Blowback and news from the 6th War

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

   Ever since WWII it has been more and more difficult to define our “wars”. The line tends to get blurry when the President doesn’t have to consult Congress before sending in troops.

  However, when you are bombing a nation, and occasionally using ground troops, then I think it is defined as a war. Just because we aren’t trying to overthrow a government (i.e. Iraq and Libya) doesn’t mean we aren’t at war (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan). Of course this means that we are at war in Pakistan, just at a lower intensity.

  Oh sure, there will be people who deny it. But consider the lessons of history on how easily bombing a nation can turn into a broadening war (i.e. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia).

 There are many reasons why it is important to acknowledge how many wars we are engaged in. Not the least of which is so that it focuses the public on what our government is up to, rather than ignoring our foreign policy disasters until there is blowback.

 This means that we must pay attention to what our government is doing in Yemen, and most of all, Somalia.  

  Osama bin Laden is dead and Leon Panetta has acknowledged that Al Qaeda has a grand total of “fewer than two dozen key operatives” in the entire world. But instead of the War on Some Terror winding down, it is expanding.

  The Obama Administration has provided guns to the Saudi Arabian army to invade northern Yemen, all the while expanding a bombing campaign inside Yemen. “The Central Intelligence Agency is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones” (The New York Times, June 15, p.A12).

  Remember that in December of 2009, we dropped cluster bombs in Yemen that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children. In 2010 we killed a deputy governor that was trying to talk Yemen rebels into stop fighting.

  It’s these kinds of attacks that is so self-defeating.

    Just as high civilian casualties in US attacks on militants have fed extremism in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same phenomenon is now playing out in Yemen, says Yemen specialist Gregory Johnsen.

   “It is incredibly dangerous what the US is trying to do in Yemen at the moment because it really fits into AQAP’s broader strategy, in which it says Yemen is not different from Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Mr. Johnsen of Princeton University in New Jersey, who adds that AQAP can recruit militants from outside Yemen as well. “They are able to make the argument that Yemen is a legitimate front for jihad… They’ve been making that argument since 2007, but incidents like this are all sort of fodder for their argument.”

 If you haven’t figured it out by now, our so-called “surgical strikes” never have been and never will be. A headline in June: “Afghan Civilian Deaths Set a Monthly Record, U.N. Says” (The New York Times, June 12, p.A20). We slaughter innocents much more often than the guilty.

 Noor Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important — and unreported — truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal region: that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. . . .

  “For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” he said. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed” . . .

  According to Noor Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.

  “The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they’re doing is far greater.”

 A few months ago Harper’s did a calculation of the effectiveness of our bombings:

   Minimum number of people killed by CIA drone attacks in Pakistan last year : 607

   Number of those who appeared on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists : 2

 A gathering of Pakistani colonels was asked “whom they regarded as the greatest enemy. A third of them named America” (The Economist, June 18, p.46).

  Which brings us back to our 6th War in Somalia.

You might have read something about Somalia as the U.N. prepares to declare the nation in a “full phase-five famine” situation. Translated, that means when a ‘humanitarian emergency’ tips into ‘famine/humanitarian catastrophe’.

  Malnutrition wards are filling up. The crisis is already worse than the situation that led to U.N. intervention in 1991. We are staring into the face of a regional famine the world has not seen since Ethiopia in 1984. There are millions of people currently at risk.

 This is generally a situation that calls for people and nations to come together to prevent a catastrophe of epic proportions. Human decency and civilisation requires it. So what is our government doing in Somalia in the name of America and humanity in general?

  For starers, we are increasing our bombing campaign of Somalia. After all, if they are dying anyway we might as well help them along.

  However, let us not be said that we don’t have something special for the ones that are living – torture cells.

 Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency…

  As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners. The existence of both facilities and the CIA role was uncovered by The Nation during an extensive on-the-ground investigation in Mogadishu. Among the sources who provided information for this story are senior Somali intelligence officials; senior members of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG); former prisoners held at the underground prison; and several well-connected Somali analysts and militia leaders, some of whom have worked with US agents, including those from the CIA. A US official, who confirmed the existence of both sites, told The Nation, “It makes complete sense to have a strong counterterrorism partnership” with the Somali government.

  ‘Essentially, the CIA seems to be operating, doing the foreign policy of the United States,’ said a well-connected Somali analyst.

  …the United States has Somali intelligence agents on its payroll. Somali sources with knowledge of the program described the agents as lining up to receive $200 monthly cash payments from Americans. “They support us in a big way financially,” says the senior Somali intelligence official. “They are the largest [funder] by far.”

 You might remember the CIA foreign policy record from such places as Afghanistan, Panama, Iraq, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iran.

“The US has stopped running its global network of secret prisons, CIA director Leon Panetta has announced. ‘CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites,’ Mr Panetta said in a letter to staff”

   – BBC, April 9, 2009

 Some in the media have rushed to defend the secret CIA prisons. After all, al-Shabab are not nice people, and they are working with the islamist rebels in Yemen.

  But let’s compare that too the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (the one created by the U.N., not by the Somalian people) that we are propping up. For instance, taking examples only from today’s news stories, we find this:

 However, Amnesty also noted that Somalia’s transitional government is on a UN “list of shame” for recruiting, using, killing and maiming children in armed conflict.

  And this one:

At least two soldiers have been killed and two others hurt after Somali government forces clashed at Somalia’s presidential palace in Mogadishu, witnesses said Tuesday morning.

