Archive for International
So in light of recent events in Baltimore, a friend dredged up this nugget from the memory hole:
— Murshed Zaheed (@murshedz) April 30, 2015
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave that explanation for the looting in Baghdad at a briefing on April 11, 2003. He followed those remarks by saying:
… freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that’s what’s going to happen here.
The task we’ve got ahead of us now is an awkward one, because you have to go from a transition — from a repressed regime to an unrepressed regime that is free to do good things and also do bad things, and we’re going to see both.
Notice how easily the untidiness in Baltimore knocked ISIL, a.k.a. Rumsfeld’s Baby, right off the front pages? Yes, ISIL is that much of an existential threat to America.
The scary thing for Iraq and Syria, however, is that now the media-conscious ISIL will want to do some “bad things” that put them back on the front pages.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
We have become disturbingly accustomed in this country to police shootings of unarmed, black men. This is not another one of those:
Pakistan civil liberties activist and social worker Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi Friday night as she headed home from a talk on the troubled Balochistan province. She was 40.
According to the Dawn website, Sabeen left The Second Floor — she was the director of T2F which she called a community space for open dialogue — with her mother shortly after 9 pm and was on her way home when she was shot. She died on the way to hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body. Her mother was said to be in a critical condition.
“No one has claimed responsibility for her shooting, and police have not named any motive,” reports CNN, plus this background on Mahmud:
General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.
But who’s counting? As Digby pointed out last night, there is a lot less precision to these “precision” drone strikes than meets the monitors of drone pilots at Creech Air Force Base. The government can’t even keep count of how many Americans they’ve killed. The Guardian reports:
The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday.
The lack of specificity suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring “near certainty that the terrorist target is present”, the US continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a “signature strike”.
At Timestamp 19:45.
Today, Earth Day 2015, President Obama visits Everglades National Park to talk about climate change and the threat it poses to the water ecology of south Florida. On the first Earth Day in 1970, few Americans had even heard of ecology.
NPR’s Melissa Block spoke with Evelyn Gaiser, an ecologist with the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program, about saltwater incursion into the Everglades. She’ll be reminding the president the Everglades is not just home to birds, snakes, and alligators:
BLOCK: And along with preserving biodiversity, preserving wild space and habitat, of course also you’re seeing a real threat to drinking water with what’s going on in the Everglades, right?
GAISER: That’s exactly right. So the people of Florida depend on that aquifer underneath the Everglades for their drinking water. And as we have insufficient freshwater moving into the Everglades, we see a depletion in the freshwater resources available to the growing population of South Florida.
On the Pacific coast, Californians struggle with an epic drought and reservoirs have all but dried up.
Following up this morning on the must-read Der Spiegel article on the origins of an Islamic State (IS) cooked up by former Saddam Hussein intelligence officers. A trove of documents Der Spiegel obtained late last year reveal the architect of the Islamic State to be a former Iraqi colonel, Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, known to IS as Haji Bakr or else “Lord of the Shadows.” Bakr died in January 2014 after implementing his “blueprint for a takeover … not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an ‘Islamic Intelligence State’ — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.” Bakr and his agents would exploit others’ extremist faith to recruit an army. The Syrian civil war provided the chaos they needed to implement their plan.
Bakr survived quality time in U.S. custody at Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison to eventually form “a powerful underground organization.” He and a group of former Iraqi intelligence officers conceived a new Islamic State. They made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the figurehead. “They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face” that would attract foot soldiers from abroad. They preferred foreigners rather than Syrian rebels. (Local recruits might be reluctant to commit the atrocities necessary to instill the fear needed for control.) Spies would infiltrate towns and pave the way for takeover:
The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”
Confronting Hatred: 70 Years after the Holocaust played on the local NPR station recently. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the program looks at “racism, antisemitism, and the ways in which hatred can grow.” I tuned in late and heard a German woman confronting Klansmen. It led me to this 2014 clip from the BBC:
Mo Asumang is a German filmmaker who confronts racism by speaking directly to those who want her excluded from their world. They don’t talk to or know their “so-called enemy,” Asumang says, “so what they do when they talk to me, they talk to reality, and that’s the first thing they have to survive.”
Asumang concedes that her tactics for confronting hatred so directly are not for everyone. But she is inspired by the incredible change she witnessed in her own family, when her grandmother—a former Nazi party member, who worked for the SS—came face to face with a black grandchild.
“How many isolated incidents equal a pattern?” radio host Tavis Smiley asked Bill O’Reilly this week as the two debated police misconduct and mass incarceration.
From mass surveillance to mass incarceration, it appears that government of the people, etc. is increasingly prone to viewing itself as government against the people. The Guardian reported Friday that the Missouri National Guard had to caution its people against referring to Ferguson protesters as “enemy forces“:
A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities”, which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.
And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”
National Guard spokesman Capt. Quinn told CNN later drafts of mission plans dialed back the language. Quinnn said, “‘enemy forces’ would be better understood as ‘potential threats.'” So that’s comforting.
Progressive groups are sure to be fuming over the agreement among congressional leaders on approving “fast track” authority:
In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.
“NAFTA on steroids” may have bipartisan support, but the secret trade agreement — congressional staff must have security clearances to view the draft trade pact text — also “enjoys” bipartisan opposition. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January showed Americans were in no hurry to expand trade: “59% said it could be delayed until next year and 16% said it shouldn’t be pursued at all.” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a press release yesterday, “Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.”
You know you’re in trouble when life starts resembling a Schwarzenegger movie. What with economic insecurity, huge income disparity, severe drought in California, massive NSA surveillance, a virtual
war on the poor, police firing on unarmed civilians, and a population pacified with reality TV, The Running Man (1987) comes to mind. In a dystopian, near-future police state, Ah-nold gets framed as “The Butcher of Bakersfield” after a police helicopter crew (following orders) fires on food rioters.
But that was 2017. Today, the Air Force is hot to open your friendly skies to its large Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk, and Sentinel drones. A few weeks ago, I wrote about that at Crooks and Liars. The press focus has been on the FAA’s congressionally mandated commercial drone testing, yet “there is no funding from FAA to support the test sites.” Plus, everywhere you look, the people involved in the testing program seem to include Department of Defense, ex-military, Air National Guard, or members of the defense industry. I wrote:
It’s not that commercial drones aren’t of interest to the private sector. Ask Amazon. But the military and U.S. defense contractors want access to civilian airspace for testing exportable military hardware and for keeping their drone pilots’ skills sharp. Several drone testing programs are fashioned as university research programs and appear as civilian efforts. That might be understandable after George W. Bush’s speech about drones attacking civilians with “chemical and biological weapons,” and after revelations about widespread domestic surveillance here and abroad.