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Archive for the ‘terrorism’ Category

The dirtiest war

Posted by Charles II on October 7, 2015

One step closer to outright war between US and Russia. Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian:

The row threatens to further escalate tensions over Moscow’s airstrikes to support the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said his country could not endure Russian violations of its airspace in its campaign in Syria and said Russia risked “losing” Turkey.

“Nato has issued a stern ultimatum,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying ….

Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, had said earlier on Tuesday that the Russian incursions into Turkish airspace did not appear to be an accident, because the incursions had happened twice and lasted for a long time.

If Turkey shoots at Russia and Russia shoots back, Turkey can invoke the NATO mutual defense clause.

Meanwhile, ISIS is trying to score the components of a dirty bomb. Maybe they already have.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, Russia, terrorism | 8 Comments »

US blasts Russians for bombing al Qaeda

Posted by Charles II on October 1, 2015

OK. Parry is on the story:

The key sentence in The New York Times’ lead article about Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebel targets fell to the bottom of the story, five paragraphs from the end, where the Times noted in passing that the area north of Homs where the attacks occurred had been the site of an offensive by a coalition “including Nusra Front.”

What the Times didn’t say in that context was that Nusra Front is Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, an omission perhaps explained because this additional information would disrupt the righteous tone of the article, accusing Russia of bad faith in attacking rebel groups other than the Islamic State.

Where was I when this country became an al Qaeda ally?

Posted in Russia, terrorism | 5 Comments »

Alleged Breitbart source busted for terrorism

Posted by Charles II on September 12, 2015

This is one of those stories that is almost too strange to believe (Via DailyKos via MsInformed at Eschaton).

Elise Potaka and Luke McMahon, Sidney Morning Herald:

A young Jewish American man has been charged with pretending to be an Australian-based Islamic State jihadist after a FBI joint investigation with the Australian Federal Police based on information provided by Fairfax Media. Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a 20-year old living at his parents’ house in US state of Florida, is accused of posing online as “Australi Witness,” an IS supporter who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and events in western countries:

Early on Friday, Australian time, Goldberg, who is non-Muslim and has no real-world links with extremism, was arrested at his home by Florida police for “distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction”.

This was not all he was involved in.

Katie Zavadski, Daily Beast:

Goldberg had several online personas: an Islamic radical who was popular in ISIS social media; a white supremacist on hate site Daily Stormer; a feminist on Daily Kos; a radical free-speech advocate on Q&A site, and a sympathizer with GamerGate. Goldberg is also accused of being behind a Times of Israel blog post that called Palestinians “subhuman.”

Goldberg, who comes from a Jewish family, had Australi Witness spout a special kind of rage when discussing Jews.

“The Jews are the worst enemies of Allah (SWT). When Islam conquers Australia, every single Jew will be slaughtered like the filthy cockroaches that they are,” he wrote on

Goldberg as Australi Witness also threatened attacks on synagogues in Melbourne and Los Angeles on and on 8Chan’s Islamic State page.

He also had recurring obsessions with certain people and ideas, attacking them with one persona while praising them with another.

Posing as “Michael Slay” on white supremacist site Daily Stormer, he viciously attacked an Australian Muslim activist Mariam Veiszadeh, calling her a “Moslem pig.” Yet Goldberg praised Veiszadeh as Australi Witness, calling her his “biggest inspiration.” Yet another alleged online identity, MoonMetropolis, cheered grotesque caricatures of Veiszadeh.

Goldberg also had another alter ego, Tanya Cohen, whom he attacked using Michael Slay on the Daily Stormer. Cohen was evidently a parody of far-left social justice activists. Slay called her “a Jew bitch who specializes in writing about how the US needs to ban ‘hate speech’ and any other speech that goes against the Jewish cultural Marxist agenda.” An email in Tanya Cohen’s name was linked to Goldberg’s IP address, and articles in her name appeared on Thought Catalog, Daily Kos, and feminist website Feministing.

On Twitter, Goldberg frequently posted about Gamer Gate, a controversy about sexism in gaming that resulted in personal attacks on feminist activists. While Goldberg doesn’t appear to have posted any threats on social media, his tweets used the hashtag #gamergate to mock people he had previously derided as “social justice warriors.”

