Published: Tuesday 18 December 2012
Why Zero Dark Thirty Won’t Settle the Torture Question or Purge Torture From the American System

 

If you look backward you see a nightmare. If you look forward you become the nightmare.

There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won’t go away. It can’t be disappeared like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by wishing it elsewhere or pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us -- that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are.

The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helpedcover up evidence of the torture practices.  But it did deliver a jail sentence to one

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
“Unless we wish to salute our very own Imperator, we need to regain a healthy dose of skepticism, shared famously by our Founders, when it comes to evaluating our generals and our wars.”

Generals Who Run Amuck, Politicians Who Could Care Less, an “Embedded” Media... And Us

Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They’ve become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can’t stop gushing about them. Even after his recent fall from grace, General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general since Dwight D. Eisenhower (and let’s not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before his fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as one tough ...

Published: Friday 23 November 2012
“Until recently, here was the open secret of Petraeus’s life: he may not have understood Iraqis or Afghans, but no military man in generations more intuitively grasped how to flatter and charm American reporters, pundits, and politicians into praising him.”

 

History, it is said, arrives first as tragedy, then as farce.  First as Karl Marx, then as the Marx Brothers.  In the case of twenty-first century America, history arrived first as George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and the Project for a New America -- a shadow government masquerading as a think tank -- and an assorted crew of ambitious neocons and neo-pundits); only later did David Petraeus make it onto the scene.

It couldn’t be clearer now that, from the shirtless FBI agent to the “embedded biographer and the “other other woman,” the “fall” of David Petraeus is playing out as farce of the first order.  What’s less obvious is that Petraeus, America’s military golden boy and Caesar of celebrity, was always smoke and mirrors, always the farce, even if the denizens of Washington didn’t know it.

Until recently, here was the open secret of Petraeus’s life: he may not have understood Iraqis or Afghans, but no military man in generations more intuitively grasped how to flatter and charm American reporters, pundits, and politicians into praising him.  This was, after all, the general who got his first 

Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
The crises are fostering a class war that will dwarf anything imagined by Karl Marx.

 

Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world’s elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet’s largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.

In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“At that moment, apparently, all that was known was that there were harassing, anonymous emails to Kelley, referencing the Director of the CIA, whom she knew, and referencing information about the CIA director that was supposedly confidential.”

 

The David Petraeus clown car extravaganza that’s entertaining the country these days serves the useful purpose of distracting people from taking a hard look at the nature of the national security state we’ve become.  Comically hoist by his own petard, former General Petraeus is arguably just another of our war criminals who will never be held to account. 

 

Some say the FBI never should have been looking at his email in the first place.  Glenn Greenwald articulated this argument clearly as clearly as anyone on DemocracyNOW, where he complained that: 

 

…the FBI, based on really no evidence of any actual crime, engaged in this massive surveillance effort of, first, obtaining all kinds of intimate and private information about two women, one of whom complained, one of whom was the target of the complaint, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley; learned the locations and email accounts of Paula Broadwell, who was the subject of this fairly innocuous complaint; read through all of her emails; learned the identity of her anonymous lover, David Petraeus; likely read—certainly read through all of her emails, probably read through his; and then, in the process, as well, learned about an affair between the complainant, Jill Kelley—or not an affair, but inappropriate ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“The new Petraeus policy guidance allowed the destruction of villages in three districts of Kandahar province if the population did not tell U.S. forces where homemade bombs were hidden.”

 

Paula Broadwell, whose affair with Gen. David Petraeus brought his career to a sudden end last week, had sought to help defend his decision in 2010 to allow village destruction in Afghanistan that not only violated his own previous guidance but the international laws of war.

But her efforts had the opposite effect.

The new Petraeus policy guidance allowed the destruction of villages in three districts of Kandahar province if the population did not tell U.S. forces where homemade bombs were hidden.

In early January 2010, Broadwell went to visit the Combined Task Force I-320th in Kandahar to write a story justifying the decision to destroy the village of Tarok Kaloche and much of three other villages in its area of operations.

Ironically, it was Broadwell who introduced the complete razing of the village of Tarok Kalache in in Kandahar’s Arghandab Valley in October 2010 to the blogosphere. Dramatic photographs of the village before and after it was razed, which she had obtained from U.S. military sources, were published with her article in the military blog Best Defense Jan. 13, 2011.

