Photo credit: Reuters

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beware of Guys With Facial Hair, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,
“20 Afghan Police Officers Killed in 2 Attacks, Including a Mass Poisoning” (today’s New York Times, p. A10). The news out of Afghanistan isn’t getting better. It may be buried deep in the paper but anyone paying attention can see our exit strategy isn’t working. “17 Afghan policemen who had just been trained by the Americans were drugged into comatose stupors by comrades, described later as Taliban infiltrators, while on duty. They were then shot to death…” Turns out the “policemen” were not real policemen but members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), considered “irregular militias”—many recent Taliban fighters—and trained by U.S. Special Forces, the very people responsible for the brutality and killings reported in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s Times. This is our exit strategy? These are the Afghan Security Forces we’re training to take over after we’re gone to make sure Al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan as a base to launch an attack against us? The problem with the strategy is that these militias, created by U.S. Special Forces in their own image—equipped with weapons, high-end gear and facial hair just like their mentors—are regarded by the locals as no different than the Taliban or bandits. “Locals in the area were tired of the atrocities and crimes of these arbakais [irregulars], and their lives and properties were not safe,” said a Taliban spokesperson who took credit for the attack. I’m not saying that the Taliban speaks the god’s-honest truth (I don’t believe much coming from the Pentagon propaganda machine either) but it agrees with other reports over the past week. I know you’re really enamored of these guys—Seal Team6 and all that macho stuff—and regard them as heroes, but they’re not over here running amok, kidnapping, torturing and killing; you just might have a different opinion of them if they were. They’re not making friends for us or winning hearts and minds, Mr. President, they’re promoting fear and violence and people want them—and us—gone. The Afghans, like everyone else, just want to be left alone to live in peace but you don’t seem to get it (even if you did win a Nobel Peace Prize) and neither does the Taliban. But in spite of the obvious, it looks like you’re staying the course, sticking with your strategy of empire and doubling down, arming and training Syrian rebels, opening a new drone base in Niger… The business of America is War! And business is booming thanks to Obama. That’s your legacy, Mr. President.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Old War, New War, Bad News On Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President,
“Afghan Sign of Progress Turns Out To Be Error” (today’s New York Times, p. A4). The title tells the story: a NATO report that showed a 7% decrease last year in “enemy initiated attacks” (by guns, rockets, mortars or IEDs) turns out to be incorrect. The corrected report not only shows no decrease but a significant increase from 3 years ago. In July 2009, before the “Obama surge,” the number of “enemy initiated attacks” was 2,000; in July 2010 after all 30,000 “surgers” were in place, the number of attacks jumped to 4,000; and last July, after all those combatants and civilians were killed, maimed, traumatized and terrorized, after all the destruction and mayhem, the number of attacks was still 3,000. That 7% decrease was supposed to be a sign of progress. “Fewer attacks, the reasoning went, meant Afghans were safer and the Taliban were weaker.” But somebody left out a couple months of data and poof! so much for progress. With the corrected figures, and using the same reasoning, Afghans must be less safe and the Taliban stronger—by 50%. Professor Mary Kaldor of the London School of Economics draws a distinction between Old and New War. Old War, she says, was essentially a battle of wills between states or leaders; 2 sides, 2 armies, one side wins, one side loses. But New War is more complex with multiple combatants all seeking some form of political or economic gain “because violence provides an opportunity to spread political ideologies based on fear and polarization and to extract revenue through economic predation.” In an article to be published next month in the spring issue of War Crimes Times, Lesley Docksey points out that Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are hybrid wars, somewhere between Old War and New War where “an invading army finds itself at a loss as to how to fight what is essentially a guerrilla war fought by people trying to rid their country of a force that has come in from outside and is trying to impose its own solution on their state’s difficulties. But when, politicians having realized they are never going to win this war, the invading troops are pulled out, the fighting goes on. It morphs into a New War.” That’s Bush’s war in Iraq and your “smart” war in Afghanistan, Mr. President, and the War on Terror, one of those New Wars with no clear enemy and the only winner the war profiteers—the Halliburtons and Blackwaters, the Lockheeds and Raytheons—that Bush started and you continue will go on and on and on. Some legacy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Obama Goes to the Dark Side

Dear Mr. President,
Another Kill List Tuesday almost over, your weekly pick of who you want assassinated made, you’re probably relaxing with the family now, eating a nice meal prepared by your chef. This morning’s New York Times had a follow-up on yesterday’s article about the ban on Special Forces in the province of Maidan Wardak resulting from the brutality and violence visited on villagers—the kidnappings, torture, disappearances and murders. (It turns out that that veterinary student was not just killed but beheaded. Beheaded!) Both American and Afghan officials are confused about who the ban applies to or who is suspected of the killings and abuses. Brig. General Katz of NATO claims that “a previous inquiry could not confirm abuses by Western forces or Afghans working with them…” A separate American command, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (who are they?), claims “We have no idea what they’re talking about.” But villagers have video and photos and there’s all those tortured and killed and Karzai’s upset about the U.S. Special Forces creating and training militias and Local Police beyond the control of the Afghan government. Civilians and local officials complain that they look “little different from Taliban fighters or bandits.” These irregulars are trained by your heroes, Mr. President, the Special Forces. But the real story is near the end of the article: “One possibility that would match the description of attackers offered by local Afghan officials and, at the same time, exclude American military forces would be that the suspects were working with the CIA, whose operatives run militias in a number of provinces. A spokesman for the CIA refused to comment on the issue. One senior Afghan official said it was possible: Afghans… make no distinction between military-type outfits. Americans with weapons, high-end gear and facial hair were ‘all special forces’.” So here we are, completing the “mission” in Afghanistan by going to Cheney’s Dark Side, only this time under your command. These are your CIA and Special Forces assassins brutalizing and killing people and they are training the Afghans to do the same, to “take over the fight.” The end result, characterized by Karzai in a blinding moment of clarity, is that this is “…a faltering campaign that has helped fuel the war here, not end it.” So much for “smart” wars. So much for your legacy. Today the DoD identified the 2,159th American service member to die in this war: Jonathan D. Davis, 34, Staff Sgt, Marines.