In articles published under the Moon Metropolis alias and under Goldberg’s own name on Thought Catalog, he expresses the opinions of a free-speech fundamentalist.

“Nothing that anyone could possibly say could ever be worse than a law preventing them from saying it,” he wrote. “If you expressed the opinion that I should be killed, I would still defend your right to say that.”

On Thought Catalog, Goldberg wrote “that neo-Nazis tend to look positively civil and rational when compared to SJWs [social justice warriors].”

And it appears that may have been’s “source” for claiming that Shaun King, an activist who posts regularly on Daily Kos regarding Black Lives Matter issues, is not partly African American. Anomaly on FreakOut Nation posted evidence from social media to that effect. While I haven’t seen evidence beyond the BlazingCatFur post, the evidence persuades me that this is likely so. It has been denied by “Nero” aka Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart writer.

But this is in Google cache:


So I would guess that “Nero” is just fiddling for time.

The kind of hate we see in Goldberg’s multiple personas–not to mention “Nero’s Twitter feed–is remarkable, even in the hateful age in which we live in.

Posted in Flying Monkey Right, rightwing moral cripples, terrorism | 3 Comments »

Battalion 316, Honduras, and post-coup State-sponsored Terrorism

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2015

Heather Gies, UpsideDown World:

After the 2009 military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president said in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that Battalion 316 was “already operating” in Honduras under a different name and using “torture to create fear.”

“There was a tremendous resurgence (after the coup) of death squad activity and assassinations of human rights defenders, trade unionists, campesinos, activists of the resistance of all sorts including journalists, lawyers,” Dana Frank, professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, told teleSUR. “It was very rare in the 20 years before the coup for these kinds of assassinations to happen … but it shot up dramatically after the coup.”

The post-coup links to Battalion 316 terror were palpable, both in the vast increase in human rights abuses, including torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances, as well as the direct connections of Battalion 316 personnel offering their expertise to the coup regime.

Former head of the Battalion 316, School of the Americas graduate Billy Joya, became a prominent coup regime spokesperson, advisor, and aide to de facto president Roberto Micheletti. According to COFADEH, many other retired Battalion 316 agents also became government advisors.

[Professor Adrienne] Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras,” said that the numbers of state-sponsored disappearances, tortures, and extrajudicial killings since the coup have far exceeded those of the 1980s.

With striking similarity to the fear campaign of the 1980s, COFADEH documented in 2010, along with dozens of other death threats and assassinations, that a former Battalion 316 agent publicly threatened resistance activist Candelario Reyes with forced disappearance and death, saying that killing such a “communist dog” would make the “best example” for other resistance activists.

“You can see the continuity with some of these individuals including the references to the 80s that are conscious references,” said Frank. “It’s terror, it’s deliberately spreading terror.”

Harkening back to 1980s terror was a deliberate strategy to instil fear in perceived political threats. In 2012, COFADEH human rights defender Dina Meza received a series of threats of death and sexual violence by text message signed with the initials CAM, standing for Comando Alvarez Martinez, early 1980s head of Battalion 316 responsible for grave human rights abuses. According to Amnesty International, CAM was used as a pseudonym in numerous death threats against journalists and activists in the wake of the coup.

According to Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. foreign policy in Honduras, the clearest and most alarming examples of post-coup strategies that follow the model of Battalion 316 are the TIGRES special units of the police force and FUSINA inter-agency task forces that bring together military, police, military police, prosecutors, and other government officials under military control.

FUSINA was initially headed by School of the Americas graduate Colonel German Alfaro, former commander of Battalion 15, the military unit in the Aguan Valley region implicated in dozens of post-coup murders of campesino activists. Trained by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marines, FUSINA is not only troubling for its conglomeration of agency functions under a military mandate, but also for its U.S.-enhanced intelligence capacities.

COFADEH denounced TIGRES as a “crude resurrection” of Battalion 316’s political disappearances, murder, and “criminal behaviour.”

These new constellations of state and military power, designed and deployed to create fear and contain political dissent, have again had a deep social and political impact in Honduras.

