Hersh’s Story on Killing Bin Laden: The Painfully Obvious

As the initial sniggers of “conspiracy theorist” in reaction to Seymour Hersh’s big story on the killing of Osama bin Laden are being increasingly met with corroboration from other sources, it’s important to understand why this story is so important. And a shrug of the shoulders and giving all-around high-fives while shouting “So what, we got bin Laden!” is no more coherent of an argument than snidely declaring someone a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

One should consider for at least a brief moment that if Hersh’s sources (and those of other journalists) are correct, then what we have is glaring proof that the U.S. government’s military and intelligence bureaucrats do not give one damn about protecting you, dear American taxpayer. Instead, their highest priority is keeping military contractors flush with cash and helping Middle Eastern tyrants hold on to power, even if it means plunging that part of the world into violent chaos.

U.S. intelligence, according to the story’s sources, used the “carrot” approach when trying to get Pakistan’s ISI to confirm whether or not bin Laden was in fact being housed by them in that Abottabad house–they threatened to cut off military aid to the Pakistani government. That would have been most unwelcome, as those funds subsidize the personal security and safety of Pakistani officials.

Then the ISI replies, alright, you Americans can have bin Laden, but on one condition–you have to kill him, while never letting on that the ISI ever had anything to do with it, of course. U.S. intelligence and the White House agreed and the latter was fully prepared to put out a big lie that bin Laden had been blown to bits by a U.S. drone strike in the wilds of the Hindu Kush, but they decided to renege on that particular promise to the Pakistanis, using as an excuse that one of the American choppers had crashed during the operation.

Rather than take bin Laden alive–a negotiation that perhaps bin Laden himself may have been quite willing to settle considering his poor health–and score the massive cache of intelligence on jihadi terrorists that could have come pouring out of his mouth–our supposed protectors chose instead to help the Pakistani and Saudi governments cover their own asses. The Saudis, according to Hersh’s sources, were financing bin Laden’s stay in Abottabad and had been adamant with the Pakistanis that bin Laden’s location never be revealed to the Americans. Hersh’s main source explicitly states that the Saudis were very worried about what bin Laden may tell the U.S. of Saudi control of al-Qaeda.

If U.S. intelligence could use the “carrot” to pressure the Pakistani generals into admitting they had bin Laden, couldn’t they just as easily have threatened to cut off military aid and pressured them into handing him over alive? But apparently it was more important to protect two foreign governments who clearly demonstrated that for them “alliances” are strictly one-way streets. And lately the U.S. has been spending your tax dollars on military assistance for the Saudis and their jihadi friends in Yemen.

What in the hell is going on here? It sure as hell has nothing to do with protecting Americans.

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Law School Profs whiff against student protest: Harold Koh and the immunization of war crimes

By Alan Gilbert

Nonwhite students at NYU Law School, led by Amanda Bass and Aman Deep, protested the hiring of Harold Koh, a famous human rights lawyer who worked for the Obama administration, to teach human rights.  Their petition below, signed by some 40 NYU law students (350 total signers), a high number given intimidation, makes a straightforward, technical case that the use of drones which randomly murder civilians (mostly in countries the US has not declared war against) is a crime.

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In addition, Koh contradicted his scholarship at Yale on the War Powers Act to try to affirm Obama’s unilateral bombing of Libya (decent in so far as it prevented massacre at Ben Ghazi, terrible in the collapse it has led to).

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Torture is a recognized war crime internationally.  Further, the US government fought for all the Conventions under which the Bush officials – Colin Powell probably excepted – need to be put on trial.  By the Supremacy Clause, Article 6 section 2 of the Constitution and by the anti-torture law signed by President Reagan, it is American law as well.  See here.

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Libertarianism For and Against War

This is an excerpt of an article by , May 06, 2015

Libertarian Reasons Against War (in no particular order):

1. War requires aggression.

It’s simply irresponsible to speak of war without innocent casualties. Given the weapons, tactics, and scale of modern warfare, civilians are inevitably put in harm’s way. To separate modern warfare from innocent deaths seems to rely on an unrealistic conception of how war actually is in the real world. The notion of “defensive war” is long outdated. All wars are aggressive. Even ones that are supposedly fought in response to some sort of aggression end up killing innocents.