The pictures and her article brought a highly critical response from blogger Joshua Foust, who is a specialist on Afghanistan.

Tarok Kalache was only one of many villages destroyed or nearly destroyed in an October 2010 offensive by U.S. forces in three districts of Kandahar Province, because the heavy concentrations of IEDs had made clearing the village by conventional forces too costly.

In the late summer and early fall, commanders in those districts had been ordered to clear the villages of Taliban presence, but they had taken heavy casualties from IEDs planted in and around the villages.

As commander of Combined Task Force I-320th, Lt. Col. David Flynn was responsible for several villages in the Arghandab valley, ...

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
The truth will soon be known, as Petraeus will now in fact be testifying under oath before the House Intelligence Committee’s closed-door hearings on Friday.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) thinks that the FBI may have been gathering information on former CIA Director David Petraeus to blackmail him so that he would testify favorably to the Obama administration’s position on the attack on Benghazi in September. “Hypothetically, of course,” as Gohmert put it.

 

Appearing on WMAL radio this morning, the outspoken Texas Congressman, known for his Tea Party-leanings, made clear that he wasn’t actually accusing the Obama White House of directing the FBI to investigate Petraeus for political reasons relating to his upcoming Benghazi testimony. Nor was he actually saying that the FBI was engaging in activities reminiscent of original FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to “blackmail” other government officials.

Instead, as Gohmert repeatedly made clear, he was only hypothetically spinning a story 

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
How many more lives have to be crippled or snuffed out before our government admits its mistakes?

 

Afghanistan is back in the news in a big way, but for the wrong reasons. General David Petraeus in a tryst with his biographer. A Florida socialite and General John Allen exchange sweet nothings via email. The socialite's sister, her custody battle for her son, and character references signed by Petraeus and Allen in support of her. Afghanistan has become a backdrop for a bad "B" movie, a tawdry farce played for cheap laughs.

But the real story is not the farce but the ongoing military tragedy of Afghanistan. The United States 

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“What looks today like a formula for easy power projection that will further U.S. imperial interests on the cheap could soon prove to be an unmitigated disaster -- one that likely won’t be apparent until it’s too late.”

It looked like a scene out of a Hollywood movie.  In the inky darkness, men in full combat gear, armed with automatic weapons and wearing night-vision goggles, grabbed hold of a thick, woven cable hanging from a MH-47 Chinook helicopter.  Then, in a flash, each “fast-roped” down onto a ship below.  Afterward, “Mike,” a Navy SEAL who would not give his last name, bragged to an Army public affairs sergeant that, when they were on their game, the SEALs could put 15 men on a ship this way in 30 seconds or less.

 

Once on the aft deck, the special ops troops broke into squads and methodically searched the ship as it bobbed in Jinhae Harbor, South Korea.  Below deck and on the bridge, the commandos located several men and trained their weapons on them, but nobody fired a shot.  It was, after all, a training exercise.

All of those ship-searchers were SEALs, but not all of them were American.  Some were from Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of Coronado, California; others hailed from South Korea’s Naval Special Brigade.  The drill was part of Foal Eagle 2012, a multinational, joint-service exercise.  It was also a model for -- and one small part of -- a much publicized U.S. military “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia, a move that includes sending an initial contingent of 250 Marines to Darwin, Australia, basing littoral combat ships in Singapore, strengthening military ties with Vietnam and India, ...

Published: Sunday 19 February 2012
“The United States is now in the business of using missile-armed drones and special operations forces to eliminate anyone (not excluding U.S. citizens) the president of the United States decides has become an intolerable annoyance.”

With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome. 

Elsewhere -- in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, for example -- U.S. forces are busily opening up new fronts.  Published reports that the United States is establishing “a constellation of secret drone bases” in or near the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula suggest that the scope of operations will only widen further.  In a front-page story, the New York Times described plans for “thickening” the global presence of U.S. special operations forces.  Rushed Navy plans to convert an aging amphibious landing ship into an “afloat forward staging base” -- a mobile launch platform for either commando raids or 

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