Monday, February 25, 2013

No Oscars for Special Forces in Maidan Wardak

Dear Mr. President,
So much for winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan. So much for conquering heroes freeing people from the yoke of oppression. And so much for keeping Special Forces in Afghanistan until hell freezes over to train their security forces and hunt down Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The people of Maidan Wardak have had enough of American justice, enough killing, enough kidnapping, torture, brutality and terrorism by Special Forces. Villagers and tribal elders have besieged Kabul with complaints; they have videos and pictures of American and Afghan torturers and their victims; the Americans have denied, stonewalled, pleaded ignorance and been unresponsive; so on Sunday the Afghan government finally banned all Special Forces from the province of Maidan Wardak south and wast of Kabul. Of course, the ban could be lifted—and probably will—if a C-130 filled with Ben Franklins is handed over to Hamid Karzai and his cronies. But the report in this morning’s Times, makes clear that the Afghan people distrust the U.S. as much as they do the Taliban. In the article, a February 13 incident is mentioned where villagers accuse U.S. soldiers of kidnapping a veterinarian student; his body was found 3 days later under a bridge. So much for the American heroes you’ve praised, pampered and promoted, the heroes of Zero Dark Thirty, except they turn out to be not heroes but thugs and assassins and there are no Oscars or medals for them. But they do what they’ve been trained to do; to kill and commit mayhem and they are very good at it, true professionals, experts in violence. This tiny glimpse into the war in Afghanistan is the true face of war, Mr. President, and this is your war. It is ugly and brutal, an evil visited on humanity. These U.S. soldiers, these Special Forces are the spearpoint of the American military, the enforcers of foreign policy and they are acting under order from their Commander-in-Chief. That’s you, Mr. President. You are responsible for the murder and torture of every one of the citizens of Maidan Wardak in Afghanistan, in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in the deserts of Yemen and Somalia. We have become terrorists waging a war OF terror, not a war ON terror. We ignore laws domestic and international and call it legal, we murder with wanton abandon and call it justified, we torture and call it necessary, we wage wars of aggression and call them not-wars. But What ye sow, that shall ye also reap and one day we will reap the grim harvest.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bradley Manning's 1,000th Day Without a Trial

Dear Mr. President,
Today is Bradley Manning’s 1,0000th day of incarceration without a trial. It has been postponed several times already and is now scheduled to start on June 3. That’s 3 years, one month and one week from the time of his arrest on May 26, 2010. Accused of downloading and turning over classified documents to WikiLeaks, he was held in an 8 by 8 cage in Kuwait until July 10, 2010 when he was flown to Quantico, Virginia where he was put in the Marine brig in isolation under “Prevention of Injury” watch for 9 months; even Navy psychiatrists said that was unwarranted. At a press conference on March 11, 2011, you told the American public that you had been assured by the Pentagon that Manning’s treatment was “appropriate and met our basic standards”—whatever that means—but 11 months later, on February 19, 2012, after a 14-month investigation, the UN special rapporteur on torture sent his annual report of human rights abuses around the world to the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council. In it, he formally accused the U.S. government of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of Bradley Manning. (If you want to read about this story, you have to go to a foreign press like The Guardian; the American media didn’t bother to cover it.) So here we are a year later and Bradley Manning is still in prison, still untried, but no longer in the torturous conditions of the Quantico Marine Brig only because of public outcry. (I read that the Quantico Marine Brig is being de-commissioned because of its notoriety.) I went to a rally today commemorating Bradley Manning’s 1,000th day of incarceration. Not a lot of us, but enough to keep the conscience of justice alive. There were rallies in 70 cities here and abroad, a good sign. One of the speakers said that when he asked Bradley what he feared most, Manning immediately replied, “That all the information released will be forgotten in a few days.” This is real bravery, Mr. President, true heroism, authentic patriotism. He knew the consequences of his actions and he chose to listen to his moral center. He killed no one, he tortured no one, and in the final analysis, he harmed no one. None of your torturers or assassins, none of the war criminals of the past administration or the present one have ever served a day in prison, only the whistleblowers, the true defenders of democracy have. You guaranteed, indeed, promoted this inverted system of justice. It is your legacy, it will be your curse. Free Bradley Manning!
Bradley Manning. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Postal Service and Democracy

