Friday, April 27, 2012

OMNI Afghanistan/Pakistan Newsletter #16

OMNI NEWSLETTER ON AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN #16,  April 27, 2012. Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace  (#8 April 15, 2011; #9 June 10, 2011; #10 July 3, 2011; #11 July 13, 2011;  #12 Sept. 5, 2011; #13 Oct. 2, 2011; #14 Oct. 15, 2011; #15 Feb. 14, 2012 )

Here is the link to all the newsletters archived in the OMNI web site. For views and information not found in the mainstream media

Instead of Defense Department, Say War Department
Instead of War on Terror, Say US War to Dominate World
Instead of Taliban, Say Afghan Resistance to Occupation
And Afghan/Pak make sense. 

Contents of #15
Taliban Peace Talks
Rolling Stone:  McChrystal, Petraeus
Rolling Stone:  Full Report
Chomsky: World Militarism
Voices for Creative Nonviolence:  Women and Children
PBS Film: We Take Our Stand
Merkley Afghan Withdrawal Amendment Passes Senate
Cortright, Ending Obama’s War
Pakistan After NATO Attack
Protest New Military Budget
Afghans Hungry This Winter
US Torture (3)
To End War Free 5 Prisoners
IED Soldiers’ Deaths

Contents of #16
Oppose NATO, Occupation, Warriors, War-Mongers in Chicago
Afghan Women
WAND, Rangina Hamidi
Sheehan, Afghans for Peace for Women
Robert Bales
   Stephenson, US Soldier Kills Civilians
   Hedges, Murder in War
   Shea, Support These Troops?
The War and Afghans
US Labor Against the War

    Join us in Chicago for Nato Counter Summit!
Mary Zerkel and Peter Lems, American Friends Service Committee via to jbennet
Join us for our Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice Chicago, May 18 & 19
Dear James,
The Counter Summit Agenda! 

End the wars and build real security with dialogue, diplomacy and nonviolence.
Map campaigns for a more peaceful and just future
Build campaigns to challenge militarized foreign policies.

For more details on the conference visit NATO-FREE

AFSC is continuing our work to put an end to, and reprioritize, the initiatives of the pro-military agendas around the world. From various traveling exhibits like Windows and Mirrors, hosting informative events such as Know Drones, and the ongoing panels of engaging dialogue. With your help we are making a difference every day.
To expand our work with European partners to end the war in Afghanistan, AFSC took the lead in organizing the Network for a NATO-FREE FUTURE. With these partners, we've organized the Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice Conference as an alternative and safe place for those who, like us, oppose current agendas of many world governments.
There will be more than 50 heads of state participating in the upcoming NATO Summit.
The NATO Summit's agenda aims to:
Establish support for a US military presence through 2024 in Afghanistan.
Commit to spending billions of dollars to arm and support over-sized Afghan security forces that are unsustainable
Reaffirm NATO as a global military alliance and preparations for “New Strategic Concept” wars like the disastrous Libyan military intervention.
To push back against this agenda, the counter summit will offer plenary sessions and 28 workshops featuring analysis, trainings, and campaigns designed to bring the troops home, to move the money from the Pentagon to meet real human needs and to create a more peaceful, just and secure world.
Bringing together activists from across the U.S. and around the world, the counter-summit will provide rare and critically important opportunities to learn from one another, to network and to build more cohesive peace, economic and social justice movements.
Speakers include Phyllis Bennis, Medea Benjamin, Roger Cole, Bruce Gagnon, Sarita Gupta, and AFSC's Peter Lems.
You’ll find the conference agenda, a complete list of speakers, workshops, and other useful information regarding the conference at the NATO-FREE FUTURE web page.
A better, more peaceful, secure and prosperous world is possible. Please come to Chicago if you can!
Wage peace,
Mary Zerkel and Peter Lems
American Friends Service Committee
Ps. If you want to take action in advance visit our NATO/G8 Resources page.
Forward this message to your friends.

Help support AFSC's worldwide work for peace, justice and human dignity. Make a donation today.
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

    Give Afghan women a voice!
Karen Jacob via
April 11, 2012   to jbennet
Dear WAND Supporter,
 Rangina Hamidi is a 35-year-old Afghani woman whose family fled to the United States during the Soviet occupation in 1981. With the threat of the Taliban’s return to power and activity in Afghanistan, fear is in the air - especially for women.
  Susan Shaer (WAND executive director) and I met with Rangina a few weeks ago. Rangina asks that we tell members of Congress that women’s needs are fundamental to the freedom and security of families, tribes and communities.
  Hillary Clinton has lifted up the absolute necessity of having women at the tables of peacemaking in Afghanistan, and everywhere. Yet few U.S. congresswomen are aware of President Obama’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security released in December, 2011, and how it can affect U.S. plans for providing security for the women of Afghanistan after we leave.

Donate to WAND Education Fund now to help enlighten
Congress about the National Action Plan.

U.S. troops will leave soon, so I, you, we, feel urgency to protect the citizens, the women and children, the old and infirm, from endless tragedy. You can help tell Congress to consider how to protect them. WAND has the expertise to help these groups educate elected leaders. WAND understands what policy makers need to think about on the road ahead. 

