Archive for category War

Kerry to Russia: ‘You Just Don’t Invade Another Country on Phony Pretext’

Russia invades Crimea

Having a late breakfast this morning, I just about choked on my toast when I heard this. Interviewed on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State John Kerry said (emphasis added):

“…Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage. There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans. There could be certainly a disruption of any of the normal trade routine, and there could be business drawback on investment in the country. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this.”

“And the reason for this…is because you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. There are ways to deal with this.”

Really? Does the USA have the right to lecture anybody about an illegal invasion on a phony pretext?

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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?

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Will I Be Next? Amnesty International Investigates Pakistan Drone Strikes

Will I Be Next?

I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi

“WILL I BE NEXT?” US DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN

On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.

Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.

According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”

h/t Kevin Gosztola on FDL

UPDATE: Obama Administration Has Launched Drone Strikes Against AQAP Suspects Who Could’ve Been Captured

UPDATE: Translator at drone strike hearing moved nearly to tears by survivor testimony

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Remember This?

h/t HuffPo

When it comes to “dumb wars,” how about giving a speech about going to war in Syria ON THE SAME SIDE as al-Qaeda? On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

More: Obama’s Syria address: do we look that dumb?

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Fact-Checking President Obama’s Speech

Thanks to clever diplomacy by the Russians, the U.S. war against Syria has been averted or at least postponed. They called President Obama’s bluff. If the alleged nerve agent attack is really the issue, then obviously an agreement that insures the Syrians will not possess or use chemical weapons is the answer- the Russians are willing to guarantee that. If the real goal of the Obama administration is regime change, then chemical weapons have been taken off the table as a rallying cry to justify direct American intervention in the Syrian civil war.

There are a number of points in the President’s speech tonight that are controversial. Acknowledgement to Kevin Gosztola for much of the following.

1. President Obama claimed that “over a thousand” civilians were killed by nerve agent on August 21.

Doctors Without Borders has reported that 355 people died. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and ‘tens’ of rebel fighters,” according to McClatchy. That is still far less than a thousand.

2. “We know the Assad regime was responsible.”

As the Associated Press reported on September 8, the American public has “yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence—no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications—connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.”

Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaeda linked rebel group, and told a reporter that the release of nerve agent was accidental.

3. “It was a violation of international law.”

This is true only if civilians were intentionally targeted, which is one possible scenario. However, the nerve agent “attack,” if it was that, is no more a war crime than many other incidents that have already occurred on both sides of the Syrian civil war. Indeed, it is also comparable to well-documented war crimes committed by U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq. It should be noted that Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (interestingly enough, Israel also refused to sign the treaty).

BTW, a unilateral attack on Syria by the USA would also violate international law, which prohibits wars of aggression.

4. “I possess the authority to order military strikes… in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security…”

Not true.

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

Barack Obama, when he was running for President in 2007

5. “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”

This is hard to believe, because how else can we be certain Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles are neutralized, peacefully or otherwise?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has predicted, “During conflict, the intelligence community and Special Forces units would likely play a major role in locating and securing such weapons in a combat environment.”

By one estimate, 75,000 soldiers would be needed to handle the job. Where will they come from?

6. “Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”

This is a response to Secretary of State Kerry’s characterization of the planned military strike as “unbelievably small.” Clearly, the administration has plans for a “shock and awe” bombardment that would be limited in duration but of high intensity. It’s very likely that more civilians would be killed than died in the August 21 nerve agent incident.

7. The Assad regime can’t retaliate against us or Israel.

You had better be really sure about that, Mr. President. Remember how many Americans were killed by a small group of 19 terrorists in 2001 that didn’t have much in the way of state sponsorship. Assad and his loyalists are literally fighting for their lives. If they get into a situation in which they have nothing to lose, what deters them from seeking revenge?

8. “Because of the threat of military action,” Russia and Syria are willing to pursue diplomacy.

That is one explanation, but history will likely record that it was the public debate in the United Kingdom and the USA, followed by President Obama’s decision to ask for congressional war authorization, that led to diplomacy.

9. American exceptionalism means it’s our job to enforce international agreements.

No, it’s the job of the United Nations Security Council. If America is to be exceptional, let’s set an example as a law-abiding nation by not violating the U.N. Charter again.

More info: Obama’s Confusing Speech On Syria

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BREAKING: Obama Administration Cherry-Picked Syria Intelligence

Gareth Porter, today:

Contrary to the general impression in Congress and the news media, the Syria chemical warfare intelligence summary released by the Barack Obama administration Aug. 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment…

Former intelligence officials told IPS that that the paper does not represent a genuine intelligence community assessment but rather one reflecting a predominantly Obama administration influence.

In essence, the White House selected those elements of the intelligence community assessments that supported the administration’s policy of planning a strike against the Syrian government force and omitted those that didn’t.

In a radical departure from normal practice involving summaries or excerpts of intelligence documents that are made public, the Syria chemical weapons intelligence summary document was not released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but by the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

…The issuance of the document by the White House rather than by [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, as had been apparently planned, points to a refusal by Clapper to put his name on the document as revised by the White House.

Clapper’s refusal to endorse it – presumably because it was too obviously an exercise in “cherry picking” intelligence to support a decision for war – would explain why the document had to be issued by the White House.

I should have realized that calling this document a “U.S. Government Assessment” was a red flag. It’s clearly NOT a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which is what Congress needs before making a decision to authorize another war. An NIE is a consensus of all 16 U.S. Government intelligence agencies. Nobody knows what a “U.S. Government Assessment” represents — it’s a brand new term.

Maybe now we know what Secretary of State Kerry meant when he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “our intelligence community has scrubbed and re-scrubbed the evidence.”

