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الخميس، 24 أكتوبر 2013

“Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda” The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen (Full Report)

“Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda”
The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen (Full Report)

Human Rights Watch


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The remnants of a US drone strike on August 29, 2012 in Khashamir, Yemen. The strike killed three alleged members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a policeman, and a cleric who preached against the armed group.
© 2012 Reuters

 uruknet.info

United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The strikes, often using armed drones, are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The 102-page report, "'Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,"examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.
"The US says it is taking all possible precautions during targeted killings, but it has unlawfully killed civilians and struck questionable military targets in Yemen," said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. "Yemenis told us that these strikes make them fear the US as much as they fear Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
Human Rights Watch released "'Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’" in a joint news conference on October 22, 2013, with Amnesty International, which issued its own report on US drone strikes in Pakistan.

During six weeks in Yemen in 2012-2013, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 90 people about the strikes including witnesses, relatives of those killed, lawyers, human rights defenders, and government officials. Human Rights Watch reviewed evidence including ordnance and videos from attack sites. Security concerns prevented visits to four of the attack areas.
With rare exceptions, the US government only acknowledges its role in targeted killings in general terms, refusing to take responsibility for individual strikes or provide casualty figures, including civilian deaths. The Yemeni authorities have been almost as silent. Both governments declined comment on the six strikes that Human Rights Watch investigated.   
President Barack Obama describes AQAP, which took responsibility for a botched suicide bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound passenger jet on Christmas Day 2009, as a key threat to US citizens.
The six strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch killed 82 people, at least 57 of them civilians. They include a US drone-assisted attack in September 2012 in Sarar, central Yemen, that unlawfully struck a passenger van, killing 12 civilians. Villagers who rushed to the scene found their relatives’ charred bodies dusted in flour and sugar that they were bringing home from a nearby market. The reported target of the strike, an alleged local AQAP leader, was nowhere near the vehicle.
"The bodies were charred like coal – I could not recognize the faces," said Ahmad al-Sabooli, a 23-year-old farmer. He told Human Rights Watch that when he moved in closer, he realized that three of the bodies, including those of a woman with a young girl still in her lap, were his father, mother, and 10-year-old sister. "That is when I put my head in my hands and cried," he said.
In December 2009, a US cruise missile strike on a Bedouin camp in the southern village of al-Majalah killed 14 alleged AQAP fighters and 41 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children. The attack involved cluster munitions – inherently indiscriminate weapons that pose unacceptabledangers to civilians.
In August 2012, a US drone attack killed three alleged AQAP members but also a cleric who preached against AQAP, and his cousin, a police officer. Relatives said the three suspects had sought out the cleric for a meeting three days after he denounced AQAP’s violent tactics, and that the cousin had come along to provide the cleric security.

During targeting operations, the US may be using an overly elastic definition of a fighter who may be lawfully attacked during an armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said. For example, a November 2012 drone strike in the military town of Beit al-Ahmar killed an alleged AQAP recruiter, but recruiting activities alone would not be sufficient grounds under the laws of war to target someone for attack.
The six strikes also did not meet US policy guidelines for targeted killings that Obama disclosed in May 2013, Human Rights Watch said. Obama said the US conducts strikes only against individuals who pose an "imminent threat to the American people," when there is a "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured," and when capture is not feasible. The strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch pre-date Obama’s disclosure of the policy guidelines, but the White House has said the rules either were either "already in place" or being "transitioned into place." 
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government has carried out hundreds of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In Yemen, the US is estimated to have conducted 81 targeted killing operations, one in 2002 and the rest since 2009. Research groups report that at least 473 people have been killed in these strikes, the majority of them combatants but many of them civilians.
Human Rights Watch assessed the six strikes’ compliance with international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, but the applicability of this body of law was not always clear. The Yemeni government is engaged in an armed conflict with AQAP. The US denies being a party to this fighting, claiming instead that it is in a global armed conflict with Al-Qaeda and "associated forces" such as AQAP. However, the hostilities between the US and these groups do not appear to meet the intensity required under the laws of war to amount to an armed conflict. 
If the war model does not apply, the US should adopt a law-enforcement approach under international human rights law in addressing armed militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and AQAP, Human Rights Watch said. Human rights law only permits the use of lethal force when strictly and directly necessary to save human life.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are jointly calling on the US Congress to fully investigate the cases the two organizations have documented as well as other potentially unlawful strikes, and to disclose any evidence of human rights violations to the public. Those responsible for unlawful killings should be appropriately disciplined or prosecuted.
The Obama administration should provide its full legal rationale for targeted killings in Yemen and elsewhere. The Yemeni government should ensure that the US abides by international law when carrying out strikes on Yemeni soil.
"The US should investigate attacks that kill civilians and hold those responsible for violations to account," Tayler said. "It’s long past time for the US to assess the legality of its targeted killings, as well as the broader impact of these strikes on civilians."