Dear Mr. President,
I watched a panel discussion on the plight of the U.S. Postal Service and the financial crisis caused by Congress’s demand that the USPS fund health benefits for retirees 75 years into the future, their refusal to refund $11 billion in overpayment of pension benefits, their refusal to allow the postal service to sell other products as services in many other countries do, their reluctance to let them raise rates and yet, their insistence that they be self-sustaining. From out here on the hustings it’s pretty clear that there’s a conscious, concerted effort to put the USPS out of business and that was the view of 3 of the 4 panelists, but that 4th panelist, a young right wing privatization hawk, was frightening in her religious fervor and absolute certainty in the power and benefits of privatization. She simply ignored any fact that challenged her dogma, believed privatization would free the postal service to become more efficient and profitable and dismissed the unreasonable burden of the USPS having to pay $5.5 billion a year for future health benefits with “every company has to fund their pension benefits,”—ignoring the fact that no company or government agency has ever been required to fund them 75 years in advance—and on and on. Most frightening however, is that this young woman—and there are many more like her—has no concept of what democracy is, no concept of community or compassion or the greater good; only “efficiency,” “profit,” “privatization.” As one of the panelists pointed out, “In small towns and rural areas, the post office is the glue that holds the communities together.” A postal service is a fundamental part of a democracy. The young right-winger countered that comment by saying that writing letters and delivering mail are no longer necessary; there are other ways to communicate today – email, smart phones, fax machines… and besides, the post office obviously doesn’t charge enough or they’d be breaking even. Look at Fed Ex and UPS. They’re thriving.” Your silence on the Congressionally-manufactured crisis in the USPS speaks volumes, Mr. President. Another pillar of democracy is on the ropes, another service for the greater good on the verge of being wiped out. We are no longer first in the industrialized world in much of anything except war. You are not the sole cause of this, your predecessors had a lot to do with it, but you seem to be going along with the program and that does not bode well for the future of America.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama's Latest Lie

Dear Mr. President,
Here’s what you said 9 days ago in the State of the Union speech: “I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.” Here’s the heading of an article on the front page of this morning’s New York Times: “White House Refusing Legal Memo Access” that describes your latest Let’s-Make-a-Deal with Republicans: if you give them more information on the Benghazi attack in exchange for voting in favor of Death-By-Drone Brennan, then you won’t have to give pesky Democrats like Wyden and Udall your secret memos justifying targeted assassinations. Mr. President, is there some genetic trait that makes it impossible for you to keep a promise or do you just get off on making promises you have no intention of keeping? Is this your version of bipartisanship or some deep-seated rage against humanity? And that phrase, “detention and prosecution” in your speech, that’s a whopper. During the Brennan hearing last week Sen. Chambliss pressed him for how many people we’ve captured in our covert War on Terror and when Brennan failed to give a number, Chambliss answered it himself: One. Yesterday, the Times reported that a senior member of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulvi Faquir Muhammed, had been captured by Afghan Army special forces and intelligence agents—after our drones failed to kill him. Another article in today’s Times, “Chinese Plan to Kill Drug Lord With Drone Highlights Military Advances,” reports that the Chinese now have their own versions of Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks. They also have “America’s armed drone practice as a convenient cover for legitimating their own practice.” The article describes how the Chinese considered using drones to assassinate Naw Kham, a notorious Myanmar drug lord, but in the end captured him with the assistance of the Laotian authorities, extradited him to China, and tried and convicted him for murder. A Chinese official said: “We didn’t use China’s military, and we didn’t harm a single foreign citizen.” Ouch! How come the Chinese can capture and prosecute people and so can the Afghans, but we can’t? Is it just more fun to kill or too much trouble to capture suspects?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Obama's Zombie War

Dear Mr. President,
I’m trying to understand why you ever thought Afghanistan was a “smart” war; there are no smart wars, they’re all dumb and this one’s getting dumber by the day. Why are you dragging it out for another 2 years—or more—in spite of obvious evidence that Afghanistan is an even worse disaster than Iraq—Bush’s “dumb” war, remember? And why are we still sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to the 3rd most corrupt country in the world? (Only Somalia and North Korea are worse according to Transparency International.) We’re withdrawing under fire, the Taliban still controls much of the country, government is inept, corrupt and non-functional, democracy is a sham, the rule of law is a fantasy, and the people see little difference between us and the Taliban, they just want to be left alone. They lost faith in the Kabul government long ago and no one believes it will get better. A classic example is Kabul’s ‘Car Guantanamo’ described on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, a vast guarded walled lot where thousands of cars are impounded for minor traffic violations, fender-benders, improper or expired paperwork and, as the article puts it, “most egregious, failure to pay a bribe.” People spend months and thousands of dollars to retrieve their cars from the byzantine network of overlapping agencies and rules only to find their cars stripped down to the bare chassis. As one Afghan scholar put it, “Here, in this country, there is no rule of law.” Sayed Wahid has been trying for months to retrieve his vehicle. “This is not even a government,” he said. So why do you persist, when it’s so clear that to continue the war is futile, a waste of money and lives? Even returning vets think so. A 2011 Pew survey of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan found that half thought the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth fighting and 60% thought the Iraq war wasn’t. The best thing we can do for both Afghanistan and America is to get the hell out of Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz and every one of our 400+ bases and outposts, stop the killing, stop the random acts of terror, stop arming and training an Afghan security force that everyone knows will disintegrate as soon as we leave. We’ve killed too many Mirza Khans, too many civilians, too many children, battered down too many doors, pissed on too many corpses, burned too many Korans and terrorized too many villages with our drones to ever win the hearts and minds. It’s a zombie war, Mr. President, put a stake through its heart.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Frontier Justice In Afghanistan: The Killing of Mirza Khan