You and I are the fortunate ones. We can help the Afghan women secure a better future. Join me as I work with WAND to make this a better world for all women. Starting with Afghanistan. You can make a difference by donating to WAND Education Fund today.

Sincerely,Karen Jacob, WAND Board Chair, Goshen, Indiana
691 Massachusetts Ave.
| Arlington, MA 02476 US

Afghans for Peace
by Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox

Dear Friend,

We at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox have been a consistent, loud, and uncompromising voice for peace during the Obama administration.

More people (US troops and Afghans, alike) have died in Afghanistan since Obama took over management of that war.

This Sunday, on the Soapbox, I talk to Fatima, from Afghans for Peace. Afghans must, themselves, lead any effort for peace in that region.

Here is the video that Fatima wanted us to watch that highlights the struggle for integrity of vision and principle even within her own community.

You can listen to this show Sunday, March 25, at 2pm Pacific at Community Progressive Radio---or any time thereafter at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox Archives.

U.S. Soldier Kills 16 Afghan Civilians In Unprovoked Attack
Jon Stephenson, News Report, NationofChange, March 12, 2012: “A U.S. soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday, including three women and nine children, in an unprovoked attack in southern Kandahar province, Afghan officials said. Five more people also were wounded in the shooting at Belandi-Pul village of the Panjway district when the soldier entered homes and opened fire, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office.” READ  |  DISCUSS  |  SHARE

“Chris Hedges | Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War”
 TruthDig, March 19, 2012
Excerpt: "Robert Bales, a U.S. Army staff sergeant who allegedly killed 16 civilians in two Afghan villages, including nine children, is not an anomaly. To decry the butchery of this case and to defend the wars of occupation we wage is to know nothing about combat."

"Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace: Traveling with U.S. Troops Gives Insights into the Recent Massacre"
By Neil Shea, American Scholar blog, posted March 16

Photos of Soldiers With Afghan Corpses the Latest Outrage for U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Video Report, Democracy Now, April 19, 2012: “We get reaction to two photographs published by the Los Angeles Times that show U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses and body parts of dead Afghans. ‘I think (the photos) shock us actually more than they shock Afghans,’ says journalist Anand Gopal. ‘From the Afghan perspective, we’ve had troops urinating on corpses, a massacre of 17 civilians, air strikes, night raids, troops cutting off fingers for sport, and so, for Afghans, this is part and parcel of the experience of being in war.’” READ  |  DISCUSS  |  SHARE - Similar
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Defense" of Mass Murder

By Dick Bennett
     Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011.  Why?   He thought they were Muslims; he thought Muslims were taking over his country.   “I acted in self-defense on behalf of my people, my city, my country.”    “’I am a member of the Norwegian resistance movement….We demand that our ethnic rights not be taken away from us.”  It was a “suicide attack,” he said; he had not expected “to survive that day.”
      He sounds like bin Laden:  he too was defending his faith and people.  And like the followers of bin Laden, who murdered thousands of people, Breivik was willing to give up his life.
      In court Breivik argued that “he had acted in his country’s defense” and compared  himself to U.S. commanders  who authorized the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”  On this basis he asked the court “’that I be acquitted.’”  “’As long as you call me evil, you should call the U.S. commanders during World War II evil as well when they decided to drop the bomb on Japan.’”  But the U.S. was not evil because “they tried to have noble motives to try to save people’s lives.” just as he did.   He was protesting “the ‘Islamic’ “colonization” of Norway,”    “’I did this out of goodness, not evil.’”  The murders were a “’preventive strike.’”
       Thus “defense” because psychopathic and lethal.   To reverse the chronological order:   The U.S. Department of “Defense”. invades and bombs from Guatemala in 1954 to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, all in violation of the U.N. Charter, killing millions of innocents.   The U.S. equipped Osama bin Laden in his resistance to the Soviet Occupation.  Bin Laden ’s al Qaeda members bombed the Twin Towers, in defense of his faith, of Afghanistan, occupied now my the U.S.,  and other Middle Eastern nations.   And  Breivik bombs and shoots in defense of “my people, my city, my country.”  
     Formerly a high value, the idea of “defense” has been so outrageously sullied and abused by extremist nationalistic and ethnic fanatics and xenophobes, let us banish the word until the idea loses its power to motivate mass murder.
--William Blum.   Killing Hope and Rogue State.
--Mark Lewis and Alan Cowell (The New York Times).  “Patriotically Killed 77, Norwegian Testifies.”  ADG (April 18, 2012), 3A.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Peace has a day in Court
Cindy Sheehan

For those of you who know me and have been following my story, you know that part of my resistance to the US Empire is my refusal to pay income taxes.

This morning (April 19th), a new episode unfolded in my ongoing struggle with the IRS and the Empire the agency is nestled in.

I was subpoenaed to appear in the 9th Circuit court of the US Federal Court system in Sacramento, California—my state’s capitol.

For background, I have had two meetings with the IRS agent assigned to my case where I expressed to him my unwillingness, due to my principles, to participate in funding a system that commits crimes almost every second of every day. At this point, the IRS is trying to collect 105 grand that it says I owe for the tax years 2005-2006. I first became a war tax refuser in 2005.

