Sunday, April 26, 2009
This is one of the bloggers at Winter Soldier who were invited to the conference and I know the reports on the conference were positive with compliments about the serious and sincere tone of the crowd and speakers. He has broken with the crazies on the right and been very critical - starting during the campaign where he supported McCain but spent time criticizing the hateful behavior of Palin rallies.
"Johnson worries, in conversation and on his blog, that his old allies have been duped by far-right European political parties and have bought into wild attacks on the president that discredit their own causes.
“I don’t think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore,” Johnson said. “It’s all a bunch of kooks. I’ve watch some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts.”
"As a senior interrogator in Iraq, I conducted more than three hundred interrogations and monitored more than one thousand. I heard numerous foreign fighters state that the reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Our policy of torture and abuse is Al-Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool. These same insurgents have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of our troops in Iraq, not to mention Iraqi civilians. Torture and abuse are counterproductive in the long term and, ultimately, cost us more lives than they save," - former senior military interrogator Matthew Alexander."
Friday, April 24, 2009
Ali Soufan, the only Arabic-speaking agent in New York and one of only eight in the country, and who has since resigned from the FBI finally speaks on the ineffectiveness of torture.
His NYT oped confirms what I learned from CIA training I received as an intelligence officer many years ago. Torture is often counterproductive in obtaining information because it produces unreliable testimony which cannot be used in a court of law and is unnecessary if traditional methods are used properly.
"One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn't been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn't, or couldn't have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions --- all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process."
Also the revelation that Contractors led the call for and were involved the torture under Bush :"My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It's worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)"
According to this article Contractors have been removed from interrogation by Gates and Obama.
Finally our risks increased when FBI agents were barred from interrogation of suspects. FBI agents who were experts on particular terrorists where no longer able to be part of their interrogation:
"it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him."
And Cheney accuses Obama of making us less safe! The Bush shit just wont go away.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Note April 19th is history in America for the response of the Minutemen in 1775 and for the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995
"I struggle with the concept of patriotism. I have never been a blind patriot, and could not argue in favor of the proposition "My country, right or wrong, still my country" unless I were simultaneously guaranteed the right to criticize, to offer the broader expression of Carl Shurz to the U. S. Senate in 1872:
The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, "My country, right or wrong." In one sense I say so too. My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
The setting right might require of me my life and whatever meagre fortune I might possess. After all, we read at the end of our founding document, the Declaration, written more than a year after the events of April 19, 1775, these words:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Mutually - not dividing the people up into us against them
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor
Honor - a commitment beyond one's personal wealth, and more valuable than one's own life.
I listen to the rhetoric of secession. I hear the words of those who foment unrest over the airwaves. I perceive those politically who seek to divide us and pit us against one another. In none of that do I recognize those words of the Declaration: we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor"
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Here are some great quotes from this article:
"Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management."
Senator Edward Kennedy
"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
United Nations Convention Against Torture
"Strange how blind people are! They are horrified by the torture chambers of the Middle Ages, but their arsenals fill them with pride!"
Bertha Von Suttner
"If cruelty is no longer declared unlawful, but instead is applied as a matter of policy, it alters the fundamental relationship of man to government. It destroys the whole notion of individual rights. The Constitution recognizes that man has an inherent right, not bestowed by the state or laws, to personal dignity, including the right to be free of cruelty. It applies to all human beings, not just in America -- even those designated as 'unlawful enemy combatants.' If you make this exception the whole Constitution crumbles."
Alberto J. Mora, former Navy General Counsel"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
"Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction."
(But does he really mean it?)
Friday, April 10, 2009
1 Watch parts one and two of Brave New Films' documentary Rethink Afghanistan, which explores many fundamental questions.
2 Read up on the war. Anand Gopal's coverage for the Christian Science Monitor has been insightful; see also Ann Jones's Kabul in Winter and articles like Gilles Dorronsoro's "Focus and Exit: An Alternative Strategy for the Afghan War". The Nation's own Robert Dreyfuss has more "For Your Reading Pleasure."
3 Check out the coalition of bloggers and activists seeking nonmilitary alternatives to escalation at Get Afghanistan Right.
4 Demand Congressional oversight hearings. It is Congress's duty to challenge policy-makers and inform the public about everything from the overall mission to the efficiency of military agencies. Sign a petition calling on Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman to hold hearings immediately.
