Photo credit: Reuters

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Face of Our War on Children: Shakira

Dear Mr. President,
The Scammer-in-Chief is at it again. The old bait-and-switch routine you’re mastered. Give a speech filled with liberal ideas and phrases and the liberals and anti-war activists fall all over themselves wanting to believe so bad they never notice that you do just the opposite. Take the much-ballyhooed health care program, Obamacare, the greatest accomplishment for the American people since Medicare and Social Security. Well, not quite. Now we learn that the IRS has interpreted the rules so that the poorer among us will not be subsidized by the government for the cost of insurance for their family after all, just for themselves. Bottom line—tens of millions of kids will continue to have no health coverage. As consolation, however, we’re assured these people won’t be subject to a penalty for not having health insurance. Obamacare, it turns out, is good for insurance companies, not so good for those who can’t afford insurance. Once again, it seems we’re waging war on children. We may not be firing Hellfire missiles at our own kids like we do those in other countries but we’re condemning them to a life of misery and poor health just like the kids in Pakistsan or Yemen or Somalia whose villages and families we terrorize and destroy. As always, the biggest impact is on the children. Some are killed outright like Tariq Aziz and Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, who I wrote about yesterday, but others are maimed and scarred psychologically and physically. Take the case of Shakira. In 2009, when she was a year old, a CIA drone fired Hellfire missiles at her village in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Shakira’s family was killed and she was left for dead. A U.S. Aid doctor discovered her, along with 2 other baby girls, all severely wounded. The two others died, but Shakira received medical attention in time and survived. She’s horribly disfigured as a result of her burns and was flown to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery last year. A nice gesture from the country responsible for her injuries. Here’s a picture of her taken in December of 2011. She was 4 then. Take a good look, Mr. President. This is the face of your drone wars, the disfigured reality and horror of them. There is no reflection of heroism, honor or glory here, only the reflection of savagery, injustice and inhumanity to man. I hope it burns deep into your conscience. This is the face of our War on Children. (
Shakira, Age 4, Wounded by a U.S. drone attack in the Swat Valley of Pakistan

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki & Tariq Aziz, The War on Children

Dear Mr. President,
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was born on September 13, 1995 in Denver, CO. He had just turned 16 when he died in Yemen at the hands of a CIA assassin sitting in front of a computer screen in Langley, VA. Nine people died in the drone strike that killed Abdulrahman, including his 17-year-old cousin. They were eating outdoors and he was saying goodbye to the cousin he had stayed with while searching for his father whom he had not seen in 2 years. Abdulrahman’s crime was that he was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, alleged to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda, a “fiery cleric” who preached jihad and planned terrorist acts against the United States although no evidence was ever presented and there is some question if he was even a member of al-Qaeda let alone a high ranking member. Nevertheless, you put his name on a Kill List in April 2010 and he was assassinated by the CIA in a drone strike in Yemen, two weeks before his son. There were no allegations against Abdulrahman and it is not clear if you also put his name on the Kill List along with his father, but when challenged by a reporter on the legality of killing American citizens without due process and the morality of killing children, your Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs stated that Anwar al-Awlaki should have been more responsible for his son’s welfare. Two weeks after Abdulrahman was murdered, another 16-year old, Tariq Aziz, along with his 12-year old cousin, Waheed Khan, were murdered when, once again, a CIA assassin sitting at a computer screen in Langley, VA launched a Hellfire missile at the car Tariq was driving on the way to pick up his aunt after her wedding in Miran Shah in Waziristan, Pakistan. Tariq’s crime was that 3 days earlier, he volunteered to help document civilian casualties resulting from American drone strikes in and around his village. He was neither a militant nor a member of al-Qaeda, but a boy who wanted to help end the murderous drone strikes which killed innocent civilians, destroyed homes and terrorized the region. There is something inherently evil about using drones to kill and terrorize people thousands of miles away, a primal sense of unfairness that one side risks nothing while the other side is defenseless. But the murder of children is in a class by itself, so morally repugnant that it violates the core instinct of our humanness. Our War on Terror has become a War of Terror and we have become the very thing we fear—violent terrorists and lawless barbarians.
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki
Tariz Aziz