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:: Article nr. 101903 sent on 22-oct-2013 16:07 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=101903 

The effect of war on the environment in Iraq and it s health consequences

The effect of war on the environment in Iraq and it s health consequences

Various undersigned



:: Article nr. 101966 sent on 24-oct-2013 19:29 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=101966 

The impact of ten years of occupation on Iraqi children

The impact of ten years of occupation on Iraqi children

Various undersigned

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Ocotber 22, 2013



How the FBI blacklisted US’ largest Muslim civil rights group

How the FBI blacklisted US’ largest Muslim civil rights group

Charlotte Silver


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CAIR says that the blacklisting has undermined its work advocating for the rights of US Muslims.(Rod Veal / ZUMA Press) 

October 22, 2013
Based on flimsy evidence, the FBI has sabotaged efforts to be on good terms with Muslim communities in the US by accusing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of being linked to a "terrorist organization."
Founded in 1994, CAIR monitors policies that affect Muslim Americans and provides legal representation in cases of civil rights violations. The largest nationwide organization advocating for Muslims’ rights in the US, CAIR says the blacklisting has undermined its work at a time when it is needed the most.
The group first became aware of its change of status on 8 October 2008, when James Finch, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office, sent a letter to participants of the state’s Muslim Community Outreach Program. In the letter, he informed them that the upcoming quarterly meeting between members of the Muslim community and local law enforcement would be canceled due to CAIR’s participation.
"It was surprising because up until that point, CAIR in Oklahoma had enjoyed a very good relationship with the FBI," Adam Soltani told The Electronic Intifada. Soltani is the third and current executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR.
"They had attended our events, annual banquet, our training functions on 'know your rights,’" recalled Soltani, who served on the chapter’s board of directors from 2006 until 2008.
That was the first communication that CAIR had received suggesting that the organization’s relationship with the FBI was to about to change. Two weeks later — on 22 October 2008 — the FBI met with the national director of CAIR and informed the organization of the new "parameters for any future interaction" with the FBI: as of that point the FBI would no longer attend CAIR-sponsored events and CAIR would not be invited to attend any FBI-sponsored event.

"Unindicted co-conspirator"

The events that precipitated the blacklisting of CAIR can be traced back to May 2007, when CAIR was listed — along with 246 individuals and organizations — as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the federal government’s case against the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Islamic charity in the US until it was shut down by a Bush administration executive order in December 2001.
The sprawling list of "unindicted co-conspirators" was divided into 11 categories, identifying those included on the list by their alleged membership in or participation with Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups. CAIR, for instance, was listed under "members of the US Muslim Brotherhood’s 'Palestine Committee’ and/or its organizations."
There is very little precise information available about the Palestine Committee. The Investigative Project on Terrorism, an anti-Muslim website founded bySteven Emersondescribes it as a group formed by leaders of "the Muslim Brotherhood of the Levant." Corey Saylor, the current communications director of CAIR, knows only that it was "a group that existed in the early 1990s that seemed to have strengthening pro-Palestinian work at its core."
The Palestine Committee is alleged to have initially spawned four US-based organizations, the Holy Land Foundation being one of them.
The government’s first case against the Holy Land Foundation ended in mistrial. But the foundation was re-prosecuted in 2008, and found guilty by the jury. From 2008 to 2012, the case weaved its way through the courts, stopping short of the Supreme Court. For the first time in the history of the US court system, prosecutors were allowed to admit anonymous expert testimony — by an Israeli intelligence agent — significantly limiting the defense’s ability to cross-examine.

Tenuous

The evidence the FBI used to implicate CAIR as a "co-conspirator" with the Holy Land Foundation is tenuous.
It includes the claims that CAIR received money from the foundation in 1994 — before it was designated a "terrorist organization" — and that Omar Ahmad, the former chairperson of CAIR, and Nihad Awad, the founder of CAIR, were present at an October 1993 meeting of the Palestine Committee in Philadelphia.
Participants in this two-day meeting allegedly expressed support for "the Movement," which the FBI interpreted as Hamas, and opposition to the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that had been formally signed only the month before.
Court transcripts and documents in the FBI’s case available on Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism site show that the meeting was bugged by the FBI ("Testimony of FBI Agent Lara Burns [and others], 9/29/2008," p. 123-4 [PDF]).
In 1994 Hamas had not yet been criminalized in the US. Hamas was placed on the list of terrorist organizations in 1995, when President Bill Clinton signed anexecutive order designating Palestinian groups that rejected the Oslo accordsas "terrorist organizations which threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process."
Prior to this policy, the US government had maintained tepid diplomatic relations with Hamas. But in the early 1990s, Israel began making the case that Hamas was as much a threat to US national security as it was to Israel’s.
In a 2008 article published by the Journal of Palestine Studies, lawyers Michael E. Deutsch and Erica Thompson document how the Israeli government, in the early 1990s, built its campaign to accuse Palestinian American Muhammad Salah as a terrorist and Hamas leader by arguing that Hamas had established its leadership in the US.
As Deutsch and Thomas write: "The [Government of Israel] press office released a diagram of Hamas’ operational structure, reproduced in a number of publications, which put 'US leadership’ at the top and drew lines that extended to several Middle Eastern states, including Iran" ("Secrets and Lies: The Persecution of Muhammad Salah").
This doctrine — that the US must abort the germinating "nerve center" of Hamas operatives in the US — was eventually codified in Clinton’s 1995 executive order and exemplified in the government’s case against the Holy Land Foundation, which would not reach the courts until May 2007. Salah was put on a list of "designated terrorists" following a decision by the Clinton administration, and though a federal court acquitted Salah of all terrorism charges in 2007, he was not removed from the list until 2012 after a legal challenge.
At that point, the government filed its first brief charging the Holy Land Foundation with conspiracy to provide support to Hamas, now a designated terrorist organization. After nearly 13 years of investigating the Holy Land Foundation, the government found no evidence it supported or incited any violence. Instead, the government’s case relied entirely on the fact that Hamas controlled the Palestinian charities — known as zakat committees — the foundation assisted.

