Archive for International
We have seen stories lately that Memorial Day originated in 1865 with freed slaves in Charleston, SC. They took it upon themselves to give a proper burial to hundreds of Union soldiers from a prison camp at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club who had been buried in a mass grave. Whether that event was the inspiration for the national holiday established in 1868 is conjecture. According to Yale historian David W. Blight, the “Martyrs of the Race Course” have since been moved to the National Cemetery at Beaufort, South Carolina. The track is now a park adjacent to the Citadel military college.
I was on the Isle of Palms a few miles east of there on October 7, 2002, watching, the night George W. Bush gave the televised speech in Cincinnati. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at Saddam Hussein in an effort to convince the American people we needed to go to war against Iraq (as the White House had already decided). The well-orchestrated, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld propaganda effort has been much in the news lately. A decade later, Americans have largely concluded, knowing what we know now, that we, the Bush administration, and a cheerleading national press were misled by bad intelligence.
No, we weren’t. David Corn put it plainly last week: “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, & Co. were not misled by lousy intelligence; they used lousy intelligence to mislead the public.”
Privacy advocates worry that military drones could soon be used to spy on Americans. An activist friend trying to get reporters to publicize how the military plans for its squadrons of Predators, Reapers, etc. to share the National Airspace System (NAS) with private and commercial aircraft is greeted with the kind of skepticism one might have gotten a few years ago for suggesting the NSA was bulk-collecting Americans’ phone records. Like that could happen.
Others have worried about hackers hijacking unmanned or commercial aircraft and, say, flying them into buildings. Like that could happen.
According to Der Spiegel last week, IT expert Chris Roberts has shown what, in theory, could happen with commercial airliners:
According to the FBI document, which was first made public by the Canadian news website APTN, Roberts was able to hack into the onboard entertainment systems — manufactured by companies such as Panasonic and Thales — of passenger planes such as the Boeing 737, the Boeing 757 and the Airbus A320. He did so a total of 15 to 20 times between 2011 and 2014. To do so, he hooked his laptop up to the Seat Electronic Box (SEB) — which are usually located under each passenger seat — using an Ethernet cable, which is unsettling enough.
But Roberts may also potentially have used the SEB to hack into sensitive systems that control the engines. In one case, he may even have been able to manipulate the engines during flight. He says that he was able to successfully enter the command “CLB,” which stands for “climb,” and the plane’s engines reacted accordingly, he told the FBI, according to the document.
From a Last Word segment on Friday:
Ivy Ziedrich, the 19-year-old Nevada college student who told Jeb Bush that his brother created ISIS, joins Lawrence O’Donnell for her first national interview in a Last Word exclusive.
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.