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

72 Names, Children Dead by Drone

Dear Mr. President,
Today is Kill List Tuesday, you huddled with advisers, selecting those who will die this week while your minions work diligently on a “playbook” of bureaucratic rules for when, how and who will control drone strikes in the mountains of Waziristan, the deserts of Yemen and Somalia and elsewhere. No matter what the rules or legal justification in secret memos, every drone strike, every Hellfire missile, every targeted assassination and extrajudicial killing is a war crime. No matter the denials by the Pentagon, by Brennan, by yourself, innocent men, women and children are slaughtered every day on your orders and everyone who carries out those orders or supports you actively or just remains silent and does not object is complicit. We all share responsibility for the thousands murdered in our name. Here are 72 of the nearly 200 children killed by drone strikes you authorized in Pakistan and Yemen: Noor Aziz, 8, Noor Syed, 8, Wajid Noor, 9, Syed Wali Shah, 7, Qari Alamzeb, 14, Shoaib, 8, Mohammad Yunus, 16, Ilyas, 13, Sohail, 7, Asadullah, 9, Khalilullah, 9, Noor Mohammad, 8, Khalid, 12, Saifullah, 9, Ziaur Rahman, 13, Noor Mohammad, 15, Qari Alamzeb, 14, Shahbuddin, 15, Mohammad Salim, 11, Shahjehan, 15, Gul Sher Khan, 15, Bakht Muneer, 14, Numair, 14, Luqman, 12, Jannatullah, 13, Ismail, 12, Jamshed Khan, 14, Alam Nabi, 11, Rahmatullah, 14, Darvesh, 13, Shaukat, 14, Salman, 12, Baacha Rahman, 13, Luqman, 12, Jannatullah, 13, Ismail, 12, Darvesh, 13, Ameer Said, 15, Shaukat, 14, Najibullah, 13, Hizbullah, 10, Kitab Gul, 12, Wilayat Khan, 11, Shehzad Gul, 11, Shabir, 15, Nimatullah, 14, Talha, 8, Ayeesha, 3, Maezol Khan, 8, Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser, 9, Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser, 7, Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser, 5, Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser, 4, Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 4, Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 3, Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye, 1, Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye, 6, Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye, 15, Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad, 2, Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad, 1, Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh, 3, Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 9, Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 4, Daolah Nasser 10, Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 13, Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 9, Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye, 4, AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout, 12, Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki, 16, Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 12, Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 2, Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari, 13, Their blood is on your hands. Their blood is on all our hands.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kiriakou & Manning: Victims of Tyranny

Dear Mr. President,
“The highest and best function of a jury is not…to dispense punishment to fellow citizens guilty of breaking the law, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical prosecutions and bad laws imposed by a power-hungry government.” (Lust for Justice: The Radical Life and Law of J. Tony Serra, p. 115.) As I read this quote by the legendary defense lawyer, I thought about John Kiriakou. Kiriakou did not have a jury’s protection from the tyranny of the state and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. The ostensible harm he did to national security is so secret that he was not permitted to know what it was. To not see the charges against you violates the fundamental concept of law; it is the hallmark of a tyrannical state. Bradley Manning is another political prisoner of our tyrannical state and, as a U.S. Army soldier, he is under the jurisdiction of a military tribunal and will never have the protection of a jury of his peers. Manning’s crime was to expose war crimes, duplicity and the abuse of power by the state. Kiriakou’s real crime was not the leaking of a covert agent’s name but disclosure of the CIA’s use of torture—waterboarding. Both Manning and Kirakou have paid a heavy price. Manning has spent 984 days in prison without a trial, 11 months in solitary confinement under conditions of torture. Since 2007, when Kiriakou disclosed the CIA’s use of torture, he has been followed constantly by the FBI and audited every year by the IRS. The DOJ has filed charge after charge against him, he has racked up more than a million dollars in lawyer fees defending himself, his wife was forced out of her job at the CIA and he has become unemployable as a result of the government’s harassment. The Washington Post reports that the FBI is increasing the pressure in their search for the source of leaks about our illegal cyberwar against Iran. Your administration clearly is waging war against its citizens’ right to know what their government is doing and it has had a chilling effect. Suppression of information is an indication of tyranny. I thought the first test of whether you had “gone back to your progressive roots” as many hopeful pundits predicted, would be your decision on Keystone XL. I was wrong. The first test will be whether you pardon John Kiriakou. I am not hopeful, however; nothing in your past and nothing you have said recently indicates a turn toward justice and the restoration of democracy. It is a dark and dangerous time in America.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