But what if those civilian casualties are merely a side-effect of defending against an aggressor, the actual goal of so-called defensive war? The killer didn’t mean to kill those people. They died as an unintended consequence of the war. Simple collateral damage. Well so what? The killer knew innocent deaths would be an unintended consequence of their decision to pursue war with near absolute certainty. They actively took steps that would result in the foreseen deaths of innocents, even if their other ends were good. If I shoot at a crowd of ten people because I think one of them stole my wallet, any deaths are still my fault even if I was just trying to stop the person who took my wallet. I caused those deaths. Good intentions don’t justify ignoring known, but unintended consequences. Wanting nice things doesn’t grand one a license to pursue mass murder.

But suppose that the would-be killer didn’t know that civilians were going to die because of his actions. Again, so what? Aggression doesn’t always involve moral culpability. We can still say the act of war was wrong in hindsight because of the innocent deaths and that the aggressor owes restitution to the victim or their family and friends. If I’m shooting at a thief who stole my wallet and one of the bullets ricochets and kills someone else completely away from the incident, it doesn’t look like I’m morally culpable for that person’s death. I didn’t know my actions would have that result so how could I be guilty? Nonetheless, I’m responsible for the instance of aggression and owe them or their loved ones restitution. Ignorance is also not a justification for mass murder.

War inevitably rests on aggression. Conflicts of international scale with the technology and weaponry available in today’s world cannot escape civilian deaths and other instances of aggression against innocent people. Therefore, there is no such thing as a war of self-defense. If force is only to be permitted in self-defense, war is unacceptable.

In addition to the above, war also relies on taxation and monopoly, which are sustained through systematic government violence. The institutional factors that give rise to war are themselves based on one group (the government) warring against another (the citizens). War, then, is an example of evil means and evil ends.

2. War makes everyone less safe.

War causes blowback. War naturally creates ideological and emotional conflict between the people of the warring regions. With every blow, more and more people of the targeted region (often innocent civilians suffering due to a sanction or other forms of economic terrorism, or worse, the loss of a loved one due to a bombing or other forms of military violence) are incentivized to deliver a blow back to the aggressor for reasons often completely unrelated to the initial conflict, such as self-interested defense, hostile revenge, or even newly sparked nationalism. These victims then often turn to militaries or their own cooperative efforts to carry out their blowback. The initial attack, even if motivated by self-defense, inadvertently caused innocent victims, and more and/or increased threats to the attacker.

War, then, escalates conflict. War is a never-ending circle of violence, continually sowing the seeds for more war. Both sides take turns delivering punches to the other, each one more powerful than the last. Neither region ever benefits since even the attacking region lays the ideological foundations for its doom. Even so-called “victorious” attacks are merely temporary victories. They achieve a short-term loss, but create more hostility, hate, and eventually violence than the attack stopped. War leads to blowback, which leads to more war, which leads to more blowback, and so on. The unintended consequences and side effects of war make each region less safe as it only feeds into more violence, hatred, bigotry, and, well…war. Each region becomes increasingly less safe until one side finally crushes the other for good (usually paving the way for further conflicts and wars) or they both collapse.

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Full article here.

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Nuclear Disarmament: Are the Churches the Key?

I came back from the Peace and Planet conference last weekend in New York City with several big takeaways.

Perhaps top of mind was the impression made by the massive turnout by people from all over to Japan to say: “Hello? United States? Nuclear weapons still? What the hell?”  (See “Two nuclear weapons hit our country in 1945. It is not necessary” on the Chicago Nuclear Injury Action Groupwebsite.)

Representatives of Zenkyo (All-Japan Federation of Teachers’
and Staff Unions) and Gensuikyo (Japan Council Against the
Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs) with their banners at the Peace
and Planet rally in Union Square on April 26.

But perhaps the deepest and most encouraging part of the weekend was a meeting of “church people.”

