Posts Tagged ‘War On Terror’

The “War on Terror” Rhetoric of Overreaction and Unforeseen Consequences

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Anti-War Agitprop

The “War on Terror” Rhetoric of Overreaction and Unforeseen Consequences
By Gary Crethers

The Bush administration initiated the ‘War on Terror’ in the wake of the 9/1l attack. It has resulted in the United States becoming embroiled in the longest conflict in U.S. history, in Afghanistan, a misdirected application of excessive force in attempting to subdue the al Qaeda terrorists. Due in part to its hubris as a hegemonic imperial power, and in part to a racist and irrational fear of the Islamic world, the U.S. has drastically altered the domestic landscape and instilled increased levels of fear in its populace. As the U. S. implements policies that attract a reaction from those peoples affected by them, it becomes the target of attacks such as 9/11. By reacting with overwhelming force, the US has overreacted to an asymmetrically much smaller threat such as al Qaeda, out of an irrational fear of these small forces and in the process has done exactly what it was expected to do by al Qaeda planners, weakening the American position at home and abroad as a consequence.

Just as the British overreacted to the Irgun in Palestine, and the French overreacted to the FLN in Algeria, so the USA has overreacted to al Qaeda in the bombings of 9/11/2001. As David Fromkin wrote in his seminal article “The Strategy of Terrorism,” regarding the primary purpose of terrorism “First the adversary would be made to be afraid, and then predictably, he would react to his fear by increasing the bulk of his strength, and then the sheer weight of that bulk would drag him down” (Fromkin 8). The essence of this form of warfare is psychological (13), and is intended to draw a superior force into self-defeating action. That is what al Qaeda did on 9/11 drawing the US into its chosen battlefield, Afghanistan, a place that has historically been a borderland battle zone between various imperial powers. In the 19th century the Russians and British tried using Afghanistan as a pawn in the ‘Great Game’ much to detriment of the British who were defeated in several attempts to occupy the country. More recently as a proxy between the Soviets and Americans, in which the Soviets came out badly, as Ahmed Rashid writes in his book about the most recent Afghan war Descent into Chaos (7-11). Now the US has engaged in a long and costly war in Afghanistan attempting to root out al Qaeda’s base of support.

The USA fell for the tactic of Osama Bin Laden’s group, responding in a manner that has had economic, social and political consequences eroding American strength, political capital, domestic freedoms and draining resources from other urgent needs. The War on Terror may have dispersed al Qaeda and killed Osama Bin Laden but at an unacceptable price, and the same ends could have been accomplished if the USA had not overreacted and played into Al Qaeda’s hands. The attack on the US becomes a form of ‘blowback,’ a CIA term for not only unintended consequences but consequences that have their underlying cause obscured in the public mind. Chalmers Johnson writes in The Nation, soon after the 9/11 attacks:

On the day of the disaster, President George W. Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are “a beacon for freedom” and because the attackers were “evil.” In his address to Congress on September 20, he said, “This is civilization’s fight.” This attempt to define difficult-to-grasp events as only a conflict over abstract values—as a “clash of civilizations,” in current post-cold war American jargon–is not only disingenuous but also a way of evading responsibility for the “blowback” that America’s imperial projects have generated (Johnson Blowback).

Going back a bit in time to the late 1970’s and 1980’s, the US supported the Mujahedeen terrorists in Afghanistan who were opposed to the communist government in the capital, Kabul backed by the Soviet Union. Osama Bin Laden was one of those mujahedeen. David Carlton, senior lecturer in International Studies at University of Warwick, states “The historian, therefore, need not hesitate before asserting categorically that the United States as a state was deeply involved, courtesy of Pakistan, in encouraging and sponsoring terrorism in Afghanistan.” He goes on to say “There was thus a fundamental lack of integrity and consistency in the US position that makes it extremely difficult for George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 to preach convincingly at other states about the evil of sponsoring terrorism across national boundaries” (Carlton 175-176). Carlton speaks to the ‘blowback’ issue noting that the US “in a purely practical way did much to create the actual terrorist forces that hit at US interests in later years. In short, the United States during the 1990’s and after reaped what the Reagan administration had sowed by funding and arming the mujahedeen” (177). The USA should have been reexamining its policies and international relationships after 9/11, instead it reacted violently.

Clearly seeing how the US as a great power not used to being threatened in its homeland would react, Rashid quotes Pakistani President Musharraf who said, upon learning of the terrorist assault on the US in a meeting with his security advisors, “The U.S. will react like a wounded bear and it will attack Afghanistan” (Rashid 27). The US committed itself to war, and not only war on a single entity that had attacked, but the politicians flailed out at all enemies, all evil doers, and President Bush declared a War on Terror.