Dear Mr. President,
An article on Afghanistan, buried on page A9 in Saturday’s New York Times, is as depressing and damning as that front-page story about withdrawing under fire. “Afghan Insurgent Is Killed on U.S.-Led Military Base” sounds like the shootout at the OK corral but it’s not; it's about the killing of Mirza Khan by American Special Forces last Wednesday. Mr. Khan, his 6-year-old son and his brother were returning home after medical treatment when they were stopped at a checkpoint near Poza, close to a Special Forces base. “A quick check of his identity documents confirmed that he was a wanted man,” and they were taken to the base and questioned for 2 hours, then released. Khan was angry, said something in Pashto and, according to one report, was walking rapidly to his car when he was shot in the back, neck and head by Special Forces; they said his actions were hostile. “Mr. Khan was almost certainly involved in illegal and violent activities,” he was on the Joint Prioritized Effects List of people to be killed or captured (is this your Kill List, Mr. President?) and was accused of sheltering a man who shot and killed 3 U.S. soldiers on the base last August. The article goes on to say that Mr. Kahn “was almost certainly unarmed, since no Afghan suspected of insurgent ties would be allowed on an American base with a weapon,” but “…the Special Forces may have worried that he was about to detonate a bomb in his car.” In the military’s account there is no doubt: “On 13 February, an engagement between coalition forces and a known Taliban member in Sangin District resulted in the death of the insurgent.” This was not an “engagement,” Mr. President, this was a summary execution of an unarmed man in front of his 6-year-old son and brother and by the end of the article it’s doubtful Mr. Khan was even a member of the Taliban. He was a tribal leader, a businessman and, as a member of Parliament from the area said, “He was a rich man, and the Taliban would make him provide them with food and money…It was a matter of survival.” Mr. Khan’s brother-in-law put it this way: “If we support the Americans, the Taliban kill us, and if we support the Taliban, the Americans kill us. And if we do not support any side, then both of them kill us.” Killing and brutalizing people does nothing but create future enemies and make us less secure. The killing of Mirza Khan sounds like the Wild Wild West, like frontier justice. Mirza Khan’s blood is on your hands, Mr. President.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Withdrawing Under Fire

Dear Mr. President,
“U.S. Military Faces Fire as It Pulls Out of Afghanistan” (today’s NYT) is a depressing account of what 11+ years of war has accomplished. On the day you gave your State of the Union speech, telling Congress and the American people that the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end, that half the troops will be home by year’s end and that Afghan forces will be taking the lead in the war, a platoon of American soldiers was leaving Haji Rahmuddin II, “a squat, lonely outpost” near Kandahar. The article describes that departure. It provides a stark view of what our withdrawal will look like and, intentionally or not, the failure of our “mission.” While the Americans were preparing to leave, the Taliban was preparing to take over, and when the first radio antennas came down, they launched a direct assault to see how vulnerable the outpost was. It didn’t last long, just a quick probe, but they knew this was a vulnerable time for the Americans as they dismantled surveillance and early warning systems. Even more ominous, “…intelligence reports indicated that they had been working with sympathetic villagers to strike at the departing soldiers.” So much for winning hearts and minds. It’s clear we’ll be withdrawing under fire at every one of these outposts and right there, Mr. President, is the definition of defeat—withdrawal under fire. Here you are, on television, saying that Afghan forces are taking over the war while our guys are taking fire and the 16 Afghan soldiers left on the base are clearly not prepared to hold it. They “watched warily [as the Americans were preparing to leave], telling [them] that they had to stay.” As the article states, “the idea of Afghan-led security remains an abstraction.” So much for ensuring that Al Qaeda can never again use Afghanistan as a base. Your “smart” wars accomplish nothing, Mr. President. Your surge accomplished nothing and 11+ years of war accomplished nothing but to create new enemies. The war may be ending for us in Afghanistan but not here at home. We now have a militarized police, a security state with secret laws, suspension of Constitutional rights, the threat of indefinite detention and extra-judicial assassination, a depleted treasury, a depleted moral consciousness, and a president obsessed with kill lists and drones. We also have thousands of troops returning with the emotional and physical scars of war. America will pay dearly for your wars and your predecessor’s wars for generations to come.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The CIA's Relentless War on Civilians

