”: more than 1,000 flights, often with unnamed prisoners  (“unlawful combatants”) in a wide arc across European airspace – from Norway to Romania. Several countries (including Jordan and, again, Romania) granted permission for these prisoners to be interrogated and mistreated in local, US-administered prison camps.

In 2007, a majority of elected representative in the European parliament accused the governments of Europe of having concealed the details of what had happened in these cases. In fact, several countries did more than clandestinely transport and keep prisoners; they also delivered some of their own prisoners into the hands of the CIA. The transfer by the Swedish police in December 2001 of two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed El Zary – who later vanished into Egypt’s prison-camp system where torture flourishes – is but one example. Reports from both the European parliament and the Council of Europe have found that Europeans have accepted the perpetration of severe abuses in our own backyards that we were and are quick to condemn anywhere else.

When defenceless prisoners – some of them hardcore terrorists, others quite innocent men – were being beaten and humiliated by United States soldiers at Bagram air- base in Kabul, Europeans were close by: every day, our military and civilian forces in Afghanistan would drive past.

When the inner circles around President Bush were planning the torture – how to legitimise, explain and implement it in a network of prisons (some secret, others not) in Europe, the middle east and elsewhere – Europeans remained silent and loyal contributors to the “war against terror” in Afghanistan.

When clever American legal experts were arguing that the principles of international humanitarian law – the Geneva conventions, United Nations conventions, and of habeas corpus –were not applicable in this case of “our battle” against “our enemies”, Europe’s own parliamentarians and NGOS were urging international legal action against some leaders in the global south on the grounds that they had broken the very same principles.

The dark side

How could it be that these years of torture could unfold under Europeans’ very noses, in flagrant contradiction of our national constitutions, our penal codes, our international legal commitments – all without hearings being organised and investigative commissions appointed? Where were our legal experts, our auditors and our journalists? And where were we, the researchers and commentators who have written this? With the exception of rare voices in a few media and human-rights organisations, and a couple of politicians that denounced what had happened, Europe kept silent.

There are no excuses. What was being conceived, planned and perpetrated was hardly a secret, even before the New Yorker and other media published detailed descriptions of these war crimes and the deceit involved (see, for example, Jane Mayer, Outsourcing torture“, New Yorker, 14 February 2005), .After all, only days after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Dick Cheney admitted that the US chief executive was willing to make the “war against terror” an ugly, dirty affair: in a primetime national broadcast, the US vice-president  announced that the secret services would be authorised to go over to the “dark side” (see Jane Mayer, The Dark Side [Vintage/Anchor, 2009]).

Such attitudes began around the same time to infect popular and even intellectual culture. The US television industry broadcast (from November 2001) the well-engineered TV drama series 24, about a federal agent who could not always afford to play by the rules. In episode after episode, the popular series indulged the lie that the torture of suspects was necessary in order to save the lives of innocents. The academic and pundit Michael Ignatieff– then director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, now the head of Canada’s main opposition party and the country’s likely next prime minister – was only the most high-profile of several intellectual who began to argue that torture is terrible but could in some circumstances be morally and politically justified (see Mariano Aguirre, “Exporting democracy, revising torture: the complex missions of Michael Ignatieff“, 15 July 2005).

So it was that the Bush-Cheney cabal could demolish the legacy of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  The United States’s first president banned all maltreatment of English prisoners during the during the war of independence (1775-83), forbidding his troops to “imitate the brutality of the British”. Its sixteenth president followed the same principle during the American civil war (1861-65). Both respected here the US’s declaration of independence (1776), based as it was and is on the prohibition of abuse of power, arbitrary arrest and torture.

The next step

Many political, military and administrative leaders were involved in the planning and execution of the “war on terror”; none has had to face legal prosecution for what went on in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other sites of documented torture. Almost without exception, it is low-level operatives who have faced prosecution, even though their crimes were committed under a system that was organised in and controlled from the topmost echelons of power in the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon (see Philip Gourevitch & Errol Morris, The Ballad of Abu Ghraib [Penguin, 2008]).

President Barack Obama – whose election by US citizens in 2008 is a turning-pointin this story – declared his intention to close for ever this dark chapter in the history of the United States. For that to happen, he must ensure that the legal process focuses on those who bear political and administrative responsibility. Chile and Argentina are among the countries which investigated and prosecuted those who had  ordered torture – so why not the United States? In addition, it is clear that the Guantánamo prison-camp must be shut down; but military tribunals that fail to comply with international standards of jurisprudence should also be closed.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the abuse and neglect of the highest principles of leadership nurtured by western civilisation over centuries. In this light, it is wrong to see the actions of Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their coterie in isolation (see Philippe Sands, Lawless World: Making and Breaking Global Rules [ Penguin, 2006]). For this is also a tale of colossal hypocrisy and worse on the part of Europe, in accepting and being complicit in depredations that violate its own deepest values.

The experience was allowed to unfold year by grim year. During this long  period, the European allies of the US – aware of the absence of legal protection for those nameless prisoners being transported for interrogation and torture at destinations known and unknown – appear to have done very little. Why?

What will be the next steps in bringing to justice those responsible? Thomas Hammarberg, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, has called on the council’s forty-seven member-states to provide the complete facts on what actually took place from 2001 to 2008, so that the guilty may be held to account. It cannot happen soon enough. For until it does, the enormous damage Europe has inflicted in these terrible years – not least on itself – can never be repaired.

This article was translated from Norwegian by Susan Høivik


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.

CIA terror suspects ‘kept awake for 11 days’

May 10, 2009

UK, May 10, 2009

More than 25 of the CIA’s war-on-terror prisoners were subjected to sleep deprivation for as long as 11 days at a time during the administration of former president George Bush, according to The Los Angeles Times.