King David Hotel after Irgun bombing

Remember Fromkin’s position that the essential point of terrorist strategy is to use the very size and power of the enemy against itself. The historical example of the Irgun, Jewish terrorists in then British ruled Palestine of the 1940’s, who seeking to gain an independent Israel bombed targets such as the King David Hotel in which over 100 persons were killed in an attempt to entice a British overreaction. The British people were in no mood for more wars, having just gone through World War 2. The Irgun anticipated that the weight of the British reaction to their actions would result in the public’s disenchantment with further British involvement especially in the light of revelations of the Nazi genocide (Fromkin 7-8). Fromkin also examines how a small party such as the FLN seeking independence for Algeria from French colonial rule in the 1950’s, was able to redefine the attitude of the Algerian indigenous public. The French considered Algeria to be a part of France. A series of terrorist bomb attacks by the FLN, resulting in a harsh and evidently racist French backlash on the mostly Islamic native populace, was able to convince the vast Islamic majority that they were not French citizens but colonial subjects, winning support for the cause of an independent Algeria (9-10). These examples lead up to the strategy of al Qaeda.

French Officer assassinated in Algerian War of Independence

Responding to the US bombing attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, Rashid reports that in a “prerecorded video aired on Qatar’s Al Jazeera television, promising more terrorist attacks on America, [Osama Bin Laden states] ‘Neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed’” (Rashid 80). This was a clear message, from a group that could be addressed with a specific response. Leaving Saudi Arabia was in the realm of possibility, but Osama bin Laden knew that the US was incapable of negotiating at that point and that these demands would involve the unraveling of the Gordian knot of US policy, the Israeli-Palestinian question. Even though the US might have been loath to negotiate, grounds existed at the time for a calibrated and deliberate response.

Instead, as Gideon Rose states in the introduction to The U.S. V. al Qaeda, “The Bush team’s lowered tolerance for risk, combined with a desire to act vigorously in the Middle East, led it to settle on Iraq as its next target. To justify its actions the administration developed a new doctrine of preventative war” (Rose x). This was an entirely hubristic and misdirected response to the al Qaeda attack, indicating that there was more going on in the Bush policy planning than simply responding to the terrorist attack. Due in part to the extent of the support for Israel and the ascendency in the new Bush administration of a distinctly activist foreign policy tendency, the US did not even consider negotiating. There existed, and to a degree still exists, a distinct perceptual problem that clouded the issue further related to attitudes towards Islam and the people of the Middle East on the part of Westerners in general and the US elite in particular.

Rape of Jerusalem by Crusaders 1099

This has been called a crusader mentality. Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism discusses aspects of the western relationship with the Middle East with regards to the consolidation of media control in the hands of a few corporate entities, there has been an “institutionalized tendency to produce out-of-scale trans-national images that are now reorienting international discourse and process” (Said 309). Creating a mystique of terrorism coupled with fundamentalism “derived entirely from the concerns and intellectual factories in metropolitan centers like Washington and London…The fear and terror induced by the overscale images of ‘terrorism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ - call them the figures of an international or transnational imaginary made up of foreign devils – hastens the individual’s subordination to the dominant norms of the moment. The irony is that far from endowing the western ethos with the confidence and secure ‘normality’ we associate with privilege and rectitude, this dynamic imbues ‘us’ with a righteous anger and defensiveness in which others are finally seen as enemies, bent on destroying our civilization and way of life” (Said 310). This written back in the early 1990’s before Al Qaeda or a specific threat to the American homeland had emerged.

Third Crusade of Richard the Lionhearted, not so successful

Exemplifying some of the attitudes that Said attacks is Samuel Huntington who in his 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Clash of Civilizations?” states, “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future” (Huntington 22). This view had become virtual cannon in the world of the neocon intellectuals who had become a force in the Bush administration policy making apparatus.