John Kiriakou & Bradley Manning, Prisoners of Truth

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday in a Federal District Court in Alexandria, VA, Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced John Kiriakou to 2½ years in prison for disclosing the identity of a covert CIA agent to a reporter in 2007, a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Even though the reporter never revealed the agent’s name and it only appeared publicly in October 2012 on an obscure web site, and even though Kiriakou said he was unaware the agent was still covert when he disclosed his name, Judge Brinkema declared it had caused the agency serious damage and thought the sentence way too light but honored the plea deal made between Kiriakou and federal prosecutors. Anyone who has followed Kirakou’s story understands the “damage” caused to the CIA was not the disclosure of the agent’s name but the disclosure and subsequent condemnation of the CIA’s use of torture—specifically, waterboarding—when interrogating prisoners. Disclosure threatens the secret state of violence, brutality and lawlessness that permits those in power to use any means to any ends they desire with impunity, what Cheney called, “going to the dark side.” Transparency is the shield that protects a democracy and its citizens from the abuse of power and it is what your administration fears most. As I read the article in this morning’s NYT, I thought about Scooter Libby who, 2 years before Kiriakou, also revealed the name of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and then lied to investigators in a cover-up. Libby was also sentenced to 2½ years in prison but Scooter had friends in high places—namely his boss, Cheney—and Bush commuted his sentence so The Scooter never had to do jail time. Bruce Riedel, who you appointed to lead a review of U.S. policies in Afghanistan, sent you a letter signed by many others—including former CIA officers—asking you to commute Mr. Kiriakou’s sentence. I too, urge you to do so, but I’m betting you won’t. You’ve shown no mercy in your first 4 years and little indication so far that you’ve changed, in spite of all the Hope resulting from your inaugural address. But in case you have had a change of heart, I also urge you to direct the U.S. military to drop all charges against Bradley Manning and order his immediate release and, in a double ceremony, award both Manning and Kiriakou the Medal of Freedom. How is it that the perpetrators of violence and torture and war crimes go free while the patriots who expose them, who believe in freedom and justice are punished?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Inherent Evil of Drones

Dear Mr. President,
A report in this morning’s New York Times about the UN panel that will investigate the “exponential rise” in the use of drone strikes in counterterrorism operations “with a view to determining whether there is a plausible allegation of unlawful killing,” must be giving some in your administration, like John Brennan, Dr. Death by Drone, heartburn. The head of the panel is hopeful the U.S. will cooperate even though we never have in the past. Unless you’ve changed your spots like all those columnists proclaim, there will be non-cooperation and stonewalling as usual. A UN panel is certainly not needed to determine whether there is plausible allegation of unlawful killing. There is plenty of documented evidence—video, photos, eyewitness testimony—largely ignored by our press and discounted by our government. The UN panel is pure political theater but at least a step toward transparency Drones by their very nature are inherently evil. Those who operate them risk nothing; there is no danger to operators—euphemistically called pilots—sitting in an air-conditioned cubicle in front of a computer screen 8,000 miles from a victim; for them it is nothing more than a variant of one of the video games they grew up with. For those under the drone, however, there is the sound, a distant hum like a lawnmower engine somewhere high above, unseen, circling for hours or days, watching with its unblinking robotic eye, never knowing when death will strike or who it will take. This is modern-day terrorism, Mr. President, and you perpetuate it with your Kill Lists and targeted assassinations and drone strikes. How much vengeance is enough? How many lives make up for 2,752 Americans? The threat is long past, Al Qaeda has been decimated, it’s leaders are dead, and yet the American killing machine grinds on in relentless pursuit of more victims. Militants in the mountains of Waziristan, the deserts of Somalia and Yemen, in Mali, in Libya, in Algeria and around the Horn of Africa are not an imminent threat and yet we bankrupt our nation spiritually and financially to continue the slaughter. How have we come to this, where targeted assassinations are accepted policy, where the rule of law is secret memos and extra-judicial murder, where our enemies are endless? And all without debate, transparency or understanding. Secrecy destroys democracy and secrecy is the hallmark of your 4-year reign of terror. This is your legacy, Mr. President, and it is not something to cheer.