What happened to the anti-war movement?


One of the largest anti-war protests in recent years took place last week. If you blinked you may have missed it. Even if you didn’t blink you had to know where to look.

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post, which apparently didn’t even think it was a local story worth publishing.

John Halle has more over at Corrente:

First, one was a rally held at the Lincoln Memorial some distance from the White House while the other centered around civil disobedience at the White House fence.

Secondly, more significantly, the Veterans directly and passionately criticized the Obama administration and its policies. In contrast, at the One Nation rally, according to Patrick Martin of the World Socialist website:

“Nearly every speaker combined warnings of the consequences of a Republican victory in the November 2 election with appeals to those attending the rally to spend the next month in all-out campaigning for a Democratic Party victory. There was no examination of the actual policies of the Democrats, still less of the relatively insignificant differences between the two big business parties.
There was no criticism of the Obama administration by name, even by speakers who criticized some of the policies for which the Democratic president is responsible.”

These two protests clearly display an unmistakeable and unbridgeable difference in perspective-between support (including highly critical support), on the one side and active dissent and militant opposition on the other.

This distinction, which has immediate practical consequences for how, or whether, a protest movement will develop and flourish, admits of an explanation: in the opinion of many, much of the left leadership played a role in fomenting unrealistic expectations with respect to the Obama presidency. Their investment in the Obama brand prevents them from endorsing and playing a role in organizing protests of sufficient vehemence and intensity as these would necessarily shine a light on their failure of judgement and lack of credibility.


Whatever happened to Code Pink? Last time I heard about them they were trying to place Karl Rove under citizen’s arrest at a book signing. Now much as I’d like to see Turdblossom getting perp walked to prison, he no longer has anything to do with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Remember the good old days when progressive bloggers thought that Hillary’s vote on the Iraq War Resolution was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER? (That was right before they were promising to hold Obama’s “feet to the fire”)

How come they don’t care about the wars anymore? Why don’t they care about Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan?

In the words of Bob Dole, “Where’s the outrage?”


Who are we killing and why?


While Left Blogistan is getting their collective panties in a wad over the thought of poor Julian Assange facing rape charges in a Swedish court of law, our government is busy killing people:

‘Unprecedented’ Drone Assault: 58 Strikes in 102 Days

It may take years, but some researcher will travel to Pakistan’s tribal areas and produce a definitive study on what it’s been like to live amidst an aerial bombardment from American pilotless aircraft. When that account inevitably comes out, it’s likely to find that 2010 — and especially the final quarter of 2010 — marked a turning point in how civilians coped with a drone war that turned relentless.

Even as the Obama administration’s assessment of its war strategy nodded to the primacy of the CIA’s drone campaign, Predators underscored the point. Over the past two days, four Predators or Reapers fired their missiles at suspected militants in North Waziristan, with three of the strikes coming early today.

They represent a geographic expansion of the drone war. Today’s strikes come in Khyber, an area abutting Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, that’s been notably drone-free. It has become an area for militants fleeing military action in South Waziristan to take succor.

They also bring the drone-strike tally for this year up to 113, more than twice last year’s 53 strikes. But those figures don’t begin to tell the whole story.

According to a tally kept by the Long War Journal, 58 of those strikes have come since September: There has been a drone attack every 1.8 days since Labor Day. LWJ’s Bill Roggio says the pace of attacks between September and November (there was a brief December respite, now erased) is “unprecedented since the U.S. began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004.” (By contrast, in 2008, there were just 34 strikes.)

Both Roggio and the New America Foundation have found that the overwhelming majority of this year’s strikes have clustered in North Waziristan: at least 99, by Roggio’s count.

That torrid pace of attacks should make it beyond debate that the drones are the long pole in the U.S.’s counterterrorism tent, even if the drone program is technically a secret. The Pakistanis haven’t sent their Army into North Waziristan to harass al-Qaeda’s haven in the mountainous, Connecticut-sized region, waving off U.S. pressure to invade.

Without a ground force to rely on, the CIA argues, the only option for fulfilling the administration’s goal of crushing al-Qaeda is a missile strapped to a surveillance aircraft. During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would pursue al-Qaeda in Pakistan unilaterally if he deemed the Pakistanis intransigent. No one expected he meant he’d do so from the skies.

Of course, the Pakistanis have been the silent partner in the strikes, allowing the drones to fly from their territory, so it’s not as if these are unilateral attacks.

But no one knows whether a backlash is just around the corner. While most Pakistanis remain ignorant of the strikes, those in the tribal areas live literally in their shadow, and register enormous discontent, approving of retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces.

Reportedly, the CIA’s top officer in Islamabad has fled Pakistan after a man from North Waziristan whose son and brother were killed in a strike filed a lawsuit against the agency.

There’s no official or universally accepted figure of how many civilians have died as a result of the strikes, but New America pegs it at around 25 percent of all fatalities. Long War Journal’s registry is more generous, claiming that 1,671 militants and 108 civilians have died in the strikes since 2006.

Then there’s the question of whether the strikes are legal. Obama administration claims that the September 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in retaliation for 9/11 provides all the legal protection necessary for the strikes. Some lawyers and law professors, by contrast, think that the drones’ remote pilots could eventually get hauled before a war-crimes tribunal.