My defense is one based on a far superior morality than one practiced by the US government and the fact that my outspokenness against this immorality, and my notoriety in doing so, has put me into a precarious position in a climate where free speech and peaceful protest is being suppressed, sometimes very violently, as we have increasingly witnessed.

In the past after about 15 arrests, I have also had many opportunities to appear in court, federal and otherwise, in front of judges who never showed one bit of compassion or sympathy towards the protesters’ first amendment right trumping the governments’ harsh rules and laws profoundly inhibiting those rights.

I have never once “gotten off” using a defense based on the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution.

In that Bill of Rights, there’s an especially pesky little 1st Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Yet Congress and other legislative bodies routinely pass these laws prohibiting the free exercise of speech and the right to peaceably assemble and our protests become more and more meaningless as we are pushed farther and farther away from our, for want of a better word, targets. In addition, the police state is increasingly chasing protesters away by tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sound weaponry and other supposedly "non-lethal" means.

When I decided to be a conscientious objector to war tax, I knew that the consequence could be harassment and/or punishment, but I decided to do it long before I became well known as a gadfly to Empire. I was willing to accept those consequences because I felt that if I were put on trial, the reasons that I don’t fund war crimes would have to also be put on trial, and I think it’s the only way that the illegality of the wars can actually get a hearing.

I have an advisor who is an experienced tax attorney who advises the National War Tax Resister’s Coordinating Committee and he feels that the Empire may be targeting me to get publicity and to intimidate others from taking the same course of action that I actually encourage others to do, so he could inform me as to what usually happens every step of the way, but my case could be “special” and contain many surprises, a few which did occur in court today.

Before I continue, I’d like to say that since I have become an antiwar “criminal,” my respect for the legal profession has grown by leaps and bounds. I have always managed to attract some amazing attorneys to help me in my cases always on a pro bono basis and this case is no exception. My attorney of record in California is San Francisco attorney, Dennis Cunningham, who has been involved in many protest cases and advising us is Peter Goldberger in Pennsylvania. I am so thankful for the help of my attorneys and for the NWRTCC and I honestly don’t know what I would do without their legal help and peer support.

Anyway, there was a pre-hearing rally in Sacramento today and supporters came there from Los Angeles, Ventura, San Jose, San Francisco, Nevada City and Sacramento—we filled the small courtroom after the rally (my pre rally statement is linked here).
After we went through security and had to relinquish cameras and the signs we had pinned to us showing my son’s picture and my picture and NO WAR TAXES printed on top, we went to the courtroom where my hearing was the final one on a short docket of four.

We were arguing that I had a 1st Amendment right to the protest and a 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and the attorney for the IRS and her buddies that traveled from DC (yes, of course, this is not a political persecution) argued that a “blanket 5th” is not allowed by case law and rulings and she wanted me to be ordered to go to a room in the federal building to answer questions about my “assets.” (My lawyer brilliantly argued that the “secret” agencies already had all that information on me, anyway)—but there was no way that I was going to be blindsided by an unwarranted demand like that and this is where some extraordinary things happened.

Dennis was able to expound at length about our fears of political retribution and my moral opposition to the wars and he was able to iterate that I was against militarism and the huge proportion of our taxes that go towards it. This is what I have always wanted—the position of Peace had its day in court today! I was thrilled beyond belief, but what happened when Dennis finished literally blew me away.

The Magistrate who presided over the hearing, John Moulds, is an older man whom my attorney said has been on the bench for years and years, but is known to be “fair” and not too “excitable.”

The Magistrate said that he read all of our motions and he looked me right in the eyes from across the room and with great emotion in his voice he said, "It strikes me as a civilized way to protest uncivilized acts." (Reuters) I actually started to cry because it was such a beautiful thing to say in such a loving way and I can’t ever recall anyone in the government and/or establishment that has ever genuinely acknowledged my pain and practically admitted that what happened to Casey and my family was disordered. Oh, many democrats pretended that they were sorry for my pain, but they were only doing it for crass political gain—and when the republicans acknowledged it, they were “thanking” me for my son’s brave service to the country—I don’t know which approach was worse, but I felt no compassion until today.

Then the lady from DC said that she could “sympathize with conscientious objectors” but “losing a son” was no excuse to “break the law with impunity.” What’s the empire’s excuse for breaking the law with impunity in many ways on every day?

Dennis and I agreed to meet with the IRS at a future date so I could do a line by line 5th amendment claim to each question and the lady from DC requested that the magistrate order me to comply and show up for the meeting and he said something like, “I want the parties to talk, this hearing is over and I have 45 days to make a ruling one way or the other on your motion—I may, or I may not.” According to Peter, this is also something unprecedented.
I came away feeling very energized and encouraged by today’s proceedings and if the Empire wants to make someone cower before them in fear to intimidate others, they picked the wrong person. Even if the magistrate hadn’t been so favorable to our side, I still would feel triumphant.

The fissures of imperial overreach and excess are widening and the Empire is being exposed for the ridiculous bully it really is.

No Empire lasts forever and the terribly destructive nature of ours requires us to help its inevitable collapse. I am doing everything I can in my own small ways with all the courage I can muster and I appreciate all the support and help I get along the way.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

US Covert Ops Newsletter

OMNI NEWSLETTER #1 ON COVERT OPS.  April 19, 2012.    Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace and Justice.  

