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Fri May 01, 2015 at 09:06 AM PDT

Why Syria needs an earthquake

by gjohnsit

Reposted from gjohnsit by enhydra lutris

 The earthquake that struck Nepal killed around 6,000 people and displaced nearly half a million. It was a horrible humanitarian crisis that justifiably got the world's attention.

  If only Syria could be so lucky.

 The scale of this crisis dwarfs any other recent humanitarian event. Syria’s 12 million people in need of assistance is a number more than twice as large as the 5 million affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, 3.5 million affected by the Haiti earthquake, and 1.7 million affected by Hurricane Katrina.
   American responded to each of these other disasters with hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. World Vision raised $36 million in the year following the Haiti earthquake—$5.9 million of it in the first week alone! In comparison, after four years World Vision U.S. has been able to raise just $2.7 million for our response in Syria.
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Wed Apr 29, 2015 at 03:52 PM PDT

NYT Report on the Continuing War

by Garrett

Reposted from Garrett by enhydra lutris

Last year, President Barack Obama had said that the U.S. war in Afghanistan would be brought to a responsible end.

And today, I’d like to update the American people on the way forward in Afghanistan and how, this year, we will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end.

Statement by the President on Afghanistan

At the close of the year, the end of our combat mission was officially announced.
Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.

Statement by the President on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

People in the international law community had mused on what declarations like this would mean for prisoners held by the U.S. in the war.
What does President mean when he states that the “war” in Afghanistan is concluding?

End of (which) war?, Marty Lederman, Just Security

This week, the government said that declarations of the end of the war, by the President, don't mean much.
The war in Afghanistan is not ending, US government attorneys said in court documents unsealed Friday, undercutting statements President Barack Obama made last December and in his State of the Union address a few weeks later when he formally declared that "the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion."

But Obama didn't really mean that the war was over, the government now argues.

"Simply put, the President's statements signify a transition in United States military operations, not a cessation …" Andrew Warden, a Justice Department attorney, wrote. "Although the United States has ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, the fighting there certainly has not stopped."

The Justice Department Just Declared That the War in Afghanistan Is Not Over, Jason Leopold, VICE News

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Reposted from gjohnsit by gjohnsit

 Remember al-Qaeda? With all the hype about ISIS it's easy to forget that it was al-Qaeda that attacked us, while Daesh never did.
  If you've forgotten that, you wouldn't be alone. It seems that Washington has forgotten it as well, because over the last six months we've been at war with the enemies of al-Qaeda.

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Reposted from Bend Over Here It Comes Again by enhydra lutris

100 years ago the Gallipoli Campaign started. The results was 500,000 casualties. Fuck you Winston Churchill.

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Reposted from joe shikspack by enhydra lutris

Back in 2013, in the aftermath of his murder of Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son, when Mr. Obama was trying to justify his arrogated powers to incinerate people with his fleet of flying death robots, he made certain assertions about the process by which he and his merry minions selected victims [bolding mine]:

First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.  

Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that
all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.

Third, the following criteria must be met before
lethal action may be taken:

1) Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;

2) Near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed;

3) An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;

4) An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S.
persons; and

5) An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.

Further on in the document Obama states:
These decisions will be informed by a broad
analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in
plots threatening U.S. persons.
Fast forward to 2015.

From recent news coverage:

The White House was forced to concede on Thursday that it killed two innocent hostages – one American, one Italian – in a drone strike that targeted an al-Qaida compound despite officials not knowing precisely who was in the vicinity. ...

Conceding that the operation was not ordered against any individual targets, Earnest said the administration only discovered later that the compound was occupied by Weinstein, La Porto and another American named Ahmed Farouq, who the White House says was a “leader” of the terrorist group.

Farouq was not, however, the target of the operation. The drone strike was not targeted at known al-Qaida members; instead, it was directed against anyone in the vicinity of what the US believed was a compound being used by the terrorist group.