Summarizing this position, Niall Ferguson in his Colossus The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, succinctly states this position “the majority of the new imperialists are neoconservatives, and it was their views that came to the fore during and after the invasion of Iraq… [and] even called for the United States to establish a Colonial Office, the better to administer its new possessions in the Middle East and Asia” (Ferguson 5). The reasonable response to the 9/11 attacks by an assault on al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and punishing the Taliban for their support had been usurped in the minds of influential policy makers into an American empire. Ferguson quotes James Kurth, who writing in a special “Empire” issue of National Interest, “Today there is only one empire, the global empire of the United States. The US military… are the true heirs of the legendary civil officials, and not just the dedicated military officers, of the British Empire” (5). This view, prevalent in a certain sector of the conservative policy establishment, has been justified due to the chaos in the current world situation with failed states unable to act against terrorist groups within their own borders, thus the argument is made for a strong American presence willing to take matters in hand.

Yet the War on Terror has become more than a rational policy, developing into something else. Michael Welch, in Scapegoats of September 11th Hate Crimes & State Crimes in the War on Terror, states “The war on terror, as fiercely echoed in the speeches of President Bush and other political leaders, represents a continuation of a more ancient campaign against evil….grounding the war on terror within a mystical framework generates considerable popular support from people who view the world as a dangerous place with evil lurking in our midst, that way of talking and thinking about political violence undermines the formulation of sound counterterrorism policies” (Welch 4). The US as a contrite imperial power is simply not in the picture. Neither has been treating the attack as a police matter for the intelligence services to handle. President Bush had laid down the gauntlet, “the gloves came off” as Welch says in his discourse on scapegoating and the Bush administration’s decision to treat 9/11 as a war on evil (Welch 8-9).

Welch sees the emergence of a form of bunker mentality or as he states “The regrettable effects of the ‘dangerous world’ perspective already have been realized in the few years following 9/11: most notably the roundups, detentions, and deportations of Middle Eastern men proven not to have any links to terrorism, along with injustices at Guantanamo Bay, and, of course the invasion of Iraq. Still, scholars are concerned about the long-term effect that the fear is likely to have on American political structures” (Welch 7). This written in 2005 indicates the corrosive effect of the war on terror on the American psyche, already prone to manipulation and charged with fear of the other, especially the Arab fundamentalist terrorist, as Said states. In the context of Huntington’s clash of cultures a critique accepted by many neoliberals, what has emerged since 9/11 is a perfect storm of irrational policy decisions bolstered by vested interests in the American war machine among others. For Welch, “The irrationality of fear over terrorism coexists with – and in certain circumstances, encourages – government policies that are equally irrational in their formation and implementation…[T]the war on terror… is irrational for the nation since terrorism is not an enemy in the conventional understanding of war” (6). Welch sees the linking up of political action and public fear as a deliberate policy of sloganeering to replace discourse as well as a mask for domestic problems, but specifically the language is designed to feed into public anxieties.

This emergence of the irrational in policy has led to what Torin Monahan in his book Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity describes a scenario where citizens are being recruited in a surveillance state “A new kind of citizen, the insecurity subject, is being constructed by the reigning discourses of homeland security… the very concept of the public sphere is being militarized…. a host of agencies that previously did not have ‘security’ as their primary mandate were absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, where they have been restructured and reoriented to prioritize security functions above all others” (Monahan 19-20). He goes on to list the Coast Guard, FEMA and what used to be called the INS as examples, noting one reason for the failure of the Katrina disaster support by FEMA being the result of this transformation of its mission from general disaster relief to the war on terror (20).

Moreover Monahan describes attempts to recruit citizens in programs such as the Justice Department’s “Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS)” which enrolled postal carriers and private industry such as cable installers to monitor their customers. There was a backlash that caused this program to be canceled. Under the “Highway Watch” program truckers were to keep track of suspicious drivers, so far according to Monahan it has resulted in more racial profiling than anything useful. The attempt to force librarians to play cop, resulted in a strong move by the American Library Association to oppose provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act which resulted in a partial rollback of provisions in the 2006 reauthorization of the act (20-21). He concludes that the “macro-power structure is one where decision-making is consolidated high up on the hierarchy of the state, while the burden of those decisions fall squarely on the most vulnerable populations in society (25). Examples such as the reaction to Katrina, and the various flu pandemic scares, come to mind on the domestic front. The preparedness planning, with the devolution of responsibility on the individual citizen, as in emergency preparedness kits, and checklists, all go into creating what he calls the “insecurity subject” (23). Profit goes to contractors, responsibility to the citizenry (22).