Here is the link to all OMNI newsletters:   For a knowledge-based peace, justice, and ecology movement and an informed citizenry as the foundation for change.


Cole, Cutting Edge of US Power

Schechter, Covert Ops Drives Pentagon

Reuters, Western Covert Ops Increasing

The Age of American Shadow Power

Covert operations are nothing new in American history, but it could be argued that during the past decade they have moved from being a relatively minor arrow in the national security quiver to being the cutting edge of American power. Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements by military units such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of US foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy. But these tools lend themselves to rogue operations that create peril for the United States when they blow back on us. And they often make the United States deeply unpopular.
Body Block - Left

About the Author

Juan Cole
Juan Cole, who maintains the blog Informed Comment, is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the...

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Shadow power has even become an issue in the presidential campaign. Newt Gingrich advocates ramped-up “covert operations” inside Iran. President Obama replied to Mitt Romney’s charge that he is an “appeaser” by suggesting that his critics “ask bin Laden” about that.
Obama often speaks of the “tide of war receding,” but that phrase refers only to conventional war. In Afghanistan, where the administration hopes to roll up conventional fighting by the end of 2013, it is making plans for long-term operations by special forces through units such as JSOC. It is unclear what legal framework will be constructed for their activities, other than a wink and a nod from President Hamid Karzai.
Although the Iraqis managed to compel the withdrawal of US troops by the end of last year, Washington is nevertheless seeking to remain influential through shadow power. The US embassy in Baghdad has 16,000 employees, most of them civilian contractors. They include 2,000 diplomats and several hundred intelligence operatives. By contrast, the entire US Foreign Service corps comprises fewer than 14,000. The Obama administration has decided to slash the number of contractors, planning for an embassy force of “only” 8,000. This monument to shadow power clearly is not intended merely to represent US interests in Iraq but rather to shape that country and to serve as a command center for the eastern reaches of the greater Middle East. The US shadow warriors will, for instance, attempt to block “the influence of Iran,” according to the Washington Post. Since Iraq’s Shiite political parties, which dominate Parliament and the cabinet, are often close to Iran, that charge would inescapably involve meddling in internal Iraqi politics.
Nor can we be sure that the CIA will engage only in espionage or influence-peddling in Iraq. The American shadow government routinely kidnaps people it considers dangerous and has sent them to black sites for torture, often by third-party governments to keep American hands clean. As usual with the shadow government, private corporations have been enlisted to help in these “rendition” programs, which are pursued outside the framework of national and international law and in defiance of the sensibilities of our allies. How the United States might behave in Iraq can be extrapolated from its recent behavior in other allied countries. In November 2009 an Italian court convicted in absentia twenty-three people, most of them CIA field officers who had kidnapped an alleged Al Qaeda recruiter, Abu Omar, on a Milan street in the middle of the day and sent him to Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt for “interrogation.” Obama has explicitly continued this practice as a “counterterrorism tool,” though he says torture has been halted. Iraq is likely to continue to be an arena of such veiled struggles.
The Obama administration’s severe unilateral sanctions on Iran and attempts to cut that country off from the world banking system have a shadow power aspect. Aimed at crippling Iran’s oil exports, they are making it difficult for Iran to import staples like wheat. Although Washington denies carrying out covert operations in Iran, the US government and allies like Israel are suspected of doing just that. According to anonymous US intelligence officials and military sources interviewed by The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, the United States has trained members of the MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq, or People’s Jihadis), based in Iraq at Camp Ashraf, to spy on Iran and carry out covert operations there, just as Saddam Hussein had done, though any American support for the organization would directly contradict the State Department listing of it as a terrorist organization. The MEK is suspected of carrying out a string of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists, but US intelligence leaks say Israel’s Mossad, not the CIA, is the accomplice. Indeed, the difficulty of disentangling Washington’s shadow power from that of its junior partners can be seen in the leak by US intelligence complaining that Mossad agents had impersonated CIA field officers in recruiting members of the Jundullah terrorist group in Iranian Baluchistan for covert operations against Iran. Jundullah, a Sunni group, has repeatedly bombed Shiite mosques in Zahedan and elsewhere in the country’s southeast. Needless to say, the kind of overt and covert pressure Obama is putting on Iran could easily, even if inadvertently, spark a war.
The recent release of more than 5 million e-mails hacked from the server of the private intelligence firm Stratfor shows that it did more than analysis. It engaged in surveillance and intelligence activities on behalf of corporate sponsors. Dow Chemical, for example, hired Stratfor to monitor a protest group agitating on the issue of the catastrophic 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India, which killed at least 3,500. WikiLeaks maintains that Stratfor exemplifies the “revolving door” between private intelligence firms and the US government agencies that share information with them.
The increasingly frequent use of civilian “security contractors”—essentially mercenaries—should be a sore point for Americans. The tens of thousands of mercenaries deployed in Iraq were crucial to the US occupation of that country, but they also demonstrate the severe drawbacks of using shadow warriors. Ignorance about local attitudes, arrogance and lack of coordination with the US military and with local police and military led to fiascoes such as the 2007 shootings at Baghdad’s
Nisour Square
, where Blackwater employees killed seventeen Iraqis. The Iraqi government ultimately expelled Blackwater, even before it did the same with the US military, which had brought the contractors into their country.
* * *
The bad feelings toward the United States generated by hired guns can also be seen in the infamous Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, Pakistan. On January 27, 2011, Davis, a CIA contractor, was waiting at a traffic light when two Pakistanis pulled up next to him on a motorcycle. Davis, who later alleged that one of them had a gun, became alarmed and shot the men. The driver survived the initial volley and tried to run away, but Davis shot him twice in the back. Instead of fleeing the scene, he spent time searching and then photographing the bodies and calling the US consulate for an extraction team. Undercover CIA field officers raced toward the site of the shooting in a consulate SUV, hoping to keep Davis out of the hands of Pakistani authorities, who were approaching, sirens blaring. In its haste, the extraction team killed a motorcyclist and failed in its mission. Davis was taken into custody. His cellphone yielded the identities of some forty-five members of his covert network in Pakistan, who were also arrested.