Here's one of today's headlines:

White House admits: we didn't know who drone strike was aiming to kill

Here's a little additional information:

The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday. ...

The two US civilians killed, longtime English-language propagandist Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq of al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, were not “high-value targets” marked for death, he confirmed.

What we have here is very strong evidence that at best Mr. Obama is operating in bad faith with the American people and at worst he is a devious liar.

The standards that he proclaimed in the document entitled "U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities" are nothing but a sham.

To wit: Obama did not know that the persons he incinerated posed "a continuing, imminent threat to US persons," Obama did not know to a "near certainty that the [or any] terrorist target [was] present," and one can only hope that he isn't lying that he did not know to a "near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed."

Further, since Obama had no idea of who he was incinerating, it would be impossible to know whether they could have been captured, that the relevant authorities would not have cooperated in "effectively addressing the [unknown] threat" that the unknown persons posed, nor could Obama have known of any other reasonable alternatives existed.

There's good reason to wonder if Obama ever really knows who is present when he sends his flying death robots. Amy Goodman points out on Democracy Now:

Despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, the White House said it had no reason to believe the U.S. and Italian hostages were being detained in the al-Qaeda compound targeted during the operation.
It appears that the methods by which Obama collects information in order to verify to a "near certainty that non - combatants will not be injured or killed" is horribly unreliable and hence amounts to a violation of his stated standards. Frankly, if the intelligence that Obama collects "hundreds of hours of" is this poor, then there would seem to be no reasonable basis for his flying death robot attacks at all.

Regardless of whether use of the intelligence was negligent, it is quite plain that no "broad analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in plots threatening U.S. persons," was ever conducted, since of course, there was no intended target.

It's not like this, "let's blow some stuff up and see who we kill," is something new for Obama, though:

Secrecy, misdirection and lies have shielded much of the public from the realization that US drone strikes have killed countless civilians in the past decade

For years, the vast majority of drone strikes victims have never been positively identified as terrorists. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has the most comprehensive data on drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, published a study last year showing only 12% of victims were identified as militants and only 4% were identified as members of al-Qaida. This study is backed up by the excellent reporting by McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay, who gained access to years of classified CIA reports to show that the vast majority of drone strike victims were not high level terrorist operatives like the administration claimed.

And we know the government thinks it can kill US citizens overseas without a trial or even a finding by any independent body. Despite a clear public interest in knowing about such an extreme claim to power, the Justice Department has fought to keep its supposed legal authority for drone strikes on Americans completely secret.

When will there be accountability?
Unfortunately, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee have been the biggest cheerleaders of drone strikes, rather than their biggest skeptics. ... If there’s ever going to be accountability for the CIA and military drone program, we need a fully independent commission, divorced from the intelligence committees. Without it, this controversy will just fade back into the background, where it will stay hidden under the government’s ever-expanding veil of secrecy.
Obama has irresponsibly used the vast powers that come with the office of President. His use of the fleet of flying death robots under his command is both a crime and a national disgrace.

To use an idiom that the President is known for, it is time for Americans to step up and take away the car keys.


Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 07:37 PM PDT

Moral Surrender and Torture

by Garrett

Reposted from Garrett by enhydra lutris

FBI Director James Comey looks at the Holocaust, and our capacity for evil and moral surrender.

The Holocaust was, as I said, the most horrific display in world history of inhumanity. But it was also the most horrific display in world history of our humanity, of our capacity for evil and for moral surrender.

And that second significance is the reason I require every new FBI special agent and intelligence analyst to go to the Holocaust Museum. Naturally, I want them to learn about abuse of authority on a breathtaking scale. But I want them to confront something more painful and more dangerous: I want them to see humanity and what we are capable of.

