Category Archives: The War on Terror

Guantánamo vs. drone strikes

Obama is seen as being a great humanitarian with his rhetoric about closing the Guantánamo prison camp.  Is that really true?  An suggests that, rather than contradict his public stand on Guantánamo by sending more accused enemy combatants there, he is instead just opting to kill them with drone strikes.

Obama’s apparent concerns about civil liberties don’t seem that sincere considering that the total number of detainees taken to Guantánamo is a mere 780 compared to the 2000-3000 people killed in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan alone, many of them women and children.  Prisoners can be released.  Death is permanent.

It’s not hard to imagine that democrats would have their panties in a wad if a republican president were conducting that many drone attacks, but their voices get strangely quiet when it’s their guy doing it.  Such stunningly transparent hypocrisy is one reason why I could never be a republican or democrat even if I agreed with them.


Search and Destroy

The guy who was initially suspected of sending ricin laced letters through the mail says his house is uninhabitable and wants the government to fix it.  A letter from his lawyer to U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams explains:

“To be specific, Mr. Curtis’ home is uninhabitable. I have seen a lot of post search residences but this one is quite disturbing. The agents removed art from the walls, broke the frames and tore the artwork. Mr. Curtis offered his keys but agents chose to break the lock. Mr. Curtis’ garbage was scheduled to be picked up Thursday, the day after he was snatched from his life. A week later, the garbage remains in his home, along with millions of insects it attracted,” the letter says.

Good luck with that Mr. Curtis.

The Biggest Source of Corruption in Afghanistan

According to a Sunday New Your Times article, The C.I.A. has been delivering bags of cash to the office of Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.  They call it “Ghost Money”.

From the article:

“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”

The article points out that the Iranians were also dumping cash on them, a fact that attracted the ire of American officials.  How dare the Iranians try to buy influence with bags of cash!

Like the Iranian cash, much of the C.I.A.’s money goes to paying off warlords and politicians, many of whom have ties to the drug trade and, in some cases, the Taliban. The result, American and Afghan officials said, is that the agency has greased the wheels of the same patronage networks that American diplomats and law enforcement agents have struggled unsuccessfully to dismantle, leaving the government in the grips of what are basically organized crime syndicates.

Your tax dollars at work.  It seems like the capture and killing of bin Laden has washed away decades of history wherein the C.I.A. was one of the most hated “intelligence” agencies on the planet, at least in the eyes of the American public.

Moyers interviews Greenwald

In an interview with Bill Moyers that is scheduled to air on PBS this evening, Glenn Greenwald explains what motivates terrorist attacks against the U.S. (and it’s not because “they hate us for our freedom”).  He discusses reactions to the Boston bombings.

With regard to privacy, Greenwald says that citizens are supposed to know almost everything about their government, which is why it’s called the “public sector”, and government should know very little about citizens (unless they commit a crime), which is why it’s called the private sector.  Instead this has been turned on its head.  Government has become exceedingly secretive and it tries to know everything about citizens.

The belief that the more the government knows about us, the safer we’ll be is false.  The fact is that, the more the government knows about us, the more likely they will be to abuse their powers.  As I have said numerous times before, the biggest threat to liberty almost invariably  comes from our own government.

If Boston bombers had WMDs, then so did Saddam Hussein, quoting 18 USC § 921, explains what constitutes a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) these days.  The term “weapon of mass destruction” means destructive device.

The term “destructive device” means—

(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—

(i) bomb,

(ii) grenade,

(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,

(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,

(v) mine, or

(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;

So, anything that you can throw that contains more than a quarter ounce of explosive is a WMD.  Eventually, the terrorism label will be so over-used as to be essentially meaningless.  This is a common form of categorical inflation.  If you have laws that criminalize everyone, the concept of crime becomes meaningless.  If everyone is declared a hero, then the concept of heroism is meaningless.

Defining a quarter ounce of explosive as a WMD makes the concept of WMDs into a joke.  I mean, even a bigger joke than what Bush made out of it when he used it to fabricate an excuse to start a war with Iraq.