Who exactly are we killing? What have they done to deserve death? Who decided they should die?

Last time I checked we weren’t at war with Pakistan.


Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

A few interesting things happening in the news. First up, we have a cure for HIV infection, at least in one patient:

Doctors believe that they may have found one of the largest breakthroughs in the battle against HIV, the virus which leads to AIDS. The news broke today (December 14) out of Berlin, Germany when doctors confirmed that Timothy Ray Brown received a stem-cell treatment while battling leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing “strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved.”

Here’s the abstract of the paper in question for any of you up on your hematology research. Here’s the salient point:

In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.

There’s a lot of work yet to do, and this may not be an overall cure, but it’s a major breakthrough.


As reported yesterday by RD, a federal judge in VA ruled the mandate to buy a private product part of the health insurance company bailout bill is unconstitutional. Here’s a follow up article about the ruling and the VA district attorney’s winning strategy:

Virginia’s go-it-alone legal strategy to challenge the nation’s sweeping federal health-care overhaul – once questioned by both advocates and some opponents of the law – seems to be paying off for state Attorney General Ken T. Cuccinelli II after Monday’s court ruling, in his favor, that a key provision of the law is unconstitutional.

When Cuccinelli (R) filed suit in March against the federal law – rather than signing on to one filed jointly in Florida by 20 other attorneys general – Democrats said it was an exercise in grandstanding for political gain.

[...]

But his decision has undermined those who contend that constitutional challenges to the law are frivolous.

“There’s no question that this was a gamble in terms of how the litigation would have been perceived if he’s received the third strike in a row,” said Jonathan Turley, professor of law at the George Washington University Law School. “It’s certainly a gamble that’s paid off.”

Cuccinelli has maintained all along that filing his own challenge made more sense than signing on to the Florida effort.

The Virginia General Assembly had passed a law in March that made it illegal to require state residents to carry health insurance. The conflict between the state statute and the federal law gave Virginia unique standing to sue, he argued.

“You just don’t go to other states to protect your own laws,” Cuccinelli said in an interview Tuesday.

That being said, the real test will be the supreme court. Which at the earliest would be sometime next year, and likely the year after that. I think it’s an interesting issue and very worth a supreme court case. Clearly there’s gray area with being “punished’ for inaction with respect to having to buy a commercial product. And of course when the health insurance lobbyist wrote the bill, making that part not a tax was a big issue. Those calling the issue silly or frivolous were being silly.


And speaking of silly, Republicans that think the 2010 midterm elections were about them are of course not even close. A new poll out back up what everyone should know (again):

Republicans may have made major gains in the November elections, but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The midterm elections – in which Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House and added six seats to their Senate minority – were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public trusts Obama marginally more than they do congressional Republicans to deal with the country’s main problems in the coming years, 43 percent to 38 percent.

The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans. The survey also underscores the degree to which Americans are conflicted about who they think is setting the agenda in Washington.

The president’s narrow advantage is a striking contrast to the public’s mood at this time in 1994 and 2006, the last two midterm election years when one or both chambers of Congress changed hands.

[...]

In the new poll, just 41 percent of respondents say the GOP takeover of the House is a “good thing.” About 27 percent say it is a “bad thing,” and 30 percent say it won’t make any difference. Most continue to say that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues.

At this time in 1994, six in 10 Americans said the GOP had taken a stronger leadership role in Washington, while just one in four said Clinton was firmly in charge. In the new poll, Americans are about evenly split between Obama and the Republicans in Congress on this question.

Of course it’s idiotic comparing 2010 to 1994 for many reasons. One is that in ’92 Clinton won a three man race without  a majority. So his numbers were building up from a low point. Obama’s numbers in contrast have been steadily coming down from a high point. Also in ’94 Democrats got shown the door precisely because a large number of them were breaking the law. Whereas in this case, we have a supermajority Democrats in congress and a Democratic president elected in ’06/’08 to fix a majorly broken economy. And in the last 4/2 years respectively, it’s gotten worse. And for better or worse (or right or wrong), the voters wanted a new direction. That is, it’s the economy stupid. On top of that, Obama’s a real piece of shit and the congress that just does what he says (same as they just did what Bush II said before) were getting a bit tiring.

But what these numbers do indicate to me is that if things don’t get better economically, esp. with respect to jobs, then the Republicans will incur losses in ’12. If we’re around high 8% or higher in unemployment, there’s going to be some more changes. And they might just be dramatic.


The Commandant of the Marines says repealing DADT will result in casualties:

The Marine Corps’ top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose “a distraction.”

“When your life hangs on the line,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, “you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war.

“So the Marines came back and they said, ‘Look, anything that’s going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion,’ ” he said. “I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen. And I’ll tell you why. If you go up to Bethesda [Naval] Hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] with no limbs.”

I understand Commandant Amos’ concern for his marines and why he would want to move very slowly when it comes to any change that shakes things up. But it’s way past time for this change. We have women at most levels and in combat (though we pretend they’re not), and of course for a long, long time, we’ve had people of color in the armed forces, even though both of those were changes that shook things up and were distractions at the time. I have faith in the marines that they can handle such a change just fine. If memory serves, the previous commandant has similar issues. I hope he can take a lead from his boss, Adm. Mike Mullen, and move to deal with the new realities instead of throwing wrenches in the works.