Witch hunt

While the government’s brief specified just seven individuals as defendants, itannounced a political witch hunt for Hamas: "The focal point of this case is the designated terrorist group Hamas … As noted in the case summary, the defendants were operating in concert with a host of individuals and organizations dedicated to sustaining and furthering the Hamas movement."
The list of "unindicted co-conspirators" that was appended to the 2007 brief sounded an alarm bell for Muslim and Palestinian organizations around the country.
"It’s a scary-sounding thing and we now have to labor under this designation," CAIR’s communications director Corey Saylor said.
"Institutions that don’t like us use it as a hammer on us all the time. It interferes with our relations with other institutions, interferes with our donors. We used to be able to approach the FBI with a problem. Now we can’t do that. Now it’s more combative in the media and the lawsuits and that doesn’t help anyone."
Michael German, senior policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), said that the practice of naming "unindicted co-conspirators" allows prosecutors to get around prohibitions against the admission of hearsay evidence in a trial. Rather than needing to prove the allegations that CAIR and the other 246 individuals and organizations on the list committed a crime — or conspired to — with the Holy Land Foundation case, the government is able to level an unsubstantiated smear.
In a 2004 article, Professor Ira Robbins of American University Washington College of Law argues that the process of naming "unindicted co-conspirators" unavoidably violates individuals’ Fifth Amendment rights because by not criminally indicting them, those listed "have neither the right to present evidence nor the opportunity to clear their names."
Robbins presciently forewarns that while the government had not employed "unindicted co-conspirators" for some time, the domestic terrorism trials occurring in the wake of the 11 September attacks presented "fertile ground" for the reintroduction the legal tactic.
In fact, the manual for US attorneys instructs prosecutors not to make public "unindicted co-conspirators." On why the US attorneys failed to comply with that rule, the ACLU’s German said: "That’s a good question."
Before joining the ACLU, German worked in the FBI for 16 years, 12 of which he spent working on domestic terrorism cases. He left the FBI in 2004 after becoming increasingly disturbed by the agency’s methods after the 11 September 2001 atrocities.
"After spending 12 years trying to change it from the inside, I decided I would be a better advocate for civil rights on the outside," he said.

Damage already done

In 2010, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did indeed find that the publication of the list of "unindicted co-conspirators" violated the individuals’ and groups’ Fifth Amendment rights.
But the damage was already done. "You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube," as German noted.
Further corroborating claims that the allegations against CAIR were baseless, Attorney General Eric Holder stated in 2011 that after reviewing the facts of the case his Justice Department had reached the same conclusion as that of the Bush administration not to prosecute CAIR ("Holder: DOJ nixed CAIR leader’s prosecution," Salon, 26 April 2011).
Moreover, after Representative Peter King criticized Holder’s decision, Jim Jacks, lead prosecutor of the Holy Land Foundation, announced his approval of the decision not to prosecute CAIR ("US attorney in Dallas says Obama’s White House didn’t meddle in case," The Dallas Morning News, 29 April 2011).
"Considering that the government has broad powers to prosecute organizations that have provided material support to terrorism, the fact that they haven’t brought more cases is evidence that they don’t have any evidence against them," German said.
But while the government never charged CAIR with criminal activity, its lingering status as an "unindicted co-conspirator" remains the bedrock for the FBI’s blacklisting of the organization until this day.
In 2008, a year after the government sued the Holy Land Foundation, a still-unknown entity within the FBI instructed all field offices to sever official relations with CAIR. Up until that point, FBI field offices throughout the country had cultivated relationships with local CAIR chapters in order to engage cooperatively with Muslim communities.
"We don’t always see eye to eye, but there used to be a healthy relationship," Saylor explained.
"For example, there was a meeting between the FBI and CAIR in 2004 regarding a 'know your rights’ pocket book CAIR distributed," Saylor added. "The FBI was concerned about some of the language in that and asked us to change it. So we agreed to add, 'If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.’"