Why I require FBI agents to visit the Holocaust Museum, James B. Comey, Washington Post

Again, of our moral surrender. Of our being cowed by those in power. Of our ability to convince ourselves of nearly anything. Of how susceptible we are to this. Of how frightening the lesson is.
And that’s the most frightening lesson of all — that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil. Of being so cowed by those in power. Of convincing ourselves of nearly anything.
Of how frightening the lesson is. Of our ability to convince ourselves of nearly anything.
They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.
Using the example of the Holocaust, FBI Director James Comey asks us to look at ourselves, and to realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.
That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the Holocaust Museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.
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Reposted from gjohnsit by enhydra lutris

 So this happened today.

 The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is moving toward the waters off the coast of Yemen to prepare to intercept any potential Iranian shipments of weapons to the rebels fighting the U.S.-backed government of Yemen, a Pentagon official said Monday.
 That's going to make any peace treaty a lot harder to agree to.
   It's time that some people realize that things are a lot more complicated in the middle east than just cheering for whichever domestic political party. This is a hornet's nest and we are hitting the nest with a stick.
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Reposted from Anti-Capitalist Meetup by enhydra lutris

In Memory of Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015.

At the 2009 Summit of the Americas, Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a copy of Galeano's book Open Veins of Latin America which details the United State's military aggression, economic exploitation and political coups or "regime changes" in Latin America.

In the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Obama's reception by Latin American nations was noticeably cool - primarily because the United States refused to end its 50 year boycott of Cuba.

So at the 2015 Summit of the Americas, Obama walked in with a smile on his face and a proposal for a rapprochement with Cuba in one hand, and, in the other, his newly minted Executive Order 2015 which placed sanctions for human rights abuses on several  Venezuelan military leaders and  government officials. Under his emergency powers, Obama declared Venezuela a "threat to the United State's national security."

What was Obama thinking? Did he think people wouldn't notice the bait and switch as he tried to appease Cuba and the Latin American nations while at the same time he applied the same old cold war tactics to isolate Venezuela as the more recent example of a Latin American country standing up to US imperialism? (To make matters worse, these particular military officers and judicial officials are those that many Bolivarians see as the most active in preventing a highly publicized attempt to destabilize the Venezuela government in February 2014 to set it up for another coup.)

The unanimous demand from the Latin American nations to repeal the sanctions against Venezuela show how disconnected Obama and the United States government are from changes in the balance of power in the Americas in the last decade. This includes  the failure of the United States to maintain its neoliberal hegemony and the rise of a left liberal block of nations (i.e., Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil among others).

Admittedly, much of the loss of US hegemony in Latin America is due to the United States over-extending itself in brutal and unsuccessful oil wars in the Middle East and Asia, but much of the impetus of this new left leaning block is due to the influence of the Bolivarian "21st century socialist revolution" of Venezuela. Beginning with the election of Hugo Chavez in the late 1990s and the drafting of a "socialist" constitution, Venezuela has been instrumental in establishing several inter-regional support groups such as ALBA, UNISUR and CELAC which exclude the United States.  The new left liberal block of nations has also benefited by Venezuela's generous sharing of its oil wealth with its neighbors.

So even though most will scoff at the idea that Venezuela is a real military threat to the United States (given the size and nuclear capability and the fact that Venezuela recently reduced its military by an unheard of 34%), the spread of an ideology that challenges the United States' right to exploit and impoverish its southern neighbors could be sufficient reason to consider Venezuela a "threat" to United States' ideology of imperialism; thus causing the US to resort to its age old practice of "regime change."

Seems Like We've Heard This Tune Before

For the past 150 years, the United States has treated Latin American as its own personal backyard to exploit.  Most of the exploitation has been accomplished through economic dominance and the support of right-wing dictatorships.  However, if we look at those countries that experienced actual "regime changes" involving military coups,  we can count, just since World War II,  a minimum of 11 countries (and I'm sure I've missed some) where the United States was either directly or indirectly involved with military regime changes in the Americas-- either to protect specific multinational corporate interests or change regimes that promoted an ideology that was more generally in conflict with Capitalist interests (communism/socialism, nationalism, liberation theology): Guatemala -1954, Cuba-1959, The Dominican Republic - 1961, Brazil - 1964, Chile - 1970-73, Argentina - 1976, Nicaragua - 1981-90, Panama -1989, Venezuela -2002, Haiti - 2004, and Honduras - 2009.