Terrorism is a complex issue in which “religious extremism, state’s foreign policies, failure of states, sense of injustice and inequality and globalization are major ones” (Ozern and Gunes 6). Understanding of “the underlying causes of terrorism poverty, inequality, social status in a given society, immigration, and alike” and taking concrete actions to alleviate these conditions are more likely to have a profound effect on eliminating terrorism as well as “multinational security cooperation and effective supranational lawful regulations as the fundamentals in overcoming this new kind of terrorism” (6). This indicates a direction for the U. S. to move forward, and it seems to be one that the Obama administration is with noteworthy exceptions such as its instance upon maintaining the onerous provisions of the PATRIOT act and its inability to dismantle the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

What is required in the war on terror is not a massive military machine, but as Phillip Heymann states in Terrorism Freedom and Security, “The critical capacities – ability to recruit agents that not only can speak the language, but can also pass easily in the communities that terrorists share with supporters – are largely in the hands of foreign intelligence agencies and our CIA. Building a separate military capability here is hard to justify” (Heymann 29). Small discrete action by intelligence operations with the cooperation of the special forces of the various military departments, are what finally eliminated Osama bin Laden. They are what the U.S. uses in Yemen and Somalia. This could have been how the U.S. handled 9/11, a measured response what Rose describes as the British approach, “Keep calm and carry on” (Rose xiii).

British Response to Terrorism

Granted the massive US military machine, which has been called into play in Afghanistan, was able to quickly demolish the Taliban state apparatus, remove the Al Qaeda training camps and secure the urban areas. But the enemy had no need for what little urban infrastructure Afghanistan had left after two decades of continuous warfare. Bombing missions over Afghanistan, after the October 2011 American invasion, quickly ran out of targets and the troops on the ground were unable to capture Osama Bin Laden or the Taliban leaders in such a vast forbidding environment. The US ended up spending at this point some 13 years, the longest military action in US history, in Afghanistan with no real accomplishments other than propping up a corrupt local regime.

From UN report on Corruption in Afghanistan

The U.S., backing anti-democratic states like Saudi Arabia, historically participating in destabilizing efforts such as the overthrow of the democratic rule in Iran in the 1950’s and stanchly backing Israel, has created a situation where the U.S. it has become the object of mass dissatisfaction in the Middle East, seen as the puppet master behind so much that goes on, even though this can only be said to be partially true. The US has been transformed from the beacon of light to the embattled national security state like some reinvented Roman Empire building walls around its borders in a vain attempt to keep the dangerous world out, an impossible task on the face of it. The American people’s psyche, now fearful, manipulated by market and governmental forces that have failed and lied, leading the country into costly and debilitating wars, a ruinous recession and now a seemingly dysfunctional heath care plan, with onerous debt, a political class in disarray and Congress in stalemate. Hamstrung by the debt from the wars and mishandling the economy, it will be years before the US recovers its predominant position, if ever with the changing world political scene. America the embattled is the resulting mental state from the War on Terror.

The U.S. must continue to re-examine the use of its military power, participate in multilateral approaches to problems, as the recent Libyan campaign demonstrated even with its flaws. The recognition of and mitigation of racist stereotypical attitudes is essential to a clear headed approach to the region. Reviewing the reaction in the Middle East to Obama’s election in 2008, the U. S. gained much credibility, simply because Obama, as a non-white European, raised hopes that he would take a much more nuanced and understanding approach to the world. The excessive costs of the recent wars and the exhaustion of the American public with more entanglements in the Middle East as the recent resistance to an incursion in Syria would indicate, should warn policy makers that a change in direction is needed. Tend to one’s own garden as Candide said, in Voltaire’s classic tale, a lesson the U. S. should consider seriously. Certainly there are enough issues in the American domestic house that cry out for attention.

Will the U.S. take care of pressing domestic issues and renounce its hegemonic position in the world? The affirmative position is that the U.S. is making moves to extricate itself from the disastrous policies of the last decade, ratcheting down from a War on Terror rhetorically to one of police activity, has aided in a return to a more normal posture vis a vie the use of extraordinary powers. An institutionalization of eroded civil liberties and freedom in the U.S. will accomplish al Qaeda’s work for them, reducing the U.S. to merely being just another state jostling for power and control. If America is to retain its exceptional position as a beacon of hope and freedom, then it must not allow that to happen.

