In 2008, current US president Barack Obama campaigned on the promise that he would end the Iraq War, vowing to reallocate resources to the war in Afghanistan, instead. As a peace candidate, receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for his rhetoric against Iraq (in spite of the fact that as a senator he voted to fund it), Obama has largely enjoyed the public’s illusion that he is opposed to war. At the end of 2011, Obama was hailed for “ending” the war in Iraq and deemed a hero for keeping his promises. He would campaign on this “accomplishment” in the 2012 election, using that, along with his killing of Osama bin Laden, as shining examples of his expertise in foreign policy. All that was left to do was finish up the war in Afghanistan.
Of course, those who are paying attention were and are well aware that Obama never intended to end the war in Iraq. Continue reading
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Allow me to ask a question: “How long will the attacks on September 11, 2001 be used as an excuse for murder and the repression of rights?”
Many people will think such a question is rhetorical and will answer with “never forget” or some other hollow reply aimed at degrading anyone who dares question the Global War on Terror. I ask this question, not only because it’s been 11 ½ years since the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon. I ask because it’s the go-to excuse from the White House. On April 16, Amina Ismail asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, “Do you consider the U.S. bombing on civilians in Afghanistan earlier this month that left 11 children and a woman killed a form of terrorism? Why or why not?”
Carney replied, “Well, I would have to know more about the incident and then obviously the Department of Defense would have answers to your questions on this matter. We have more than 60,000 U.S. troops involved in a war in Afghanistan, a war that began when the United States was attacked … and more than 3,000 people were killed in that attack. And it has been the President’s objective once he took office to make clear what our goals are in Afghanistan and that is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda … we take great care in the prosecution of this war and we are very mindful of what our objectives are.”
The most conservative estimates claim “at least 16,725 Afghan civilians have been killed directly by the war’s violence” since it began in 2001, and those numbers have risen sharply since 2009. Does that sound like the military is taking “great care” and being “very mindful” of the objectives?
The War on Terror is also the excuse given for violating the human rights of the 166 people imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. Richard A. Serrano of the LA Times reports, “Prison officials said 100 of the 166 detainees left at Guantanamo were engaged in some form in the hunger strike, with two dozen being force-fed. Officials have also acknowledged that much of the detainees’ angst is over their lost hope of the prison ever closing.” It is not known how many of the 100 men taking part in the hunger-strike are among the 86 prisoners who have been designated for release, nor is it known whether or not any of the men who are not allowed to die have been designated for release. I say, “not allowed to die” because the American military is force feeding these men. Can you imagine feeling so hopeless that you want to die, but have no means of killing yourself other than starvation, and then being force-fed to prevent you from dying?
To answer my original question: How long will the attacks on September 11, 2001 be used as an excuse for murder and the repression of rights? If history is any indication, the federal government will use it as an excuse for as long as they can get away with it.
John Bellinger, the lawyer who drafted the legal justification for the Bush administration’s use of drones, recently stated that the Obama administration prefers killing suspected terrorists with drone strikes to capturing them and caging them at Guantanamo Bay. Though Obama often pontificates about fairness and freedom, it is evident that rather than closing the prison as he promised in 2008, he prefers to administer American justice not with indefinite detention but assassination. As inmates remain on hunger strike at Gitmo, protesting indefinite detention and disrespect for their religion, the government continues to promote its war of drones. Using carefully crafted talking points and the revolving door of Washington, the Obama administration flaunts its flagrant indifference to the human suffering it inflicts.
Bellinger’s becomes more disturbing when considering Obama’s public sentiments that prosecution of suspected terrorists should be “wiser” than the procedures at Guantanamo. Evidently, this means that instead of detaining prisoners (many innocent) without trial or charges , draining resources and the credibility of the government, it is wiser (more efficient) to simply drone murder future suspects. The “precision” made possible with this new trend in warfare allegedly ensures more accuracy and success in the war on terror, since one of the justifications of the government for using this weapon is to impede “imminent attacks against US interests.” Of course, the term “imminent attack” is as intentionally vague as Obama’s use of “wise” and “precise.” Further, it is by now old news that the definition of an enemy combatant has been expanded to include any male over the age of eighteen (and apparently wedding goers and mourners at funerals). The propaganda favors drones.