To learn some more about a recently published secret report that documents the United States plans for achieving regime change in Venezuela follow the discussion below ...

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Reposted from gjohnsit by enhydra lutris

  To the desperate people fleeing war and famine in Africa, the quickest way to a better life is across the Mediterranean to Italy from the chaos of Libya.
  This typically is done in a flimsy, overcrowded smuggler's boat, and increasingly with tragic results.

 AS MANY as 700 migrants are feared drowned after their packed boat capsized off Libya.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and Italy’s coastguard said that only 28 people had survived the wreck.
Their testimonies suggested there had been about 700 people on board the 20-metre-long fishing boat, officials said.
“It seems we are looking at the worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean,” UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said.
  photo Libya-migrants_zpstxz7mixi.jpg
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Reposted from gjohnsit by enhydra lutris

 Kurdish and Iraqi forces have managed to retake around 25% of Iraqi territory that Daesh once controlled, including Tikrit, but many of those gains are being threatened today.
   Most notably is the provincial capital of Ramadi.

 Iraqi security forces fought Islamic State militants at the gates of the western city of Ramadi on Friday, and local authorities warned it was in danger of falling unless reinforcements arrived soon.
   Police sources and provincial council members said the militants were no more than half a kilometer from the center of the capital of Anbar province, and many residents were rushing to leave, waving white flags.
   "The situation in Anbar is critical," council member Sabah Karhout told Reuters. Two deputy governors of Anbar echoed his alarm and said the U.S.-led coalition was not conducting enough airstrikes to help save the city.
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Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 03:54 PM PDT

What We are Leaving in Afghanistan

by Garrett

Reposted from Garrett by enhydra lutris

Sudarsan Raghavan, at Washington Post, has an article about the strongmen in Afghanistan. The article focuses on Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh.

For more than a decade, Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh province, has controlled this northern region with an iron hand, imbued with the authority of the freedom fighter he was and the ultra-rich businessman he has become. Guns, militias and guile, as well as his ability to provide security, have made him one of the country’s most formidable strongmen.

To many war-weary Afghans, former warlords such as Noor — who are accused of human rights abuses yet rule with impunity — have to be marginalized for the nation to move into a new era. To their supporters, these former warlords remain a bulwark against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and, possibly, the Islamic State, more vital than ever as the U.S. military mission edges to a close.

Afghanistan’s defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen, Washington Post

Raghavan calls them "strongmen" and "former warlords". This is a recognition and a distinction, that their role, their sources of power, their degree of integration with a government has changed.

Last week, gunmen had attacked the attorney general's office and courts in Balkh. At least ten people were killed, with many more wounded.

Police said they rescued the attorney general from his office, which is just 200m (650ft) from the office of the governor of Balkh province.

The governor's aide told the BBC that the governor, Atta Muhammad Nur, was at home when the attack began but was taken to his office to monitor the situation.

Afghan attack: Deadly gun battle in Mazar-e-Sharif, BBC

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Thu Apr 09, 2015 at 03:06 PM PDT

A Frenemy of our Frenemy

by gjohnsit

Reposted from gjohnsit by enhydra lutris

 US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a clear warning today.

 Speaking to PBS Newshour on Wednesday, Mr Kerry said it was clear Iran was aiding the Houthis: "There are obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran. There are a number of flights every single week that have been flying in."
  "Iran needs to recognise that the US is not going to stand by while the region is destabilised or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries and other countries," he added.
You tell 'em, Kerry. Destabilizing the middle east with overt warfare across international boundaries is OUR job.

  Wait a second. The Obama Administration is threatening Iran with military force, while at the same time trying to push through an arms treaty.
   Does this sound like contradictory objectives to anyone else?

 photo Middle-east-map_zpsobi2vbrp.jpg

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