Devastating

Adam Soltani from CAIR’s Oklahoma office said that for many states, including his, CAIR is the only organization representing Muslims’ civil rights. Eliminating CAIR’s role as a mediator between Muslim communities and the FBI has been devastating.
The new policy received praise from certain members of Congress. In February 2009, Senators Jon Kyl, Charles Schumer and Tom Coburn wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller applauding the agency’s decision to cut ties with CAIR, and suggested the entire government adopt a similar policy.
But some FBI field offices had trouble implementing the policy. Mongi Dhaouadi, the executive director of CAIR’s Connecticut chapter, told The Electronic Intifada, "The policy has very clearly frustrated agents because it has hindered their efforts to reach out to the Islamic community in Connecticut."
That the policy has disrupted the practices of local FBI offices is clear in a Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General report published last month ("Review of FBI interactions with the Council on American-Islamic Relations," 19 September 2013 [PDF]).
In response to a request by Representative Frank Wolf from Virginia, the Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the handful of instances in which field offices were non-compliant with the guidelines established in late 2008. Despite the absence of criminal charges or incriminating evidence against CAIR, the Office of Inspector General has still failed to conduct a review of the policy itself.
"One of the troubling things for me as a former FBI agent is that the FBI should be responsible for enforcing civil rights laws. That the FBI would be a part of violating civil rights and the Inspector General would fail to investigate it at all, and instead investigate a violation of internal policy is problematic," the ACLU’s German said.
In a scathing letter sent to Inspector General Michael Horowitz on 7 October, the ACLU writes: "Rather than criticize the FBI officials who resisted this policy, the OIG [Office of Inspector General] should have applauded them for honoring their oaths to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans, and reprimanded instead the FBI officials who formulated and implemented the policy."

Secrecy

In the Office of Inspector General’s review of the program, much pertinent information is redacted, including what entity instructed the FBI to alter its relationship with CAIR; the full explanation for why this policy was implemented; and the precise language of the policy.
"That’s very troubling because the only thing that should be redacted is information that should not be disclosed for national security purposes. I’m not aware of any division within the FBI that is itself classified, so that strikes me as an inappropriate redaction, and perhaps designed more to evade public accountability, than protect security in any way." German said.
The information that is not redacted states that the policy was developed in part because of CAIR’s listing as an "unindicted co-conspirator."
"The OIG [Office of Inspector General] compounds the original constitutional error by continuing to reference this list as evidence of guilt when there has been no opportunity for CAIR to defend itself and in fact no charge," German said. "The government continues to use it in a way that is inappropriate and misleading."
Likewise, the report provides only a partial explanation for why the policy was deemed necessary: "in order to stop CAIR senior leadership from exploiting any contact with the FBI, it is critical to control and limit any contact with CAIR." A second reason is redacted.
While the Office of Inspector General’s report is intended to reinforce the FBI’s ban on relating to CAIR, it only, albeit unintentionally, reveals the senselessness of the policy.
In his conclusion, the Inspector General Michael Horowitz writes: "It appears that the common mission of OPA [the Office of Public Affairs] and the field divisions to foster interactions with the Muslim community ran counter to and some cases, effectively undermined the intent of the FBI’s [redacted — likely a policy title] to sever such non-investigative community relations with CAIR."
This admission seems only to have emboldened CAIR’s political enemies. Following the publication of the Inspector General’s report, Rep. Frank Wolf demanded the OIG "immediately remove" all non-compliant FBI agents.
When phoned for comment, a spokesperson for the FBI directed all questions The Electronic Intifada put to him to a letter the FBI sent to Horowitz in response to his report (see Appendix I). In the letter, the FBI assures Inspector General Horowitz that they will incorporate his recommendations and implement safeguards against breaches of the policy from occurring again.
On whether the Office of Inspector General should review the 2008 policy, spokesperson Chris Allen said, "I would not presume to know what the IG [Inspector General] should do."
Despite all that it has encountered, CAIR has kept on working to advocate for the rights of Muslims in the US. As Saylor said, "We’ve continued being effective without going to the FBI’s roundtables. The attacks still continue but you don’t attack non-effective groups."

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter:@CharESilver.

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The United States of War: An Addiction to Imperialism