  Independent sources said the fighting erupted as a wrangle between the president and the speaker over the appointment of a new cabinet lineup has continued over the last few days.

  The TGF government has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Some of their actions amount to “war crimes”. AMISOM, the African “peacekeeping” force which recently launched a military offensive, is as much responsible as anyone. Much like our record in Vietnam in the 1960’s, and Iraq in the 1980’s, this is what we are defending.

 With one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in our lifetimes now upon us, the government’s response has been to up the level of carnage. I question the values of anyone who defends this policy.


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  1. for a sane foreign policy. One that isn’t run by the CIA.

  2. Nelson, an Air Force captain, was heading for his day shift on a new kind of job, one that could require him to kill another human being 7,500 miles away.

    Seated in a padded chair inside a low, tan building, he controlled a heavily armed drone aircraft soaring over Afghanistan. When his shift ended, he drove 40 minutes back through the desert to the hustle and neon of Las Vegas.

  3. “‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former CIA officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) [Bleeding] human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.'”

  4. War has not been declared in any of this “war-on-terror” bullshit. They won’t enforce US VISA laws (which is supposedly how the 911 hijackers stayed in the country long enough to pull off 911, or so the story goes), but they’re not fucked-up about violating our constitutional rights (warrantless surveillance etc.). Both parties are serious about imposing executive war-powers (and expanding them) without any declaration of war. Following the money (i.e. what can be gained) makes me think the real intention of this agenda to take rights away from the American people, so they can keep us under their thumb (i.e. control the population), much like the citizens of our “trading partners”, i.e. China (who can’t even Google democracy), to further oppress US citizens, eventually making us more “globally competitive”.

    • banger on July 22, 2011 at 05:54

    Is kind of perverse. The reason why I don’t support imperialism is, it part, because Americans lack the character and virtue to rule an empire. If Americans indeed were interested in doing what their propaganda insists is U.S. policy then I might go along with it. What I do know is that the policies that are carried out in the places you mentioned are irrational and not pragmatic. We aren’t like the Romans–if we were we wouldn’t do this silly bullshit. We’d just move in take over instead of this batshit crazy stuff we do that makes no fucking sense at all.

    The kinds of operations the U.S. is carrying out seem to have maybe three major components:

    1) Americans love violence–it simplifies everything (good guys and bad guys) and justifies incredible cruelty since our goals are so lofty–nearly everybody left and right agrees on that. I’ve been shocked how many “progressives” favor the Libyan intervention.

    2) It offers everyone a job–the MIC keeps cooking and getting money for it’s lethal weapons, the officer corps gets promotions and status (and lot’s of sexual partners since you’d be surprised how many women love uniforms) and the enlisted men get some training, some discipline and comraderie/community that they sadly miss. Male bonding when facing danger or a big challenge should never be underestimated as a strong psychological motivator

    3) Most importantly, making war on others or just generally making people miserable (as in domestic policies) creates a violent, upset, angry, and negative world around you which, in turn, allows you to live in your lower-brain. Perhaps the biggest challenge and biggest reason for our collective problems is this revulsion for reason, science and compassion/love on the part of so many people. The more hate you can produce the more threatened you can feel the more justified your violence will be–and since the U.S. has a stunningly dominating military machine… well, you get the picture.

    All this is incredibly destructive. Americans have chosen collectively to abandon the modernist project–they like all the toys but they don’t like the challenge of psychic growth.

    The issue isn’t so much war as the fear of growth and maturity. All the paths are there, the knowledge is here it’s just a leap into the unfamiliar into trust, into love, into compassion, into being open to new concepts, people, places and moving away from fear. This makes the majority of Americans freak.

    Personally, I think it will change–it’s just too weird even for us–I believe people will see the culture that is increasingly engineered to be negative as just too unpleasant. That’s why it’s up to the rest of us to provide a “places” for people to go that isn’t filled with fear and negativity.  

  5. was a “war on terra” — simply a “mantra” used by the neocons of the PNAC, in order to achieve the goals as delineated by the PNAC.  

    I have agonized, lost many a night’s sleep over our wars of aggression and slaughter of innocent human beings and all the accompanying heinous acts committed and blatantly approved of, obviously, in conjunction with them.  It’s painful, excruiatingly painful — mindless killing of innocents, not the least of which are children, many children, sending our own on a mission that would damage their morale forever, and injure their brains forever — but the knowledge that the United States’ powerful and our government exhibits a total lack of conscience for its continual inhumane treatment of human beings.  

    From a past diary of mine:

    On May 6, 2008, three very distinguished law professors gave testimony before the House Judiciary Committee– the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.  They are:

    Marjorie Cohn, President, National Lawyers Guild

      Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

    Philippe Sands, Professor Laws, University College, London

       Barrister, Matrix Chambers

    David Luban, Professor of Law, Legal Ethics

    Georgetown University Law Center

    Ms. Cohn’s opening statement stands out sharply:

    What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression?  They are all jus cogens.  Jus cogens is Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition.

    (emphasis mine)

    I have made mention of the above because I believe that this continual “war on terra” will some day come back to smack us in the face.  We simply cannot go about the world aggressing this nation, that, killing, maiming its people, robbing its resources and expect NOT to create extreme hatred of us, the opposite effects of deterring so-called “terrorism.”  

    Were those responsible for these wars of aggressions, torture, rendition, and all the heinous acts associated with war crimes brought to justice may be the only way we can find some leverage in sentiments toward us.  But at this point, I would doubt even that.

    Thank you for this diary, gjohnsit, and all the efforts put forth in the compilation of it!    


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