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Posted by Charles II on August 13, 2014

Blame Turkey for arming ISIS.

[This is not to say Turkey is primarily to blame. This sounds like a narrative to blame Turkey for something the US either approved or acceded to.]

How US destroyed Iraq

Patrick Cockburn on ISIS.

And especially this:

In the face of these failures Iraq’s Shia majority is taking comfort from two beliefs that, if true, would mean the present situation is not as dangerous as it looks. They argue that Iraq’s Sunnis have risen in revolt and Isis fighters are only the shock troops or vanguard of an uprising provoked by the anti-Sunni policies and actions of Maliki. Once he is replaced, as is almost certain, Baghdad will offer the Sunnis a new power-sharing agreement with regional autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the Kurds. Then the Sunni tribes, former military officers and Baathists who have allowed Isis to take the lead in the Sunni revolt will turn on their ferocious allies. Despite all signs to the contrary, Shia at all levels are putting faith in this myth, that Isis is weak and can be easily discarded by Sunni moderates once they’ve achieved their goals. One Shia said to me: ‘I wonder if Isis really exists.’

Unfortunately, Isis not only exists but is an efficient and ruthless organisation that has no intention of waiting for its Sunni allies to betray it. In Mosul it demanded that all opposition fighters swear allegiance to the Caliphate or give up their weapons. In late June and early July they detained between 15 to 20 former officers from Saddam Hussein’s time, including two generals. Groups that had put up pictures of Saddam were told to take them down or face the consequences. ‘It doesn’t seem likely,’ Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadists, said, ‘that the rest of the Sunni military opposition will be able to turn against Isis successfully. If they do, they will have to act as quickly as possible before Isis gets too strong.’

It would be a really good time to cut a deal with Putin, Assad, Abbas, and Rouhani, and get back to the business of repressing the really dangerous people in that part of the world. Too bad we don’t have a Congress intelligent enough to see this.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq war, Russia, Syria, terrorism | 6 Comments »

No, sending troops to Iraq is not very smart

Posted by Charles II on August 8, 2014

Who is ISIL/ISIS and what do they want

Glenn Greenwald

Oil situation (caution: Ken Pollack

I have been too distressed by all of the warlust–in Ukraine, in Gaza, in Iraq–to put together a more substantive post. But, bottom line: I think that ISIS/ISIL wants us to put troops into Iraq. At the moment, they hold strong cards, though going after the Kurds will probably prove to be their undoing. Pollack has this interesting paragraph:

One possible mitigating factor is whether Baghdad would use the opportunity presented by the new civil war to revise its approach to oil contracting. So far, Baghdad has insisted on terms for its contracts with foreign oil firms that have significantly diminished their profitability. Many of the major oil companies signed these contracts only in the hope that they would later be able to secure more lucrative contracts if they demonstrated their commitment to Iraq. Some of these became so frustrated with Baghdad’s stubbornness that they pulled out of the south and began to shift their operations to Iraqi Kurdistan instead. Although Baghdad has been remarkably stubborn on this matter, the demands of waging the civil war might force it to reconsider as the only way to keep the major oil companies in Iraq and pumping the oil that is now vital to its war effort.

So…civil war–bug, or feature?

Posted in Iraq war, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

The NSA has met the enemy, and it is you

Posted by Charles II on September 25, 2013

Greenwald:

A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country’s “anti-terrorism” law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.

When he objected that his political views had no relevance to security concerns, UK law enforcement officials threatened to detain him for the full nine hours allowed by the Terrorism Act of 2000..
….
…perceiving drone opponents as “threats” or even “adversaries” is hardly new. Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those “with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates”, special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are “peer reviewed” and that every edit made is recorded by user.

Also yesterday, the Libyan-American rapper Khaled Ahmed, better known by his stage name “Khaled M”, was removed from an airplane in the US without any explanation. …this was part of ongoing harassment he experiences when flying ….

Finally, Sarah Abdurrahman, an American Muslim and producer of the NPR program “On the Media”, was detained for 6 hours at the US border in Niagra Falls when returning from a vacation in Canada with her family (all US citizens).