At one stage during the war on terror, the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to keep prisoners awake for as long as 11 days, the Times reported, citing memoranda made public by the Justice department last month.

The limit was later reduced to just over a week, the report stated.

Sleep deprivation was one of the most important elements in the CIA’s interrogation programme, seen as more effective than more violent techniques used to help break the will of suspects.

Within the CIA it was seen as having the advantage of eroding a prisoner’s will without leaving lasting damage.

The technique is now prohibited by President Barack Obama’s ban on harsh interrogation methods issued in January, although a task force is reviewing its use along with other interrogation methods, The Times said.

But details in the Justice Department memos released by Mr Obama suggest that the method, which involved suspects standing for days on end, dressed only in a nappy and shackled to the floor, was more controversial than previously known.

According to the memos, medical personnel were present to make sure prisoners weren’t injured. But a 2007 Red Cross report on the CIA program said detainees’ wrists and ankles bore scars from their shackles, the newspaper reported..

When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs “anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort,” a memo dated May 10, 2005, said.

“The position is sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of standing,” it said.

In the Red Cross report, prisoners said they were also subjected to loud music and repetitive noise.

“I was kept sitting on a chair, shackled by hands and feet for two to three weeks,” said suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner captured by the CIA, according to the Red Cross report. “If I started to fall asleep, a guard would come and spray water in my face.”

In the Justice Department memos, sleep deprivation was described as part of a “baseline” phase of interrogation, categorized as less severe than other “corrective” or “coercive” methods.

“Waterboarding was obviously the most controversial,” said a former senior U.S. government official who was briefed extensively on CIA interrogation operations. But “sleep deprivation is probably the most effective thing they had going.”

The Justice Department memos also cited research that suggested sleep deprivation was not harmful.

“Experience with sleep deprivation shows that ‘surprisingly, little seemed to go wrong with the subjects physically,’ ” said the May 10 memo.

But a British scientist whose name was one of those put on the studies said he had never been consulted by US officials about the study.

James Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, said he didn’t know how his work was being used until the memos were released.

“My response was shocked concern,” Professor Horne told the LA Times. Just because the pain of sleep deprivation “can’t be measured in terms of physical injury or appearance . . . does not mean that the mental anguish is not as bad,” he said.

U.S. Human Rights Abuses in the War on Terror

March 19, 2009

By Joanne Mariner |  Counterpunch, March 17

Since September 2001, the U.S. government has been directly responsible for a broad array of serious human rights violations in fighting terrorism, including torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and unfair trials. In many instances, US abuses were carried out in collaboration other governments.

To cite one example—albeit a particularly notable one—Pakistan’s intelligence agencies worked closely with the CIA to “disappear” terrorist suspects, hold them in secret detention, and subject them to torture and other abuses.

With Barack Obama’s term as U.S. president, the U.S. approach to fighting terrorism has changed. The scope of the Obama administration’s reforms is not yet clear, but it is obvious that the new administration wants to rethink many of the policies that were instituted over the past eight years.

This change in the U.S. approach is long overdue. What is called for, however, is not only for the United States to reform its own abusive policies, but also for U.S. officials to try to counteract the negative influence of past policies worldwide. As a brief review of US counterterrorism efforts will suggest, the human rights impact of the US-led “war on terror” has been felt across the globe.

Collaboration and Assistance in U.S. “War on Terror” Operations

In carrying out post-9/11 “war on terror” operations—including the detention, interrogation, and transfer of terrorist suspects—the United States relied on the assistance of a broad array of countries, from close allies like Britain to pariah states like Syria.

A few states in this long list stand out. Among the leading partners of the United States in the “war on terror” were Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Jordan. Other countries that played a crucial role in facilitating abusive U.S. practices were Egypt, Thailand, Poland, and Romania.

Some governments carried out abuses at the behest of the United States, as a means of gaining U.S. favor or counterterrorism funding. More often, however, the collaboration was genuine, because the perceived interests of the two countries were aligned. Libya, for example, took custody of a number of Libyan nationals who were rendered to Libya by the CIA in 2004-2006. While the detention and interrogation of these men were deemed to serve U.S. interests, the Libyan authorities had independent reasons for wanting to hold them.

The forms of cooperation varied from intelligence sharing to prisoner transfers to allowing the U.S. to hold prisoners in secret detention on a country’s territory. It is worth noting that many of the countries that were most deeply implicated in abusive U.S. practices received millions of dollars in U.S. military and counterterrorism assistance.

Some governments adopted abusive practices in response to direct US pressure. Most notably, the US encouraged a number of countries to pass draconian counterterrorism laws, often laws that expand police powers, reduce due process guarantees, and set out vague and overbroad definitions of terrorism.

Leading by Negative Example

The negative global impact of US human rights abuses post-9/11 does not, however, end there. Besides direct collaboration and pressure, the US also led by example. Many governments latched onto the Bush administration’s “war on terror” arguments to justify their own abuses, particularly the notion that defeating terrorism trumps any countervailing human rights obligations.

As then-Justice Department official John Yoo expressed the idea in a March 2003 memo, abuses against suspected terrorists can be justified by reference to a “national and international version of the right to self-defense.” The torture of terrorist suspects, according to this rationale, may be deemed necessary and defensible because of the government’s overriding obligation “to protect the nation from attack.” When fighting terrorism, in other words, the stakes are so high that respect for human rights is optional.

While the United States is not the first government to put forward such arguments, its post-9/11 iteration of these views had tremendous global resonance. The political and economic power of the United States, its historical reputation as a defender of human rights, and the vehemence with which it expressed its positions on the “war on terror” all amplified the negative global impact of these views.

