Archive for the ‘war and stuff’ Category

The “culture wars” have been going on since before the founding of America – the Civil War, women’s suffrage, prohibition, desegregation/civil rights, religion in school, voting rights, abortion/reproCulture-Wars-Webductive rights, science versus faith, gay rights and more. In each of these there is/was a battle between tradition/faith (always in part justified by the Bible and conservative theology) and rationality/social progress. It’s a constant struggle over the meaning of America.

12 Very Good Reasons Why America Should Stay Out of Syria

Any notion that an attack on Syria could be limited is fantasy — if it commences, the military operation could assume a life of its own.

Article by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
September 2, 2013  |  

140613obamaThe House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States of America should reject any form of US military intervention in Syria.  Rejection would be a clear statement against war. It would be a lucid message on behalf of peace.

There are at least 12 reasons why the US Congress, and the people of the world, should adopt such a stand.

1.  If the two houses represent the voice of the American people, it is significant that 50% of the people are against military intervention in Syria according to a NBC poll conducted on the 28-29 of August 2013. Only 42% support military action. It is also important to bear in mind that the people in countries regarded as the US’s ‘comrades-in-arms’ are also opposed to military force. In France it is 64% of the citizenry. In Britain, the House of Commons, reflecting popular sentiment, has voted against military intervention in Syria.

2.  Since the United Nations’ investigation team has just begun its analysis of the alleged chemical attack near Damascus on 21 August, the US Congress should insist that President Obama wait until its findings are made public, before any multilateral — not unilateral—decision under the aegis of the UN is taken on Syria. Though the UN report will not tell us directly who was responsible for the attack, there may be enough circumstantial evidence in it to indicate the likely culprit. Obama’s disdainful attitude towards the UN’s investigation is an affront to the world’s most important international institution. Former US president George Bush junior was also guilty of such disdain when he ignored the UN Security Council (UNSC) in his arrogant march to war in Iraq in 2003.

3.  An attack on Syria would also be a violation of international law since Syria has not attacked the US. Like Bush, Obama has decided to bypass the UNSC. In fact, on a number of occasions in the last three decades, the US has, without going through the UNSC, invaded other sovereign states.

4.  The US Congress should in all fairness accord due consideration to the facts and arguments advanced by those who insist that obama-syriaSyrian President Bashar al-Assad could not have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack. Why would he want to use such a weapon in the presence of the UN investigation team that he himself had invited to ascertain the truth about earlier chemical gas attacks? More importantly, what does Bashar gain from a chemical attack when he has already scored a series of victories on the battle-ground in recent months?

5.  In contrast to Bashar, the armed opposition in Syria appears to have compelling motives for launching a chemical weapons assault. It would serve to draw the US and its allies into a direct military involvement in Syria especially since Obama had declared repeatedly that the use of chemical weapons by Bashar would be the red line that would provoke a US response. There have been other occasions in the course of the 30 month conflict when the armed rebels have manipulated incidents and events to elicit some reaction or other from Western powers or the UN. Often, incidents linked to heinous mass killings committed by the rebels are blamed upon the Bashar governobama_syria_0826ment via a biased global media. The 21 August chemical gas incident has all the markings of a meticulously planned and executed false flag operation.

6.  Indeed the US is guilty of fabricating various false flag operations since it emerged as a colonial power at the end of the nineteenth century. From the battleship Maine incident in Havana in 1898 to the Gulf of Tonkin episode in 1964 to the Kuwait incubator event in 1990 to the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) myth in Iraq in 2003, US intelligence and security outfits have become adept at creating situations and circumstances which are then manipulated to undermine ‘the enemy.’

7.  The hypocrisy of US political and security elites is not confined to false flag operations. Even when it comes to the use of chemical weapons, it is obvious that what the elites preach often contradicts their actual behaviour. Today, US leaders condemn the use of chemical weapons as morally reprehensible. We ask, who used agent orange in Vietnam which led to the death of thousands? Who supplied through oblique channels mustard gas to Saddam Hussein in his aggression against Iran — gas which he employed in Halabjah in March 1988 killing 5000 defenceless people? And what about the depleted uranium widely used in Iraq in the wake of the Anglo-American invasion of that land in 2003? To this day, hundreds of babies continue to be born deformed as a result of the impact of DU. US leaders have no moral authority to pontificate about the obscenity of chemical weapons.

