Category Archives: War on Terror

Recovered From the Memory Hole: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Prophesies of Doom

netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu is an incredibly gifted speaker – no question about that. Never can I recall any particular speech being met with so much anticipation, trepidation, and controversy as the speech that he delivered to a joint session of congress just days ago. What is it about this man – Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel that causes emotions to run so high?

Among conservatives, evangelical conservatives in-particular, to be the slight bit critical of Netanyahu or his policies is akin to hating the Jewish people. We are told we must “stand with” or “support” Israel (whatever standing with or supporting entails) no matter what.

At the risk of being met with these criticisms and others, my position is that Benjamin Netanyahu is a politician who has a geopolitical agenda. Israel is another nation which has a government that has its flaws as all governments do. I do not intend these statements to be pejorative but to bring both the PM and his government back into the realm of the real world.

Let me call what Netanyahu’s speech what it was: a political speech. Political speeches, by their nature, are designed to promote a point-of-view. Stretching the truth to its absolute limits, hyperbole, and minimizing opposing opinion is part and parcel of political speeches. In this particular speech, we are to believe that the current negotiations will only “pave the way” for Iran to getting the bomb. Iran is years or even months away from getting the bomb.

The thing is, Iran has been years or months away from getting nuclear weapons for 20 or so years now according to Netanyahu. As Murtaza Hussain writing for The Intercept points out:

“The conclusion from this history is inescapable. Over the course of more than 20 years, Benjamin Netanyahu has made false claims about nuclear weapons programs in both Iran and Iraq, inventing imaginary timelines for their development, and making public statements that contradicted the analysis of his own intelligence advisers.

Despite this, he continues to be treated by lawmakers and media figures as a credible voice on this issue.”

Jon Stewart makes many of the same observations (below). Both Iraq and Iran were supposedly getting close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Obviously, nothing of the kind was ever found in Iraq following Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Obviously, I am no fan of the despotic theocratic regime in Iran. The idea of such a regime acquiring nuclear weapons is quite frightening. And while the concept of mutually assured destruction may or may not be an effective strategy, I see no harm in diplomacy and regular unannounced inspections of Iran’s nuclear programs.

Sympathy for Paranoia

cat in the tin foil hat

The moon landing was faked by the U.S. government for propaganda purposes to win the Cold War. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 was actually an inside job as a pretext to go to war. Space aliens landed in Roswell, NM but the government has been covering it up. The Sandy Hook massacre was faked to increase support for new gun control laws; the “victims” were actually actors who are all alive and well today. The Illuminati is the secret entity which actually governs the whole world…

The natural response to these statements is to say “these people are mad barking moonbats” and to keep ourselves as distant as possible from the people making them. Those of us in the liberty movement who want to be taken seriously are very quick to renounce anyone who is within six degrees of Alex Jones or anyone else who states any of the above. It’s difficult enough to be taken seriously about legalizing drugs, the non-aggression principle, free markets, and freedom of association; the last thing we need is to be lumped in with “those people.”

While it is very important to defend the “brand” of the liberty movement, it’s also important to recognize the reasons why people believe some rather nutty things.

[W]hen I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. – Jesse Walker, The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, (p. 24) (Read my book review here)

Once one learns about some of the activities governments been proven to have been involved in, some conspiracy theories no longer seem as outlandish. I used to refer to conspiracy theories and wacky beliefs as “black helicopter” stories and I’m fairly certain that others used the same terminology. Once I learned that black unmarked helicopters were used in the assault by the FBI on the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX,(Napolitano, p.110) I stopped calling such ideas “black helicopter.”

Not everything that sounds crazy is.
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While We Were Pretending To Be Charlie, Boko Haram Killed 2,000 Nigerians

ISISflag copy

The Charlie Hebdo attacks have derived almost universal scorn, rightly so. But in the end, twelve people died, with more killed the next day in the ensuing manhunt. At the end of the day, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what extremist Muslim group Boko Haram has been doing in northern Nigeria since the beginning of the year.

The attackers sped into a Nigerian town with grenade launchers — their gunfire and explosions shattering the early morning calm.

As terrified residents scattered into bushes in Baga town and surrounding villages, the gunmen unloaded motorcycles from their trucks and followed in hot pursuit.

Residents hid under scant brush. Bullets pierced through them.

Some sought refuge in their homes. They were burned alive.

Many who tried to cross into neighboring Chad drowned while trying to swim through Lake Chad.

By the time the weapons went quiet, local officials reported death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people.

That was January 3, nine days ago.

On Monday, bodies still littered the bushes in the area.