Works Cited
Carlton, David. The West’s Road to 9/11 Resisting, Appeasing, and Encouraging Terrorism Since 1970. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. 2005. Print.
Chesney, Robert M. “Beyond the Battlefield, Beyond Al Qaeda: The Destabilizing Legal Architecture of Counterterrorism.” Michigan Law Review 112.2 (2013): 163-224. ProQuest. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
Ferguson, Niall. Colossus The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. New York: Penguin Books. 2004. Print.
Fromkin, David, “The Strategy of Terrorism.” Foreign Affairs. July, 1975. Rpt. The U.S. VS. al Qaeda A History of the War on Terror. Eds. Gideon Rose, and Johnathan Tepperman. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. 2011. 1-20. Print.
Heymann, Phillip B. Terrorism Freedom and Security Winning Without War. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2003. Print.
Heymann, Philip B. and Juliette N. Kayyem. Introduction. Protecting Liberty in an Age of Terror. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2005. mitpress2.mit.edu. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
Huntington, Samuel P. “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72.3 (1993): 22. ProQuest. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.
Johnson, Chalmers. “Blowback.” The Nation. 15 Oct. 2001. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.
Monahan, Torin. Surveillance in the Time of Insecurity. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers U. Press. 2010. Print.
Ozeren, Suleyman and Gunes, Ismail Dincer. “Introduction: Sociological and Psychological Aspects of Terrorism.” Understanding Terrorism: Analysis of Sociological and Psychological Aspects. Eds. Suleyman Ozeren, Ismail Dincer Gunes and Diab M. Al- Badayneh. Amsterdam: IOS Press. 2007. 1-14. Print.
Rashid, Ahmed. Descent into Chaos. New York: Penguin Books. 2009. Print.
Rose, Gideon. “The War on Terror in Retrospective Anatomy of an Overreaction.” The U.S. VS. al Qaeda A History of the War on Terror. Eds. Gideon Rose, and Johnathan Tepperman. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. 2011. v-xiii. Print.
Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1993. Print.
Welch, Michael. Scapegoats of September 11th Hate Crimes & State Crimes in the War on Terror. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers U. Press. 2006. Print.

Militias, Military Death Squads and Covert Warfare, Rendition & The Dark Side Again. Boycott Whole Foods

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a new report on the rise of militias on its website. This is the beginning of the piece.

“SPLC Report: Return of the Militias

The 1990s saw the rise and fall of the virulently anti government “Patriot” movement, made up of paramilitary militias, tax defiers and so-called “sovereign citizens.” Sparked by a combination of anger at the federal government and the deaths of political dissenters at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the movement took off in the middle of the decade and continued to grow even after 168 people were left dead by the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building — an attack, the deadliest ever by domestic U.S. terrorists, carried out by men steeped in the rhetoric and conspiracy theories of the militias. In the years that followed, a truly remarkable number of criminal plots came out of the movement. But by early this century, the Patriots had largely faded, weakened by systematic prosecutions, aversion to growing violence, and a new, highly conservative president.
They’re back. Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. “Paper terrorism” — the use of property liens and citizens’ “courts” to harass enemies — is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to “reconquer” the American Southwest. One law enforcement agency has found 50 new militia training groups — one of them made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. “This is the most significant growth we’ve seen in 10 to 12 years,” says one. “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”
A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate. One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, ostensibly mainstream politicians and media pundits have helped to spread Patriot and related propaganda, from conspiracy theories about a secret network of U.S. concentration camps to wholly unsubstantiated claims about the president’s country of birth.”

Today on KPFK Ian Masters reports on military hit squads.
Sy Hersh reported that Cheney sent agents around the world to kill, set loose around the world with bags of money and guns. Section 119 Title 10, battlefield preparations. This is the military that has exemptions that the CIA doesn’t have, it is in the JSOC Joint Special Operations Command.
There was an operation in Kenya that was bungled so badly that the Ambassador had to save the operatives who were caught by the Kenyan police.
These operations were done throught the Vice Presidents office, he had to sign for this activity. Some were successful. It is easier to keep secrets in the military. A lot of money has been given with little need for receipts, up to half a million in cash at one time can be spend without accounting for it. In Kuwait there were 16 US military officers being tried on corruption charges.
Are these covert military operations successful in avoiding wars? Problem is asking for accounting? Are they cost efficient. The Surge in Iraq succeeded because local Sheiks were given money to stop attacking US troops. There are hundreds of millions at a time in Iraq $9 billion to $100 billion has been spent on this.
The CIA has a limit on executions. The military does not, it has been used in the war on terror which means it can go after anyone they want. Clinton had the programs but never used them. Bush Jr. used it all the time letting Cheney go foward. Obama seems to have decided that it is ok.
Conservative Amercians want to use this more. This was Pat Robertson’s main presidential campaign idea. Most of the mainstream media and Congress does not want to know about it. OMD does do some oversight and has a classified oversight system. GAO has some oversight ability also. There has been a political decision not to investigate. Tim Spicer is the biggest recipient of money and is a mercenary who runs all the dirty tricks operations in Africa.
Spicer is the chief executive of Aegis Defense Services.
From Wikepedia
“In October 2004, Aegis won a $293 million three-year contract in Iraq outsourcing, among other things, intelligence for the U.S. Army.
“ Spicer is effectively in charge of the second largest military force in Iraq – some 20,000 private soldiers. Just don’t call him a mercenary. ”
— Stephen Armstrong Guardian journalist”