Repressive governments, always seeking rhetorical cover for their violations, were quick to adopt the language of counterterrorism to help shield their abuses from critical scrutiny. In Egypt, for example, the government specifically cited the “war on terrorism” and new security laws passed in the United States and elsewhere to justify the 2003 renewal of long-standing emergency powers.

The Bush Legacy

By closing Guantanamo, shutting down CIA prisons, and condemning rather than justifying torture, the new administration will have made enormous strides. It should know, nonetheless, that the global legacy of the past eight years may not be quick to disappear.

The prisoners that the United States handed over to Libya and Syria will still be held without charge; the repressive laws that were passed will remain on the statute books, and the example of U.S. abuses will not be easily forgotten. Not only should the U.S. reform its own practices, it should remedy their impact on the rest of the world.

Joanne Mariner is a human rights lawyer living in Paris.

Prosecuting the Bush Team?

March 4, 2009

Robert Pallitto | Foreign Policy In Focus, March 2, 2009

In the months following September 11, 2001, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department interpreted U.S. and international law to provide legal support for the administration in its “war on terror.” With regard to interrogation of terror suspects, John Yoo, David Addington, Jay Bybee, and others justified the use of such harsh and dangerous tactics as waterboarding and stress positions. In a 2002 memo, they advised that only actions causing severe pain equivalent to “organ failure” would violate the U.S. torture law. Moreover, the memo stated that only if they acted with the specific intention to cause such pain — rather than acting with the primary goal of obtaining information — would the interrogators violate the law. Finally, the memo argued that these interrogations were rooted in an inherent executive power to protect the nation. As such, other branches of government could not review or limit such policies.

The architects of the Bush administration’s torture policy clearly wanted to facilitate the use of torture tactics and to insulate themselves from future civil and criminal liability. In the words of legal scholar Jeremy Waldron, they were using the U.S. legal definition of torture as “something to game, a determinate envelope to push.”

A new administration is already taking steps to reverse Bush policies on torture and detention. Will it go the next step and pursue criminal prosecutions of Bush legal advisors?

The Nuremberg Precedent

Scott Horton has suggested that the Reich Justice Ministry cases, which were tried at Nuremberg after World War II, furnish precedent for trying Addington, Yoo, and others. The Reich Ministry cases involved prosecution of judicial officials who crafted policies and justifications for detention and killing of Jews, Roma, and other groups targeted by the Nazi regime. Also included in these prosecutions were judges who subverted the legal process by allowing high-ranking executive branch officials to direct the judges to reach certain results. Horton notes that the rulings in these cases established “a particularly perilous standard of liability for government attorneys who adopt a dismissive attitude towards international humanitarian law.”

To be sure, Bush’s legal advisors were, to say the least, “dismissive” toward international humanitarian law. To take one example, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete.” This attitude wasn’t limited to international law. The Bybee memo cited a federal health care statute to define the term “severe pain” as that term is used in the torture law. Of course, it makes no sense to use a statute concerning payment for medical treatment to authorize inflicting pain on a person. This definitional stretch, which would be laughable in a less serious context, is an indication of the unrestrained determination to find and use anything, no matter how inapposite or farfetched, to take the administration where it wanted to go with its torture policies. Federal court rules allow judges to sanction attorneys for making frivolous arguments. Such a “severe pain” argument should be subject to similar sanction.

The Bush advisors were wrong on the law when they suggested that executive torture policies were unreviewable, and they were wrong in their interpretation of the U.S. criminal law prohibiting torture (they admitted as much when they repudiated the 2002 torture memo two years later). In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court specifically rejected the claim that prisoner treatment need not comply with the Geneva Conventions. On this issue, the Bush team clearly misinterpreted the law and then broke it. But how do we address the damage done to our democratic and constitutional values, to our standing in the world? Should criminal prosecutions be part of that effort, brought either in U.S. federal court or in an international tribunal?

Criminal Prosecutions

U.S. law specifically prohibits torture. It’s a federal crime to commit torture, and the Bush advisors sought to interpret that law in a way that would permit such practices as waterboarding. The advisors’ actions could be considered a conspiracy to violate the torture law. They themselves didn’t engage in prohibited acts of torture, but they made it easier for others to do so.

The problem here is that the actions involved were themselves interpretations of law: State officials were making arguments about what the law meant and suggesting that it should be read narrowly. Horton suggests that lawyers aren’t permitted, in such a case, to “get it wrong” and then be excused for doing so. In the Reich Justice Ministry cases, the judicial officials made decisions and created policies that were later found to be illegal, and many of those officials were convicted of war crimes at Nuremburg. The important difference, however, is that the Reich Justice Ministry officials were complicit in a criminal regime. The structural rules of the government were illegitimate, created by a chief executive (Hitler) to preserve and increase his own power.

In the U.S. case, the structuring rules of government were not illegal. The legislature and the courts continued to function according to the constitution, even though the president tried to shield his actions and those of his administration from review. In several instances — authorizing military action against Iraq, detainee treatment, denial of court review to detainees, immunity for warrantless wiretapping — Congress approved presidential actions, thus making it harder to argue that the government wasn’t operating according to valid law. In fact, Congress even voted to confirm Jay Bybee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after he left the Bush administration. In short, the government’s actions were illegitimate but the government itself was, unlike that of Nazi Germany, legitimate.