Dear Mr. President,
Senator Feinstein’s blind adherence to the Administration’s line that civilian casualties in your drone wars are in the single digits, took a hit Tuesday. In yesterday’s NYT, buried at the bottom of page A6, was an article, “11 Afghans Killed in Military Actions Near Pakistan Border.” The article was a masterpiece of obfuscation. The first few paragraphs give the impression that some civilians in a remote village in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan got caught in the crossfire during a nighttime ground/air operation. You know, the collateral damage thing. But then halfway through the article, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force—more obfuscation—i.e., the NATO-U.S. military, a Major Wojack is quoted as saying they had no information about the operation but were looking into it. An Afghan official also states that none of their security forces were involved either, but “Sometimes U.S.. government agencies other than the military use special commandos”—Afghan paramilitaries. A few paragraphs further, a man from the village carrying a wounded boy into the hospital describes a precise hit on two adjacent houses: “Two homes were totally destroyed,” and by now it’s clear that the non-military ground/air operation is a CIA death squad with drones overhead. They got their man, a Taliban commander named Shahpour along with a Pakistani Taliban commander who was visiting family. But in the process, they also killed 4 women, one man and 5 children, ages 8 to 13, and 4 teenagers, 3 girls and a boy were wounded. Right there’s double digit civilian casualties—unless you go by Brennan’s Rules of Engagement that anyone killed by the CIA is a militant until proven otherwise. The other civilian casualty occurred on a heavily traveled highway that was being checked for IEDs. When a car wouldn’t stop—or when the car stopped and then sped away, both versions are described—NATO troops opened fire and killed the driver. The occupants of the car were returning home from a wedding. Collateral damage unless you go by Brennan’s Rules of Engagement. But the latter incident reminds me of the police shooting up the pickup of the two women delivering newspapers in Torrance during the Dorner manhunt hysteria. Except NATO troops are better shots. “The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter.” David Rohde, Reuters.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chris Dorner, Martyr for Justice

Dear Mr. President,
A fiery end to Chris Dorner, ex-cop, suspected cop killer. But a lot of the story is untold. For example, almost no mention of the collateral damage inflicted by cops on civilians during the manhunt: one day coverage of the two women in Torrance wounded when their pickup was mistaken for Dorner’s and without warning, police fired more than 70 rounds at them; and not one mention of the cops in Redondo Beach mistaking David Perdue’s pickup for Dorner’s, ramming it and shooting at him. No mention either, in today’s paper that, according to people monitoring the police channel, once Dorner was trapped in a cabin, surrounded by SWAT teams, no chance of escape, the police barred reporters and helicopters from the area, brought in an armored vehicle that, one by one, ripped off the walls and, in a coup de grace, set the cabin ablaze with 7 “burners” (pyrotechnic tear gas?) and refused to let firefighters extinguish it. Dorner was not brought to justice; rather, he was summarily executed to silence potentially damning testimony against the LAPD. Mr. President, not only have tactics from the war on terror come home but your secret system of justice for extra-judicial assassination has also come home, a system where a suspect is guilty unless proven innocent, where it’s okay to execute rather than capture, and where there’s no accountability afterwards. Collateral damage, excessive use of force, even the manner of Dorner’s execution—not by a Hellfire but by fire nevertheless, incinerated like a suspected militant. I’m not defending what he did; it’s as repugnant as the killings by the CIA or the U.S. military, but the parallels are striking. Even the media caricatures of Dorner and Al Qaeda terrorists are similar: crazed fanatics, cold-blooded killers, “ranting” “chilling” manifestoes. I read Dorner’s. He needed an editor but it’s clearly not the rantings of a crazed killer. I found him articulate, perceptive, even witty, but a man plagued by a lifetime of prejudice and injustice—none of it forgotten—driven over the edge by his dismissal from the LAPD for reporting excessive use of force. I’m convinced he spoke the truth. But even more important, it’s clear that the overriding motive for his brief war of terror on the LAPD was to bring about change, a different mindset, an end to racism and an end to the excessive use of force. He knew he would die but he had nothing left to lose. Like the Islamist militants we kill every day in our war of terror.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chris Dorner, The War Comes Home

Dear Mr. President,
The war mentality and America’s addiction to violence is on display in Southern California. A massive manhunt is pursuing Chris Dorner, the alleged cop-killer ex-cop in the small mountain community of Big Bear where cops from all over California, in full battle gear and armed with semiautomatic weapons, are searching for him. Dorner published a manifesto on his Facebook page, a “rant” according to the media, but behind the rant, the words ring true—that the LAPD is riddled with racism, corruption and brutality, a charge that has plagued the department for decades—the Rodney King beating comes immediately to mind but there are countless other stories, some I’ve heard from those who lived there in the 60s and 70s. Dorner says he was fired for reporting brutality by a training officer against an inmate and I’m inclined to believe he’s right. An article by Dave Lindorff ( makes a strong case that the LAPD is trying to silence Dorner—permanently. On Saturday, officers mistook 2 Latino women—a 47-year-old and her 71-year mother who were delivering newspapers—for Chris Dorner. Wrong car, wrong color, but no matter, without warning they fired more than 70 rounds at the car wounding both women, the 71-year-old critically. KTLA-TV carried pictures of the car the cops shot up. I counted 25 bullet holes in the rear on the driver’s side alone, what’s known as a “spray and pray” pattern used in Iraq and Afghanistan that left so many civilians dead or wounded. I have a friend whose niece lives in Big Bear. She says the LAPD have made the community fearful and she doesn’t know what the truth is but suspects that we’re not hearing the whole story. Today, she says, Dorner hijacked a car at gunpoint. “and told the local that he wouldn't hurt him, just needed the car. The guy said ‘can i get my dogs in the back? Dorner said, ‘yes, I won't hurt you or your dogs.’ and drove away” [after the guy got his dogs]. I’m not condoning what Dorner has done, but I think he’s right, it’s not the citizens or suspects we should be afraid of, it’s the police. While LAPD is particularly notorious, many departments across the country are heavily armed and trained in the tactics of war. The war’s violence has come home and we are paying the price with more suppressive attitudes, more shootings and a frankly fascist mindset. Police no longer “protect and serve” but suppress and terrorize. It’s an unsettling harbinger of the future.
Car LAPD shot up mistaken for Chris Dorner's. Wrong make, wrong model, wrong color. Two women wounded, one critically.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Normalizing Silence