The NSA is deep into policing political views. I happen to believe that drones are a lot less bad than, say, B-52s. But someone who believes that they represent illegal targeted assassination–and poorly targeted assassination at that– has a legitimate argument that deserves to be heard and not criminalized. Criminalizing dissent is the hallmark of totalitarianism.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, terrorism, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

Yes, remember 9/11… including the one in Chile

Posted by Charles II on September 11, 2013

No one who was over the age of 3 in September 2001 will forget our 9/11. And we shouldn’t. Al Qaida committed an outrageous act of butchery, targeting mostly civilians, purely to terrorizing Americans. This day, like December 7th, 1941, will live in infamy.

But there was another September 11th when terrorists killed thousands. And an American president, in effect, ordered it:

DemocracyNow:

PETER KORNBLUH: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger launched a preemptive strike against Salvador Allende [President of Chile in 1972]. They decided to stop him from being inaugurated as president of Chile. He hadn’t even set foot in the Moneda [Presidential] Palace, when Nixon and Kissinger just simply decided to change the fate of Chile. Nixon instructed the CIA to make the Chilean economy scream, to use as many men as possible. The first plan was to actually keep Allende from being inaugurated as president. And then, when that plan failed, after the assassination of the Chilean commander-in-chief that the United States was behind, General René Schneider [i.e., the US had Schneider assassinated because he refused to go along with a coup], Kissinger then went to Nixon and said, “Allende is now president. The State Department thinks we can coexist with him, but I want you to make sure you tell everybody in the U.S. government that we cannot, that we cannot let him succeed, because he has legitimacy. He is democratically elected. And suppose other governments decide to follow in his footstep, like a government like Italy? What are we going to do then? What are we going to say when other countries start to democratically elect other Salvador Allendes? We will—the world balance of power will change,” he wrote to Nixon in a secret document, “and our interests in it will be changed fundamentally.”

He [Nixon] had aides who were saying to him, “It’s unbecoming for the United States to intervene in a country where we are not—our national security interests are not threatened.” And he pushed them away. “Nope, we can’t—we can’t let this imitative phenomena—we have to stop Allende from being successful.” He had aides that came to him the day after the coup and said, “I’m getting reports that there’s 10,000 bodies in the streets. People are being slaughtered.” And he said, “Go tell Congress that this new military regime is better for our interests than the old government in Chile.” And we have this fabulous document of him talking to Pinochet, a meeting in 1976, in which his aides have told him, “You should tell Pinochet to stop violating human rights.” And instead he says to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende. We want to support you, not hurt you.

Never forget when the terrorists came to America.

Never forget when they came from America.

Posted in Latin America, September 11, terrorism | Comments Off

New York City goes Stasi. Will the US?

Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2013

This is not a new story, but new information has significantly changed its interpretation.

I wish it were an exaggeration to say that New York City has gone to a level of surveillance that compares with the Stasi. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, writing in New York Magazine make that case:

The activities [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly set in motion after 9/11 pushed deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration. It was a proactive approach, but, in constitutional terms, a novel one.

To reinvent the Intelligence Division, Kelly called on David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer…

Cohen and [CIA operative Larry] Sanchez’s guiding idea was that if the NYPD had its own eyes and ears in the ethnic communities of the five boroughs, maybe things could be different. They needed to be in bookshops to spot the terrorist with his newly grown beard, or in restaurants to overhear friends ranting about America. If detectives infiltrated Muslim student groups, maybe they could identify young men seething with embryonic fanaticism.

Sanchez told colleagues that he had borrowed the idea from Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

[Judge Charles] Haight ruled: “For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally.”

To accomplish their goals, however, Cohen and Sanchez needed to go far beyond what the FBI could do. They needed to take a broad view of what was related to terrorist activity. As Sanchez would explain to Congress years later: “Part of our mission is to protect New York City citizens from becoming terrorists.

He [Cohen] recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, like shalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu?

On their way out, the rakers would look at bulletin boards. Was a rally planned in the neighborhood? The rakers might attend. Was there a cricket league? The rakers might join. If someone advertised a room for rent, the cops would tear off a tab with the address or phone number. It could be a cheap apartment used by a terrorist.

Surveillance turned out to be habit-forming. Cohen and Sanchez’s efforts also reached beyond the Muslim community. Undercover officers traveled the country, keeping tabs on liberal protest groups like [environmental awareness group] Time’s Up and the Friends of Brad Will [which protested police murders in Oaxaca, Mexico]. Police infiltrated demonstrations and collected information about antiwar groups and those that marched against police brutality. Detectives monitored activist websites and copied the contents into police files, including one memo in 2008 for Kelly that reported the contents of a website about a group of women organizing a boycott to protest the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed the morning before his wedding….