“A combination of the ‘soft power’ of USAID and NED-funded (so-called pro-democracy) programs on the one hand, and death squads within the police, the military, and now the military police have succeeded in destroying the post-coup resistance movement,” explained Pine. “This is what makes possible the neoliberal plunder of the country currently underway.”

Courtesy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Posted in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Latin America, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Kill Chain

Posted by Charles II on May 18, 2015

On Book TV, Andrew Cockburn in his book Kill Chain gives a realistic assessment of what drones can and cannot do (see here for an unrealistic estimate).

* We were warned by Pentagon whistleblower Tom Christie that drones only hit 21% of their targets (current accuracy may be better)
* A study of intercepting illegal border crossers in the US showed that a spotter in a Cessna outperformed five drones
* A large part of the push to drones is financial
* Drone imaging is not good enough to tell the difference between a young teen and an adult man, or between a woman and a man, especially in low light
* Targeted assassination doesn’t work. According to a study in Iraq by Rex Rivolo, attacks increased after leaders were killed. The replacements for leaders are often their relatives, intent on revenge and, of course, any collateral damage improves recruiting.
* Liberals are very keen on drones as a means of limiting casualties. However, drones terrorize and disrupt whole societies, since civilians know they are being constantly watched. Therefore, even as tools of reconnaissance, they have problems.

I recommend listening to Cockburn.

Posted in Afghanistan, drones, Iraq, terrorism | Comments Off on Kill Chain

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something true/updated x3

Posted by Charles II on May 12, 2015

So is Sy Hersh’s story in the London Review of Books on the raid at Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed fiction? Is it old news, or even plagiarized? Is it true at all? Is it news at all? Or are a lot of people missing the point entirely?

The answer is that it depends… on what one is looking for in journalism, in what one calls journalism, and so on. Let’s dispose of the plagiarism one first. Raelynn Hillhouse did, indeed, write blog posts in 2011 calling into question the Administration’s story, and laying out a counternarrative that at the very least resembles that of Sy Hersh. She has accused him of doing either fiction or plagiarism. If he were doing fiction, then her own work, which she has presented as fact must be fiction; clearly she doesn’t think so and–whatever her politics–she has some serious journalistic and academic chops (“R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times”). This claim of hers might be wrong, but it’s not fiction.

So is Hersh plagiarizing? Hillhouse states that “I trust my sources–which were clearly different than his.” If Hersh’s sources were different, then it’s clearly not plagiarism.

So, perhaps it’s old news, news that Hillhouse reported on her blog in 2011, but (according to The Intercept) that only made it to the New Zealand Herald. [It also made it into The Telegraph, but was not followed up on.] But if news never makes it out into the mainstream so that it can be discussed, can it be said to have been reported? The answer has to be “no.”

Next we get to the question of whether it is true. Here we have to be careful. The articles that I have read attacking Hersh’s reporting are problematic at best. One by Max Fisher, is filled with invective and largely devoted to attacking Hersh’s reporting on planning for an attack on Iran and chemical weapons in Syria. With regard to Abbottabad, it claims that Hersh alleges “a spectacular international conspiracy,” which is clearly false. Hersh is talking about an assassination conducted with maximum deniability and involving only a handful of players. International, yes. Spectacular, no. Nor a conspiracy: just the ordinary grubby dealings of an imperial state that can’t stop meddling.

If we focus on the few specifics that Fisher raises about Hersh’s reporting on the Abbottabad raid, the criticism comes down to this:

* “his allegations are largely supported only by two sources [ISI chief Asad Durani and a U.S. official], neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous”
* “His other two sources are anonymous ‘consultants’ who are vaguely described as insiders.”

Criticism of sourcing is fair. But, first, Fisher completely mischaracterized the latter two sources, who are very specifically described as “longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command.” That’s specific enough to Google and come up with an idea of what kind of person fits the description, like Colonel Jose Baez and Brian Hayes (not that either one is likely to be Hersh’s source).

Contrary to Fisher’s assertion, the retired intelligence official Hersh sourced seemed to have very direct knowledge of the “walk-in” who told the US about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and about military discussions regarding the raid and about diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. This suggests he was at very high levels. Someone like Leon Panetta. Suppose, just for a moment, that Panetta was Hersh’s source. Would that change how people are reacting to the story?