The incident provoked rolling street demonstrations and enraged Pakistanis, who are convinced that the country is crawling with such agents. Davis was jailed and charged with double homicide, and only released months later, when a Persian Gulf oil monarchy allegedly paid millions on behalf of the United States to the families (in Islamic law, families of a murder victim may pardon the murderer on payment of a satisfactory sum). It was a public relations debacle for Washington, of course, but the salient fact is that a US public servant shot two Pakistanis (likely not terrorists) in cold blood, one of them in the back.
American drone strikes on individuals and groups in the tribal belt of northwestern Pakistan, as well as in Yemen, also typify Washington’s global shadow wars. The United States has 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, which it has deployed in strikes in six countries. Both the CIA and the US military operate the drones. Rather than being adjuncts to conventional war, drone strikes are mostly carried out in places where no war has been declared and no Status of Forces Agreement has been signed. They operate outside the framework of the Constitution, with no due process or habeas corpus, recalling premodern practices of the English monarchy, such as declaring people outlaws, issuing bills of attainder against individuals who offend the crown and trying them in secret Star Chamber proceedings.
Despite President Obama’s denials, the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that not only are civilians routinely killed by US drone strikes in northern Pakistan; often people rushing to the scene of a strike to help the wounded are killed by a second launch. The BIJ estimates that the United States has killed on the order of 3,000 people in 319 drone strikes, some 600 of them civilian bystanders and 174 of those, children. Some 84 percent of all such strikes were launched after Obama came to office.
Moreover, the drone operations are classified. When asked about strikes, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refuses to confirm or deny that they have occurred. The drones cannot be openly debated in Congress or covered in any detail by the US media. Therefore, they cannot be the subject of a national political debate, except in the abstract. The Congressional intelligence committees are briefed on the program, but it is unlikely that any serious checks and balances can operate in so secret and murky a realm, and the committees’ leaders have complained about the inadequacy of the information they are given. No hearing could be called about them, since the drone strikes cannot be publicly confirmed. Classified operations create gods, above the law.
* * *
The WikiLeaks State Department cables reveal that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh secretly authorized US drone strikes, pledging to take the blame from their angry publics. But a private conversation with a single leader, repeatedly denied thereafter in public, is hardly a treaty. The only international legal doctrine (recognized in the United Nations charter) invoked to justify drone strikes is the right of the United States to defend itself from attack. But it cannot be demonstrated that any drone strike victims had attacked, or were in a position to attack, the United States. Other proposed legal justifications also falter.
The doctrine of “hot pursuit” does not apply in Yemen or Somalia, and often does not apply in Pakistan, either. The only due process afforded those killed from the air is an intelligence assessment, possibly based on dubious sources and not reviewed by a judge. Those targeted are typically alleged to belong to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or some kindred group, and apparently thought to fall under the mandate of the September 14, 2001, Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force by the president against those behind the September 11 attacks and those who harbored them. The AUMF could probably legitimately be applied to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda faction, which still plots against the United States. But a new generation of Muslim militants has arisen, far too young to be implicated in 9/11 and who may have rethought that disastrous strategy.
Increasingly, moreover, “Al Qaeda” is a vague term somewhat arbitrarily applied by Washington to regional groups involved in local fundamentalist politics, as with the Partisans of Sharia, the Yemeni militants who have taken over the city of Zinjibar, or expatriate Arab supporters in Pakistan of the Haqqani network of Pashtun fighters—former allies of the United States in their struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. How long will the AUMF be deployed in the Muslim world to authorize cowboy tactics from the skies? There is no consistency, no application of the rule of law. Guilt by association and absence of due process are the hallmarks of shadow government. In September the Obama administration used a drone to kill a US citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. But since the Supreme Court had already ruled, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), that the AUMF could not authorize military tribunals for Guantánamo detainees that sidestepped civil due process—and since the subsequent Military Commissions Act of 2006 allows such tribunals only for aliens—it is hard to see how Awlaki’s right to a trial could be summarily abrogated. Two weeks after he was killed, his 16-year-old son, also a US citizen and less obviously a menace to the superpower, was also killed by a drone.
By contrast, the United States and its allies are sanguine about a figure like the Libyan Abdel Hakim Belhadj, now in charge of security in Tripoli, who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and was later held in US black sites. Released, he emerged as a rebel leader in Libya last year. The circumstantial case against him would easily allow a US drone strike on him even now under the current rules, but he was rehabilitated because of his enmity toward Muammar el-Qaddafi.
* * *
Among the greatest dangers to American citizens from Washington’s shadow power is “blowback,” the common term for a covert operation that boomerangs on its initiator. Arguably, the Reagan administration marked a turning point in the history of US infatuation with shadow power. Reagan strong-armed King Fahd of Saudi Arabia into providing funds to the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua, and the president developed his own resources for the Contras by illegally selling weapons to Iran (despite its being on the terrorist watch list and ineligible for such sales). Washington also joined Fahd in giving billions of dollars of arms and aid to the fundamentalist mujahedeen in Afghanistan (“freedom fighters,” Reagan called them, “the equivalent of America’s founding fathers”), where Arab volunteers ultimately coalesced into Al Qaeda. They later used the tradecraft they had absorbed from CIA-trained Afghan colleagues to stage operations in the Middle East against US allies and to carry out the 9/11 attacks. Two allied groups that received massive aid from the Reagan administration became among the deadliest US enemies in Afghanistan after 2002: the Haqqani network and the Hizb-i-Islami. Blowback goes hand in hand with covert operations.
The use of mercenaries and black units by the US government undermines discipline, lawfulness and a strong and consistent chain of command. Regular armies can be deployed and then demobilized, but Al Qaeda–like networks, once created, cannot be rolled up so easily, and they often turn against former allies. Black intelligence and military operations with virtually no public oversight can easily go rogue.
Reagan’s shadow government was a disaster, but it was a pygmy compared with Obama’s. Americans will have to be prepared for much more blowback to come if we go on like this—not to mention further erosion of civil liberties at home, as the shadow government reaches back toward us from abroad. (Electronic surveillance without a warrant and the militarization of our police forces are cases in point.) Moreover, the practices associated with the shadow government, because of the rage they provoke, deepen mistrust of Washington and reduce the international cooperation that the United States, like all countries, needs. The shadow government masquerades as a way to keep the United States strong, but if it is not rolled back, it could fatally weaken American diplomacy.