8. That the moral fig-leaf is a cover for motives which are related to power and politics is borne out by yet another dimension of the chemical weapons issue. If Obama has chosen to be bellicose on the issue, it is partly because his Administration sees it as an assertion of power against Russia in light of a number of recent developments in which the latter has stood up to the US. Through the Syrian conflict, the US elite aims to show President Vladimir Putin that the US is still the world’s sole military superpower and not to be trifled with.

9.  The conflict raises yet another question of morality and power. The US and its Western allies, like its regional partners such as 1378141434000-wickhamSaudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, are funding, arming, providing intelligence and offering logistical assistance to groups totally committed to violence and terror as a method of achieving their goal of ousting the Bashar government. The Jahbat al-Nusra, linked to Al-Qaeda — arguably the strongest of the armed groups —- is a case in point. On the hand, the US and the others proclaim that they are all opposed to violence and terrorism and yet on the other hand they unscrupulously use terror outfits in pursuit of their power.

10.  The Syrian conflict has also reinforced longstanding sectarian and tribal divisions in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). Actors within and without WANA are exploiting the Sunni-Shia dichotomy in particular as a way of playing the majority sect in Islam against the minority with the aim of weakening Muslim solidarity. Sectarian violence is now rearing its ugly head not just in Syria but also — and for a much longer while — in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.

11.  Needless to say, sectarian clashes in WANA benefit Israel which views turmoil and upheaval in its neighbourhood as a boon to its goal of remaining the dominant force in the region. For the Israeli elite, the ability of their nation to perpetuate its dominance is sine qua non for the security of the state which is their primary obsession. It is significant that Israel and Zionism have been able to ensure that US and Western policy as a whole in WANA is dovetailed to meet the core interests of the Israeli state. Taking military action against Syria with the objective of overthrowing Bashar is what Israel wants because Bashar is an important link in the axis of resistance to Israeli dominance which includes Iran and Hezbollah. Israel has conducted three air strikes within Syria in the last six months and its commandos have been training segments of the armed opposition. It is believed that the so-called ‘independent’ intelligence on the 21 August chemical weapons incident that is being hawked around by the US and Britain is actually from Israel. In this regard, it is worth reiterating that Israel is the hidden hand in much of the politics of other states in WANA such as Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Sudan.

12.  By taking military action against WANA states — partly at the urging of Israel — the US has brought nothing but misery and suffering to the people. The classic example is of course Iraq. 10 years after its conquest by the US and Britain, Iraq is a totally devastated nation, wrecked by perpetual sectarian violence, first ignited by the invasion itself in 2003. Outside WANA there is the other tragic case of Afghanistan which 12 years after the US-NATO occupation is still mired in the agony of chaos. Why should Syria be any different? Some advocates of military intervention in Syria are of the opinion that since the military action that Obama is planning is limited in scope and duration, Syria will not end up like Iraq or Afghanistan. There is no guarantee. Once it commences, the military operation could assume a life of its own. The response from the Syrian military command, and the reaction of Iran and Russia could be decisive. Besides, there are individuals and groups in Obama’s trench who are determined to oust Bashar, to achieve regime change. That could lead to a prolonged campaign.

Instead of travelling further down the military route, the US House of Representatives and the Senate should urge Obama to lend his weight to the proposed US-Russia meeting on Syria to be attended by all the other regional and international actors connected to the Syrian conflict. Securing an immediate ceasefire would be the meeting’s principal goal. The US and its allies should cease providing military, monetary and all other forms of assistance to the armed opposition on the ground. As the opposition’s benefactors turn off the tap, so should Bashar’s Russian and Iranian backers. The ceasefire should be supervised by the UN and would set the stage for the establishment of an interim national unity government comprising representatives from Bashar’s Baath Party, the legitimate Syrian opposition and independent individuals. The unity government will draft a new constitution which will provide for a parliamentary election to be followed immediately by a presidential election. Both elections, and the referendum on the constitution, should be conducted and monitored by the UN.