There is at least one other CIA source in the story, used to corroborate the meeting with Pasha, that Fisher didn’t notice. Hersh also mentions one or more sources, “from inside Pakistan,” who might include “A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI.”

So, is Hersh’s sourcing adequate? I don’t know. But Fisher apparently did not read Hersh closely enough to understand what it was.

Now, in addition, Fisher asks questions, like
* “Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting…”
* “Why, for example, would the Pakistanis insist on a fake raid that would humiliate their country and the very military and intelligence leaders who supposedly instigated it?”
* “why would Pakistan bother with the ostentatious fake raid at all, when anyone can imagine a dozen simpler, lower-risk, lower-cost ways to do this?”
* “why would the US cut a secret deal with Pakistan to allow that country a “freer hand” in Afghanistan”

To paraphrase Fisher, “raising questions about [Hersh’s] story is not the same as proving a spectacular [failure of journalism].” That anyone even regards these questions as logical inconsistencies makes one wring one’s hands about the capacity of journalists to analyze stories. Yet Joshua Keating not just bit, but swallowed Fisher’s screed whole. Again, there’s little that can even be addressed. For example, Keating says,

Hillhouse’s claim didn’t get much coverage other than an article in the Telegraph [in 2011] by Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly, who didn’t exactly endorse her premise. (Crilly blasted Hersh’s article yesterday, calling it “utterly devoid of facts” and likely to appeal to the “soft minded.”

I read Crilly’s original piece. It may not endorse Hillhouse’s claims, but it doesn’t exactly discredit them either. If, as Crilly now says, the story is junk, why did Crilly publish his piece on 2011?

Keating says that Hersh’s article claims that,

… the documents seized from his compound were fabricated in order to make him appear to have been active up until his death.

This seems to be a hasty misreading of what Hersh said. What Hersh said was that

These claims [of bin Laden’s direct involvement in operations] were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over.

I don’t see where Hersh says that the documents were phony. However, his source asks some questions about 175 pages of documents that were released:

The retired official disputed the authen[ti]city of the West Point materials…

The questions that the source asks are good. Why are these documents being processed by a contractor with no CIA analysis and before the information contained in the documents could have been acted upon? It’s all very irregular.

Keating also says,

[NYT correspondent Carlotta] Gall concluded that at least some in the country’s spy service [ISI] knew where the terrorist mastermind was. But this is very different from Hersh’s much bolder assertion that the Pakistani agency was keeping him under house arrest and the whole raid was staged.

Keating links Carlotta Gall, who actually says:

Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden.

This is not the entire ISI, as Keating implies, but a small compartment within it. This is important, because it’s difficult to keep secrets that are widely held, but–as Iran-Contra demonstrated– easy to keep secrets that are closely held. It is entirely possible that we didn’t notify the Pakistani government of the raid, all the while being in close contact with elements of the ISI and the military.

As for bin Laden being under house arrest, what Gall (ibid) describes is even more disturbing:

Bin Laden did not rely only on correspondence. He occasionally traveled to meet aides and fellow militants, one Pakistani security official told me. “Osama was moving around,” he said, adding that he heard so from jihadi sources. “You cannot run a movement without contact with people.” Bin Laden traveled in plain sight, his convoys always knowingly waved through any security checkpoints.

In other words, the ISI had the capacity to control his movements. For a time, he was undoubtedly useful (Gall, ibid):

Bin Laden rejected Akhtar’s request for help and urged him and other militant groups not to fight Pakistan but to serve the greater cause — the jihad against America. He warned against fighting inside Pakistan because it would destroy their home base.

That must have been very convenient for the Pakistani government. However, at some point, regardless of how one thinks the raid happened, bin Laden’s worth to Pakistan diminished (as al Qaeda weakened and was displaced by the Taliban) or the risks he posed rose, as the Americans discovered his presence. At that point, Pakistan had to give him up. Is it so difficult to believe that Pakistan told the U.S., we won’t resist an assassination of bin Laden, as long as you make it look as if we were not responsible.