This from the Raw Story

“Hersh: ‘Executive assassination ring’ reported directly to Cheney Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday March 11, 2009
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell on Tuesday when he told an audience at the University of Minnesota that the military was running an “executive assassination ring” throughout the Bush years which reported directly to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The remark came out seemingly inadvertently when Hersh was asked by the moderator of a public discussion of “America’s Constitutional Crisis” whether abuses of executive power, like those which occurred under Richard Nixon, continue to this day.
Hersh replied, “After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet.”
Hersh then went on to describe a second area of extra-legal operations: the Joint Special Operations Command. “It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently,” he explained. “They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. … Congress has no oversight of it.”
“It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on,” Hersh stated. “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.”
Stories have been coming out about covert Pentagon assassination squads for the last several years. In 2003, Hersh himself reported on Task Force 121, which operated chiefly out of the Joint Special Operations Command. Others stories spoke of a proposed Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group.
As Hersh noted in Minnesota, the New York Times on Monday described the Joint Special Operations Command as overseeing the secret commando units in Afghanistan whose missions were temporarily ordered halted last month because of growing concerns over excessive civilian deaths.”

This is from the Wikipedia article on Joint Special Operations Command

“The JSOC is the “joint headquarters designed to study special operations requirements and techniques; ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; plan and conduct joint special operations exercises and training; and develop joint special operations tactics”. For this task, the Joint Communications Unit (JCU) is tasked to ensure compatibility of communications systems and standard operating procedures of the different special operations units.
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also commands and controls the Special Mission Units (SMU) of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). These units perform highly classified activities. So far, only three SMUs have been publicly disclosed: The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (Delta Force), the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 or Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) which often operates under various cover names such as Royal Cape, Granite Rock and Powder Keg were some, Centra Spike and Torn Victor. However, it most recent known cover names was Gray Fox. The army once maintained the Activity, but after September 11 attacks the Pentagon shifted direct control to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, NC. If needed, Army Rangers and Night Stalkers can be transferred under the JSOC command. JSOC’s primary mission is believed to be identifying and destroying terrorists and terror cells worldwide.
USSOCOM/JSOC cannot conduct covert action operations, as the CIA is the only organization that has the authority to conduct these actions. However, USSOCOM has an excellent relationship with the CIA’s elite Special Activities Division and the two forces often operate together with exceptional results. The CIA’s Special Activities Division’s Special Operations Group often selects their recruits from JSOC.”

Interesting they are not allowed to perform covert operations but they can target and kill people around the world as long as they are identified as terrorists. They get billions of dollars that are seemingly unaccounted for. This is legitimate activity of a government agency with little or no oversight. The President signs a finding and off they go. But what about operations that are not covered by the war on terror? Before 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act and the creation of the department of Homeland Security many of these operations were illegal. Now many of them are legal. But not all. My question is what is done in the name of this country that is not strictly legal? How is it funded? What is done that is legal that was not before the Bush administration opened the floodgates of dark side activities. What exactly have we unleashed upon the world in the name of securing our so called American way of life?

There was a major article from the New Yorker by Jane Mayer about rendition that exposed much of this. This is an excerpt, the movie “Rendition” was based on reports like this one.

“Outsourcing Torture
The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
by Jane Mayer
February 14, 2005

On January 27th 2005, President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush’s statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture.
During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured.
Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”
A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause. Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America—including torture.
Arar is suing the U.S. government for his mistreatment. “They are outsourcing torture because they know it’s illegal,” he said. “Why, if they have suspicions, don’t they question people within the boundary of the law?”
Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime. Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, estimates that a hundred and fifty people have been rendered since 2001. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that a more precise number was impossible to obtain. “I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.”
Although the full scope of the extraordinary-rendition program isn’t known, several recent cases have come to light that may well violate U.S. law. In 1998, Congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.”
The Bush Administration, however, has argued that the threat posed by stateless terrorists who draw no distinction between military and civilian targets is so dire that it requires tough new rules of engagement. This shift in perspective, labelled the New Paradigm in a memo written by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, “places a high premium on . . . the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians,” giving less weight to the rights of suspects. It also questions many international laws of war. Five days after Al Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vice-President Dick Cheney, reflecting the new outlook, argued, on “Meet the Press,” that the government needed to “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney went on, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