Aside from the manipulation of language, however, there is yet another component in the push for drones. William Lynn, the man who until 2011 ran day-to-day operations at the Pentagon, was previously the top lobbyist for Raytheon, a top producer of drones. He was nominated by Barack Obama in direct violation of his campaign promises to seal the revolving door in Washington. Further, in March of this year, the president presented a special award of honor and recognition to the company, championing all the technological advances Raytheon has made to “improve lives.” Needless to say, the suffering children in Pakistan and Yemen may disagree. So might the innocent prisoners who have waited hopelessly for a trial at Guantanamo and anyone who sees the satire in Obama’s possession of a Nobel Peace Prize.
The UN has declared the force feeding of hunger strikers at Gitmo to be torture and for years, the prison has been regarded as a disgrace to American justice. However, such cruelty is not enough destruction for the military industrial complex. Heartless bombings of civilians in the Middle East continue and are now preferred to a faux legal system in Guantanamo. While hunger strikers protest their denial of a fair trial, future terrorism suspects will never even be taken to prison.
The Wall Street Journal reports (behind a paywall, so here’s a Telegraph rehash) that the Pentagon has re-designed its 30,000 pound “Massive Ordnance Penetrator” bomb, also known as the “bunker buster,” for the express purpose of making it big and bad enough to penetrate an Iranian nuclear facility near Qom.
The goal seems not so much to be actually attacking the facility as convincing the Israeli government that “time hasn’t run out” to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
But there’s little evidence that such any program exists (US intelligence agencies have been saying for years that Iran doesn’t seem to be pursuing nukes), and good reason to believe that it doesn’t: Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has publicly renounced nuclear weapons on religious principle.
Of course, the same warmongers who insist that every hostile word from a Muslim leader must be taken at face value because, after all, Muslims are all violent religious nutcases who wear their extremism on their sleeves, demand that we dismiss Khamenei just this one little time.
And now that the “improved” MOP has been built, a War Party lobby will spring into action to demand that it be used … against something, against anything, but preferably against the hobgoblin du jour.
from the Arab American Institute
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held the first Senate hearing on drones. With the testimony of one particular witness, Yemeni youth activist Farea Al-Muslimi, policymakers were confronted with the reality of this policy. During his powerful and emotional presentation, Farea spoke of the impact of a drone strike on his village, stating that “What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.”
We believe Farea’s voice is critical for members of Congress to hear and are hosting him for a congressional briefing on the House side tomorrow entitled Drones: A Slippery Slope on Lives and Liberty. Experts will be present to address the civilian impact of targeted strikes and the legal framework underlying US drone policy.
If you are in DC, please join us in person. If not, we will be live-streaming the briefing on our website at www.aaiusa.org.
There needs to be greater transparency about our government’s drone policy, but also better clarity on the legal justification and the basis for the targeted strikes. It is also critical that measures are taken to ensure that civilian populations do not continue to comprise the overwhelming majority of causalities. It is our hope that taking this conversation directly to policymakers on the Hill will help move us in the right direction.
Thank you for your continued support.
WHAT: Congressional Briefing on Drones: A Slippery Slope on Lives and Liberties
WHEN: Friday, May 3, 2013, 10:00am-11:30am
WHERE: 2226 Rayburn House Office Building
Farea Al-Muslimi: Yemeni youth activist; formerly worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, USAID, and Resonate! Yemen.
Jennifer Daskal: Adjunct Professor of Law and Fellow at the Center on Law and National Security at Georgetown University Law Center; formerly served as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice.
Naureen Shah: Associate Director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School; co-authored the report, “The Civilian Impact of Drone Strikes;” consultant to Amnesty International USA.
Moderator: Yasmine Taeb, AAI Government Relations Manager