Is it difficult to believe that the crash of the helicopter made impossible the plan to grab bin Laden, send him out of town, and kill him under circumstances that wouldn’t look like the ISI had been hiding him and had also ratted him out?

And is it difficult to believe that then, when the Administration’s story made it clear not only that the ISI knew where bin Laden was but that they had also ratted him out, it created a serious rift between the US and Pakistan that resulted in a suspension of aid?

These are the kind of answers that seem pretty obvious to me, but not so much to Fisher.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the editors of the main English-language paper Dawn takes Hersh seriously.

Maybe Hersh is wrong. But I think that if one doesn’t enter the fray with a pre-determined conclusion in mind, what he has written is at least plausible.

And, I think that the most important part of the story hasn’t been recognized. For me, the basic story that the ISI knew where bin Laden was and to some degree stood aside for the US assassination was likely to be true from the start. But who among our leaders was lying, and to what degree? The answers Hersh gives are uncomfortable. I think that may be why so many people who know better are so exercised that they aren’t exercising judgment in examining the story.


Phillip Carter also challenges Hersh. Again, the article is marred by attitude:

Many of the actual details in the piece, such as the reported obliteration of Bin Laden’s corpse by gunfire, shred any remaining credibility the article might have.

This is not refutation.

Pakistan’s military fell asleep at the switch multiple times, allowing Bin Laden to live near Pakistan’s version of West Point

Gall (see above) makes it clear that it wasn’t neglect, but collusion.

[His sources are]at least two degrees of separation from the small teams in the Defense Department and CIA who led the operation

This is a useful piece of information. However, if my guess that his main source is at the general level of Leon Panetta is correct, then it might be irrelevant.

[skipping over some]

Hersh goes on to dispute the fact that Bin Laden was then buried at sea, suggesting that his body may have been thrown out of the SEALs’ helicopter on the way out of Pakistan, and that the entire burial at sea was concocted as a cover story. This too goes too far, reflecting a more vivid imagination that sees secrets in the shadow of truth, where no reporting or evidence exists.

Journalists are trying without success to get the logs of the USS Carl Vinson:

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson.

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The Defense Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind. People who lived near bin Laden’s compound took photos of the disabled chopper.

The AP is appealing the Defense Department’s decision

This is not helping Carter’s case.
Carlotta Gall has commented:

Among other things, Hersh contends that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s military-intelligence agency, held Bin Laden prisoner in the Abbottabad compound since 2006, and that “the C.I.A. did not learn of Bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S.”

On this count, my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s. Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times.

I do not recall ever corresponding with Hersh, but he is following up on a story that many of us assembled parts of.

I cannot confirm Hersh’s bolder claims — for example, that two of Pakistan’s top generals, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former army chief, and Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director of the ISI, had advance knowledge of the raid. But I would not necessarily dismiss the claims immediately. Hersh’s scenario explains one detail that has always nagged me about the night of Bin Laden’s death.

Hersh’s claim that there was little or no treasure trove of evidence retrieved from Bin Laden’s home rings less true to me.

I would guess that certain people are going to start walking back some of their more reckless comments.
Thanks to Jo6pac, the following post from Pat Lang’s shop, in which FB ali which used open source technique to try to flesh out Hillhouse’s post. It’s very interesting. An excerpt or two:

The Saudi motive behind this request [sanctuary for bin Laden in exchange for calling off al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan] presumably had to do with their internal imperatives. The bin Ladens are a very rich and influential family in Saudi Arabia. Osama and al Qaeda, and their goals, are supported by a large number of religious Saudis (even though the royal family considers them enemies). If bin Laden were to be hunted down and killed by the Americans in the tribal badlands of Pakistan, it would give the regime a black eye in the view of many of its people as well as being a serious blow to the bin Laden clan. It made sense to the Saudis to get Osama bin Laden into a safe hideout while at the same time neutralizing him as a functioning jihadi.

The cover story finally agreed upon was that the US had carried out a drone strike on the house (though none would in fact take place). This would account for the night-time explosions at the house, and, more importantly, provide an explanation to give to the Saudis for bin Laden’s sudden and unfortunate demise (his body having been almost obliterated by the bombs!). The US’s agreement was simply a ruse, however, in order to keep the Pakistanis cooperating; having rejected the drone option because it did not allow a definitive claim of the operation’s success, the US administration had no intention of going through with this cover story.