In the latest news from the world of WikiLeaks, the Air Force has blocked WikiLeaks from it’s own networks:

The Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday.

[...]

Cyber network specialists within the Air Force Space Command last week followed longstanding procedures to keep classified information off unclassified computer systems. “News media Web sites will be blocked if they post classified documents from the WikiLeaks Web site,” said Lt. Col. Brenda Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space Command, a unit of which oversees Air Force cyber systems. “This is similar to how we’d block any other Web site that posted classified information.”

Colonel Campbell said that only sites posting full classified documents, not just excerpts, would be blocked. “When classified documents appear on a Web site, a judgment will be made whether it will be blocked,” she said. “It’s an issue we’re working through right now.”

The other armed forces are handling it differently:

Spokesmen for the Army, Navy and Marines said they were not blocking the Web sites of news organizations, largely because guidance has already been issued by the Obama administration and the Defense Department directing hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors not to read the secret cables and other classified documents published by WikiLeaks unless the workers have the required security clearance or authorization.

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority,” said a notice sent on Dec. 3 by the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House, to agency and department heads.

A Defense Department spokesman, Col. David Lapan, in an e-mail on Tuesday night sought to distance the department from the Air Force’s action to block access to the media Web sites: “This is not DoD-directed or DoD-wide.”

The Air Force may have gone too far. We’ll see how that plays out. And in related news, Julian Assange paid bail, but is still in jail:

Sweden tonight decided to fight a British judge’s decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent more than a week in prison over sexual assault allegations involving two Swedish women.

A dramatic day in and around City of Westminster magistrates court saw Assange win bail, but then be forced to return to what his lawyer Mark Stephens described as “Dickensian conditions” at Wandsworth prison while the international legal battle played out.

Sweden has decided to contest the granting of bail to Assange, who is being held pending an extradition hearing, on the grounds that no conditions imposed by a judge could guarantee that he would not flee, a legal source told the Guardian.


And speaking of crimes, it looks like the Senate will pass the near trillion dollar deficit increase and social security destruction bill today:

The U.S. Senate today is poised to pass President Barack Obama’s $858 billion proposal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels, cut payroll taxes and extend expanded jobless benefits.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said last night on the Senate floor that the chamber will start debate at 11 a.m. on the measure. Before a vote on final passage, senators will take up three amendments, Reid said. Amendments require a two-thirds supermajority for adoption.

Senate passage will send the tax bill to the House, where Democrats — who threatened last week not to bring it to the floor — late yesterday discussed a plan to let Democrats vote on an alternative to estate-tax provisions many of them oppose.

We will see soon after that what happens in the House. Please write your congressman and tell them not to pass anything like this POS giveaway to the rich and obvious ploy to destroy social security and medicare.


Rahm “The Fish” Emanuel got a Chicago style grilling yesterday about his mayoral run:

The most serious attack on his candidacy came in the first 90 minutes of the hearing as the lead attorney challenging Emanuel bored in on the issue of whether the former White House chief of staff meets the requirement of being a Chicago resident for one year prior to the Feb. 22 election.

But after that, it was open season as a long line of citizens who object to Emanuel’s run for mayor quizzed him on everything from when and where he purchased a city sticker for his car to whether he played any role in the violent 1993 Waco, Texas, siege to if he has ever been a member of the Communist Party.

Sadly I think he’ll be able to run just fine. And sadly he’s still the front runner.


Interest rates have been inching up and the Fed has taken notice:

Interest rates are marching upward, making it more expensive to take out a mortgage or get a loan to expand a business, and diluting efforts by Congress and the Federal Reserve to strengthen the economy.

The rise is partly because of good news: The outlook for growth has improved, putting less pressure on investors to keep their money in ultra-safe bonds. When there’s less demand for bonds, their interest rates – or yield – go up to attract more investors.

And the better economic outlook could allow the Fed to pull back sooner than expected on the extraordinary steps it’s taking to keep rates low.

But bond investors are also spooked by the tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional leaders, which if enacted would increase the budget deficit substantially over the next two years.

The climb in interest rates is confounding the Fed’s efforts as it tries to bring down rates by buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds. The central bank affirmed that it would stay on course with those plans Tuesday after a policy meeting.

Yes, it’s good and it’s bad and it’s messing up their efforts to make money cheaper. It’s all going to end in tears I tell you. Our economy as well as the world economy is fragile. The dollar is on the brink. It’s scary out there. The current worry about interest rates going a bit higher (as if things are getting better.. give me a break) reminds me of a small leak in a dam being plugged by a finger. Sadly we’re all living in the small village below the dam.

On that lovely note, let’s open the floor to more news. And some positive news please. Chime in with what you’re reading.

Avoir le cafard


Avoir le cafard – To have “The Bug.”


Designboom (via Blue Lyon):

american kills’ by chilean-born new york based artist sebastian errazuriz is a public installation showcasing the suicide rates of US soldiers. after searching on official war sites on the internet, he accidentally found out that 2 times more american soldiers had died in 2009 by committing suicide than those killed during that same year in the war in iraq; an alarming comparison that errazuriz had personally never read or heard about before.