These are ideas which have been on the table before but they have not materialised. Both Bashar and his opponents and their respective supporters should prove, through deeds, that this time they will make a determined effort to achieve results. They should realise that the alternative to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through negotiations is a continuous, brutal, bloody civil-cum-proxy war without winners.

images-162Adnan Latif was found dead in his cell on September 10, 2012, just a day before the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. He was 32. Latif, a Yemeni citizen, had been detained at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade, despite being cleared for release in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010 by US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy.  There has never been any evidence that Latif ever committed a crime. He suffered at the hands of the US government in ways that most people can’t begin to comprehend, and his death should be a reminder that the national shame that is Guantanamo Bay lives on.

Latif wrote in a letter to his lawyer:

Do whatever you wish to do, the issue is over.  This is a prison that does not know humanity, and does not know except the language of power, oppression, and humiliation for whoever enters it.  Anybody who is able to die will be able to achieve happiness for himself, he has no hope except that.  The requirement … is to leave this life which is no longer anymore called a life, instead it itself has become death and renewable torture. Ending it is a mercy and happiness for this soul. I will not allow any more of this and I will end it.

The Obama administration appealed the 2010 decision to release Latif, in part because of a policy of not transferring detainees to Yemen, and so Latif remained in custody – not because of what he had done (which was nothing), but because of where he was born. The decision to appeal his release wasn’t a holdover from the Bush era. That was an affirmative decision made by the Obama administration, and any supporters who hoped Obama would close Guantanamo Bay should understand that fact.

Latif is far from the only prisoner still held at Guantanamo despite being okayed for release. Over half of the people left in Gitmo have been cleared for years.  That young man, who was, say, twenty when he is seized, is now thirty. He sees his life slipping away from him with no sign of release. Hopelessness takes lives at Gitmo now.

Some Guantanamo numbers:

  • Number of men imprisoned at Guantanamo by the Department of Defense since it opened in January of 2002:  779
  • Number of men still there:  166
  • The total number of those 166 who are actually serving sentences, because they had a trial:  3
    Did you catch that?  Three people in Guantanamo have actually been convicted of something.  And it gets worse…
  • The number of people still imprisoned at Guantanamo after being cleared for release by our government:   86
  • The percentage of prisoners who have never been even remotely connected to Al-Qaeda and have never fought against the US in any way:   92%
  • Percentage of prisoners who were actually captured by American troops:  5%
  • The percentage of prisoners who were picked up through a bounty ad: 86%
    This is absolutely amazing and tragic.  Our government put out ads in poor neighborhoods in Pakistan and Afghanistan  – here’s an actual quote:  ”We will provide you with millions of dollars, enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe, for the rest of your life.”  So what do those poor villagers do?  They turn in the village crank, the guy no one likes, the guy who was sleeping with your sister.

images-160

  • Age of the youngest detainee:  13
  • Age of the oldest detainee:  92
  • Number of children who have been held at Guantanamo:  21
  • Age of the youngest prisoner to kill himself:   21 (captured at age 16, for throwing stones at American forces.)
  • Cost per year to detain just the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release:  69 million
  • Cost per year were these prisoners to be moved into federal prisons:  3 million 
  • Number of FBI agents who have personally witnessed and independently filed protests regarding the abusive treatment of prisoners:  Over 200
  • Number of prisoners transferred for prosecution in federal court:  1
  • The number of military prosecutors who have requested to be reassigned or who have quit because they considered the imprisonment of these men to be unjust:  7
This is the wrong thing to do.   This is not who we want to be as a nation.

It is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists, it wastes the taxpayers money, it needs to be closed.  It is contrary to who we are.  Guantanamo is an indelible stain on America.

-Barack Obama

and013110b1Unfortunately, Guantanamo is now a sign of the compromise of Obama’s principles.  True, this wasn’t Obama’s prison – it was one of the many ways that the Bush/Cheney administration betrayed America and did irreparable damage to our reputation, our honor and our national conscience.  But Obama promised to close it, and in fact he signed an executive order to close it, but he backed down in the face of ferocious resistance from the Republican dominated Congress.  Congressmen cut the funds needed to transfer prisoners and adopted various measures to avoid sending them anywhere else. The president had the alternatives of vetoing congressional decisions or using executive order to circumvent them, but he preferred to give in, as he’s done in so many other areas in which he needed to stand up and do what’s right.  images-161

The men in Guantanamo are condemned to live in prison forever, with no evidence, no due process, no trial.  History is going to look back on this and rightly condemn us.   We are America.  We are better than this.  

images-162Adnan Latif was found dead in his cell on September 10, 2012, just a day before the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. He was 32. Latif, a Yemeni citizen, had been detained at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade, despite being cleared for release in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010 by US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy.  There has never been any evidence that Latif ever committed a crime. He suffered at the hands of the US government in ways that most people can’t begin to comprehend, and his death should be a reminder that the national shame that is Guantanamo Bay lives on.