More info:
U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

UPDATE: Congressional Progressive Caucus Asks White House For Answers On Syria

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Nancy Pelosi’s Grandchild Explains Why President Obama Can’t Order an Attack on Syria

Today I actually got involved in an e-mail debate with none other than Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall (who never before has answered my e-mails). He contended that President Obama has complete authority as commander-in-chief to order an attack on Syria without congressional authorization, and he lectured me for allegedly being ignorant on the subject of constitutional war powers.

“It’s a complex topic,” said Marshall. “I simply don’t think this is as simple as only Congress has the right to get us into shooting wars.” He’s wrong of course, and I gave him some detailed arguments which I could repeat here, and maybe will in comments. But tonight on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show I learned about another debate that quickly got to the point. I could not do better.

[Note: Please ignore the AIPAC ad]

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) emerged from a meeting with President Obama and other congressional leaders earlier today and publicly declared her continued support for military intervention in Syria. But before she left the press gaggle, she shared one last story about a curious conversation she had with her five-year-old grandson over Labor Day weekend.

Before she left her home in San Francisco, Pelosi said her grandson approached her with this question: “Are you ‘yes’ war with Syria, ‘no’ war with Syria?” First of all, she wanted everyone to know that “we’re not talking about war, we’re talking about an action” in Syria, but none-the-less she continued the anecdote.

When she asked her grandson what he thought, he said, “I think no war.” She proceeded to make her case to the young man, describing how Bashar al-Assad’s regime has “killed hundreds of children there.”

“Were these children in the United States?” her grandson asked, bringing up the salient point of how the strike will affect American interests.

She told him, no, but they are “children” wherever they are. “It affects our interests because, again, it was outside of the circle of civilized behavior,” she told reporters. “Humanity drew a line decades ago that I think if we ignore, we do so to the peril of many other people who could suffer.”

From her remarks, it sounds like Pelosi may not have been able to sway her five-year-old grandson. Will she be able to convince her colleagues in the House?

Attacking Syria would be a big mistake, the biggest of the Obama administration. Everyone can see it. The only division is between those who can admit this in public, and those who cannot.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Palling Around With…

McCain and friends

While engaged in making his own mavericky foreign policy over in Syria, Senator John McCain met with some Syrian rebels allied with al-Qaeda– including Mohammad Nour, an infamous terrorist who has been involved in the abduction of a group of Lebanese pilgrims. Nour is the man in the center of the photo above.

Does anyone else remember what Senator McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin said during the 2008 presidential election? She accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” I think the irony meter has been pegged.

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Did President Obama Just Apologize for the Drone Campaign?

Predator drone

Via Spencer Ackerman and HuffPo.

Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.

The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.

In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”

Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.

President Obama says he’s sorry.

Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.

“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Obama Derangement: Let’s Make The Pie Higher

Liz Cheney

Media Matters gives us the short version: Liz Cheney: Get Over 2012 And Start Embracing Romneyism. Of course, it was President George W. Bush who originally said “We ought to make the pie higher.”

Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday un-apologetically recycles just about everything that voters rejected in 2012, and claims, without evidence, that “President Obama is the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office.”

This is from someone who was part of the Worst Administration Ever, that brought about truly radical right-wing policies from massive tax cuts for the rich to the torture of detainees and an outright war of aggression in Iraq. The Bush administration came close to wiping out the American middle class when the collapse of the financial sector caused U.S. households to lose about $16.4 trillion of net worth.

Jonathan Chait: Liz Cheney Is Even More Bonkers Than We Suspected

Even after four years of bug-eyed right-wing paranoia, Cheney’s op-ed stands out for its utter dearth of the slightest whiff of perspective or factual grounding.

This stuff is getting old. We had legitimate criticisms of the Bush administration’s actual radicalism, and Republicans dismissed it all as “Bush derangement syndrome.” Now prominent Republicans won’t stop ranting about their imaginary “radical” President Obama despite the fact he’s been center-right all along, even to the point of implementing Republican policies. At last year’s GOP convention Clint Eastwood presented a prime-time portrayal of the right-wing, yelling at an empty chair.

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Bradley Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Prize

PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).

A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.

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Costs of Illegal Iraq Invasion Still Mounting

What was the reason?

As we near the tenth anniversary of the USA’s illegal invasion of Iraq, we still haven’t been told a credible reason why it happened. However, a new report by the “Costs of War” project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies totals up the costs of America’s dumbest war.

Among the group’s main findings:

  • More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
  • The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
  • The $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
  • The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
  • Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
  • Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
  • The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.

NOW they tell us we need to cut Social Security and Medicare because we cannot afford such extravagances.

More info:
Study: Iraq War Cost U.S. $2.2 Trillion, Claimed Nearly 200,000 Lives
Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study
Study: Iraq War Cost More Than $2 Trillion, Killed At Least 134,000 Civilians

UPDATE: Nobody in authority has ever credibly explained why the U.S. invaded Iraq. John Tirman offers his take:

In my view, the Bush regime’s motives were instead about getting rid of Saddam, transforming the Middle East, protecting Israel, and guaranteeing access to oil.


UPDATE:
Aaron Belkin adds another possible reason for invading Iraq:

[Karl Rove] anticipated, correctly, that the war would divide the Democrats down the middle, and that the division would benefit the Bush administration politically. An appreciation of the administration’s political motivations deepens our understanding of why the debate over whether to go to war was so dishonest, in that senior officials’ accurate anticipation of a political windfall reinforced their insensitivity to evidence about risks and costs. The decision for war, in other words, was deeply political and deeply cynical. Explanations of the war that overlook the political dimension are incomplete.

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