I remember reading about a World War II veteran who described his military service as “Long periods of extreme boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.” I first heard about Le Cafard in a book of fiction about the French Foreign Legion.

According to the story men stationed in the deserts of colonial Algeria and Morocco would grow so depressed they would go mad and start shooting cockroaches, each other and themselves. Supposedly deaths from Le Cafard exceeded deaths from combat.

I didn’t believe it at first (it was fiction, after all) but I’ve since learned it is true. Avoir le cafard is now a French idiom referring to an extreme depression or sense of pointlessness.

As you can see from the picture above, Le Cafard is very real and very deadly.

Young men and women, far from home and under stress. Fear, loneliness and firearms.

Stop the madness. End the wars and bring our kids home.



Sunday News – Shadow War Edition

I was planning on a regular Sunday news round up, but I’m running late and some juicy stories have already been covered today. So I thought I’d go after the front page story in today’s NYTimes.

As with some presidents in the past, LBJ and Nixon come to mind, Obama has been pursuing a secret or shadow war for some time. This shadow war has purportedly been against Al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan and a few other places, and has been driven by the CIA along with our military. There is often some partnering with various groups where we fight. We saw some of this come out in the wikileaks papers. And we’ve seen some small reporting of this in the main stream media.

Today the NYTimes has a front page article about Obama’s shadow war. I’ll include some passages, but take a look at the article as a whole. One thing that really struck me in the article that includes reports of mistakes or collateral damage including leaders on our side of the “war” (central to fighting Al Qaeda) and large numbers of women and children, is that they don’t appear to criticizes this operation in any real sense. They talk about it as if it were just another policy or some possibly reasonable thing that Obama should be doing. There is no outrage, no holding his feet to the fire, no investigation of it as an illegal war, which it clearly is. It’s yet another clear sign that there is no main stream media that includes actual, real journalism.

Anyway, back to the story:

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Of course with any sort of shadow war with little accountability there are ramifications:

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

And:

The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

Remember Obama’s campaign promise, he liked Blackwater’s use in our wars and he promised he would also use them and expand their uses wherever he could. He said it plain as day. He told the truth.

The report continues:

The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

Notice they are killing people they suspect are “plotting” future attacks. Yes, you read that right. Even more than was true with Bush II, this new nobel peace prize president is mass murdering people he suspects may plot future attacks.

But wait, there’s more. There is a discussion of how this parallels the cold war with the Soviets, and then continues:

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Yes, you read that right. We are using some of the same players involved in creating Al Qaeda are involved in creating the next groups. And in killing other groups. After all, they did such a good job before.

Unfortunately these operations of course have some minor consequences:

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

Yes, Obama did that. We did that.

We are conducting a secret, shadow war that is killing countless people, doing immeasurable damage to people’s lives. We are creating generations of new terrorists. We are doing evil. All under Obama. Not because he inherited anything from Bush. But because that’s what he wants to do.

Treat this as a new/open thread. Feel free to discuss this or other topics.

Story of the Week: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Releases Afghanistan War Logs

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

The biggest story in the news today is the massive leak of government documents to three major newspapers: The UK Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel in Germany by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

He has been called “The Robin Hood of Hacking.” As the founder and public face of WikiLeaks, which posts secretive documents and information in the public domain, Julian Assange believes total transparency is in the good of the people. But Assange — who reportedly lives an itinerant existence, traveling the world with a back-pack and a computer — is himself a shadowy figure. Little is known about his life: he has refused to confirm his age in interviews or give a fixed address. But on July 26, mathematically-trained Australian changed the media landscape — and possibly the course of history — by releasing around 90,000 classified U.S. military records from the war in Afghanistan.

In 2006, Assange decided to found WikiLeaks in the belief that the free exchange of information would put an end to illegitimate governance. The website publishes material from sources, and houses its main server in Sweden, which has strong laws protecting whistleblowers. Assange and others at WikiLeaks also occasionally hack into secure systems to find documents to expose. In December, the website published its first document — a decision by the Somali Islamic Courts Union that called for the execution of government officials. WikiLeaks published a disclaimer that the document may not be authentic and “may be a clever smear by U.S. intelligence.”

The website went on to get several prominent scoops, including the release in April of a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuters journalists. Assange helped post the video from a safe-house in Iceland that he and the other WikiLeaks administrators called “the bunker.”

From The NYT yesterday: View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year….

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.

Here is the NYT “War Logs” page that collects the related stories.

From today’s Der Spiegel article: The Afghanistan Protocol: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It

The documents’ release comes at a time when calls for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are growing — even in America. Last week, representatives from more than 70 nations and organizations met in Kabul for the Afghanistan conference. They assured President Hamid Karzai that his country would be in a position by 2014 to guarantee security using its own soldiers and police.

But such shows of optimism seem cynical in light of the descriptions of the situation in Afghanistan provided in the classified documents. Nearly nine years after the start of the war, they paint a gloomy picture. They portray Afghan security forces as the hapless victims of Taliban attacks. They also offer a conflicting impression of the deployment of drones, noting that America’s miracle weapons are also entirely vulnerable.