The United States of War: An Addiction to Imperialism

by Solomon Comissiong

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"The US has never gone a decade without being engaged in some sort of military conflict."
A common description for the term addiction is, "the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors…" This definition is most appropriate in regard to the world’s most destructive killing machine – the United States military. The United States government has long developed an acquired taste for war. And because much of the US population is completely obsequious to whatever their duplicitous government tells them, they, too, have become complacent to a perpetual state of war. Americans punch-drunk on nationalism fail to realize that "their" government is beholden to the interests of imperialism, not their general well being. Like well controlled puppets they chant, "USA number one", over and over and over again, failing to ever question what "their" country is actually number one in.
The mental sickness of "American Exceptionalism" maintains the asylum known as American society. American Exceptionalism designs baseless sayings like, "USA number one." US society is an extremely competitive and insecure environment. Ultimately, a place that encourages its citizens to ritualistically chant how good they are is not so sure of itself. Either that, or it does not wish the Hoi Polloi to ever question their government at all. The US is not number one in quality of life, education or overall healthcare. The USA is not even the happiest nation in the world, by a long shot. However, a few things the United States is number one in are: incarceration, gun related deaths and yes, military expenditure.
These are among some of the unsavory rubrics in which the US reigns supreme. If Americans meant any of those areas when they blindly chant, "USA number one", then they would be spot on, especially when it comes to military "firepower." With around 1,000 military bases, well over 10,000 nuclear warheads, and an almost constant state of war, the US is numero uno, without rival. The US is an imperialist monster with a voracious appetite for destruction. It has an uncontrollable appetite for war, caring little what it murders on its way toward global domination. This is evident in the vast number of civilians killed as a result of the US’s military campaigns. The vast majority of people murdered when the US decides to unleash its war machine, are, in fact, civilians. This is news to most Americans because they have been socially programmed to not even think about civilian casualties. They only worry about US military casualties as if those are the only lives that matter. Thinking about the catastrophic impact their government’s wars inflict upon innocent people, in "far off lands", is well beyond many Americans’ social radar. This mode of thinking (or lack there of) has conditioned numerous Americans to lose vast segments of their humanity.
"The vast majority of people murdered when the US decides to unleash its war machine, are, in fact, civilians."
It is of little surprise that the United States government cares little about the "adverse consequences" that come with being constantly entrenched in war and global conflict. However, when the populace have adopted that inhumane way of thinking it paves a destructive road that we are traveling upon. The people are the ones whose responsibility it is to, not request, but demand an end to these wars of imperialism. Unfortunately, the United States’ mind control program, otherwise known as corporate media, has had a firm grip on the conscience of many Americans. This fact continues to prevent Americans from understanding that the people being terrorized by the US’s imperialist wars, are human beings – just like them. It especially prevents them from understanding that people in places like Afghanistan are, in fact, being terrorized by the US military.
Americans have bought into the orchestrated mythology that "their country," when it enters/instigates a war, is doing so for some sort of benevolent reasons. Historically speaking, this could not be further from the truth, especially when we consider the number of civilians killed. Since World War I there has been a complete reversal of civilian deaths. During World War I, 10% of all casualties were civilians. During World War II, the number of civilian deaths rose to 50%. During the Vietnam War 70% of all casualties were civilians. In the war in Iraq, civilians account for 90% of all deaths. And when we look at the number of civilians killed by way of George Bush and Barack Obama’s drone strikes (alone), more that 90 percent of the victims have been civilians. However, don't look at the fourth branch of the US government (the corporate media), to inform you of this. They, like the Pentagon and White House, could not give a damn about the number of innocent civilians killed. When former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and Secretary of State) Colin Powell was asked, in 1991, about the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the US Gulf War against Iraq, he simply stated: "Its not a number I’m terribly interested in." It is important to note that the Associated Press at the time quoted US military officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, estimating that the number of Iraqi dead at 100,000. However, other independent estimates place the number much higher. Not surprising, the Pentagon refused to provide an estimate of the number of dead Iraqi civilians.
 The shear lack of regard for human life, especially that of civilians, is akin to that of a serial killer. The US military apparatus operates like that of a pathological killing machine with lust for war. The history of the United States more than backs up this assertion, especially when we consider the fact that since the US’s "founding" in 1776, this country has been at war 216 of those years. That's right, out of the US’s 237 year existence it has been engaged inmilitary conflict 216 of those years. If that is not an addiction to war, this author does not know what is. The US has never gone a decade without being engaged in some sort of military conflict.
"An American life is no more valuable than that of someone from any country in which the U.S. is waging war."
United States imperialism is destroying the world, one nation at time. And within those nations are living breathing human beings. Is it really hard to fathom why many people despise the US? It has nothing to do with Americans’ so-called "freedoms" – instead, it has everything to do with the military destruction of their countries. The politicians that ultimately control the US military care little about the soldiers they command to fight in their capitalist conquests of wealth and resources. And they certainly could not give a damn about the innocent civilians in places like Libya, Pakistan and Yemen. They are not concerned with how they are perceived by much of the globe; they are only concerned with maintaining their imperialist advancements and control. You are either "with them" or "against them"; there is no middle ground. And for these reasons it should be crystal clear why people living within the United State must care.
Organized critical masses of concerned people must serve as the moral compass, and rehabilitation, needed to end the US’s addiction to war. Bluntly put, humanity depends on it. The people must demand an end to war, not because it costs trillions of dollars, but because it cost millions of lives. There is no dollar amount that can be used to measure a human’s life. All human life must be seen as invaluable, period. An American life is no more valuable than that of someone from any country in which the U.S. is waging war. The financial cost of war is enormous and is an issue, in and of itself – however, this cost pales in comparison to the cost of human life.
We must unite and be prepared to organize to end the culture of war within the US. Ending the culture of war in this country will pave the way for wars to cease globally, especially since the US global war footprint is virtually everywhere. Creating a culture of peace begins with changing our acceptance of the United States’ addiction to war. Demanding this radical, yet humane, change to take place is paramount if we are to mold a brighter future for subsequent generations. Peace starts with all of us. It is one of the most important tasks before us. We must be firmly against war, in addition to being for peace. They go hand in hand. Now is the time to start building that brighter and more humane future.
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, and the host of the Your World News media collective (www.yourworldnews.org). Mr. Comissiong is also a founding member of the Pan-African collective for Advocacy & Action. Solomon is the author of A Hip Hop Activist Speaks Out on Social Issues. He can be reached at: solo@yourworldnews.org.



