Archive for category Pakistan
From Roots Action:
President Obama told CNN this week that he can kill Americans or non-Americans, the difference being that with Americans their killing amounts to their Constitutionally guaranteed due process.
CNN asked Obama how he chooses names for his kill list, but he declined to say. Obama claimed that there are checks on his power, pointing only to checks by his own subordinates, not by courts, not by Congress, and not by the public — which he reassures with vague statements that amount to “trust me.”
Obama claimed that his preference is to capture people rather than to kill them. This does not fit with cases like that of Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old killed by drone strike following his participation in a conference at which he could have easily been captured. It does not fit with the lack of criminal charges against virtually any of the people killed.
Obama claimed that he avoids killing civilians, yet careful research has documented large numbers of civilians killed, including this week in Yemen.
President Obama claims to have the power to kill anyone anywhere in the world, including Americans, based on a secret memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice. This is the same process used by the Bush administration to claim that torture was all of a sudden legal. Unlike the Bush torture memos, Obama’s “kill list” memo remains classified.
Some drone war terms that have become public.
“Personality strike” – An attack aimed at named, so-called “high-value terrorists” (and their families).
“Signature strike” – An attack that targets allegedly suspicious compounds in areas controlled by “militants.”
“Double tap” – Following a drone strike with a second attack on first responders and rescuers, or later on the funeral for victims of the original attack.
“Combatant” – The Obama administration considers any military-age male in the vicinity of a bombing to be a combatant unless proven otherwise.
Michael V. Hayden, former head of the CIA (referring to the Bush administration’s program of torture):
“I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.”
Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence, explains the attraction of waging war by drone:
“It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it might be a good time to debate the tactics and strategy of drone warfare. Unfortunately, both major political parties seem to be in agreement, so there is no debate.
UPDATE: Yemen Claims Death Of Al-Qaeda Regional Head (possibly a drone attack, though not reported as such).
The frequency of US drone attacks [in Pakistan] has stepped up considerably since last month’s NATO conference in Chicago.
…Bill Roggio, an analyst who runs the Long War Journal website, said the recent attacks underlined “just how bad Pakistan and US relations are at the moment”.
“These last eight strikes all occurred after the NATO summit,” he said. “The strikes were halted in an attempt to get the Pakistanis on board to reopen the supply lines but when they didn’t happen they turned the programme back on.”
…Pakistan closed its borders to NATO supply vehicles in November after US forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a border incident.
Despite several false hopes that Islamabad would relent, including in the run-up to last month’s NATO conference, Pakistan continues to demand an apology for the killing of its soldiers, an end to all drone attacks and a sharp increase in the tariff paid by NATO for moving cargo across Pakistani territory as conditions for reopening them.
Glenn Greenwald points out the very ugly tactics now being employed, including secondary missile strikes on rescuers trying to help victims, and the killing of mourners attending funerals. Yet our government insists that “the terrorists” are the other guys.
Without going into an analysis of the very complex situation in the region, suffice it to conclude: As long as the USA stays in Afghanistan, our relations with Pakistan are going to be rocky. It’s important to be realistic about what, if anything, there is to gain by continuing to fight what is already the longest war in U.S. history — and what we have to lose. From an American foreign policy standpoint, Pakistan is a far more important country than Afghanistan. If their status goes from “frenemy” to enemy, the consequences could be significant.
For the first time, President Obama has officially acknowledged that the USA is waging war in Pakistan. It’s sometimes difficult to keep in mind that almost everything we know about drone strikes is based on anonymous sources. The U.S. government until now has refused to address the subject on the record. David Dayen on FDL:
It’s a sad commentary on our media that the President had to answer questions yesterday about drones for the first time, and the questions didn’t come at a White House press briefing or major print interview, but in a virtual YouTube town hall with members of the public.
“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama said Monday, adding that they have been used for “very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates.”
Obama went on to say that “obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” the acronym for Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, and for “going after Al Qaeda suspects who are in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“This thing is kept on a very tight leash,” Obama said. The U.S. does not use drones “willy-nilly” but in a way that avoids more intrusive military actions.
He described the attacks as carefully targeted. But drone attacks known as “signature strikes” — which are not aimed at specific individuals but against vehicles, camps or houses believed to be used by militants — have expanded dramatically during his presidency.
Now that our government has admitted waging war in Pakistan, the next step is to ask how these attacks, and the hundreds of civilian casualties, can be justified. Maybe the Washington press corps will start asking some questions now that this is out in the open.
Retiring the colors, US Forces Iraq.
Most accounts of the pullout are brief. Five years after Americans voted for withdrawal in the 2006 elections, the U.S. departed Camp Adder on December 16, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. (Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam).