And they show that the war in northern Afghanistan, where German troops are stationed, is becoming increasingly perilous. The number of warnings about possible Taliban attacks in the region — fuelled [sic] by support from Pakistan — has increased dramatically in the past year.

The documents offer a window into the war in the Hindu Kush — one which promises to change the way we think about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. They will also be indispensible for anyone seeking to inform themselves about the war in the future.

Here is the UK Guardian page on the war logs with many stories based on the leaked information.

The Guardian has a video of Julian Assange: Julian Assange on the Afghanistan war logs: ‘They show the true nature of this war’

The Guardian has also prepared an interactive map with their selections of the most significant incidents covered in the war logs.

A good summary of the information in the logs at the Wired blog, Threat Level The story quotes the official Obama administration response to the leaks from the NYT:

“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” said White House national security advisory General James Jones, in a statement Sunday. “Wikileaks made no effort to contact us about these documents — the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted.”

At the New Yorker, Amy Davidson highlights one shocking incident:

…an incident report dated November 22, 2009, submitted by a unit called Task Force Pegasus. It describes how a convoy was stopped on a road in southern Afghanistan at an illegal checkpoint manned by what appeared to be a hundred insurgents, “middle-age males with approx 75 x AK-47’s and 15 x PKM’s.” What could be scarier than that?

Maybe what the soldiers found out next: these weren’t “insurgents” at all, at least not in the die-hard jihadi sense that the American public might understand the term. The gunmen were quite willing to let the convoy through, if the soldiers just forked over a two- or three-thousand-dollar bribe; and they were in the pay of a local warlord, Matiullah Khan, who was himself in the pay, ultimately, of the American public. According to a Times report this June (six months after the incident with Task Force Pegasus), Matiullah earns millions of dollars from NATO, supposedly to keep that road clear for convoys and help with American special-forces missions. Matiullah is also suspected of (and has denied) earning money “facilitating the movement of drugs along the highway.”

…..The Obama Administration has already expressed dismay that WikiLeaks publicized the documents, but a leak informing us that our tax dollars may be being used as seed money for a protection racket associated with a narcotics-trafficking enterprise is a good leak to have. And the checkpoint incident is, again, only one report, from one day.

Glenn Greenwald also has a post on the leaks.

Greenwald tweeted a little while ago that if Julian Assange got the Nobel Peace Prize he would be much more deserving than the last guy who won it.

This story is huge! This is the modern-day “Pentagon papers” that could bring down the wars pushed by Obama’s “best and brightest.” It’s terrific that the story came out on a Sunday; this should be fodder for cable news all week. Let’s hope they have the guts to cover it.

Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who released the original Pentagon papers and was targeted by a “White House hit squad” in 1972, fears for the life of Julian Assange. He told The Daily Beast last month

Do you think Assange is in danger?

I happen to have been the target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”

Is the Obama White House anymore enlightened than Nixon’s?

We’ve now been told by Dennis Blair, the late head of intelligence here, that President Obama has authorized the killing of American citizens overseas, who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Assange is not American, so he doesn’t even have that constraint. I would think that he is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection. You would think that would protect him, but you could have said the same thing about me. I was the number one defendant. I was on trail but they brought up people to beat me up.

You believe he is in danger of bodily harm, then?

Absolutely. On the same basis, I was….Obama is now proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner of Americans without due process. No president has ever claimed that and possibly no one since John the First.

What advice would you give Assange?

Stay out of the U.S. Otherwise, keep doing what he is doing. It’s pretty valuable…He is serving our democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.

Thank you Julian Assange! And thank you to Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is the probable source for the leaks to Assange and is now under arrest. Free Bradley Manning!!

Conflucians, as you work your way through this material, please post anything you think is important for us to know. This story must be pushed hard!

UPDATE: Here is the data that is posted at the WikiLeaks site. Each of the newspapers made their own choices about what information to reveal and what to hold back. The NYT negotiated with the WH in making their decisions. It will be interesting to see if they left out some material that the foreign papers include. The also claim they asked Assange not to post material that would be harmful to troops in the field, although that probably wasn’t necessary.

Tuesday Mid-Morning News and Views

A confused-looking President Obama meets with NSC chief Denis McDonough about failed underwear bombing

Good Morning Conflucians!!! Dakinikat has jury duty this morning and Riverdaughter is tussling with the charts at Survey Monkey, so I’m going to get us started today with a few links to stories that interested me this morning. As always, post your own choice links in the comments.

First up, Joseph Cannon has provided more information and background on the Afghan bombing that I was speculating about yesterday. My head is spinning after reading that, but I plan to keep following this story anyway.

President Obama has finally returned from vacation and will be getting updated on all the latest crotch-bomber intel, according to CNN.

Obama will meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Tuesday, an administration official told CNN.

Obama will get an update from Mueller on the FBI’s investigation. Obama will get information from Holder on the prosecution of the suspect in the botched Christmas Day airline bombing. And he will get an update from Napolitano on her review on detection capabilities, the official said.

After the meeting, Obama will make public statements about his findings and an initial series of reforms to improve the country’s ability to thwart future attempts to carry out terrorist attacks, according to the official.