The case for a violation of international law might seem clearer, in a sense. Instead of defining a particular law narrowly as they did with U.S. torture statute, the Bush advisors said that a particular body of international law (the Geneva Conventions) did not apply at all. In other words, with regard to international law, the advisors denied the applicability and constraining force of a law altogether. Moreover, the Supreme Court expressly denied this administration claim in Hamdan. Again, however, the problem here concerns the provision of legal duties or advice as a crime, and specifically with the “fit” of the Nuremburg precedent. The court there held state officials liable for formulating policies and rendering decisions that assisted in a genocidal project and gave obeisance to a plan of government under which, according to the court opinion in the Justice Ministry cases, “Hitler did, in fact, exercise the right assumed by him to act as Supreme Judge, and in that capacity in many instances he controlled the decision of the individual criminal cases.” The court reasoned that this construction of German law left Nazi officials susceptible to prosecution under international law. In the U.S. case, however, the wrongdoing that occurred was done against the background of a political and legal order whose legitimacy wasn’t in doubt. The tripartite federal governmental system specified by the constitution operated throughout the period in question, and this fact distinguishes the two situations. This isn’t to excuse or to diminish what occurred between 2001 and 2008 in the United States. But the Nuremberg case doesn’t furnish an apt precedent for prosecution of the authors of the Bush torture policies.

Political Obstacles

In addition to the legal obstacles to prosecuting the architects of Bush’s torture policies, there are significant political obstacles as well. The United States refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court during the Bush years; Bush revoked the signatory status. Obama has indicated an interest in resigning the ICC agreement, but would he then deliver members of the previous administration to that court for prosecution? The likely partisan political tension and fallout from any prosecution, domestic or international, would create a disincentive for prosecution, especially for a pragmatic, centrist president. To be sure, nothing in Obama’s executive orders thus far suggests that he intends to review past actions of the previous administration for possible criminal sanctions. The executive order relating to torture is written with a prospective focus, declaring that from Inauguration Day forward the torture policies of the Bush administration will no longer be followed, and that the standards the rest of the world adheres to, including the Geneva Conventions, will govern interrogation of terror suspects. While this statement is a welcome return to the rule of law, it leaves the past actions of Bush’s advisors unaddressed.

On February 10, the Obama administration surprised some observers by indicating in court that it would adopt the past administration’s posture in a torture-related case. Jeppesen Dataplan v. Mohamed is a suit against the flight planning company that allegedly facilitated the rendition of a terror suspect to a secret torture location. The Bush administration intervened and convinced the trial court to dismiss the suit, claiming that the case involved state secrets and would threaten national security if it were allowed to proceed. At oral argument in the Ninth Circuit, Attorney General Holder argued that the dismissal should be affirmed, rather than reversing the course set previously by the Bush Justice Department. The state secrets privilege is a court-created doctrine that allows the executive branch to terminate litigation simply by claiming that a particular dispute involves national security matters. Critics of excessive executive power hoped that the new administration would at least modify the scope of the privilege, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Future of Prosecution

Hannah Arendt explored the problem of state crimes in her famous report on the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Acting according to German law, Eichmann oversaw the transport of Jews and others to concentration camps as part of his administrative position in the German government. Thus, his official responsibility in the time period of the “final solution” was to facilitate genocide. Arendt points out that Eichmann’s trial presented certain novel legal problems: He was a bureaucrat in a criminal regime, following orders to commit monstrous evil. In view of the Nazis’ genocidal project, Eichmann’s conviction and execution was a foregone conclusion, but the problem of prosecuting state-administered torture and killing remains half a century later. Today, with the issue of criminal conduct by members of the Bush administration, Arendt’s question presents itself somewhat differently. Yoo, Addington, Bybee, and others sought to maneuver around legal and political obstacles within a regime outwardly functioning under rule of law. It was they who provided the chief executive with advice and arguments for the policies he wished to implement.

In view of the problems indicated here, it is unlikely that a criminal prosecution of the Bush advisors for their role in propagating torture will occur. This isn’t to say, by any means, that their behavior was lawful. Rather, it’s a recognition of the realities of the situation, both political and legal. Also, the officials themselves worked to shield themselves from liability, helping to create some of the obstacles facing the nation now as we attempt to reckon with the lawlessness of the past administration.

Certainly, the lessons of the past eight years provide a good reason to resign the ICC agreement. Also, the ethics investigations currently pending against individual officials are important, appropriate, and laudable. While they will yield less in the way of punishment, they also face none of the roadblocks indicated above. These roadblocks only underscore the final, painful lesson: Failure to stand up to an overreaching executive branch compounds the damage that branch can inflict on our system of government by making it more difficult ultimately to hold executive officials accountable.

Robert Pallitto is an assistant professor of political science at Seton Hall University, a former trial attorney, and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is co-author, with William Weaver, of Presidential Secrecy and the Law (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and he is currently working on a book about torture in U.S. history.

Why Are We Still at War?

February 4, 2009

Published on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

by Norman Solomon

The United States began its war in Afghanistan 88 months ago. “The war on terror” has no sunset clause. As a perpetual emotion machine, it offers to avenge what can never heal and to fix grief that is irreparable.

For the crimes against humanity committed on Sept. 11, 2001, countless others are to follow, with huge conceits about technological “sophistication” and moral superiority. But if we scrape away the concrete of media truisms, we may reach substrata where some poets have dug.

W.H. Auden: “Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.

Stanley Kunitz: “In a murderous time / the heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking.”

And from 1965, when another faraway war got its jolt of righteous escalation from Washington’s certainty, Richard Farina wrote: “And death will be our darling and fear will be our name.” Then as now came the lessons that taught with unfathomable violence once and for all that unauthorized violence must be crushed by superior violence.

The U.S. war effort in Afghanistan owes itself to the enduring “war on terrorism,” chasing a holy grail of victory that can never be.

Early into the second year of the Afghanistan war, in November 2002, a retired U.S. Army general, William Odom, appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program and told viewers: “Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It’s a tactic. It’s about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we’re going to win that war. We’re not going to win the war on terrorism.”