And the rest is history. We are now living within a state that perpetuates terror in the name of Security around the world. We need to make these people accountable for this. Attorney General Holder needs to investigate these policies and determine what is legal and what is not. We need to stop committing actions around the world in which tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people are being imprisoned and tortured all in the name of national security and the war on terror. This is no longer a matter of a response to terror attacks, it is now a matter of the wholesale use of the American military for purposes that are illegal, unconstitutional and immoral by just about any standard.
I agree that using human beings as bombs is the action of a desperate people. Just as committing suicide is in any other manner. It evokes a willingness to persevere that is not seen in humans except perhaps in war time situations when a soldier throws himself on a hand grenade to save his companions or storms an enemy machine gun emplacement or makes a kamikaze attack upon an enemy installation. This is an action of either heroism or desperation. In any case it takes a high level of motivation to perform such an act. In ancient times sometimes we hear of cases of persons being sacrificed to the gods, more or less willingly. We also hear tales of servants and wives of dead leaders in Egypt, China and among the Vikings being sent to their deaths on the funeral pyre or in the tomb of these leaders in hopes that they will serve them again in the afterlife.
But generally it is a rare thing for a human to be willing to give up their life for a cause although one could say that anyone who joins the military is offering to put their lives on the line, the fact is that most people join the military as a career not because of a death wish, they look at the hazard in the same way that a lineman working on electric poles or a test pilot would. It is dangerous but not suicidal.
It is something else to engage in barbaric practices in an attempt to prevent these dedicated souls from meeting their maker in the form of a suicide bombing. Who is more debased or depraved, the person willing to give up their life to gain an entrance to paradise as some of the Muslim suicide bombers believe, or the CIA hired agent who kidnaps a person at an airport, puts a hood on a captive, takes them to a secret facility and proceeds to torture that person at no risk to their own life. One may kill many in his or her act of dedication, the other may not kill anyone, but may be torturing the innocent just as the other kills the innocent.
What are the consequences? One may be able to gain the liberation of his or her country, kill a hated dictator in the act of self destruction. The other may stop just such an action from happening. When one’s side wins the suicide is called martyrdom. Look at Christianity. In the period just before its acceptance by Constantine, Christians were persecuted. They were given a choice, to die in one horrible manner or another or renounce Christianity and become accepted in the fold of the state respected religious system. Many Christians chose death and this was a form of suicide, we would call it suicide by cop today. Then Christians were taken out and fed to wild beasts in public like common criminals. Today they are called martyrs.
Japan lost the war. Its warriors who were willing to become kamikaze are still respected in Japan, although that system of militarism and emperor worship has become frowned upon.
Suicide bombers, among the Palestinians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghanis have become accepted because other tactics of resistance do not have the same effect. It is condemned in the west and treated as some kind of aberration, but it is not all that unusual, it appears throughout history when people have their backs to the wall and are given the choice of surrender to what they consider to be evil or dying for a noble cause. It is not normal, but it certainly is not unprecedented.
By using tactics of torture we in the west show ourselves to be morally inferior especially when we propound a system of values that supposedly is one that cherishes the rule of law and respect for the individual. It is also the height of hypocrisy for us to promote individual liberty and bomb people to oblivion with high tech drone weapons and the threat of nuclear bombing, probably the most sophisticated system of suicide bombing ever developed, one that can wipe out all of humanity in a matter of minutes.
Exceedingly materialistic societies seem to place a premium on the value of the individual. They develop elaborate legal systems to protect those individuals. They then proceed to justify the oppression of others who do not fit in that system by calling them non human or less than human. It is the only way to justify breaking the very rules of the sanctity of the individual. It is the same double think that allows for slavery, poverty and other inequities, even the blatant disregard for the rules of law and sanctity of the individual that the society is purportedly built upon. This entire edifice collapses in a pile of hypocritical debris when as described in the book by George Orwell ‘Animal Farm’ some animals are considered to be less equal than others.

This from San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia Protest at Whole Foods, like Starbucks and Trader Joes, they are anti union.