As for the fallout from the operation, it was, as expected, mainly on US-Pakistan relations. If the US had the intention of making it easier for the Pakistanis by fudging the site of the raid, the crashed helicopter’s tail sticking up from bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound ended that option. This stark evidence of the US incursion left the US with no option but to (in Hillhouse’s apt phrase) throw the Pakistanis under the bus.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | 8 Comments »

Mexican federal police orchestrated the assassination of 43 students, probably with the collaboration of the army

Posted by Charles II on December 16, 2014

Proceso has a story out on this. The English version by the Guardian says this:

Mexican federal authorities had real-time information of an attack on a group of student teachers by corrupt local police, but did nothing to stop the disappearance and probable massacre of 43 people, according to new evidence published by the news magazine Proceso.

But this is not quite what Proceso says. Anabel Hernandez and Steve Fisher write:

The attack was orchestrated and executed by the Federal Police, with complicity or open collaboration with the Army.

Federal forces participated in the attack against the students of the normal (college) of Ayotzinapa in the night of last 26 Sept in Iguala, Guerrero, during which attack three students died and 43 were disappeared in a series of actions known in real time by the federal government.

Deep in The Guardian’s article, they get around to saying what Hernandez and Fisher said, calling it a “contentious claim.”

What is with the Guardian, that it can’t get its Latin American coverage right? And what is with the US government that surely knows that the government of Pena Nieto is engaged in terrorism?

Posted in corruption, Mexico, terrorism | Comments Off on Mexican federal police orchestrated the assassination of 43 students, probably with the collaboration of the army

Speaking of Avi Schlaim…

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2014

Speaking of Avi Schlaim, he has a new column in The Guardian:

Five days after reaching a ceasefire with Hamas to end the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the Israeli cabinet decided to appropriate 988 acres of land on the West Bank, near the place where three Israeli teenagers were recently abducted and murdered, to make way for another illegal Jewish city. This is the biggest land grab in three decades. As the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, pointed out: “It was a decision that weakens Israel and damages its security.” What it proves, if further proof is needed, is that Israel’s leaders are determined to prevent a two-state solution to the conflict.

What did Israel gain by unleashing the deadly firepower of the IDF against the caged population of this tiny coastal enclave? Virtually nothing. Israel had in fact provoked this crisis by its violent crackdown against Hamas activists on the West Bank following the murder of the three teenagers. Hamas rocket attacks – the ostensible reason for the war – were a response to Israel’s aggressive security measures.

Hamas had more solid reasons for rejoicing…. Despite the intense military pressure, Hamas’s spirit did not break and its popularity skyrocketed.

it is time to remove from Hamas the terrorist tag. This is a powerful weapon in the propaganda war but useless in the quest for peace. Hamas is indeed guilty of terrorism but it is also a legitimate political actor, having won a fair and free election in 2006.

Israel’s policy towards Gaza since the unilateral disengagement in 2005 has consisted of the systematic violations of international humanitarian law, duplicitous diplomacy and large doses of brute military force. With chilling cynicism, Israeli generals speak of their periodic incursions into Gaza as “mowing the lawn”. This policy has manifestly failed to procure the security that Israel’s citizens deserve. The writing is on the wall. A new and more constructive policy is desperately needed.

Realistically, there are only two roads before Israel. The first, the one it is on, is to commit genocide and remove the Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank, hurling them into one of the unstable states in the region (like Syria) that is unable to protect its borders. The second, the one that most of Israel’s friends have been imploring it to take, is to stop trying to solve political problems with military hardware: negotiate a real and just settlement with the Palestinians that will end the hardship in the Occupied Territories and put the Palestinians on the road to prosperity and self-determination. When the average Palestinian says, Israel behaves justly and with concern for us as human beings, would-be terrorists will have no purchase on Palestinian society.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, terrorism | 2 Comments »

Read these

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 | Comments Off on No, sending troops to Iraq is not very smart

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