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday, General John “steamy e-mails” Allen turned over command of the 100,000 NATO troops (66,000 American) in Afghanistan to General Joseph Dunford. General Allen spoke at length according to this morning’s NYT, noting that 560 sons and daughters have given their lives and 5,500 were wounded during his 19 month tour there. General Dunford, a tight-lipped John Wayne-type Marine, kept his remarks brief, promising “continuity” and a “commitment to accomplish the mission.” I guess Dunford’s mission is to get the hell out of Kabul without it looking like a defeat since propping up one of the world’s most corrupt regimes can hardly be a mission any self-respecting Marine would take on. (Karzai didn’t bother to attend but sent a couple of his ministers.) Allen’s remarks got me thinking, however: 560 of America’s sons and daughters died in Afghanistan in the past 19 month, 5,500 wounded. That’s one a day killed, 10 a day wounded. Not many compared to Vietnam or Korea or World War II, but every one needless, every one a tragedy, and every one your responsibility. I wonder how many Afghans died. Their sons and daughters don’t count? How many civilians? Better not to know. If people knew the true extent of the carnage they might object. But above all, no records, no accountability. In your inaugural address you said, “A decade of war is now ending.” Not true. The end of 2014 is still 2 years away and even that may not be the end; 10,000 “trainers” and Special Forces may remain along with who knows how many CIA assassins. And the drones. America’s foreign policy arm no one wants to talk about, our eyes in the sky which deal death by Hellfire, incinerate their victims and leave no evidence if they were actual “militants” or innocent civilians. Without evidence, no accountability, and without accountability the cycle of terror continues. You refused to investigate Bush & Co.’s war crimes; no one has ever been held accountable. You wanted to “look forward, not back” you said, but really, you wanted insurance that no one in your administration—including you—would ever be held accountable either. We replaced a murderous bunch of lawless Republicans with a murderous bunch of lawless Democrats who have expanded and normalized the Bush policies and crimes. Here’s a line from Norman Solomon’s Op Ed in today’s Nation of Change: “Normalizing silence and complicity is essential fuel for endless war” And endless war is what you’re all about, Mr. President.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sam Mullet and John Brennan, Warped Justice

Dear Mr. President, 
Just when we’re on the verge of a serious debate about your targeted assassinations program, Feinstein and Brennan, in a classic case of misdirection, shift the discussion to a consideration of setting up a secret court that will either 1) approve drone strikes (unlikely) or 2) approve names to go on your Kill List (most likely, just American names). Wonderful. Another secret court modeled on the secret FISA court created by Congress in 1978 when the National Security Agency and the FBI were illegally eavesdropping on Americans and the executive branch was incapable of policing itself. (Nothing changes). And how effective is the FISA court? In 2011 it approved 1,745 requests and rejected—da-dum!—zero. A rubber stamp court that gives the appearance of legality to an illegal operation. A drone court would be the same ruber stamp eyewash. But a drone court would be a whole different ball game that even judges aren’t keen on. At an ABA meeting last November, James Robertson, a retired FISA judge, rejected the idea that judges should approve “death warrants.” (Today’s NYT, p. A1) The article quotes William C. Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University: “It’s still secret. The target wouldn’t be represented. It’s a mechanism that wouldn’t satisfy critics or advance the due process cause much.” Nor would it stop the killing of innocent civilians or hold people accountable. Nothing would be made public, no national discussion, no change in our irrational and violent foreign policies and it would not bring to a close our unending war of terrorism. But Feinstein and Brennan’s diversion was successful. They didn’t want to discuss the legal and moral issues around killing people without evidence, oversight legal recourse or accountability. That’s dangerous territory. That gets into the evil Brennan and you have done and Congress’s failure to stop it. There’s another article in this morning’s Times about the renegade Amish bishop, Samuel Mullet, who received a 15-year prison sentence for directing his followers in a reign of terror against other Amish he disagreed with. They cut off the beards of the men and the hair of women. They were convicted of hate crimes and all sentenced to prison terms of 1 to 7 years. But Samuel Mullet. 15 years for cutting off hair? While Brennan, the architect of the ultimate hate crimes against humanity, responsible for thousands of deaths remains at large and is nominated to head the CIA? Talk about warped justice!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Heck of a Job, Brennan