Berkeley Protest At Whole Foods After CEO Comes Out Against Public Health Care
Sun Aug 16 2009 Whole Foods Boycott Demanded
On August 16th people gathered on the sidewalk in front of Whole Foods in Berkeley to let customers know that its founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board, John Mackey, is working to prevent public funding of health care.
In an August 11th opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (it is also available on the Whole Foods website), Mackey wrote in a piece entitled “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare” that the “last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement” and that health care for the poor should take place through “voluntary, tax-deductible donations” rather than government funding. He goes on to ask “While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?”
Mackey has always held Libertarian views and is well known for being anti-Union even comparing them to herpes. Shortly before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the manager of a Whole Foods grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area reportedly called a meeting because Whole Foods believed Obama would sign the Employee Free Choice Act, and threatened employees that “every benefit you have” could be “thrown out the window” if they formed a Union. Whole Foods has also been known to fire employees who have tried to Unionize stores. Mackey’s health care editorial was apparently partially written by Lanny Davis, who aside from lobbying for the coup regime in Honduras is working with Mackey to stop the Employee Free Choice Act from allowing card checks or binding arbitration.
Many people all over the country are now demanding a boycott of Whole Foods and Wild Oats, which Whole Foods bought up a few years ago.”

The Mechanics Of Victory-Indifference

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

When the poetics of daily life have been replaced by a mechanical certitude, not the repetition of pattern which may or may not be mechanical, but by the lack of awareness, by the insensitivity that comes with brutish indifference, that is when the mind machine has become robotic in its repetition.
When the magic making of each moments intervention can no longer be perceived, and there is only tedium, an awaiting for the call to service, as in the antechamber of the fire house, where the firemen play cards and while away the moments awaiting the call to put out the fire, when that is all that life has become, then there is a tendency to want to make emergency happen. Like the revolutionary who spends his whole life awaiting the revolution that never happens, or the millennialist who awaits the end of the world that never occurs, there is among all of these persons the desire for something to break the daily routine, like the stone in the pond, if only the correctly tossed ripple making machine would cause everything to be transformed, but alas that is only true in the sense of the butterfly effect.
Yet there are fires, there are disasters, 9-11 did happen, we really did see the World Trade Center collapse before our eyes and thousands were thrown to horrible deaths of fire and collapse. Firemen did heed the call and there was the sense of a family being pulled together for the sake of the salvation of all that was right and proper in the world. What happened as a result? The president who would have been a mediocrity was transformed into a blazing prophet and what did he ask of us, the assembled multitudes? He told us to go shopping. Forget it, give him the power, let him kick the asses of the evil doers, and leave the work up to the experts who would go on the dark side as vice president Darth Vader pronounced ominously.
And that is what happened. Aliens were rounded up. Radicals were placed on lists and the rest of us went shopping. Shop until you drop was the slogan, shop for victory and the victory came in record debts and a stock market crash and a credit collapse and a financial collapse as we did what we were told like good Americans the world over.
There is nothing new about this. The world has been reminded of the firestorm that was put out by the credit card. We have seen Master Charge and Visa and American Express take on the iconoclastic value that war bonds and the draft and patriotism took in previous wars. Even the opposition that was vocal and vociferous in the last major war of unknowing in Vietnam has in this war become the ubiquitous Internet opposition and makes its presence felt in hit on a web site, movements of fingers on key boards not in the streets. Mass emotions of revolt have been recouped in this generation as the guy who is concerned about his lost credit and the guitar player is the symbol of the 500 and lower credit score of the looser in the consumption status wars. For we have been called to task by our leaders to shop and if we fail there, we have failed in the war on terror. Terror being the interminable poker game in the night of the fire house wait for the next disaster to strike.
It is indifference on the highest level, we have been asked not to care about even the life and death struggles of our way of life, of our very value system. Because it no longer exists. Truth, justice and the American way have become shopping, malls and the open freeway. And if we cannot shop when our hearts tell us too do so, as our president has asked us to do then our righteous anger is roused and we will tear down the walls that keep us from the object and the goal of our desires and we will kill any who would stand in our way, be he a rival gang member or a hapless employee at Walmart. For it is our right and our duty to shop and shop well will on the shores of the Caribbean tourist stop of our cruise ship, on the plains of our Malls of America in the vastness of the middle west, on the heights of our ski vacations in Aspen and to the very gates of the Disney World Adventures we have awaited all year and taken out a loan for our family fun time, it is our duty to shop and to consume across this planet in every nook and cranny with every spare moment at home, on the job or even in our dreams, and as proud Americans we will do our duty. After all this is Wartime and the president has called us…What will President Obama ask of us? We can only hope more of the same.


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