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America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World Empire Under Obama: Part 3

America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World
Empire Under Obama: Part 3

Andrew Gavin Marshall



Obama’s global terror campaign is not only dependent upon his drone assassination program, but increasingly it has come to rely upon the deployment of Special Operations forces in countries all over the world, reportedly between 70 and 120 countries at any one time. As Obama has sought to draw down the large-scale ground invasions of countries (as Bush pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq), he has escalated the world of 'covert warfare,’ largely outside the oversight of Congress and the public. One of the most important agencies in this global "secret war" is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC for short.
JSOC was established in 1980 following the failed rescue of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran as "an obscure and secretive corner of the military’s hierarchy," noted the Atlantic. It experienced a "rapid expansion" under the Bush administration, and since Obama came to power, "appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in national security" and "counterterrorism," in areas which were "traditionally covered by the CIA." 1  One of the most important differences between these covert warfare operations being conducted by JSOC instead of the CIA is that the CIA has to report to Congress, whereas JSOC only reports its most important activities to the President’s National Security Council.2
During the Bush administration, JSOC "reported directly" to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (of the New Yorker), who explained that, "It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on." He added: "Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us." 3
In 2005, Dick Cheney referred to U.S. Special Forces as "the silent professionals" representing "the kind of force we want to build for the future… a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action." And without a hint of irony, Cheney stated: "None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror." 4  Not unless those "fanatics" happen to be wearing U.S. military uniforms, of course, in which case "committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror" is not an issue.
The commander of JSOC during the Bush administration – when it served as Cheney’s "executive assassination ring" – was General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, JSOC began to play a much larger role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. 5 In early 2009, the new head of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, ordered a two-week 'halt’ to Special Operations missions inside Afghanistan, after several JSOC raids in previous months killed several women and children, adding to the growing "outrage" within Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by US raids and airstrikes, which contributed to a surge in civilian deaths over 2008. 6
JSOC has also been involved in running a "secret war" inside of Pakistan, beginning in 2006 but accelerating rapidly under the Obama administration. The "secret war" was waged in cooperation with the CIA and the infamous private military contractor, Blackwater, made infamous for its massacre of Iraqi civilians, after which it was banned from operating in the country. 7
Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, was recruited as a CIA asset in 2004, and in subsequent years acquired over $1.5 billion in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA, and included among its leadership several former top-level CIA officials. Blackwater, which primarily hires former Special Forces soldiers, has largely functioned "as an overseas Praetorian guard for the CIA and State Department officials," who were also "helping to craft, fund, and execute operations," including "assembling hit teams," all outside of any Congressional or public oversight (since it was technically a private corporation).8
The CIA hired Blackwater to aid in a secret assassination program which was hidden from Congress for seven years. 9 These operations would be overseen by the CIA or Special Forces personnel. 10 Blackwater has also been contracted to arm drones at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Obama’s assassination program, overseen by the CIA. 11 The lines dividing the military, the CIA and Blackwater had become "blurred," as one former CIA official commented, "It became a very brotherly relationship… There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually become an extension of the agency." 12
The "secret war" in Pakistan may have begun under Bush, but it had rapidly expanded in the following years of the Obama administration. Wikileaks cables confirmed the operation of JSOC forces inside of Pakistan, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani telling the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson (who would later be appointed as ambassador to Egypt), that, "I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."13
Within the first five months of Obama’s presidency in 2009, he authorized "a massive expansion of clandestine military and intelligence operations worldwide," granting the Pentagon’s regional combatant commanders "significant new authority" over such covert operations. 14 The directive came from General Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, authorizing Special Forces soldiers to be sent into "both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa." The deployment of highly trained killers into dozens of countries was to become "systemic and long term," designed to "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" enemies of the State, beyond the rule of law, no trial or pretenses of accountability. They also "prepare the environment" for larger attacks that the U.S. or NATO countries may have planned. Unlike with the CIA, these operations do not report to Congress, or even need "the President’s approval." But for the big operations, they get the approval of the National Security Council (NSC), which includes the president, as well as most other major cabinet heads, of the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc.15
The new orders gave regional commanders – such as Petraeus who headed CENTCOM, or General Ward of the newly-created Africa Command (AFRICOM) – authority over special operations forces in the area of their command, institutionalizing the authority to send trained killers into dozens of countries around the world to conduct secret operations with no oversight whatsoever; and this new 'authority’ is given to multiple top military officials, who have risen to the top of an institution with absolutely no 'democratic’ pretenses. Regardless of who is president, this "authority" remains institutionalized in the "combatant commands."16