The Demographics Unit had thousands of dollars to spend on meals and expenses …

That’s when [Lt. Hector] Berdecia realized that, in the hunt for terrorists, his detectives gravitated toward the best food.

And now, the lawyers in the Handschu case [which reined in police infiltration of legitimate political activism] have returned to court, arguing that Kelly and Cohen, in their effort to keep the city safe, have crossed constitutional lines. Regardless of the outcome, the NYPD’s programs are likely to join waterboarding, secret prisons, and NSA wiretapping as emblems of post-9/11 America, when security justified many practices that would not have been tolerated before.

No successes in stopping terrorism; indeed, no information garnered about a potential actual terrorist. Many thousands of people monitored and files created. Surveillance extended even to plainly domestic and plainly legitimate activist groups: the restrictions of Handschu circumvented by an appeal to anti-terrorism. CIA operatives designing surveillance of Americans.

And Ray Kelly could become the head of Homeland Security.

Posted in CIA, Constitutional crisis, fascism, impunity, terrorism | 2 Comments »

US ally Pervez Musharraf charged with murder of Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto

Posted by Charles II on August 22, 2013

Syed Fazl-e-Haider:

Pakistan’s former president and military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has been charged with the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007.

An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, in an unprecedented move, on Tuesday indicted Musharraf on three counts during a brief hearing. He may get the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.

“He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder,” AFP reported public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar as saying.

Six others were charged along with Musharraf, including four suspected militants and two senior police officials.

Ms Bhutto was killed on December 27, 2007, in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh – the same park where prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. Twice-elected as prime minister (she held office from 1988-1990 and 1993-96), Ms Bhutto was killed after addressing an election rally in the garrison city.

Who could have predicted that one of the architects of the Taliban would be involved in terrorism?

Well, certainly not the US government, if you ask them.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Further destabilization of Pakistan

Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2013

This is just purely depressing.

Jon Boone, The Guardian:

A lawyer leading the effort to prosecute Pakistan’s former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, over the murder of Benazir Bhutto has been shot dead in Islamabad as he was driving to court.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto shouts ‘freedom freedom’ slogans at a protest camp arranged by journalists against the media crackdown in Islamabad Benazir Bhutto.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a state prosecutor for the Federal Investigation Agency, died in a hail of bullets on Friday when his car was attacked by unidentified gunmen riding on motorbikes as he was travelling through a busy street in the Pakistani capital, police said.

I.A. Rehman, Dawn:

The terrorist attacks on candidates, election meetings and political workers have certainly made holding a free and fair election nearly impossible. Except for Punjab, all parts of the country are disturbed, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Fata in an acute state of disorder. Thus, peaceful elections in 124 National Assembly constituencies, 45.5 per cent of the seats up for direct election, are quite unlikely.

The terrorists are enjoying the freedom of the land.

Unfortunately, the blood of all those killed in election-related violence is not on the hands of militant extremists alone. The hands of all those who have the power to confront the extremists are not clean either. Besides, a ceaseless campaign to demonise politicians, started by Ayub Khan and carried out to this day by holy knights of various brands and in different robes, has alienated the people from democracy to an extent that they do not see in the killing of a political worker an attack on their own rights.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | Comments Off

Coleen Rowley on the presumed link in the Boston bombing

Posted by Charles II on April 20, 2013

Coleen Rowley, The Consortium

I almost choked on my coffee listening to neoconservative Rudy Giuliani pompously claim on national TV that he was surprised about any Chechens being responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings because he’s never seen any indication that Chechen extremists harbored animosity toward the U.S.; Guiliani thought they were only focused on Russia.

Giuliani knows full well how the Chechen “terrorists” proved useful to the U.S. in keeping pressure on the Russians, much as the Afghan mujahedeen were used in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1989. In fact, many neocons signed up as Chechnya’s “friends,” including former CIA Director James Woolsey.

For instance, see this 2004 article in the UK Guardian, entitled, “The Chechens’ American friends: The Washington neocons’ commitment to the war on terror evaporates in Chechnya, whose cause they have made their own.”

Author John Laughland wrote: “the leading group which pleads the Chechen cause is the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (ACPC). The list of the self-styled ‘distinguished Americans’ who are its members is a roll call of the most prominent neoconservatives who so enthusiastically support the ‘war on terror.’