It's Rambo Time: Covert Ops Drives Pentagon Strategy

By Danny Schechter.   Huffington Post, February 15, 2012  

New York: William H. McRaven is an admiral in Obama's Navy. He was a member of Seal Team 3, and oversaw the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
He's the consummate Special Ops warrior and wants more special ops forces, more drones and, most significantly, more "autonomy" (read, power) to position "his" troops in more places. He is now lobbying to expand his "freedom" by building a bigger personal arsenal of undercover operatives under his command.
The New York Times refers to his guys somewhat vaguely as "elite units" that have traditionally operated in "the dark corners of American foreign policy."
That shines light on it, doesn't it? What it says is: forget transparency and accountability. The hidden government is always hiding
These units like Special Forces, Delta Force, SEALs, and Rangers often operate outside the chain of command and, as they become institutionally stronger, tend to dominate military decision-making.
McRaven's ambition represents a takeover of the military by more and more clandestine killer units. They are deceptive, secretive, and are growing in influence. There are no cuts planned in this realm.
Under military governments, these are the units who support the secret police, often engaging in torture and murder with impunity.
They are given a sense of being our supermen, the real chosen people; ordinary rules don't apply to them.
Democracy is not their "thing."
At the same time, they operate in a climate of high stress, prone to mistakes, as the military newspaper Stars And Stripes points out:
"The families of all troop operations live with fear, craving every crumb of information they can find about their deployed service members, whether through military channels, Facebook, email or other outlets. Special operations families get less information.
For special operations forces, ranging from Army Special Forces and Rangers to Marine Force Recon to Air Force Pararescue to Navy SEALs, there are no public welcome home ceremonies, no crowds to sing their praises. Even if their missions, such as the raid in which bin Laden was killed, become public, the troops and their families remain anonymous.
Since most of those in special operations forces are recruited from within the services, the average member is older and has a larger family unit than those in other military occupations, according to Special Operations Command Europe commander Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass."
Officials are attracted to these well-trained, real-life "action figures" They like the idea of having "badasses" at their beck and call. Like New York's Mayor Bloomberg, they see special units as their 'private army," but, unlike Mayor Mike, usually don't say so.
JFK gave us the "Green Berets" who were glamorized in movies, with a pop song of their own, only to be later ground up in the Vietnam War like our other forces.
There is a growing fusion between intelligence ops and the military. To watch how this works, just follow Leon Panetta's career from CIA to the Pentagon.
This command is an army within the army. It has doubled in size since 2001 with an official budget of $10.5 billion that is probably understated. They have at least 12,000 operatives in the field with 66,000 in the command itself and operate in more than 70 countries.
Can you name them? I didn't think so.
The new Denzel Washington flick Safe House, shot in Cape Town, South Africa, takes us into the nether world of assassins and secret jails at the heart of the Special Ops mission. It's not pretty.
McRaven is very media savvy with a degree, no less, in journalism He was the go-to guy by Obama used to put bin laden on ice through an extrajudicial killing. They don't call it assassination or liquidation, but that's what it was.
According to the New York Times, "In February, Mr. Panetta called Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to give him details about the compound and to begin planning a military strike.
Admiral McRaven, a veteran of the covert world who had written a book on American Special Operations, spent weeks working with the C.I.A. on the operation, and came up with three options: a helicopter assault using U.S. Navy SEALs, a strike with B-2 bombers that would obliterate the compound, or a joint raid with Pakistani intelligence operatives who would be told about the mission hours before the launch."
Wikipedia reports, "the day before the assault, "Mr. Obama took a break from rehearsing for the White House Correspondents Dinner that night to call Admiral McRaven, to wish him luck." Thus blessed, he became a runner-up for Time's Man of the Year. He even played football for the NFL.
What a perfect resume to get the full General Petraeus treatment, our latest "hero" in the making
In the media world, including in many Hollywood films and the latest video games, Special Ops gets the Full Monte treatment, despite their well cultivated mad dog, wild man image. Many of these "counter-terrorists" become, in fact, terrorists.
This idealization of killer commandos is nothing new. Back in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt, known for his exploits as a "rough rider" in the Spanish American War, was ecstatic about their role:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
While the New York Times reports the Admiral wants a freer hand, Fox reports it is already happening with the Pentagon's Afghan role likely to be expanded with more special ops warriors. (Even, as we are told, troops there are being "drawn down"!)
With the passage of the NDAA Defense Authorization act, how soon will it before these tactics come home? We are already seeing the militarization of the police in the "homeland" or "Battlefield" or whatever the hell we are living in.
The use of sophisticated sound weapons and infiltration against Occupy protesters is a sign that they are already being targeted as terrorists.
A commitment to more special forces is a commitment to more imperial intervention, and specialized units operating above the law and beyond the law. It's more secrecy in government with a constant danger of abuse. It promises more secrecy and manipulation.
Our President, as a candidate, opposed bad wars. Now, he hasn't seen many wars he doesn't want to get involved in -- as long as they can be fought in the shadows.
Who's going to tell his (Mc)Raven: Never More.
News Dissector Danny Schechter is a blogger and filmmaker. His latest book is Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street. ( His most recent film is Plunder ( Comments to