The combatant commands include: AFRICOM over Africa (est. 2007), CENTCOM over the Middle East and Central Asia (est. 1983), EUCOM over Europe (est. 1947), NORTHCOM over North America (est. 2002), PACOM over the Pacific rim and Asia (est. 1947), SOUTHCOM over Central and South America and the Caribbean (est. 1963), SOCOM as Special Operations Command (est. 1987), STRATCOM as Strategic Command over military operations to do with outer space, intelligence, and weapons (est. 1992), and TRANSCOM handling all transportation for the Department of Defense. The State Department was given "oversight" to clear the operations from each embassy, 17 just to make sure everyone was 'in the loop,’ unlike during the Bush years when it was run out of Cheney’s office without telling anyone else.
In 2010, it was reported by the Washington Post that the U.S. has expanded the operations of its Special Forces around the world, from being deployed in roughly 60 countries under Bush to about 75 countries in 2010 under Obama, operating in notable spots such as the Philippines and Colombia, as well as Yemen, across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The global deployment of Special Forces – alongside the CIA’s global drone warfare program – were two facets of Obama’s "national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values," in the words of the Washington Post, though the article was unclear on which aspect of waging "secret wars" in 75 countries constituted Obama’s "values." Commanders for Special Operations forces have become "a far more regular presence at the White House" under Obama than George Bush, with one such commander commenting, "We have a lot more access… They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly." Such Special Operations forces deployments "go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counterterrorism forces and joint operations with them."18
So not only are U.S. forces conducting secret wars within dozens of countries around the world, but they are training the domestic military forces of many of these countries to undertake secret wars internally, and in the interests of the United States Mafia empire.
One military official even "set up a network" of private military corporations that hired former Special Forces and CIA operations to gather intelligence and conduct secret operations in foreign countries to support "lethal action": publicly subsidized, privatized 'accountability.’ Such a network was "generally considered illegal" and was "improperly financed." 19  When the news of these networks emerged, the Pentagon said it shut them down and opened a "criminal investigation." Turns out, they found nothing "criminal," because two months later, the operations were continuing and had "become an important source of intelligence." The networks of covert-ops corporations were being "managed" by Lockheed Martin, one of the largest military contractors in the world, while being "supervised" by the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command. 20
Admiral Eric T. Olson had been the head of Special Operations Command from 2007 to 2011, and in that year, Olson led a successful initiative – endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates – to encourage the promotion of top special operations officials to higher positions in the whole military command structure. The "trend" was to continue under the following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA from 2009 to 2011. 21  When Olson left his position as head of Special Operations Command, he was replaced with Admiral William McRaven, who served as the head of JSOC from 2008 to 2011, having followed Stanley McChrystal.
By January of 2012, Obama was continuing with seeking to move further away from large-scale ground wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocus on "a smaller, more agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East." Surrounded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in full uniforms adorned with medals, along with other top Pentagon officials, President Obama delivered a rare press briefing at the Pentagon where he said that, "our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority." The priorities in this strategy would be "financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance." 22
In February of 2012, Admiral William H. McRaven, the head of the Special Operations Command, was "pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy," advocating a plan that "would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed," notably with expansions in mind for Asia, Africa and Latin America. McRaven stated that, "It’s not really about Socom [Special Operations Command] running the global war on terrorism… I don’t think we’re ready to do that. What it’s about is how do I better support" the major regional military command structures. 23
In the previous decade, roughly 80% of US Special Operations forces were deployed in the Middle East, but McRaven wanted them to spread to other regions, as well as to be able to "quickly move his units to potential hot spots without going through the standard Pentagon process governing overseas deployments." The Special Operations Command numbered around 66,000 people, double the number since 2001, and its budget had reached $10.5 billion, from $4.2 billion in 2001. 24
In March of 2012, a Special Forces commander, Admiral William H. McRaven, developed plans to expand special operations units, making them "the force of choice" against "emerging threats" over the following decade. McRaven’s Special Operations Command oversees more than 60,000 military personnel and civilians, saying in a draft paper circulated at the Pentagon that: "We are in a generational struggle… For the foreseeable future, the United States will have to deal with various manifestations of inflamed violent extremism. In order to conduct sustained operations around the globe, our special operations must adapt." McRaven stated that Special Forces were operating in over 71 countries around the world.25
The expansion of global special forces operations was largely in reaction to the increasingly difficult challenge of positioning large military forces around the world, and carrying out large scale wars and occupations, for which there is very little public support at home or abroad. In 2013, the Special Operations Command had forces operating in 92 different countries around the world, with one Congressional critic accusing McRaven of engaging in "empire building." 26The expanded presence of these operations is a major factor contributing to "destabilization" around the world, especially in major war zones like Pakistan.27
In 2013, McRaven’s Special Operations Command gained new authorities and an expanded budget, with McRaven testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, "On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world." 28 In 2012, it was reported that such forces would be operating in 120 different countries by the end of the year.29
In December of 2012, it was announced that the U.S. was sending 4,000 soldiers to 35 different African countries as "part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge," operating under the Pentagon’s newest regional command, AFRICOM, established in 2007.30
By September of 2013, the U.S. military had been involved in various activities in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, among others, constructing bases, undertaking "security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network."31