“They include Richard Perle, t…Elliott Abrams … Kenneth Adelman…Midge Decter…Frank Gaffney…Bruce Jackson, former US military intelligence officer and one-time vice-president of Lockheed Martin, now president of the US Committee on Nato; Michael Ledeen …; and R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director…

But still the full truth [about the intelligence failure behind 911] did not come out, even after Shenon’s blockbuster discovery in 2011 of the April 2001 memo linking the main Chechen leader Ibn al Khattab to Osama bin Laden. The buried April 2001 memo had been addressed to FBI Director Louis Freeh (another illegal recipient of MEK money, by the way!) and also to eight of the FBI’s top counter-terrorism officials.”

So far we don’t know whether the Boston bombing was more like Columbine or more like the Murrah Building. Rowley is careful to emphasize that point. But when you say the word “Chechnya,” you ring an awful lot of memory bells.

Posted in terrorism | 3 Comments »

Department of “I Told You So”

Posted by Charles II on February 23, 2013

David Taintor, TPM:

President Obama said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) Friday that 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to Niger to assist the French operation in Mali.

“The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security,” Obama said in the letter.

Obama added that the troops were deployed “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.”

I took a lot of crap at DK for saying that the US would get involved in the region:

Whether this turns into another American war is yet to be seen… but the stakes are significant enough that it would be surprising if we don’t get involved.

For now it’s just French soldiers resisting their advance. But the stakes are serious enough that it’s inconceivable to me that the US will not be involved within days if not weeks.

The Yellowcake War may be just in its opening innings. See here and here. Or just read Tom Englehardt:

Here, in fact, is a rule of thumb for you: keep your eye on the latest drone bases the CIA and the US military are setting up abroad – in Niger, near its border with Mali, for example – and you have a reasonable set of markers for tracing the further destabilisation of the planet. Each eerily familiar tactical course change (always treated as a brilliant strategic coup) each next application of force, and more things “metastasise”.

All the Islamists have to do is make nice with the Tuaregs and get a rebellion going in Niger to make this a very serious situation. True, the US, France, and Africa could get this right, but I see no signs they are doing so.

Posted in Africa, terrorism | 1 Comment »

The Gatekeepers: interviews of six heads of Shin Bet on the future of Israel

Posted by Charles II on January 29, 2013

The director of the recent film The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, was interviewed by DemocracyNow. The film includes some astonishing quotes from the directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police.

Moreh complained that DemocracyNow had decontextualized the quotes to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli aggression. But even understood in context, namely that Shin Bet’s efforts are aimed not at civilians but at terrorists, the film is both powerful and relevant to the US so-called “Global War on Terror.”

Civil wars and sectarian conflicts such as Afghanistan and the intifada of Palestine cannot be understood as isolated acts of violence. Both sides have grievances. No side is innocent. Our own Revolutionary War was presaged, in part, by what would be called acts of terror today. Think Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty. The Gatekeepers, appropriately, focuses on what the suppression of the Palestinians is doing to Israelis. In this context, there is this exchange:

AARON MATÉ: Well, we certainly aren’t here to debate the history with you, but we are trying to portray your film, and your movie has some very powerful statements that should be highlighted. You know, you have Avraham Shalom saying something like—a line like: “[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II.”

DROR MOREH: Yeah.

AARON MATÉ: “We have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror.”

Moreh goes on to draw the parallel between an Israeli attack that killed one terrorist (who was supposedly organizing a truce) and over a dozen innocent people and American drone attacks.

The heads of Shin Bet are unanimous in their view that the occupation is dangerous and destabilizing to Israel. Even when the attacks are targeted against terrorists, they inevitably raise questions about proportionality, about the deaths of innocents, and about the brutalization of the occupier.

By increasing the settlements, Israel is coming dangerously close to forced removal of the Palestinians, i.e. what’s called ethnic cleansing. Moreh is right:

Dror Moreh: … I think that those people who came to speak in the movie, the six heads of the security defense establishment, the Shin Bet, came because they feel that the occupation of the Palestinians in the last 45 years is something that is not good for the state of Israel and should be stopped.

The same can be said of many American occupations and interventions. Unless they resolve grievances, establish a superior living standard, and especially respect the whole community and their traditions, they will backfire–even if they are tactically brilliant and otherwise morally justifiable. This film looks to go a long way toward showing why this is so.

Posted in israel, terrorism | 1 Comment »

 
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