Boston: Five observations from Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald makes some astute observations about the public, governmental, and media reaction to yesterday’s Boston bombings.  I summarize below and add a little of my own flavoring.

  • How unfortunate that Americans are horrified when innocent civilians are killed by bombs, but take no notice of when teh U.S. routinely does the same to innocent people in other countries.  Who could be so “evil” as to detonate a second bomb targeting rescuers responding to the first bomb?  Well, the U.S. government, for one.   Americans seem to think bombs that fall from the sky are more moral than bombs planted on the ground.
  • Everyone seems to be eager to suspect militant Muslims without a shred of evidence.  Is that because the U.S. has already been targeted by Muslim extremists before or do we automatically suspect them because we know our constant attacks on them in their own countries probably gives them plenty of incentive for retaliation?
  • Arabs and Muslims around the world have been openly expressing hope that the attackers will not turn out to be Arabs or Muslims.  Maybe this is how the black community used to feel when a local white woman was raped.
  • How quick the media is to pronounce this event terrorism, reacting with dismay that Obama didn’t immediately recognize it as a terrorist attack.  Fox News quoted a “senior  administration official” as saying, “When multiple (explosive) devices go off that’s an act of terrorism” without noting the irony of such a statement coming from a government hat routinely bombs people in other countries.
  • And, above all, this bombing, while bad for the victims, represents yet a fresh opportunity for the government to claim more power for itself and whittle down even further what few liberties remain with citizens.  The attacks of 9/11 have taught us that, as gruesome and destructive as these attacks are, the real lasting damage to the nation comes afterwards at the hands of a fear mongering government with an insatiable thirst for control over everyone and everything.

After-the-fact justification for the execution of Awlaki

One of the biggest reasons for not trusting the establishment media is their symbiotic relationship with the state and their long established willingness to intentionally misinform the American public at the behest of the government, especially in war time (which is now perpetual).  Nothing more aptly demonstrates this than the endless stream of “reporting” derived from “unnamed sources” in the government.

Glenn Greenwald tears into a Saturday New York Times article that dutifully details the justification for the Obama administration’s execution of US citizen, Anwar Awlaki.  Greenwald makes a good case that the decision to execute Awlaki hinged not on Awlaki’s operational activities, but on what he was saying about the U.S.   Since the entire justification for the Presidential kill list centers on the requirement that the targeted individuals pose an imminent threat to the U.S., killing someone simply because the government doesn’t like what he’s saying would be murder, even if done by the President (at least for now).

Whose drones are whose?

According to the New York Times, recent drone attacks in Pakistan are being disavowed by the CIA.

“They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”

Sounds like another case of leaks of classified information that will never be prosecuted because they serve the government’s purposes.

What exactly took place in those remote tribal villages, far from outside scrutiny, is unclear. But the Americans’ best guess is that one or possibly both of the strikes were carried out by the Pakistani military and falsely attributed to the C.I.A. to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public.

If the American version is true, it is a striking irony: In the early years of the drone campaign, the Pakistani Army falsely claimed responsibility for American drone strikes in an attempt to mask C.I.A. activities on its soil. Now, the Americans suggest, the Pakistani military may be using the same program to disguise its own operations.

So, let me get this straight.  The Pakistanis  say the CIA did it, but they used to cover for the secret CIA attacks.  But now we’re supposed to believe the CIA when they say they didn’t do it.  The article then goes on to explain the difficulty in getting any accurate information out of the area because foreign reporters are barred from the area and local reporters are subject to pressures from powerful local influences.  And it’s not like the U.S. government has established any credibility when it comes to telling the truth about…  anything.

If one thing is clear about the drones, it is that all sides — Pakistanis, Americans and the Taliban — have an interest in manipulating reports about their impact.

I’m sure Pakistanis all realize that American drone attacks are for their own good.  They should consider it an honor to have American bombs falling on them.  It’s not like the U.S. just bombs anyone, you know.  Well, okay, that last part isn’t true.