But the “war on terrorism” rubric — increasingly shortened to the even vaguer “war on terror” — kept holding enormous promise for a warfare state of mind. Early on, the writer Joan Didion saw the blotting of the horizon and said so: “We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of Sept. 11 to justify the reconception of America’s correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war.”

There, in one sentence, an essayist and novelist had captured the essence of a historical moment that vast numbers of journalists had refused to recognize — or, at least, had refused to publicly acknowledge. Didion put to shame the array of self-important and widely lauded journalists at the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post, PBS and National Public Radio.

The new U.S. “war on terror” was rhetorically bent on dismissing the concept of peacetime as a fatuous mirage.

Now, in early 2009, we’re entering what could be called Endless War 2.0, while the new president’s escalation of warfare in Afghanistan makes the rounds of the media trade shows, preening the newest applications of technological might and domestic political acquiescence.

And now, although repression of open debate has greatly dissipated since the first months after 9/11, the narrow range of political discourse on Afghanistan is essential to the Obama administration’s reported plan to double U.S. troop deployments in that country within a year.

“This war, if it proliferates over the next decade, could prove worse in one respect than any conflict we have yet experienced,” Norman Mailer wrote in his book “Why Are We at War?” six years ago. “It is that we will never know just what we are fighting for. It is not enough to say we are against terrorism. Of course we are. In America, who is not? But terrorism compared to more conventional kinds of war is formless, and it is hard to feel righteous when in combat with a void…”

Anticipating futility and destruction that would be enormous and endless, Mailer told an interviewer in late 2002: “This war is so unbalanced in so many ways, so much power on one side, so much true hatred on the other, so much technology for us, so much potential terrorism on the other, that the damages cannot be estimated. It is bad to enter a war that offers no clear avenue to conclusion. … There will always be someone left to act as a terrorist.”

And there will always be plenty of rationales for continuing to send out the patrols and launch the missiles and drop the bombs in Afghanistan, just as there have been in Iraq, just has there were in Vietnam and Laos. Those countries, with very different histories, had the misfortune to share a singular enemy, the most powerful military force on the planet.

It may be profoundly true that we are not red states and blue states, that we are the United States of America — but what that really means is still very much up for grabs. Even the greatest rhetoric is just that. And while the clock ticks, the deployment orders are going through channels.

For anyone who believes that the war in Afghanistan makes sense, I recommend the Jan. 30 discussion on “Bill Moyers Journal” with historian Marilyn Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey. A chilling antidote to illusions that fuel the war can be found in the transcript.

Now, on Capitol Hill and at the White House, convenience masquerades as realism about “the war on terror.” Too big to fail. A beast too awesome and immortal not to feed.

And death will be our darling. And fear will be our name.

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is “Made Love, Got War.” He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign.

David Miliband: Bush’s War on Terror was misleading and mistaken

January 16, 2009

The Times, UK, January 16, 2009

The Foreign Secretary attacked the legacy of George Bush yesterday, branding the outgoing President’s War on Terror a “misleading and mistaken” doctrine that had united extremists against the West.

Speaking in Mumbai, David Miliband said that the idea of a war on terror gave a false notion “of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and the organisation of al-Qaeda”.

He suggested that the phrase had “inadvertently sustained al-Qaeda’s propaganda” and risked magnifying the threats faced. “The more we lump terrorist groups together, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common,” he added.

The speech, which was given at the Taj Mahal Palace, one of two hotels struck in November’s terrorist attack, ranked among the British Government’s harshest critiques of Mr Bush’s foreign policy, but came just five days before the 43rd President makes way for Barack Obama.

Mr Miliband shrugged off suggestions that his comments would have been braver had they been delivered earlier in Mr Bush’s tenure. The key issue was one of semantic accuracy, he said. “Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology.”

Democracies must respond to terrorism “by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it”, he added, citing Guantánamo Bay and endorsing Mr Obama’s pledge to close the controversial detention camp.

Mr Miliband said that the term War on Terror had some merit — for capturing the need to tackle terrorism urgently and with force. But it also invited “invidious comparisons” between organisations as diverse as the Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based faction that Indian and British officials believe was behind the Mumbai atrocities, which was founded to drive India out of Kashmir.

The phrase also suggested that terror had to be tackled primarily by military means, Mr Miliband said, but history showed that American and British forces “could not kill [their] way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife” in Iraq.

The term War on Terror was first used by President Bush in an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

Hillary Clinton coined a slogan this week when she peppered her remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with the term “smart power”. The New York Times said: “It means using all the levers of influence — diplomatic, economic, military, legal, political and cultural — to get what you want.”

— Kamal Shah, Pakistan’s Interior Secretary, said that 71 people had been arrested and 124 were under surveillance in a crackdown on groups allegedly linked to the Mumbai attacks. (AP)

Seasonal forgiveness has a limit. Bush and his cronies must face a reckoning

December 26, 2008

Heinous crimes are now synonymous with this US administration. If it isn’t held to account, what does that say about us?

‘Tis the night before Christmas and the season of goodwill. The mood is forgiving. Our faces warm with mulled wine, our tummies full, we’re meant to slump in the armchair, look back on the year just gone and count our blessings – woozily agreeing to put our troubles behind us.

As in families, so in the realm of public and international affairs. And this December that feels especially true. The “war on terror” that dominated much of the decade seems to be heading towards a kind of conclusion. George Bush will leave office in a matter of weeks and British troops will leave Iraq a few months later. The first, defining phase of the conflict that began on 9/11 – the war of Bush, Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden – is about to slip from the present to the past tense. Bush and Blair will be gone, with only Bin Laden still in post. The urge to move on is palpable.