Analysis: The rise and rise of western covert ops

Reuters, Wed, Oct 12 2011
Analysis & Opinion
Related Topics
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/White House/Pete Souza
WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 18, 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four months ago, Admiral William McRaven commanded the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Now, as the new head of U.S. special forces, he argues that his shadowy, secretive warriors are increasingly central to how America and its allies fight.
When the suntanned, towering SEAL testified to the Congressional House Armed Services Committee in September, just a few weeks after he took over his new role, he used posters detailing the growth of his forces. In the decade since September 11 2001, U.S. Special Operations Command personnel numbers have doubled, its budget tripled and deployments quadrupled.
The Bin Laden takedown is simply the tip of an iceberg of fast-growing, largely hidden action by the United States and its allies. Those with knowledge of such operations say this changing state of warfare could spark a range of unintended consequences, from jeopardizing diplomatic relationships to unwanted, wider wars.
That's not entirely new. Secret wars against communism in Southeast Asia in the 1960s helped spawn larger conventional conflicts. In the 1980s, the "Iran-Contra" arms-for-weapons scandal embarrassed the Reagan administration, while support for Islamist guerrillas fighting Russian occupation in Afghanistan helped produce Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
And it's not just western powers. Just last week, the United States accused Iran of a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador.
The appeal of such tactics is clear. Military operations are far more politically palatable if you keep dead bodies off TV screens. A computer worm planted in Iran's nuclear program, secret help to rebels in Libya, drone strikes to cripple Al Qaeda -- all can achieve the desired effect without massive publicity.
In an era of budget cuts, they are also cheap -- particularly compared with the cost of maintaining and deploying a large conventional military force. McRaven said his 58,000 operatives cost a mere 1.6 percent of the Pentagon's predicted 2012 budget.
"Put simply, (they) provide a tremendous return on the nation's investment," McRaven told the unclassified portion of the Congressional hearing. "The special operations forces have never been more valuable to our nation and allies around the world than they are today, and that demand will not diminish for the foreseeable future."
The CIA has long retained its own, much smaller band of paramilitary operatives, sometimes operating with military special forces. Their numbers have also risen sharply in recent years to hundreds or even thousands, security experts say. Under its new director, General David Petraeus, the agency is expected to further increase such deniable operations as assassination and sabotage.
Britain, Israel and others are also believed to have renewed their focus on specialist, hidden techniques, and are plowing resources into emerging fields such as cyber warfare.
As the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns ramp down, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and Mexico are all touted by security and intelligence experts as potential theaters for new operations. U.S. special forces are now deployed in some 75 countries, where their missions range from training to assassinations. Yet even some supporters of the new tactics worry about the lack of public discussion.
"We may find ourselves fighting more wars with fewer people," says John Nagl, a former U.S. Army officer who wrote its counterinsurgency manual and now heads the Center for New American Security, a think tank. "That raises some interesting questions -- like whether we have the right to do that. There is much less public debate. Society doesn't pay the cost and so doesn't ask the questions."
Quietly, this approach is already redefining how conflicts are waged. Conventional troop surges might have dominated coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan, but behind the scenes the generals were heavily dependent on secret, special operations. Intelligence operators, remote-controlled drones and troops from the SEALS, Delta Force, Britain's SAS and other forces fought hidden campaigns against insurgent leaders and bomb makers, working with local communities to turn conflicts against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies.
"There has been a real renewed focus on special operations and clandestine services," says Fred Burton, a former U.S. counterterrorism agent and now vice president for strategic intelligence firm Stratfor. "They were always there, of course, but they had become somewhat sidelined. That's definitely changed now."
To an extent, the shift is down to technology. This provides some entirely new weaponry -- such as the cybermunition Stuxnet, which caused Iranian nuclear centrifuges to rip themselves apart. It also allows force to be more targeted.
"You change your ability to integrate information, which in many ways is at least as important as collection," says Anthony Cordesman, a former senior U.S. intelligence official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "You have collation of information almost in real time. You can pull together the information and find the target."