The president met with Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan for 90 minutes on Monday and is scheduled to meet with him again Tuesday, the official said.

And then I suppose Obama will be headed back to the golf course?

Mickey Kaus wants to know: Wherein lies the greatness of Janet Napolitano?

She gave an awful public performance in the wake of the Flt. 253 terror incident–assuring air travelers that “the system worked” when the one obvious thing was that for whatever reason the system didn’t work, as President Obama acknowledged a few days later. She then seems to have panicked and pressed the “Friends, Save Me” button.

Then he links to a lot of articles by smarmy villagers like David Broder and MoDo defending Napolitano. Will she stay or will she go?

The U.S. embassy in Yeman is open again, according to the LA Times.

U.S. officials said they reopened the embassy today because a Yemeni counterterrorism operation on Monday “addressed a specific area of concern.”

Yemeni officials reportedly killed two and injured two suspected Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives Monday. The Interior Ministry today said it had arrested five other “terror elements” in and around the capital and Hudaydah province.

The ministry said it had beefed up security measures around foreign embassies and residential districts favored by the international community in Sana, according to Yemen’s official Saba news agency. An unnamed official told Saba that security forces had imposed a “cordon” and round-the-clock surveillance around Al Qaeda militants.

Commenter Laurie posted this piece by John Pilger in the New Statesman: Welcome to Orwell’s world Pilger argues that the US is Oceania and I guess Obama is Big Brother. It would be hard to pick an except from this piece–you need to read the whole thing.

Here’s an interesting piece by Professor James Petras on how China and South Korea are beating the pants off U.S. in economic terms while our government focuses on military power and empire building.

The story told by the articles and headlines in a single day’s issue of the Financial Times reflects a deeper reality, one that illustrates the great divide in the world today. The Asian countries, led by China, are reaching world power status on the basis of their massive domestic and foreign investments in manufacturing, transportation, technology and mining and mineral processing. In contrast, the US is a declining world power with a deteriorating society resulting from its military-driven empire building and its financial-speculative centered economy….

[....]

To become a ‘normal state’ we have to start all over: Close all investment banks and military bases abroad and return to America. We have to begin the long march toward rebuilding industry to serve our domestic needs, to living within our own natural environment and forsake empire building in favor of constructing a democratic socialist republic.

When will we pick up the Financial Times or any other daily and read about our own high-speed rail line carrying American passengers from New York to Boston in less than one hour? When will our own factories supply our hardware stores? When will we build wind, solar and ocean-based energy generators? When will we abandon our military bases and let the world’s warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists face the justice of their own people?

What are you reading this morning?

HAVE A TERRIFIC TUESDAY, CONFLUCIANS!!!!!!!

What’s Going On Between Obama and the CIA?

President Obama speaking at CIA Headquarters

A kind of war of leaks appears to be going on between Obama administration and the CIA. I realize that it is nothing new for Presidents of the U.S. to have conflicts with the CIA–Presidents since Truman have struggled to control the intelligence apparatus he set in motion after World War II.

I’m certainly no expert on this kind of thing, and I’m hoping someone like Joseph Cannon will be able to explain it eventually. But for now, I thought I’d just post some of the things I’ve been reading in the hopes that together we can make some sense out of the situation. So here’s the deal.

First we had crotch bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who managed to get through multiple airline security systems and come close to detonating a bomb in his underwear on Delta Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. For a full examination of what is know about the crotch bombing incident, you can’t beat the two excellent posts that Joseph Cannon has written so far. Scroll down for the earlier post on the many strange questions about case.

President Obama’s first response to the aborted bombing attempt came on December 31. Here is a portion of the statement from the White House web site:

I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.

There appears [sic] to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.

Obama then went on to praise the intelligence community and to say that he understood that even the best people weren’t infallible. This was apparently interpreted by members of the CIA as an attack by Obama on their competence. Continue reading

The “screaming woman” who confronted Jane Hamsher on C-Span wasn’t actually screaming

Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake

I admit I have been warming up to Jane Hamsher a bit in the past couple of weeks because of her strong fight against the abortion language in the health care bill. But apparently I got fooled again. We’ve all read and discussed Jane’s post, “Shaking Off the Hangover of the Primary Wars.” Riverdaughter did a spectacular verbal takedown of Jane’s rationalizing yesterday.

The post itself is troubling enough, but Jane’s comments about Hillary Clinton and her supporters in the thread clearly demonstrate that she (Jane) is not yet ready to take responsibility for actions she took or did not take during the divisive primary fights of 2008.

Many of us were able to see through Obama early in the primary process–after doing our own research on his character and his political experience (or lack thereof). But Jane claims that her site remained neutral throughout the primaries because there were no significant policy differences among the top three candidates, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards.

It’s true that FDL did not publicly endorse a candidate, but the posts and comment sections certainly favored Obama. It’s possible Jane couldn’t control the Axelrod astroturfers and just threw up her hands, as Digby did. But she allowed her comment sections to be infested with abusive language toward Clinton and anyone who defended her. And she banned commenters who complained about the bullying.

Jane writes:

Sophisticated campaigns marketed the candidates as personalities and people became attached to them and felt like they knew them. Everyone who opposed them was the “enemy,” rhetoric was amped up and overheated, identity politics were exploited by both sides as strategic campaign elements and suddenly the blogosphere was a giant pie fight.