You can sense it in the valedictory interviews Bush and Dick Cheney are conducting on their way out. They’re looking to the verdict of history now, Cheney telling the Washington Times last week: “I myself am personally persuaded that this president and this administration will look very good 20 or 30 years down the road.” The once raging arguments of the current era are about to fade, the lead US protagonists heading off to their respective ranches in the west, the rights and wrongs of their decisions in office to be weighed not in the hot arena of politics, but in the cool seminar rooms of the academy.

Not so fast.

Yes, the new year would get off to a more soothing start if we could all agree to draw a line and move on. But it would be wrong. First, because we cannot hope to avoid repeating the errors of the last eight years unless they are subject to a full accounting. (It is for that reason Britain needs its own full, unconstrained inquiry into the Iraq war.) Second, because a crucial principle, one that goes to the very heart of the American creed, is at stake. And third, because this is not solely about the judgment of history. It may be about the judgment of the courts – specifically those charged with punishing war crimes.

Less than a fortnight ago, in the news graveyard of a Friday afternoon, the armed services committee of the US Senate released a bipartisan report – with none other than John McCain as its co-author – into the American use of torture against those held in the war on terror. It dismissed entirely the notion that the horrors of Abu Ghraib could be put down to “a few bad apples”. Instead it laid bare, in forensic detail, the trail of memos and instructions that led directly to the then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

The report was the fruit of 18 months of work, involving some 70 interviews. Most of it is classified, but even the 29-page published summary makes horrifying reading. It shows how the most senior figures in the Bush administration discussed, and sought legal fig leaves for, practices that plainly amounted to torture. They were techniques devised in a training programme known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape or SERE, that aimed to teach elite American soldiers how to endure torture should they fall into the hands of pitiless enemies. The SERE techniques were partly modelled on the brutal methods used by the Chinese against US prisoners during the Korean war. Yet Rumsfeld ruled that these same techniques should be “reverse engineered”, so that Americans would learn not how to endure them – but how to inflict them. Which they then did, at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and beyond.

The Senate report cites the memorandums requesting permission to use “stress positions, exploitation of detainee fears (such as fear of dogs), removal of clothing, hooding, deprivation of light and sound, and the so-called wet towel treatment or the waterboard”. We read of Mohamed al Kahtani – against whom all charges were dropped earlier this year – who was “deprived of adequate sleep for weeks on end, stripped naked, subjected to loud music, and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks”. Approval for this kind of torture, hidden under the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation”, was sought from and granted at the highest level.

And that doesn’t mean Rumsfeld. The report’s first conclusion is that, on “7 February 2002, President George W Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees”. The result, it says, is that Bush “opened the door” to the use of a raft of techniques that the US had once branded barbaric and beyond the realm of human decency.

For this Bush should surely be held to account. And yet there is no sign that he will, and precious little agitation that he should. A still smiling Cheney denies the Bush administration did anything wrong. Note this breathtaking exchange with Fox News at the weekend. He was asked: “If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer: “General proposition, I’d say yes.”

It takes a few seconds for the full horror of that remark to sink in. And then you remember where you last heard something like it. It was the now immortalised interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. The disgraced ex-president was asked whether there were certain situations where the president can do something illegal, if he deems it in the national interest. Nixon’s reply: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

It is no coincidence that Cheney began his career in the Nixon White House. He has the same Nixonian disregard for the US constitution, the same belief that executive power is absolute and unlimited – that those who wield it are above the law, domestic and international. It is the logic of dictatorship.

But Nixon was forced from office, his vision of an unrestrained presidency rejected. If Bush and Cheney are allowed to retire quietly, America will have failed to reassert that bedrock principle of the republic: the rule of law.

This is why there must be a reckoning. Bush will do all he can to avoid it: and it is wholly possible that one of his last acts as president will be to cover himself, his vice-president and all his henchmen with a blanket pardon. Even if that does not happen, Barack Obama is unlikely to want to spend precious capital pursuing his predecessor for war crimes.

But other prosecutors elsewhere in the world should weigh their responsibilities. In the end, it was a lone Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean court, who ensured the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. A pleasing, if uncharitable, thought this Christmas, is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush will hesitate before making plans to travel abroad in 2009. Or indeed at any time – ever again.

freedland@guardian.co.uk

Committing war crimes for the “right reasons”

December 19, 2008

by Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com, December 18, 2008

The Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat has a post today — “Thinking About Torture” — which, he acknowledges quite remarkably, is the first time he has “written anything substantial, ever, about America’s treatment of detainees in the War on Terror.”  He’s abstained until today due to what he calls “a desire to avoid taking on a fraught and desperately importantly (sic) subject without feeling extremely confident about my own views on the subject.”

I don’t want to purport to summarize what he’s written.  It’s a somewhat meandering and at times even internally inconsistent statement.  Douthat himself characterizes it as “rambling” — befitting someone who appears to think that his own lack of moral certainty and borderline-disorientation on this subject may somehow be a more intellectually respectable posture than those who simplistically express “straightforward outrage.”  In the midst of what is largely an intellectually honest attempt to describe the causes for his ambiguity, he actually does express some “straightforward outrage” of his own.  About the widespread abuse, he writes:  “it should be considered impermissible as well as immoral” and “should involve disgrace for those responsible, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds as well as the people who actually implemented the techniques that the Vice President’s office promoted and the Secretary of Defense signed off on.”