5 What question would you ask at a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan? Take a video of yourself or a friend asking your question and e-mail it to Brave New Foundation via YouTube. For help on recording and uploading your video to YouTube, watch the tutorial video and follow the Quick Capture instructions and then go to Rethink Afghanistan to submit the video.
6 Contact your senators and representative directly to demand Congressional oversight hearings. If you can't visit their offices, a phone call or e-mail to voice your opinion can be just as effective.
7 Write to your local paper's editorial board and your favorite political blogs to raise concerns about the war. Don't let the mainstream media remain silent as they did before the Iraq War!
8 Support anti-escalation Afghan groups working for women's rights and social justice. You can aid organizations like the Afghan Women's Mission, MADRE and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) by buying them equipment from their Amazon "wish list" that helps them document and spread the news about their efforts. Stay updated with the Afghan Women's Mission newswire.
9 Join the Campus Antiwar Network and hold teach-ins, debates, talks, demonstrations and walkouts on college campuses across the country.
10 Get involved in the peace movement with groups like Win Without War and Peace Action West, which are devoted to finding nonviolent alternatives to military escalation in Afghanistan. Follow Peace Action West on Twitter.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Sounds Great! Lets keep an eye on it and raise hell if it does not.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
"The US policy that has led to this recent violence has been long in the making, as it has only been a matter of time before the tenuous truce between the groups came unglued. For it has been a truce built on a deeply corrupt US policy of backing the predominantly Shia Iraqi government forces while paying the Sunni resistance not to fight both government and occupation forces."
NVLSP Sues Army for Denying Lifetime Benefits and Healthcare to Thousands of Vets with PTSD
In a class action lawsuit filed on 12/16/08 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) charged that for many years, the U.S. Army has shortchanged an entire class of soldiers who returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the benefits to which they are entitled.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The following story is a "What if" and a possible way to solve the problem of Israel and Palestine. The analysis of why this has not happened is a fascinating introspection on how peace movements succeed or fail.
"They marched southward from Ramallah one windy morning in March 2012. Sheikh Nasser a-Din al-Masri led them--a slim man with a short black beard that half-hid a puckered scar on his neck. They filled the road to Jerusalem, a long procession of men, women, and children wearing white robes to show they were on a pilgrimage and that they had no pockets in which to hide weapons. They carried their flat bread in clear plastic bags for the same reason. A Reuters reporter said they numbered 20,000. They chanted as they walked.
When the sheikh saw the Israeli troops massed across the road in the distance, he turned and spoke into a megaphone. "Remember the two brothers, the sons of Adam," he said, and then quoted the Koran. "One said, 'I will surely kill you.' The other answered, 'If you stretch out your hand to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay you. For I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds.' "
The river of marchers streamed forward. From the troops came the voice of another megaphone, proclaiming "Halt!" in Arabic and Hebrew. Al-Masri answered, "We come in peace to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, as is our sacred right." Soldiers lifted their guns.
The sound of the first volley was dull thuds. Tear gas canisters fell on the asphalt. The wind scattered the white plumes. Gasping, the marchers kept advancing. Again came thuds, and rubber bullets showered the marchers. The sheikh groaned, put his
hands on his shoulder, and kept walking. "Halt! Halt!" roared the Israeli megaphone.
Afterward, an army inquiry panel would examine whether anyone had actually given orders to switch ammunition. With the first sharp cracks of live fire, a red splotch appeared low on the sheikh's robe; he grimaced and kneeled. People near him fell. A boy crumpled on the road. Screaming mixed with the chanting. The Reuters woman was shouting, pouring words into her cell phone. The guns stopped. No one could understand what the Israeli commander was yelling at his men. A marcher carrying medical gear in a clear plastic bag rushed up to al-Masri; another hurried to the boy.
Lying on the road, the sheikh whispered to a follower, who spoke through the megaphone. "We will fast here," he said, "until we are allowed to go on. We will testify to our faith." People tossed their bags of bread to the roadside and sat down.
Prostrate, pale, al-Masri spoke to television crews. He told about his studies at Al-Azhar University, his years in Hamas preaching armed jihad, and the bullet that grazed his neck when Israeli special forces arrested him. He talked about the Path of Adam's Son, the book by Syrian dissident Jawdat Said that he'd read in prison and that converted him to nonviolent struggle, about his release in a prisoner exchange two years before, and about the swelling support for his new movement. "