That is already changing the shape of western militaries. A drone can be flown remotely by just one pilot, but it takes around 20 analysts to interpret and assess the data it collects. This in turn produces a much larger array of potential targets. In Afghanistan alone last year, McRaven says his forces conducted some 2,000 raids against identified high-value adversaries.
To work with tribal groups and win their loyalty, language skills and cultural awareness are essential. Special forces helped shape both the "Sunni awakening", which swept Al Qaeda and its allies from much of Iraq, and the more recent rebel victory in Libya. McRaven said he believed the Afghan "village program", working with local communities and police, might prove his forces' most important contribution to that war.
The need for such skills is not new, of course. McRaven demands all his officers and NCOs learn a second language. Others in the field read ancient histories or the writings of idiosyncratic English archeologist T.E. Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia".
Often dressed as a local Bedouin, Lawrence worked with Arab rebels against Turkish forces during World War One, selecting the leaders he felt had the best chance of success and supplying them with arms and tactical advice. It was better and more sustainable, he believed, that local forces do the job than for outsiders to do it for them.
"What you need is people who can put themselves in harm's way, understand the different cultures and think fast enough to be able to adapt to events," says retired Lieutenant-General Graeme Lamb, a former director of Britain's special forces. "We don't have a huge number of these people, but... there are enough out there who have read Lawrence, dealt with people like Sunni insurgents and are comfortable in that kind of environment."
But some argue the most important force driving the new tactics is an almost visceral objection to more conventional warfare in the wake of the Iraq conflict, and Israel's wars in Lebanon and Gaza.
"It's almost always a matter of political will," says Nigel Inkster, a former deputy chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). "The new technologies do give you some new options, but broadly these capabilities have always existed. The question is whether you choose to take the more covert route or send in the 101st Airborne."
Cash flow is also key. Those with knowledge of western strategy toward Libya say it was driven more by what could not be done than what could. A wider military intervention was politically impossible and financially unaffordable, yet politicians demanded something be done.
Some of the most successful strategies were not conventional. British officials say the secret "oil cell" that helped starve Muammar Gaddafi of fuel supplies was key to rebel victory, yet involved the use of little or no military force.
Besides straining budgets, the global financial crisis has also made great powers more reluctant to risk the economic shock of serious conflict. One reason Stuxnet was such an appealing tool, security experts say, is that it carried less risk of Iranian military retaliation against shipping in the Gulf. That would have sent oil prices soaring.
A senior Israeli official has said cyber warfare offers a less politically dangerous option for nations in a media-saturated age. Israel suffered widespread international scrutiny and frequent condemnation for its wars in Lebanon and Gaza.
"War is ugly, awfully ugly," Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor -- who overseas spy services and nuclear affairs -- told diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in February. "War is all the time on television... people see this and can't take it... Because it is difficult, one looks for other ways. One of these ways is the intelligence community ... are trying to do things that don't look that ugly, don't kill people."
But the secret campaign against Iran's nuclear program has not been entirely bloodless. Sabotage might be relatively clean, but Israel's Mossad is also suspected of being behind the killings of several of Tehran's nuclear scientists.
With so much now taking place behind the scenes, a handful of critics is expressing concern that there is simply far too little scrutiny.
"The implications are vast," says Patricia De Gennaro, a counterinsurgency expert and professor at New York University who has worked with U.S. forces in the Middle East. "There is no accountability. People have been basically brainwashed, with the help of the media and others in the Beltway, into believing we don't have a right to know what their military is doing."
In an era that may see heightened state-to-state rivalry -- not least between older western powers and increasingly assertive emerging states such as China -- any operations that go awry could heighten tensions further.
The information revolution may also be making it harder to keep operations secret. The Bin Laden raid was reported by a local resident on Twitter within minutes of the helicopters touching down.
It would be a delusion to see covert operations as a simple solution to global problems. "This comes in cycles," says Cordesman.
"There is a tendency to grossly exaggerate success and underestimate the cost... These things are never under control, not even in a democracy. Nothing you ever do with violence is going to be clean or simple. But sometimes you just have to look at the options, look at the consequences of not acting, and then do it."