Latif wrote in a letter to his lawyer:

Do whatever you wish to do, the issue is over.  This is a prison that does not know humanity, and does not know except the language of power, oppression, and humiliation for whoever enters it.  Anybody who is able to die will be able to achieve happiness for himself, he has no hope except that.  The requirement … is to leave this life which is no longer anymore called a life, instead it itself has become death and renewable torture. Ending it is a mercy and happiness for this soul. I will not allow any more of this and I will end it.

The Obama administration appealed the 2010 decision to release Latif, in part because of a policy of not transferring detainees to Yemen, and soimages-158 Latif remained in custody – not because of what he had done (which was nothing), but because of where he was born. The decision to appeal his release wasn’t a holdover from the Bush era. That was an affirmative decision made by the Obama administration, and any supporters who hoped Obama would close Guantanamo Bay should understand that fact.

Latif is far from the only prisoner still held at Guantanamo despite being okayed for release. Over half of the people left in Gitmo have been cleared for years.  That young man, who was, say, twenty when he is seized, is now thirty. He sees his life slipping away from him with no sign of release. Hopelessness takes lives at Gitmo now.

Some Guantanamo numbers:

  • Number of men imprisoned at Guantanamo by the Department of Defense since it opened in January of 2002:  779
  • Number of men still there:  166
  • The total number of those 166 who are actually serving sentences, because they had a trial:  3
    Did you catch that?  Three people in Guantanamo have actually been convicted of something.  And it gets worse…
  • The number of people still imprisoned at Guantanamo after being cleared for release by our government:   86
  • The percentage of prisoners who have never been even remotely connected to Al-Qaeda and have never fought against the US in any way:   92%
  • Percentage of prisoners who were actually captured by American troops:  5%
  • The percentage of prisoners who were picked up through a bounty ad: 86%
    This is absolutely amazing and tragic.  Our government put out ads in poor neighborhoods in Pakistan and Afghanistan  – here’s an actual quote:  “We will provide you with millions of dollars, enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe, for the rest of your life.”  So what do those poor villagers do?  They turn in the village crank, the guy no one likes, the guy who was sleeping with your sister.

images-160

  • Age of the youngest detainee:  13
  • Age of the oldest detainee:  92
  • Number of children who have been held at Guantanamo:  21
  • Age of the youngest prisoner to kill himself:   21 (captured at age 16, for throwing stones at American forces.)
  • Cost per year to detain the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release:  69 million
  • Cost per year were these prisoners to be moved into federal prisons:  3 million 
  • Number of FBI agents who have personally witnessed and independently filed protests regarding the abusive treatment of prisoners:  Over 200
  • Number of prisoners transferred for prosecution in federal court:  1
  • The number of military prosecutors who have requested to be reassigned or who have quit because they considered the imprisonment of these men to be unjust:  7
This is the wrong thing to do.   This is not who we want to be as a nation.

It is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists, it wastes the taxpayers money, it needs to be closed.  It is contrary to who we are.  Guantanamo is an indelible stain on America.

-Barack Obama

and013110b1Unfortunately, Guantanamo is now a sign of the compromise of Obama’s principles.  True, this wasn’t Obama’s prison – it was one of the many ways that the Bush/Cheney administration betrayed America and did irreparable damage to our reputation, our honor and our national conscience.  But Obama promised to close it, and in fact he signed an executive order to close it, but he backed down in the face of ferocious resistance from the Republican dominated Congress.  Congressmen cut the funds needed to transfer prisoners and adopted various measures to avoid sending them anywhere else. The president had the alternatives of vetoing congressional decisions or using executive order to circumvent them, but he preferred to give in, as he’s done in so many other areas in which he needed to stand up and do what’s right.  images-161

The men in Guantanamo are condemned to live in prison forever, with no evidence, no due process, no trial.  History is going to look back on this and rightly condemn us.   We are America.  We are better than this.