Continue reading

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Iran – the Imperial Congress versus the President, the American people and a common good

by Alan Gilbert

Obama’s negotiation with Iran avoids following the blind Netanyahu/neocon attack, attack, attack syndrome. Having fostered three losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – now four counting the new war against IS – and with no troops to send, they nonetheless want to bomb Iran. The result – a larger Middle East War, chaotic, throwing, over the next 15 years, nuclear armed and racist Israel into more isolation and desperation – is likely to be very dangerous.

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In the modern era, the American Congress never balances Executive Power to stop aggression. With individual exceptions like Wayne Morse and Barbara Lee, Senators are ever new fools for Presidential aggression in Vietnam or Iraq (including Senator Hillary Clinton). Looking backwards, their caution/cowardice and corruption are nakedly visible.

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This pattern is so stark that it is called, even by students of American politics, the “Imperial Presidency”. But irony of ironies, as Peter Beinart suggests below, suddenly, in a gesture of constitutional awareness about the balance of powers, the Right, including feckless Democrats like Charles Schumer and every single other one on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is baying for war in chorus with Netanyahu.

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Some thoughts on Obama’s direction away from war and the neocon alliance with ISIL

By Alan Gilbert

Some thoughts on Obama’s direction away from war and the neocon alliance with ISIL

Neocon foreign policy, far into the “establishment” including Democratic “humanitarian interventionists” (neo-neo cons) in the Obama administration, has played a murderous and, for the US, self-destructive  role.  It is based on militarism (over a trillion dollars a year spent on the military and “intelligence,” 1280 military bases abroad kept secret from the American people by a “bipartisan consensus” in Congress and the corporate press, and a war complex (a military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-think tank-foreign military clients and the like complex); it spawns unending and losing wars.  Militarism breeds enmity toward the United States through its endless slaughters.  There is, here, a dialectical interplay of capitalist interests in predatory expansion and ideas.  But Straussian/neo-con ideas – see here for chapter 13  ” Segregation, Aggression and Executive Power: Leo Strauss and the ‘Boys'” in Sanford Levinson and Melissa Williams, eds.,American Conservatism  (New York University Press, 2015) – set/consolidated the foreign policy elite on the path of militarism, conquest, torture. Though with a different etiology,  Democrats in the foreign policy elite (Samantha Power, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Jane Harman), often echo this.  For they have been taken seriously by the media if and only if they plump for war. Continue reading

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The Invasion of the Dominican Republic: 50 years On

The Invasion of the Dominican Republic: 50 years On

by Veterans For Peace Latin America/School of the Americas Working Group

Obviously, the Vietnam War was one of the defining events of US policy in the 1960s. A lesser-known US invasion occurred on April 28, 1965 in the sunny Caribbean when Lyndon Johnson ordered the invasion of the Dominican Republic against the backdrop of stopping communism. Few Americans today are aware that the invasion even occurred, nor do they understand its ramifications then and now. It was the second largest use of force by the US in the 1960s and worthy of our study.

History 1866-1924

From 1866-1870, attempts were initiated both in the US and in the Dominican Republic (DR) to admit the DR into the Union.

In the era of coal-powered ships, the US Navy needed a coaling station in the Caribbean and the DR was strategically located. Another reason President Grant wanted DR annexation was to give newly-freed slaves a place to migrate where race relations were better than in the American South. Frederick Douglass supported the DR annexation.

From the DR’s prospective, they saw joining the Union as a means of acheiving a degree of political stability that had eluded the country since independence in 1844. Even though the US had just emerged from the bloodiest civil war in world history, by 1870, it was the largest economy in the world. This market position would have helped the DR economically.

The attempt to annex the DR into the Union failed for a variety of reasons. Senator Charles Sumner saw it as an imperialistic expansion into the Caribbean. Another reason, as one might suspect, was racism. Enough US senators deemed that the country had too many people of mixed-race ancestry to be part of the Union.

Political instability continued in the DR after the failed attempt at annexation, and the US saw fit to intervene twice (1905 and 1916). Continue reading

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