5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/11/15)

  • The situation in the Sudan is still really terrible and children are being raped.  Despite the splintering of the country into two pieces, things are still horrific as stated in a new report by Human Rights Watch:

Sudanese army troops raped at least 221 women and girls in a Darfur village in a series of organized, house-to-house attacks last year…the new report, based on more than 130 telephone interviews with survivors, witnesses and army defectors, says girls as young as 10 were raped by Sudanese forces, and that some women and girls were assaulted multiple times and in front of their families.

  • “We are punishing people for their poverty.”  Part of the cycle of poverty in the U.S. has to do with the fact the poor are put in jail and can’t pay the fines they accrue so they sit in jail longer which means they cannot go to work or take care of their children.  And these are not because they are committing violent crimes, as noted:

Although violent crime has declined almost 50 percent in the past two decades, annual admissions to jails have almost doubled to 11.7 million…75 percent of the population of people in jail are awaiting trail and are there for nonviolent offenses.

  • Yemen continues to provide proof the U.S. can’t kill its way to victory in the War on Terror.  The U.S. and other Western allies will be shredding their documents and leaving their embassies in Yemen this week.  It’s been noted heavily since the coup (or allegedly not-a-coup, as pointed out in the article) that Yemen was held up as a “model” for how to conduct the War on Terror through a persistent and heavy amount of drone strikes.  That worked out well…
  • A U.S. drone burned a 13-year old Yemeni boy to death.  Just another incident in that “model” country that goes unnoticed by most Americans.  But hey, according to sadistic U.S. law, he was “military age” and a male so he’s an enemy combatant and not just a child.  Some of his family won’t have to mourn his death since his father and brother were already killed by drones.  I’m sure an attack like that will offend absolutely no one that will want to seek revenge against the West sometime in the future.  Because that’s how an-eye-for-not-an-eye works.
  • Wisconsin Governor and potential Republican 2016 candidate Scott Walker dodges a question on whether he believes in evolution.  Which is fantastic if you are cheering for the Democrats to hold the White House in the next election.  The hilarious aspect of questions like this and the recent spat on vaccinations is there are clear majorities of Americans that are on one side of these issues and these potential presidential candidates are sometimes choosing the side of the minority.  They aren’t issues that will win you too many voters but they are issues that will turn voters off when you take seemingly crazy positions.  So, for Walker to dodge the question and make himself look a little wacky when there’s an obviously easier path, I say go right ahead buddy!

Please Leak CIA Torture Report!

1446d9b7-3c4d-45e0-8c88-f29afad5ccc6-460x276A good op-ed in The Guardian by Trevor Timm pleading that some official in the government release a full copy of the report on the torture of prisoners captured under the guise of the war on terror.

Though voted to be released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, a leak of the full report will be the only way to see all of the important info we as citizens need to know before the CIA takes a black marker to it.

The problem is that, as Timm lays out, is that the CIA itself will be redacting sections of the report themselves (along with other agencies) when the investigation was centered on the CIA itself.

Unbelievable.

Read Here.

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Doctors/Medics and Guantanamo Abuse

Guantanamo-Bay_KG4EMAre not doctors and medics required by oath only to aid and comfort their patients at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere?

Read Here.

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NSA, CIA, and Targeted Killings

nsa072way-6ff6dccc27700cd7f0508fce24bafecbf46865da-s6-c30A must-read in The Post on how, “…a collection of records in the Snowden trove that make clear that the drone campaign — often depicted as the CIA’s exclusive domain — relies heavily on the NSA’s ability to vacuum up enormous quantities of e-mail, phone calls and other fragments of signals intelligence, or SIGINT.”

Where does it end???

Read Here.

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“The chickens have come home to roost”

AP_kenya_mall_attack_jt_130922_16x9_992I was watching CNN today and was lucky enough to catch an interview with a couple, with the wife carrying their baby daughter, who were trapped in a mall store in Nairobi, Kenya, when the Al Shabaab terrorist forces broke in. They stated that the gunmen were shooting indiscriminately. But after both of the interviewed couple were injured (the woman was shot and the husband had shards of glass in his left eye) they tried to reason with the gunman who had shot them, standing outside of the mall store entrance.