The Iraq fiasco started as a war of aggression labeled “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), which quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because the acronym gave away the real objective. At the end, it was “Operation New Dawn” (specially formulated for grease-cutting, but gentle enough for your hands).
More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. At least 104,000-113,000 Iraqis were killed, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate. More than 1.6 million Iraqis fled the country, with another 2.5 million internally displaced. We lost $3 trillion of our taxpayers money.
For America, the occupation of Iraq was unwinnable. Intended to demonstrate the extent of our military power, it instead exposed how limited it really is. At one point almost all our ground forces were either in Iraq, just returned from Iraq, or preparing to deploy back to Iraq. The winners, such as they are: the Kurds, the Shiites, the Iranians and the Chinese.
Iraqis continue to live with a level of violence that would be considered apocalyptic anywhere else. Parts of Baghdad still get only 5 hours of electricity a day. A bomb attack on the oil fields halved production again this week.
Now, the “Mission Accomplished” banner is in storage awaiting the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.
We can hope to assign to the history books (but never forget) Saddam Hussein, WMD, “shock and awe,” “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, “Concerned Local Citizens,” and The Sandbox.
Still with us: security contractors (aka mercenaries), “kinetic operations,” PTSD, and the unfinished unwinnable war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich: “Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.”
Osama bin Laden’s compound – Abbottabad, Pakistan
Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press has the best account yet of the bin Laden raid. The details, from unnamed “U.S. officials,” actually make sense. This narrative account is worth reading, although it does not resolve all of the conflicting information.
Dozier’s sources say that the government of Pakistan was never consulted, making the raid a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
The plan called for Navy SEALs to rappel from two stealth-modified Blackhawk helicopters, assaulting the bin Laden house from both the roof and ground floor. The Blackhawk for the roof assault was unable to hover due to the weight of the stealth modifications and warmer-than-expected air, and its tail connected with the top of a wall, so the pilot made a forced landing.
The assault team lost the element of surprise, but still managed to get to bin Laden and kill him within 15 minutes.
They can always point to the fact that Michael Moore makes a lot of money, compared to most of us, but I’m thinking he could make a whole lot more by going over to the dark side at Fox “news”. There are many blogs and bloggers, [don't you just love that terminology?], who make next to nothing – or nothing, for that matter – pouring their hearts out against the lies that are fed to us, 24/7, by the best damned propaganda “Noise Machine” ever conceived. Spanning television, radio, and print media in our once near-free country, these media entities have gone for the buck instead of providing us with important information about where our country is headed.
Let’s face it; nobody really has any affection for Osama Bin Laden, but Michael Moore brings up some important facts in his recent post on the matter:
I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in Europe was over. THAT’S what the people wanted to hear – not just the demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.
Two men who make very little money, but take MUCH flack trying to inform us of what is going on in our country are Brad Friedman and David Swanson. David sent a letter to United Airlines after being incensed by what the pilot had to say over the intercom when learning of the death of Bin Laden. He posted the letter on his blog and the response on BradBlog.
I don’t think Mr. Swanson would call for the pilot to be fired. He’s just brainwashed because he can’t get any truth from the media bosses. They are the ones who should be fired.
In August 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States of America on behalf of al-Qaeda. Now, almost 15 years later, the CIA and U.S. Navy SEALs found him and killed him. Finally. The code phrase was “Geronimo KIA.” His body was buried at sea.
I suppose the street celebrations in this country were our answer to those in other parts of the world who danced with joy after the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps some thought the war was over. Unfortunately, our state of permanent war is never-ending.
UPDATE: Local news anchor: ‘President Obama is in fact dead’
UPDATE: On FDL, David Dayen tracks the changing story of what happened during the bin Laden raid. Official Bin Laden Story Changes in Various Places
One of my little joys in life, one of the simple things that keeps me sane (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) is hearing or reading news items that are related, if only you have the right bits of knowledge to put them together. I love these things. It is like a personal game of six degrees I like to play when listening to the news. It makes my day.
Today I heard that astronomers have been looking at old galaxies, and discovered that dwarf stars are much more common than previously thought. And that wikileaks says that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban.
Bear with me here…
Read the rest of this entry »
How can we miss Blackwater (Xe) if they won’t go away? Spencer Ackerman on Danger Room:
Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.
Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.
Apparently the State Department thought nobody would notice that Blackwater (Xe) used a cutout so that their company’s name never came up in the process of awarding the Worldwide Protective Services contract. The deal includes protection for U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.
Late last year, there were reports that Blackwater (Xe) is a key element in the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan. The U.S. and Pakistan governments, as well as Xe, deny the company operates in Pakistan.
The independent, non-profit journalists at ProPublica recently reported a milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare. This year, more contractors than military personnel died in Iraq and Afghanistan.