We made the decision to stay true to our charter and didn’t take sides, pledging to support the candidate that emerged with the nomination. We believed that once the election was over and we could get back to discussing issues again and evaluating politicians on both sides of the aisle with the same yardstick, we’d be back in our element.

She assumes that everyone who followed the primary battles focused on candidates as personalities rather than looking closely at their characters, policy goals, and personal accomplishments. She could not be more wrong. Most of us didn’t support Hillary Clinton for her personality. I actually began the primaries as an “anyone but Hillary” voter. But her performances in the debates convinced me she was the best candidate. It wasn’t about her personality or about her husband, and it wasn’t about her gender–although I admit I would have liked to see a woman President in my lifetime. I supported Clinton because she showed herself to be smart, knowledgeable, and most of all issue-oriented.

Obama, on the other hand, was all about Obama. He never was specific about issues, he never demonstrated any commitment to Democratic ideology. He admired Ronald Reagan, for heaven’s sake! He cozied up to fundamentalist preachers their anti-abortion, homophobic followers. Most damning of all, it became obvious from his many comments about and to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin that Obama was a misogynist through and through.

I knew Hillary was more conservative than I am, and I knew I probably wouldn’t be happy with her Iraq and Afghanistan policies. But I was even more concerned about domestic issues. All I wanted was a Democrat in the White House who would fight for universal health care and would protect what is left of our social safety net. Instead, thanks to people like Jane and Markos, we ended up with a Republican pretending to be a Democrat–who, if anything is as bad or worse than George W. Bush.

In the discussion thread attached to her post, linked above, Jane posted this comment:

“I had a woman call up and scream at me when I was on CSPAN the other day for all the horrible things Markos and I had done to Hillary Clinton during the primaries, telling me that I had destroyed the Democratic party.

“And I’m like, seriously? I know some people you should meet, you guys would have an interesting fight.”

Many thanks to Gweema for posting the link to Jane Hamsher’s appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal on November 26, 2009. I watched the whole thing, and right now I’m practically shaking with anger (want to call me a “screamer,” Jane?).

The women caller on C-Span did no screaming. She did not even raise her voice. Instead, she listed her credentials to confront Jane Hamsher and then did so very articulately. Jane responded with condescending lies and half-truths. I decided to transcribe that portion of the interview so we can dissect it here. The relevant section begins at about 25:50.

Elizabeth from Tennessee, calling on the Democratic line, wishes Jane and the interviewer a happy Thanksgiving and says she appreciates their working on the holiday weekend. Here is Elizabeth’s question:

To Jane Hamsher, I have been a lifelong Democrat, I was very involved in the health care battles of the 90’s. I was involved in actual implementing of town hall meetings back then in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois; so I don’t take a back seat to you.

But in the area of February of 2008, I discontinued reading your blog and also the dailykos blog altogether because of your extreme hatred and villification of another Democratic candidate, and that was Senator Hillary Clinton. [Jane Hamsher rolls her eyes at this point]

I don’t know how much you are aware [of]…how much damage you did and how much damage Markos did–

Hamsher interrupts the caller: “Are you sure you’re talking about our blog? We had Hillary Clinton on [patronizing laughter] …

Elizabeth says: I’m talking about your blog, ma’m, and you should know it. If anyone wants to know they should go read…from that time. [interviewer breaks in and asks when this was, but Elizabeth goes on with her points.]

“You mentioned today that Obama was an anti-war candidate. He was no such thing. In fact, throughout the campaign, he continued to say that Afghanistan was a good war…. “

[Jane Hamsher breaks in to agree with Elizabeth on this point.]

Elizabeth says: “You really caused a lot of people to leave the Democratic party during the 2008 campaign. And I’m telling you now, I’m sorry that you’re sick, I’m sorry that you’ve had three bouts with the cancer, but I’m gonna say this. You are going to be shown exactly what damage you caused our party last primary season, and I will never forgive you for that.”

Elizabeth was a bit harsh at times, but she maintained a level tone of voice and did. not. scream. In fact I’d have to say that Jane’s characterization of Elizabeth’s presentation as “screaming” verges on sexism. Perhaps Jane has some unconscious issues in that department.

Here is Jane’s response [highlighting is mine]:

I know that there was a certain class of women who decided that they would start supporting John McCain over what they thought was bad treatment of Hillary Clinton. In fact…I took a video at the Rules Committee meeting, a woman, Harriet Christian who said that…she was not going to support a party who would have an inept black man as a candidate, and that became a…rallying point for some people.

We didn’t take a position…in the primaries. We said that we would support whoever was the winner and in fact had Senator Clinton as a guest on the blog, so I think we represented all viewpoints. I think there were people their who were Hillary Clinton partisans; I think that there were people there who were Barack Obama partisans, and I think that each side…collectively saw the other side as the issue. But I don’t think we were unfair to Senator Clinton, and I don’t believe that the people who left the party to vote for John McCain, who was very much an anti-choice candidate, a pro-war candidate, reflect the same values that I have anyway, or reflect the values of Senator Clinton.