The husband/father began to relate to the terrorist through the teachings of the Koran, for he was a Muslim also, through it’s preachings of peace and love for one another, Muslim or not. But it was a failed attempt. What the gunman replied to the husband/father was, “We don’t usually try to kill women in children, but they kill our women and children.” The talk then broke off. The couple was then able to escape with both their daughter and a good lesson for the citizens of the United States.

The lesson for the U.S. is that, and I hate vaunting cliches but, violence breeds violence. For years now the “drone war” has been operating in the Horn of Africa. And when you send a Hellfire missile into the town square of a small village at a just “suspected” terrorists, there are going to be many civilian deaths. That was what the Al Shabaab gunman was trying to explain to the injured couple.

It was true in Vietnam, Chechnya, and now in all corners of the Middle East: The “collateral damage” of the War on Terror just creates so bitterly consumed people that they see terrorism as the only way to express their anger and feelings of injustice.

Now I do not support violence in this fashion, which is so random and pointless, but I think I understand a little bit more after hearing from that couple on CNN.

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Blatant Hypocrisy in Manning Sentencing Phase by Prosecution

As the sentencing of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning continues, a bit of sad hypocrisy from the military crept out today.  As reported by Reuters:

Testifying for the prosecution, (Navy Commander Youssef) Aboul-Enein said al Qaeda used a video Manning had provided to WikiLeaks of a U.S. helicopter gunship in 2007 firing at suspected insurgents in Baghdad. A dozen people were killed, including two Reuters news staff.

The helicopter also fired at a truck in which a child was seated, seriously wounding him.

Al Qaeda used the video to demonstrate to Muslims that “this could be your child,” Aboul-Enein said.

On the surface, a cynical person might point out the military is not saying the shooting of the child or the civilians was bad, just the releasing of the video showing the act.  And since I’m cynical, I’m pointing that out.

But if a wounded or dead child is a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, then we must ask what has been more useful for the organization.  Is the one video of a child being shot more effective than the children killed by drone strikes?  We recently learned 94 children were confirmed to be killed by drones in Pakistan between 2006 and 2009 and the total number is likely close to 200 at this point.

And this is completely ignoring the larger number of civilians killed during the same time period.

If the military is going to convict and sentence one of its own based on the notion that the revealing of harm done to a child is a good recruiting tool for the enemy, then maybe it’s time the military reexamines how it is fighting the War on Terror.  If that is not done, then this is simply hypocrisy at its worst and a long sentence (or any prison time at all) given to Manning will only exemplify that.

Ft. Hood Shooter’s Admission Further Confirms ‘War on Terror’ is Endless

The Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, has now confirmed he carried out his attack as an act of defense of the Taliban leaving no doubt he was reacting to the United States conducting attacks on foreign soil.  This follows other recent attacks that were conducted for similar reasons, such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the brutal and very public killing of a British soldier in the streets of the United Kingdom.  In all three cases, the persons responsible for the killings have made it clear they were revenge attacks for what they perceive as the West viciously and needlessly killing Muslims around the world.

Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan.

Which brings us to the reality the recent estimation by the Pentagon that the War on Terror would last another 15 to 20 years is probably a gross underestimation of how long it will truly last.  Even the youngest and simplest of minds can see the obvious connection and relationship of one side’s attacks versus the other and can also see there is no end in sight to this war barring a drastic change in tactics by the United States.  People may unreasonably argue the West didn’t “attack first” in the case of the War on Terror but one thing is undoubtedly clear now: recent terror attacks have been reactions to the West attacking Muslims overseas, which will prompt more attacks by the West continuing the endless cycle of violence.

The worst and most dangerous part of this is the normalizing of the War on Terror in the minds of the public and the passive acceptance of what it brings.  Part of making this war perpetual is simply making the situation and its atrocities, whether conducted by or against the United States, seem a normal part of everyday life.  Glen Greenwald summarizes this as well as anyone:

And then there’s the most intangible yet most significant cost: each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name. The second term of the Bush administration and first five years of the Obama presidency have been devoted to codifying and institutionalizing the vast and unchecked powers that are typically vested in leaders in the name of war. Those powers of secrecy, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and due-process-free assassination are not going anywhere. They are now permanent fixtures not only in the US political system but, worse, in American political culture.