Nonetheless, Douthat repeatedly explains that he is burdened by “uncertainty, mixed together with guilt, about how strongly to condemn those involved,” and one of the central reasons for that uncertainty — one that is commonly expressed — is contained in this passage:

But with great power comes a lot of pressures as well, starting with great fear: The fear that through inaction you’ll be responsible for the deaths of thousands or even millions of the Americans whose lived you were personally charged to protect. This fear ran wild the post-9/11 Bush Administration, with often-appalling consequences, but it wasn’t an irrational fear – not then, and now. It doesn’t excuse what was done by our government, and in our name, in prisons and detention cells around the world. But anyone who felt the way I felt after 9/11 has to reckon with the fact that what was done in our name was, in some sense, done for us – not with our knowledge, exactly, but arguably with our blessing. I didn’t get what I wanted from this administration, but I think you could say with some justification that I got what I asked for. And that awareness undergirds – to return to where I began this rambling post – the mix of anger, uncertainty and guilt that I bring to the current debate over what the Bush Administration has done and failed to do, and how its members should be judged.

This is the Jack Goldsmith argument:  while what Bush officials did may have been misguided and wrong, they did it out of a true fear of Islamic enemies, with the intent to protect us, perhaps even consistent with the citizenry’s wishes.  And while Douthat presents this view as some sort of candid and conflicted complexity, it isn’t really anything more than standard American exceptionalism — more accurately:  blinding American narcissism — masquerading as a difficult moral struggle.

The moral ambiguity Douthat thinks he finds is applicable to virtually every war crime. It’s the extremely rare political leader who ends up engaging in tyrannical acts, or commits war crimes or other atrocities, simply for the fun of it, or for purely frivolous reasons. Every tyrant can point to real and legitimate threats that they feared.

Ask supporters of Fidel Castro why he imprisoned dissidents and created a police state and they’ll tell you — accurately — that he was the head of a small, defenseless island situated 90 miles to the South of a huge, militaristic superpower that repeatedly tried to overthrow his government and replace it with something it preferred. Ask Hugo Chavez why he rails against the U.S. and has shut down opposition media stations and he’ll point out — truthfully — that the U.S. participated to some extent in a coup attempt to overthrow his democratically elected government and that internal factions inside Venezuela have done the same.

Iranian mullahs really do face internal, foreign-funded revolutionary groups that are violent and which seek to overthrow them. Serbian leaders — including those ultimately convicted of war crimes — had legitimate grievances about the treatment of Serbs outside of Serbia proper and threats posed to Serbian sovereignty. The complaints of Islamic terrorists regarding U.S. hegemony and exploitation in the Middle East are grounded in factual truth, as are those of Gazan terrorists who point to the four-decades-old Israeli occupation. Georgia really did and does face external threats from Russia, and Russia really did have an interest in protecting Russians and South Ossetians under assault from civilian-attacking Georgian artillery.  The threat of Israeli invasion which Hezbollah cites is real. Some Muslims really have been persecuted by Hindus.

But none of those facts justify tyranny, terrorism or war crimes.  There are virtually always “good reasons” that can be and are cited to justify war crimes and acts of aggression. It’s often the case that nationalistic impulses — or genuine fears — lead the country’s citizens to support or at least acquiesce to those crimes. War crimes and other atrocities are typically undertaken in defense against some real (if exaggerated) threat, or to target actual enemies, or to redress real grievances.

But we don’t accept that justifying reasoning when offered by others. In fact, those who seek merely to explain — let alone justify — the tyranny, extremism and/or violence of Castro, or Chavez, or Hamas, or Slobodan Milosevic or Islamic extremists are immediately condemned for seeking to defend the indefensible, or invoking “root causes” to justify the unjustifiable, or offering mitigating rationale for pure evil.

Yet here we have American leaders who now, more openly than ever, are literally admitting to what has long been known — that they violated the laws of war and international treaties which, in the past, we’ve led the way in advocating and enforcing. And what do we hear even from the most well-intentioned commentators such as Douthat? Yes, it was wrong. True, they shouldn’t have done it.  But they did it for good reasons:  they believed they had to do it to protect us, to guard against truly bad people, to discharge their heavy responsibility to protect the country, because we were at war.

All of the same can be said for virtually every tyrant we righteously condemn and every war criminal we’ve pursued and prosecuted.  The laws of war aren’t applicable only in times of peace, to be waived away in times of war or crisis. To the contrary, they exist precisely because the factors Douthat cites to explain and mitigate what our leaders did always exist, especially when countries perceive themselves at war.  To cite those factors to explain away war crimes — or to render them morally ambiguous — is to deny the very validity of the concept itself.

The pressures and allegedly selfless motivations being cited on behalf of Bush officials who ordered torture and other crimes — even if accurate — aren’t unique to American leaders.  They are extremely common.  They don’t mitigate war crimes.  They are what typically motivate war crimes, and they’re the reason such crimes are banned by international agreement in the first place — to deter leaders, through the force of law, from succumbing to those exact temptations.  What determines whether a political leader is good or evil isn’t their nationality.  It’s their conduct.  And leaders who violate the laws of war and commit war crimes, by definition, aren’t good, even if they are American.

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.

World Peace is More Than Just the Silencing of the Guns

October 21, 2008


By Peter Chamberlin | Information Clearing House, Oct 20, 2008


World peace is more than just the silencing of the guns, it is the elimination of the injustice that has compelled the men to reach for those guns in self-defense against the aggression. In the currently building world war (which is based on lies and deceptions), the mission is to identify all of the men who believe in self-defense and eliminate them. Both sides believe that everyone has the right to self-defense, but the aggressors in this war believe that they have a “divine right” (because of their intellectual superiority) to disarm and rule the rest.

The “war on terror” is the intellectual’s war, the neocon intellectuals. To them, most of the human race is an inferior species, sheep, to be led for their own good. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, look at the economy, to see how smart they really are and just exactly where they are leading us.