Dear Mr. President,
The Senate Intelligence Committee, responsible for oversight of military and CIA activities, under Charwoman Feinstein has been a disaster, turning a blind eye to your war crimes. Only Senator Wyden has raised objections to your assassination program. For a year he’s been asking for a list of countries where the CIA is actively killing people. Stonewalled. For months he’s asked for the classified legal memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi. Denied. And now, with the release of the “White Paper” we see why; the legal justification is as flimsy and specious as Bush’s was for torture. Now, with your nomination of the architect of drone wars and targeted assassinations to head the CIA, we finally get a little light on this dark corner of foreign policy. But very little since Feinstein, a national security warhawk, is a Brennan admirer. Yesterday, she cleared the chamber when protests broke out and the next session will be held behind closed doors. And after yesterday’s hearing she parroted Brennan’s lie that civilian casualties from drone attacks are in the single digits. Astounding! Is the Washington bubble so impenetrable that no outside information gets through? The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Long War Journal, the Stanford/NYU study, many sources document nearly 1,000 civilian casualties. Over the past 11 days, my letters to you, which are also cc’d to Senator Feinstein, list the names of 80 children and 25 adults. Either she’s not reading her mail or she dismisses me as she dismissed Code Pink – and everyone else – from the hearing room yesterday. What’s really appalling, though, is your administration’s arrogant violation of domestic and international law, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental principles of democracy and common humanity. You have embraced war rather than peace and made no attempt to investigate or correct the injustices of our foreign policy that resulted in 9/11. Your drone wars have made America more hated, made the world less stable, made us less safe. You’ve wasted trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives on an unjust war without purpose or end and the architect of it all is your man Brennan, a slam-dunk to head the CIA, his reward for a job well-done. Sort of like Bush’s “Heck of a job, Brownie,” after the Katrina disaster only more chilling. Feinstein should be impeached and Brennan – and you – tried for war crimes.

John Brennan defends drone strikes

John Brennan is met by protesters as he arrives for hearings on his confirmation as CIA chief. Photo: Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Obama's Brennan, Hitler’s Eichmann

Dear Mr. President, 
Well, Brennan survived the first round of questioning in his quest to head the CIA. Imagine, 4 years ago he had to withdraw because of protests over torture, but apparently extra-judicial assassination in your campaign of terror is okay. How fitting that Code Pink protested today and was cleared from the hearing room and how typical that Senator Feinstein cleared the room so the public once again is kept in the dark. But you did release that secret legal memo that justifies killing Americans without a trial. Of course, it was under duress, since some of the committee threatened to filibuster Brennan’s nomination unless you let them see it. I liked Saxby Chambliss’ questioning of Brennan about why he prefers killing terrorists over detaining them. Brennan insisted “I never believe it is better to kill a terrorist than to detain him. We want to detain as many terrorists as possible so we can elicit intelligence from them” to stop future attacks. Chambliss asked twice, “how many high value targets have been arrested, detained and interrogated by the United States” during Brennan's tenure and never got a straight answer. Finally, Chambliss declared, the answer is "one." This is why he–and you–are so dangerous, Mr. President. Evasion and secrecy suround everything you and he do. You promised the most transparent administration ever, but you’ve done just the opposite. Typical of your MO. Sell one concept to the public, do the opposite and trust nobody notices. I thought Mary O’Connell’s Op Ed piece in this morning’s NYT pretty much nailed the whole issue of targeted assassinations, covert wars and the secrecy surrounding the justification for all of it. “Secret law” she wrote, “is an oxymoron. The rule of law is the basis of our democracy and the foundation of international relations. Facts like operational details may properly be kept confidential, but not the law itself.” O’Connell ripped the White Paper leaked to NBC News as being in the same category as Bush’s justification for torture, warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention, a sham and a fraud, a spurious effort to justify the unjustifiable. We already know the secret memo will be twisted logic, redefinition of terms and evasion of existing law and the Constitution. Brennan’s your boy, just the kind of guy you want running the CIA, a secretive cold-blooded technocrat killer who follows orders and believes 110% in the righteousness of what he’s doing. Just like Hitler’s Eichmann.

What are the odds she'll block his nomination to be CIA Director?
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D, CA)  meets with John Brennan, nominee for CIA Director, on Capitol Hill in Washington January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

John O. Brennan's War on Children

Dear Mr. President,
A long article in today’s NYT on Death-by-Drone Brennan, your choice to head the CIA, sheds a little light on some very dark corners. Brennan, a defender of torture during the Bush years is the architect of Kill Lists, targeted assassinations, drone wars and, most recently, cyberwars. A versatile guy if you want to terrorize a village, a region or a country. His old CIA connection with Saudi Arabia got us that secret drone base there, handy for sending drones and Hellfire missiles into neighboring Yemen. Brennan sees al-Qaeda affiliates everywhere but he’s especially obsessed with Yemen which he’s using as a test case for his theories on drone warfare. It’s pretty obvious his theories are self-destructive; there are more al-Qaeda militants now than when he started the attacks in 2009. Even retired generals say the drone strikes are the best recruiting tool al Qaeda has. The first attack on Yemen was a disaster. On December 17, 2009, Cruise missiles carrying cluster bombs struck a tiny mountain village and killed 41 people including 21 children and 14 women. Here’s a link to a photo of 2 survivors of that attack, Sumaia Abdullah Louqye, 4, and Nada Mokbel Louqye, 5. Their entire families were wiped out. Take a good look at the fear and confusion in their young faces, Mr. President, it’s the face of war: The second attack in June 2010 killed a popular deputy governor and incited anti-American riots and since then it hasn’t gotten much better. Last August, a Hellfire missile incinerated  5 men including Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a 40-year-old cleric and his policeman cousin, outspoken opponents of al Qaeda who were arguing with 3 low level “militants.” And a few weeks ago on January 23, another CIA drone attack killed Saleem Hussein Jamal, a 21-year old university student and his 33-year old schoolteacher cousin who gave 5 strangers a ride to the next village. The strangers, it turned out, were low-level members of al-Qaeda. These are all war crimes, Mr. President, and all on your watch, orchestrated by the man you want to head the CIA. He is the modern day equivalent of Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s architect of the Holocaust. He is an architect of torture, of terrorism and of crimes against humanity. He should be in the dock at the ICC charged with war crimes not in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing.
Sumaia Abdullah Louqye, 4, (L) and Nada Mokbel Louqye, 5, look on as they stand outside their family's hut in the mountainous village of al-Ma'jalah, in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, February 2, 2013. The two girls are the only survivors among the members of their families that were living in a rural community at the time that it was hit by a U.S. missile strike on December 17, 2009, according to local authorities. The attack left 41 people, including 21 children and 14 women dead in the highest civilian death toll of any U.S. strike in Yemen to date, according to an Amnesty International report. Nada lost her mother, three brothers, sister and several other extended family members, and Sumaia lost her parents, three sisters, a brother and an uncle and several other members of her extended family, according to tribal community leaders. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bush Detained Children, Obama Kills Them