 

Obama’s New Drone Policy

obama_drone-620x412Yesterday, Pres. Obama outlined a new policy for using drone attacks across the Middle East that will be more transparent, more involved by Congress, and less prolific across the board. Here’s a good article on this topic in the NYT. The article also goes on to outline Obama’s new policies on Gitmo and relieving us from a constant war footing here in the U.S. regarding terror.

 

Read Here.

 

The Tough Question: Did Drones Indirectly Lead to Boston Bombing?

After reading an article last week about Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei condemning the bombing in Boston but criticizing the U.S. policy on drone attacks, the question came to mind as to just how relevant it was for him to associate the two so closely.  He stated:

The Islamic Republic of Iran, which follows the logic Islam, is opposed to any bombings and killings of innocent people, no matter if it is in Boston, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria and condemns it…The US and other so-called human rights advocates remain silent on the massacre of innocents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but they cause a ruckus after a few blasts in the United States.

This week an op-ed appeared in the Atlantic addressing this issue specifically.  An important summary from the piece:

But propaganda is most powerful when it’s at least within shouting distance of the truth–and, unfortunately, that’s the case here. Obama’s drone strikes have killed, if not more civilians than mujahideen, lots of civilians, including women and scores of children. Every time such killing happens, the jihadist narrative, the narrative that seems to have seized the minds of the Tsarnaev brothers, gains a measure of strength.

The evolution of terrorism?

This is a commonsensical realization but there is another underlying issue that would contribute to this argument: the evolution of Al Qaeda’s message.

What I mean by that is there seems to be a change in how Al Qaeda once presented its message and how it delivers it now.  If we look at the issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s magazine, linked in the Atlantic piece, we see many articles addressing and encouraging lone wolf-types of attacks similar to what we saw in Boston.  This comes along with ideas on how to attack as an individual, such as creating car crashes and, coincidentally, using ricin.

Overall, the emphasis in the rhetoric seems to be on attacking and terrorizing civilians.  As noted by the author:

That’s where drone strikes can come in handy, and the latest issue of Inspire spells out the logic explicitly: Because America is “ruled by the people,” its “rulers (people) should pay for their country’s action till they change their system and foreign policies.” So “war on America including civilians” is legitimate, says Inspire, so long as Americans are killing Muslim civilians with drone strikes. “The equation should be balanced. Like they kill, they will be killed.”

But if we look back at some of Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, he doesn’t seem to be as concerned with attacking civilians as he is with attacking what he sees as more symbolically important targets.  And he even makes a distinction between the American people and the actions of the government.  After describing many instances of what he sees as American oppression, he leaves the reader with these remarks:

In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida.  No.

Your security is in your own hands.  And every state that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.

Bin Laden clearly had a eye on symbolism, along with casualty counts, when he targeted the U.S. for his attacks.  America’s military dominance was attacked by hitting the Pentagon and the U.S.S. Cole.  America’s economic dominance was attacked by bringing down the WTC.  And America’s heavy hand in foreign affairs was attacked when Al Qaeda struck at U.S. embassies.

And therein lies the new evolution and difference with the Boston attack.  It wasn’t an attack on a structure that also carried a certain symbolism for the U.S.  It was specifically targeted at civilians and civilians only just as the rhetoric contained within the pages of Inspire would suggest.  There may not be a direct link between the Boston bombers and Al Qaeda (and in all likelihood none will be found) but there is little doubt where the Tsarnaev brothers drew their inspiration.

As American tactics in finding and destroying Islamic extremists has evolved over the years with the expanded use of drone, the tactics used against us has gone through its own evolution.  We are seeing the next phase in the War on Terror and the likelihood of more lone wolf attacks in the future is seemingly high.  The question now becomes: how much longer will we let drone attacks be carried out in our name when we are being told they are the reason for the oncoming lone wolves?