We are standing at the edge of the abyss because we have gone along with all the lies. Without “acceptable” lies, the neocons are nothing but arrogant snobs. Without public acceptance of the “official version” of events, there would never have been a terror war. Without the attack upon our families in New York and Washington in 2001, we would not have been “tickled” into taking-up arms in self-defense against the henchmen and patsies our government offered-up to us to cover its own crimes.

For there to be peace in the midst of a war engineered by a would-be master race the cold penetrating light of reality must emasculate the acceptable lies agreed to in secret back room meetings, which allow sheer gangsterism and extortion from weaker adversaries to masquerade as “diplomacy and negotiations.”

The incessant lies emanating from the Pentagon, the White House and especially from the CIA have to be silenced. If the war of terror, based on lies is to be turned into a world at peace, based on simple truth, then we have to illuminate the secret killings in dark places that show the true face of the war against innocence being waged by Nazi-like regime.

It must be shown that we have been embracing the force of true evil that runs and ruins this Nation today. By exposing the accepted lie that the innocent Muslim people who are merely resisting our aggressions upon their homelands are “terrorists,” we remove the blinders we have accepted from the true authors of terror in the terror war. By accepting US and Pakistani military reports on “collateral” kills, we embrace the popular lie that only “militants and terrorists” were killed by the one-eyed “Terminator” drones. We dishonor ourselves and our ancestors by accepting the lies that babies were “militants!”

We have to get solid evidence out to the world. A good place to start would be to follow the wise example set by the Israeli human rights organization “B’Tselem,” by supplying camcorders to Pakistani families in North and South Waziristan, to document the indiscriminate killing of entire families, the “tickling” operations described so cleverly by CIA Director Michael Hayden. With video evidence (translated into English) of the aftermath of American genocidal attacks it would be much easier to organize resistance to those attacks and serve as evidence in later war crimes trials. It would be beautifully ironic if the American-adopted Israeli tactic of “targeted assassinations” with missiles is exposed by the same video tactic that has revealed Israeli brutality against the helpless in occupied Palestine.

According to Director Hayden, the real value of these attacks with “Hellfire” missiles upon mud-brick family dwellings and religious schools is in the reactions caused by the killings. In other words, the value of the attack is as much in the number of male family members who rise to avenge these terror attacks as it is in the “high value target” occasionally killed. The tactic described by Hayden is the latest manifestation of contemporary American “counter-insurgency” techniques.

The main idea involved in fighting an “insurgency” within a populated area in this manner is to find and co-opt local leaders, like Baitullah Mehsud, around which to create the impression of a growing shadowy “counter-insurgency.” These inept local “contras” get blamed for the ensuing wave of violence committed by US Special Ops, their in addition to the gangster-like attacks they carry-out on their own. These units perform the same task as the Terminator-drones, that of initiating the cycle of retribution. They bomb and murder civilians, in order to motivate their male relatives to take-up arms and avenge their relatives, focusing in particular upon killing of local Shia, to instigate inter-faith conflict.

The concept of fighting a global war by limited means is an evil idea, concocted by the vainest, most self-centered self-worshippers the planet has ever been plagued by. The idea that your intellect is so superior to every other human mind that the best thing that could ever happen to the human race would be for you to rule over them, no matter what it cost in human lives to place you in that position of power, is the idea that drove Adolf Hitler. The men who have brought us the neocon war plan of total world conquest, by limited means, are no less evil, nor less vain than Hitler (the neocon’s favorite bogeyman).

By choosing to fight “the long war,” on a limited basis, they have accepted the idea of killing a major portion of human life, even risking the destruction of the entire planet. The idea of a generational war serves as a sorting mechanism, a gory laboratory for identifying and separating those who will willingly accept the unfair suffering life forced upon them and their families under the new “matrix,” from those persistent independent-minded souls who will resist. The war of terror is to identify potential resisters and to eliminate them, leaving behind only docile malleable slave sheep, to serve as functional “copper-tops.”

The idea that there could ever be world peace as long as the matrix exists is part of the illusion that hinders the formation of a real resistance.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari warned on Friday:

“world peace efforts hampered by credit crunch…The international financial crisis is hampering efforts towards world peace.”

The former Finnish president said a lack of economic development in war-torn countries would make it harder to resolve conflicts:

“It will not help us to solve conflict with no economic development in those countries. It is becoming more and more difficult…We are avoiding taking the tough decisions that are needed.”

This is pure B.S. Contributing to the war of aggression by aiding in reconstruction efforts, while hostilities continue will never bring anything like world peace. The whole idea of “good faith” re-construction by the same monstrous war machine from which the original devastation flowed is an exercise in propaganda and disinformation intended to distract those of us who would form an army of worldwide resistance.

This requires a change of attitude on the part of the aggressor, first, admitting that the US and its allies are the aggressors. The entire terror war has been a manufactured event designed to maintain the US position of global authority. We have to refute the acceptable lie that we have been a victim and that our great war plan simply failed, while we openly admit that the war has been a criminal act of aggression in every conceivable way, from the very beginning. We have committed the most serious crimes in pursuit of our plans to plunder and subjugate the earth, crimes against the human race, crimes against Our Creator, Himself.

We have destroyed entire nations in our mad rush to fend for ourselves and perpetuate our system of inequality that creates immense wealth for true believers by siphoning-off the bread of life from the rest. Until this warfare of greed stops decimating the human race there can never be world peace.

For their ever to be peace, there must be an end to the hostile force that drives men’s aggression and turns simple day-to-day existence into a daily fight for life. The forces that are driving the individual wars that are being merged into one big war, must be stopped. The lands and peoples devastated in their aggression must be rebuilt and compensated for the crimes committed upon them, out of the US Treasury, with money which would formerly have been allotted to further military aggression.

peter.chamberlin@yahoo.com


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