In short, Obama’s global 'war of terror’ has expanded to roughly 100 countries around the world, winding down the large-scale military invasions and occupations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increasing the "small-scale" warfare operations of Special Forces, beyond the rule of law, outside Congressional and public oversight, conducting "snatch and grab" operations, training domestic repressive military forces in nations largely run by dictatorships to undertake their own operations on behalf of the 'Global Godfather.’
Make no mistake: this is global warfare. Imagine for a moment the international outcry that would result from news of China or Russia conducting secret warfare operations in roughly 100 countries around the world. But when America does it, there’s barely a mention, save for the passing comments in the New York Times or the Washington Post portraying an unprecedented global campaign of terror as representative of Obama’s "values." Well, indeed it is representative of Obama’s values, by virtue of the fact that he doesn’t have any.
Indeed, America has long been the Global Godfather applying the 'Mafia Principles’ of international relations, lock-in-step with its Western lackey organized crime 'Capo’ states such as Great Britain and France. Yet, under Obama, the president who had won public relations industry awards for his well-managed presidential advertising campaign promising "hope" and "change," the empire has found itself waging war in roughly one hundred nations, conducting an unprecedented global terror campaign, increasing its abuses of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all under the aegis of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama.
Whether the president is Clinton, Bush, or Obama, the Empire of Terror wages on its global campaign of domination and subjugation, to the detriment of all humanity, save those interests that sit atop the constructed global hierarchy. It is in the interests of the ruling elite that America protects and projects its global imperial designs. It is in the interests of all humanity, then, that the Empire be opposed – and ultimately, deconstructed – no matter who sits in office, no matter who holds the title of the 'high priest of hypocrisy’ (aka: President of the United States). It is the Empire that rules, and the Empire that destroys, and the Empire that must, in turn, be demolished.
The world at large – across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America – suffers the greatest hardships of the Western Mafia imperial system: entrenched poverty, exploitation, environmental degradation, war and destruction. The struggle against the Empire cannot be waged and won from the outside alone. The rest of the world has been struggling to survive against the Western Empire for decades, and, in truth, hundreds of years. For the struggle to succeed (and it can succeed), a strong anti-Empire movement must develop within the imperial powers themselves, and most especially within the United States. The future of humanity depends upon it.
Or… we could all just keep shopping and watching TV, blissfully blind to the global campaign of terror and war being waged in our names around the world. Certainly, such an option may be appealing, but ultimately, wars abroad come home to roost. As George Orwell once wrote: "The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact."
Read Part 1 here,  Part 2 here
• Originally posted at The Hampton Institute
  1. Max Fisher, "The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA," The Atlantic, 1 December 2009 []
  2. Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast," The New York Times, 24 May 2010 []
  3. Eric Black, "Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes 'executive assassination ring'," Minnesota Post, 11 March 2009 []
  4. John D. Danusiewicz, "Cheney Praises 'Silent Professionals’ of Special Operations," American Forces Press Service, 11 June 2005 []
  5. Max Fisher, "The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA," The Atlantic, December 1, 2009 []
  6. Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, "U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan,"The New York Times, 9 March 2009 []
  7. Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in PakistanThe Nation: November 23, 2009 []
  8. Adam Ciralsky, "Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy," Vanity Fair, January 2010 []
  9. Mark Mazzetti, "C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists," The New York Times, 19 August 2009 []
  10. R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, "Blackwater tied to clandestine CIA raids," The Washington Post, 11 December 2009 []
  11. James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, "C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones," The New York Times, 20 August 2009 []
  12. James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, "Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret C.I.A. Raids," The New York Times, 10 December 2009 []
  13. Jeremy Scahill, "The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan," The Nation, 1 December 2010 []
  14. March Ambinder, "Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare," The Atlantic, 25 May 2010 []
  15. Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast," The New York Times, May 24, 2010 []
  16. Marc Ambinder, "Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare," May 25, 2010 []
  17. Max Fisher, "The End of Dick Cheney’s Kill Squads," The Atlantic, 4 June 2010 []
  18. Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, "U.S. 'secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role," The Washington Post, 4 June 2010 []
  19. Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, "Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants," The New York Times, 14 March 2010 []
  20. Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts," The New York Times, 15 May 2010 []
  21. Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, "Special Operations Veterans Rise in Hierarchy," The New York Times, 8 August 2011 []
  22. Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, "Obama Puts His Stamp on Strategy for a Leaner Military," The New York Times, 5 January 2012 []
  23. Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, "Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces," The New York Times, 12 February 2012 []
  24. Ibid. []
  25. David S. Cloud, "U.S. special forces commander seeks to expand operations," Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2012 []
  26. Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, "A Commander Seeks to Chart a New Path for Special Operations," The New York Times, 1 May 2013 []
  27. Nick Turse, "How Obama’s destabilizing the world," Salon, 19 September 2011 []
  28. Walter Pincus, "Special Operations wins in 2014 budget," The Washington Post, 11 April 2013 []
  29. David Isenberg, "The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces," IPS News, 24 May 2012 []
  30. Tom Bowman, "U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa," NPR, 25 December 2012; and Lolita C. Baldor, "Army teams going to Africa as terror threat grows," Yahoo! News, 24 December 2012 []
  31. Nick Turse, "The Startling Size of US Military Operations in Africa,"Mother Jones, 6 September 2013 []


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