Archive for category Taliban

The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox


Leaked US-Afghan Agreement Offers Open-Ended American Troop Commitment

Endless war?

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.

Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.

This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.

The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More info:
Leaked Draft Points To Endless War In Afghanistan
America’s Future in Afghanistan Hinges On One Key Question: Can Soldiers Operate With Impunity?


Ten Years Ago Today . . . And No It Was Not Worth It

I hate looking back.  Ten years ago today the US invastion of Iraq began. 

The push for war with Iraq felt like a time of public madness.  The American media has never been less absolutely incompetent than in those months.  Yeah, the media pretty much sucks now, but back then they were awful beyond the telling of it.  The largest peace rallies in history got no coverage.  American media has spent the last decade hoping no one reminds them how bad they were, how gullible, how insanely biased for the Bush administration they were and how they mindlessly lapped up any lie they were told. Read the rest of this entry »


President Obama Tells CNN He Can Kill You

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.

More info: Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

UPDATE: Senator Rand Paul: ‘Bomb Everybody Tomorrow’ Is ‘Typical’ Republican Policy

UPDATE: Yemen Claims Death Of Al-Qaeda Regional Head (possibly a drone attack, though not reported as such).


Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us?

Why hate us?
Pakistanis hold up a burning mock drone aircraft during a 2011 rally against drone attacks in Peshawar.

Why do “they” hate us? The answer ought to be so obvious that there’s no need to actually explain it. Glenn Greenwald (the whole post is well worth reading):

Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

…I realize that screaming “9/11” has been the trite tactic of choice for those seeking to justify the U.S. Government’s militarism over the last decade, but invoking that event strongly militates against the policies it’s invoked to justify, precisely because those policies are the principal cause of such attacks, for obvious reasons.

…Anwar Awlaki was once such a moderate that he vehemently denounced the 9/11 attacks, got invited to the Pentagon to speak, and hosted a column in The Washington Post on Islam — but then became radicalized by the constant post-9/11 killing of Muslims by his country (the U.S.).

There are plenty of intelligent people in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Why is our foreign policy so boneheaded?

UPDATE: Members of Congress call on Obama to justify drone strikes

“We are concerned that the use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States,” the members of Congress, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote Wednesday in a letter to Obama. “Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.”

“The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound,” they added. “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

UPDATE: Ibrahim Mothana: How Drones Help Al Qaeda

Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.

Clive Stafford Smith: I Met a 16-Year-Old Kid. 3 Days Later Obama Killed Him

UN Investigator Says Drone Strikes May Constitute War Crimes

Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognized as being an armed conflict. [If] there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping [the injured] after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.

Related One Utah posts:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 6, 2010)
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)


How Many Children Are Being Indoctrinated into Bigoted Christian Doctrine

Update: TMZ is reporting this took place in the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana.  Sure looks like the same pastor.

I think this appalling video reflects just how ugly organized religion can get. We’ve seen it throughout history. No Judeo-Christian religion is immune.


That it is happening now in THIS country is very much motivated and inspired by the the GOP/Bush/Rove decade of an unrepentant appeal of God, Guns and Gays.

At this point, I see little difference between American Evangelism and Muslim extremism. Christians persecute gays in America still today, as they do in Muslim countries…and obedient crowds cheer.


“…deeply immoral act.”

If you have been paying any attention to the news at all today, you have likely already seen the video of American Marines urinating on corpses in Afghanistan. The number of levels on which this is disturbing is legion. I am mostly working out my thoughts on this as I write, so I may be unorganized at best, but feel this should be addressed.

First of all there is the most superficial reaction. These men are desecrating bodies. They are soiling once living beings in a way that causes a “yuck” factor. As a philosopher I am not particularly worried about this “yuck” factor, but I am also well aware of its existance and the reaction many have is a red flag that makes me want to look into the reaction. Perhaps at another time.

Read the rest of this entry »


Learn Our History: How Bush Killed Osama bin Laden

Mike Huckabee’s “Learn Our History” series of cartoons continues to re-write American history according to right-wing mythology. The 9/11 edition contains nothing about the reason America got attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, except that the bad guys were “anti-American.” (They speak English to eliminate the need for subtitles). The cartoon is silent on the warnings before the 9/11 attacks that the Bush administration ignored. It extols the virtues of the USA PATRIOT Act (which genuine conservatives can’t stand). Plus a lot of praise for the Department of Homeland Security, a lot of praise for Israel and the clear implication that President George W. Bush was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden. The reason why we’re dropping bombs on children in Afghanistan? So they are allowed to fly kites, if they survive! All in all, a triumph of historical scholarship, winger-style.

UPDATE: Huckabee compares his 9/11 cartoon to ‘Schindler’s List’

More info:
Huckabee cartoon attempts woeful retelling of 9/11 attacks
How Bush Killed Bin Laden: What’s Really In Huckabee’s 9/11 Cartoon

Related One Utah post:
New Republican Strategy: Insult the Intelligence of 10 Year Olds


The Weakness of Islam and the Evolution Toward Human Rights

Let me by very clear.  In the US, Islam is one faith among many; Muslims in the US are every bit as technologically sophisticated, committed to democracy, and citizens of a modern, pluralistic nation as are their Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist neighbors.  American Muslims in many ways are reflective of American culture.  They are “us.”