Viewed from Washington, a handful of erroneously reported strikes may seem inconsequential. According to most estimates, the C.I.A. has carried out about 330 drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt since 2004, the vast majority of them in the past five years.

Yet in Pakistan, they carry greater significance, igniting huge and sometimes violent anti-American demonstration that make drones a toxic subject for generals and politicians alike. But the American claims about the two attacks this month suggest that they may, also, be trying to have the best of both worlds.

It certainly is a great government in Pakistan, one of our great allies in the war on terror, that agrees to let the U.S. routinely bomb their citizens.

This all seems so distant, of course.Pakistan is half way around the world.  Who cares what happens there?  And it’s not like that kind of militaristic, drone-dominated environment will ever come to “the land of the free”. Right?



Late Afternoon Links

A NATO airstrike in Afghanistan has killed 4 Taliban commanders.  Another man, one woman, and five children were also killed and another five children were wounded.  But who’s counting?

State of the Union.  To paraphrase:  “We’re going to raise taxes on the rich so we can spend more on everything without increasing the deficit.  We will continue to run up a huge debt  paid for by our children because now is not the time for fiscal sanity and those poor little bastards can’t vote anyway.”  This is, of course, like promising to stop beating your kids, but not while they are still young and defenseless.  Oh, and drones will continue to be America’s primary tool of foreign policy.

Christopher Dorner is presumed dead after the cabin where he was hiding was burned down.  “People on the scene are as confident as they can be without seeing the body that it is Dorner inside,” the LA police chief, Charlie Beck, said.  I take that to mean they are just as sure that this is their guy as they were when they shot up those innocent bystanders that they also thought were Dorner.

Israel is partially lifting a gag order on its domestic news outlets enabling them to report the news about the identity of Prisoner X that is already being widely reported in the rest of the world.  From the article: “Gag orders and military censorship are common in Israel.”  The model of a freedom loving U.S. ally.

Italy’s former military intelligence chief is going to the slammer for ten years for his part in the CIA orchestrated broad daylight kidnapping of the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan in 2003. Three Italian secret service officials were also sentenced to six years each.  Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald highlights the  irony of complaints by the U.S. State Department regarding abuses by police and security forces in Egypt.

Last night, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama claimed: “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts”.  John Stossel says “Bullshit!”That’s ridiculous!

Federal Spending

Federal Spending

Morning Links

  • President Obama condemned a third nuclear test by North Korea calling it a “highly provocative act” that demands “swift and credible action by the international community” against North Korea. Countries that already have nuclear weapons always strongly condemn other countries getting them.
  • Glenn Greenwald asks whether drones should be used to kill Christopher Dorner, the ex-police  officer who is accused of waging war on the LAPD.  Whether drones are or are not being used is in dispute.
  • The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in the 6,656 death of military personnel.  Of course, U.S. Presidents are always wiling to pay the cost of war with other people’s lives.  But, you rarely hear about the other “sacrifices” Presidents have been  willing to commit American soldiers to: 1700 limb amputations, 50,000 combat wounds, 130,000 cases of PTSD, and 253,330 cases of traumatic brain injury (6500 of which are severe).
  • The identity of Israel’s most secret prisoner has been uncovered,  I know it’s Kind of hard to imagine a democratic country secretly imprisoning a citizen without trial and then forcing the press to keep quiet about it.   Hahaha!   Just kidding about that last part.  Nothing is hard to imagine about democratic countries anymore.

  • Knut, the polar bear that became a sensation in 2007 and then unexpectedly died in 2011 will soon have a new home at the Berlin’s natural history museum.




[Updated below with a couple items from The Agitator]

  • Ohio Attorney General releases a report and animation (below) of a Cleveland incident where 13 cops fired 137 rounds at a suspect vehicle killing the occupants.  Police insist someone shot at them from the car and took off in pursuit of it.  The chase involved “nearly 60 vehicles”, but no gun or shell casings were ever found in the car.  The state attorney general condemned the actions as a systemic failure, but the police chief and city council insist that existing polices and procedures work fine.