There is so much wrong with Jane’s response that I don’t know where to begin. You do need to watch the video–her facial expressions while listening to the caller and responding to her are unbelievably patronizing and condescending. It is evident from her use of the words “class of women” that Hamsher sees herself as superior to these working class (?), pathetic women (though we’re not all women by any means) who mistakenly think that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly. In addition she twists Harriet Christian’s words in order to imply that Harriet is a racist.

And what the f&ck is it these people don’t understand about protest votes anyway?

I honestly think that Jane’s rationalizing is an unconscious defense mechanism. Now that she has seen what Obama really is–a DINO, a conservative hack, maybe just barely qualifying as a Rockefeller-style Republican–she has to go back and try to cover up her own behavior during the primaries. But Jane has a very very long way to go before she understands the damage that she and the other A-list bloggers caused. I sincerely doubt that she will ever take responsibility for her actions–or lack of actions. For one thing, Jane was at the Rules Committee meeting and apparently she had absolutely no problem with Obama being given delegates belonging to to Clinton or with Obama getting delegates from a state he didn’t compete in!

Obviously Riverdaughter demolished Jane’s rationalizing yesterday afternoon, so I don’t have to do it. I’ll just post these three paragraphs from RD’s righteous rant here:

People like me are pretty steamed at you and your buddies. You took away our choice. We didn’t get a fair primary season. We didn’t even get a floor fight. There was no unity, Jane. It was all an illusion. Your guy was forced on many, many Democratic voters because YOU decided that Obama was best for us. And many people swallowed that because they were convinced that Republicans were worse. So they voted for a Democrat and they got a Republican anyway.

Jane, how many times do we have to tell you that it wasn’t about Hillary after May 31, 2008? It was about choice. Remember Choice, Jane? The right to self-determination? The ability to choose your own destiny? If someone else took that choice away from you, you’d be on their doorstep with a bullhorn and wouldn’t let up. But because it was YOUR guy who won, it was OK? What about the choice of the rest of us, Jane? What about CA, NJ, NY, MA, OH, PA, TX, IN, NH, WV, TN, FL, MI and so on and so on? Those big, Democratic states did not vote for Barack Obama in the primaries, Jane. They deserved to cast their votes for the candidate they *did* vote for. I was one of those voters, Jane and I am not letting the Democratic party off the hook for its outrageous behavior towards me and the others. With a primary this close and disputed, the nullification of my vote was unforgivable.

That is why the primary of 2008 isn’t going to go away and why you are going to continue to get angry callers who blame you and your friends for the state of the country under Obama. You took our choice away. Your incredibly high handed and self righteous decision to support Obama and shut down the rest of the party for the supposed good of that party has lead us to this point.

Don’t come crying to me with any more of your action e-mails, petitions, and fund-raising drives, Jane. I figured it out. You think I’m in “a certain class of women” who are beneath your contempt. You won’t get another chance from me, Jane. You’re just not seeing reality clearly yet, and I’m not sure you ever will.

Federal Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Blackwater Guards in 2007 Shootings of 17 Iraquis

Blackwater plainclothes contractors

Just a short time ago, Federal Judge Ricard Urbina dismissed all charges against five Blackwater contractors who opened fire in a crowded square in Bagdad on September 16, 2007.

From the BBC News service:

District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US justice department had used evidence prosecutors were not supposed to have.

The five had all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. A sixth guard admitted killing at least one Iraqi.

The killings, which took place in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, strained Iraq’s relationship with the US and raised questions about US contractors operating in war zones.

The disputed evidence consisted of statements the five men gave to State Department investigators shortly after the shootings.

Judge Urbina said prosecutors should not have used those statements in the case, and that the US government’s explanation for this was “unbelievable”.

The five guards were Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough – all of whom are decorated military veterans.

As well as the 14 counts of manslaughter, they had faced 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter who has done more than any other writer to reveal the activities of Blackwater (aka Xe) head Erik Prince and his mercenaries in their roles as contractors for the U.S. government. He is the author of the book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. In October, 2007, Scahill appeared on Bill Moyers Journal to discuss the killings in Bagdad. You can listen to the interview here.

Here is Scahill’s blog post on today’s outrageous dismissal of the case against the five Blackwater guards.

A federal judge in Washington DC has given Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries a huge New Year’s gift. Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed all charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. Judge Urbina’s order, issued late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve is a stunning blow for the Iraqi victims’ families and sends a clear message that US-funded mercenaries are above all systems of law—US and international.

In a memo defending his opinion, Urbina cited a similar rationale used in the dismissal of charges against Iran-Contra figure Oliver North—namely that the government violated the rights of the Blackwater men by using statements they made to investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to build a case against the guards, which Urbina said qualified for “derivative use immunity.”

Scahill provides links to the decision a the Judge’s 90-page memo explaining it.

In this recent post, Scahill provides statistics for the government’s use of private contractors in Afghanistan alone. As of December 17, 2009, according to Scahill, there were “189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.” Other Blackwater employees are deployed in Iraq and have been used by the CIA in Pakistan. They are representing us and are being paid with our tax dollars.

I for one do not want these men representing me. I think it is disgraceful that Blackwater “contractors” are allowed to get away with committing murders in the name of the people of the United States of America.

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