Dear Mr. President,
A few comments on that 16-page unsigned, undated InJustice Department memo made public Monday. First, it’s not the really secret stuff, the “official” legal justification for assassinating American citizens without benefit of a trial; that’s still too “sensitive” for even your sycophants on the Senate Intelligence Committee to see. But it does shed a little light on the thinking that went into the justification for you to order the murder of anyone you want murdered. The most striking part is this: “But the document emphasizes that the decision to kill a citizen in certain circumstances is not one in which the courts should play any role, asserting that judges should not restrain the executive branch in making tactical judgments about when to use force against a senior Qaeda leader” (today’s NYT, p. A6). I’m not a constitutional law professor like you, Mr. President, but that strikes me as a clear violation of the Constitution and a disingenuous way to avoid the checks and balances necessary for democracy to function. It also gives you a free hand to finger anyone you want assassinated without clear evidence of wrongdoing or “imminent threat” or even that the person is a “high level member of Qaeda.” No oversight, no responsibility, no problem. So my question is this: What evidence was there that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was a high level leader of al Qaeda? What evidence that he was a member of al Qaeda? He was a 16-year-old boy, born in Denver, Colorado, searching for the father he had not seen in 2 years. His only crime was that his father, also an American citizen, was on your Kill List. How did you make the leap that Abdulrahman was an imminent threat to the United States? Where does your intelligence come from? Bush rounded up some 2,500 children and detained at least 500 in Iraqi detention centers, some at Bagram in Afghanistan and 15 - 20 in Guantanamo (one, a 15-year-old Canadian boy spent 10 years in Guantanamo before finally being released last year). Some of those children at Guantanamo were as young as 13 at the time they were detained. At least one child committed suicide, and one was found guilty of war crimes (none of the real war criminals have ever had to answer for their war crimes). But at least Bush didn’t kill them. You are responsible for the murder of hundreds of children, no less a war criminal than Bush. If they can strip Lance Armstrong of Tour de France medals, surely they can strip you of that Nobel Peace Prize.

Abdul Salam Ghetan,
citizen of Saudi Arabia 
detained at age 17, sent
to Guantanamo Jan. 2002
Released June 2006
Omar Ahmed Kadr
Canadian citizen
detained at age 15
sent to Guantanamo Oct. 2002
First child ever convicted as a
war criminal by military tribunal. 
Returned to Canada Sept. 2012

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fahim Quireshi and Sadaullah Wazir: Child Victims of Drones

Dear Mr. President,
This morning’s NYT reports that you and your evil Rasputin, John Brennan, have just given the president authority to launch pre-emptive cyber attacks against “perceived enemies.” Of course, the legal justification for this, like the justification for drone attacks, is too secret to share with We the People and no one in Congress is willing to challenge you, so Executive power continues to expand and evolve in frightening ways. With cyberwar however, no one actually gets killed or maimed like they do in drone strikes. At least not yet. In addition to the secrecy surrounding legal justification and the rules for a pre-emptive cyberstrike, what really bothers me is that, like drone strikes against “suspected militants,” no proof needed to launch a pre-emptive strike, just the perception of threat. And like drone strikes, the intelligence is questionable at best, outright wrong most of the time. Like that missile strike on January 23, 2009 that killed 9 “militants” in Waziristan who turned out to be civilians. Fahim Quireshi survived that attack and described what it was like for the Stanford/NYU study, Living Under Drones. Neither he nor any of the 4 members of his family who died were militants. He was a 14-year-old boy who loved soccer and school. He lost an eye, hearing in one ear, and shrapnel ripped through his body. He no longer attends school or plays soccer. He has limited mobility and suffers from post traumatic stress, as do most of those who witnessed or survived the attack. Or take the case of Sadaullah Wazir. He was 15 when a Hellfire missile killed 3 members of his family in Waziristan and mangled both his legs so badly they had to be amputated. No one killed or wounded in that attack was a militant either but the U.S. has never acknowledged the injustice or apologized or offered compensation to Sadaullah or Fahim so they’ve joined a lawsuit against the CIA for these illegal acts. So far, the courts of Pakistan and the U.S. have refused to hear their case. Injustice on top of injustice. The Obama legacy grinds on: perpetual war; secrecy and suppression of information; no accountability for war crimes past or present. And all this from a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Here’s a picture of Sadaullah with his new legs: And here’s a picture of Fahim taken late last year with his new glass eye:
Fahim Quireshi, drone victim at 14
Sadaullah Wazir, drone victim at 15