But, the weakness of Islam is an interesting challenge, captured in this phrase by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Indeed, the weakness of the world of Islam–an ideology and culture that sees itself not only as superior to the West and the world’s other great civilizations but as properly in the vanguard of history–is the kernel of the threat it poses, the heart of violent Islamism’s toxicity. At the beginning of the 21st century most of the world is, for better or worse, rushing along the current of globalization. By any measure, the world of Islam lags far behind. With the exception of a few countries with vast amounts of wealth based on natural resources, it is impoverished and trailing the rest of the world on numerous fronts. Where is the great Muslim power? There is none. Where is the world of Islam’s advanced technology-driven economy? There is none.

It’s a paradox for which there isn’t an easy answer. Read the rest of this entry »


Either U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan or President Obama Leaves the White House

More info: Rethink Afghanistan

Via Raw Story

From the latest (Dec. 17-19) national CNN/Opinion Research poll (PDF):

Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?
Favor 35%
Oppose 63%
No opinion 2%

In general, how would you say things are going for the U.S. in Afghanistan – very well, moderately well, moderately badly, or very badly?

Very well 2%
Moderately well 42%
Moderately badly 35%
Very badly 21%
No opinion 1%

Only 35 percent now favor the continued occupation of Afghanistan. That’s down from December 2008, when 52 percent were in favor.

The survey showed a clear partisan divide. A majority of Republicans supported the war. In comparison, more than six in ten independents and 74 percent of Democrats were in opposition.

Almost six in ten Republicans thought the war was going well, while most Democrats and independents said things were going badly.

We are wasting a lot of money in Afghanistan on an unwinnable occupation. The official budget figure is $119 billion for FY2011 (PDF). Each soldier deployed halfway around the world costs $1 million a year, not including salary, training, and equipment.

From a recent letter to President Obama from Rep. John Conyers and 30 other members of Congress:

“In my view, the numbers simply don’t add up. Fighting in Afghanistan this year has resulted in more troop deaths, more civilian deaths, and an ever-expanding $2 billion a week financial commitment to a country that has an annual gross domestic product of $27 billion. It is difficult to argue that this constitutes progress.”

A recent report by the International Council on Security and Development found that 92 percent of Afghans in Helmand and Kandahar provinces were completely unaware of the 9/11 attacks, much less their role in launching the American invasion into their country. They are simply fighting American and NATO forces the way they traditionally fight any foreign army. This war has very little to do with our own national security.

Support our troops. Bring them home NOW!

[NOTE: This is my last One Utah post for the foreseeable future. I need all my time to finish my master’s thesis in Geography and then I will be starting a new job. I’m sure the blogosphere will do fine without me].


Mullah Mansour Impostor Fiasco

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was Minister of Civil Aviation and Transportation for the Taliban regime. He is now a senior member of the Taliban’s ruling council in the Pakistani city of Quetta. That council, or shura, is run by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Interpol has no picture of Mansour on the Web.

Yesterday, the New York Times revealed that Mansour was the key figure in secret negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban– until they realized the guy they were meeting with wasn’t really Mansour.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.

NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.

The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said.

According to the Washington Post, the Mansour impostor “was a lowly shopkeeper” from Quetta.

“One would suspect that in our multibillion-dollar intel community there would be the means to differentiate between an authentic Quetta Shura emissary and a shopkeeper,” said a U.S. official in Kabul who did not know about the particulars of the Mullah Mansour case. “On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It may have been Mullah Omar posing as a shopkeeper; I’m sure that our intel whizzes wouldn’t have known.”

OK, so we’re in Year 10 of Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history, and this happens?

UPDATE: Washington Post Blames Brits to Protect Petraeus in Mansour Impostor Fiasco


Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us?

Times Square
Times Square

As I mentioned almost a year ago, in the last decade the U.S has been directly involved in military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (including two full-scale invasions and occupations). Our closest ally Israel has attacked Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, plus Turkish civilian vessels on international waters.

What national security consequences can we expect from these attacks on Muslim countries? Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who pled guilty to an attempt to detonate a car bomb on a busy Saturday night in Times Square, tells us:

“Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”

Glenn Greenwald:

The very idea that we’re going to spend an entire decade dropping a constant stream of bombs and other munitions on and in multiple Muslim countries and otherwise interfere in their governments — and then expect that nobody will try to attack us back — evinces such a child-like sense of imperial entitlement that it’s hard to put into words. And yet this is exactly the mindset that pervades our discussions of Terrorism: why would anyone possibly want to do something as heinous and senseless as placing a bomb in the United States? I just don’t understand it. What kind of an irrational fanatic and monster would even think of something like that? Of course, the people who say such things rarely apply the same language to our own political leaders…

Our foreign and national security policy is irrational. We are provoking a threat that the Pentagon cannot defend us against, even with a budget that exceeds military spending in all other countries put together.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: They hate us for our occupations

Related One Utah post:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)


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