Official estimates vary, but at the very least, a few hundred people are confirmed dead, with local estimates being higher. This does not count the people who drowned on their way to Chad.

The group commonly known as Boko Haram – which translates to “Western Education is Forbidden” – has been around since 2002, but started radicalizing around 2009, when Nigerian police started to arrest members of the group. During this time, the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed under circumstances still in doubt, and was replaced by their current leader, Abubakar Shekau. Since then, the group has been carrying out attacks in northern Nigeria, including targeted assassinations of police and political personnel, which have worked to weaken the almost four year reign of President Goodluck Jonathan. The group came to infamy in the West in April of 2014 when they kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the state of Borno. The kidnappings led to a hashtag campaign called #BringBackOurGirls by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, but outside of the 50 girls who initially escaped, none of the girls have been recovered and have been rumored to have been sold into slavery or forced marriages.

As of this writing, Boko Haram effectively controls northern Nigeria, as well as parts of Cameroon and Niger. This is in the face of Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 Presidential campaign.

Boko Haram was initially founded as a means of rejecting Western “influences”, but since 2009, they have largely been a network of Al-Qaeda and most recently, the Islamist State. I fail to see the point of the wanton murder of 2,000 people, however. Looking purely from a tactical perspective, what does it accomplish? Is this a “Final Solution” of sorts to what they deem the evils of Western influence? I wish I had these answers.

Nigeria, of course, is a fertile breeding ground for a group like Boko Haram to ferment. They have a weak central government along with few employment opportunities, mass malnutrition, and rampant corruption at all levels of government. One of the points I made in my Charlie Hebdo piece was that people will turn to extremes to survive, and this is a case study in that regard.

However, scholarship only takes us so far. The goal is to find out how to engage this kind of evil. Declaring war isn’t that easy; it’s been demonstrated both that the enemy has literally no regard for civilians, and that civilian death – an inevitability with this choice – makes the enemy – a fluid enemy that cannot be broken down into old-fashioned armies – stronger. We’ve been using this choice since 9/11, and it’s been a failure.

Then again, we’ve seen how passively watching and waiting for things to magically get better works, too. That’s a more historical perspective, but in the case of England’s Neville Chamberlain, it led to the rise of the Nazi empire, and almost led to the fall of Britain.

The difference between Nazi Germany and the current Islamic State – I am shoehorning Boko Haram in with ISIL, as they have done at times – is that the Germans were married to an ideology, whereas the Islamic State is married to a religion, and an ideal that life is better after Earth. As Goldwater pointed out regarding Christians, it’s hard to have a conversation with people who are playing at a life beyond Earth; they’re too deranged. So any hopes at politics, at discussion, and at coming to a peaceful solution might be moot. Even if jihadis are learning a perverted form of Islam, perception is reality.

In the end, it doesn’t matter to the roughly 2,000 Nigerians murdered in January, the 5,000 or so that have been killed since 2009, and the scores more that have been displaced fleeing the violence in that time span. It also doesn’t matter to the thousands upon thousands killed in other areas under pressure from extremist Islam. In his book The Stranger, Chuck Todd notes that Barack Obama viewed Syria as a collection of nothing but “shitty” choices. That could be extended to the whole of the war with Al-Qaeda, ISIL, and other networked jihadi groups. Whatever shitty choice we make, we have to make it fast, or headlines like this are going to become more common. ??Then again, if I had the answers, I’d be telling them in front of the UN and not in a blog.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Charlie Hebdo Offices Attacked In France By Islamic Terrorists

mohamed

On Wednesday morning at about 11:30am local time, militants stating they were from Al-Qaeda in Yemen attacked the Paris offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing twelve and injuring eleven:

Two gunmen in balaclavas and bullet-proof vests, armed with a pump-action shotgun and an automatic rifle, stormed into the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo at about 11.30am as about 15 journalists had gathered for the weekly editorial conference. They called for the editor by name and then murdered him before spraying the room with gunfire, killing nine more and wounding others. Laurent Léger, a Charlie Hebdo writer, managed to sound the alarm, calling a friend and telling him: “Call the police. It’s carnage, a bloodbath. Everyone is dead.”

As they made their getaway, the gunmen shot dead two policemen, including one who they shot in the head at close range as he lay injured on the pavement.

Charlie Hebdo has courted controversy regarding depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the past, starting in 2006 when they responded to the Jyllands-Posten controversy with images of the Prophet Muhammad of their own. Their offices were firebombed in 2011 in response to a cover changing the name of the paper to “Charia” (for Sharia) Hebdo with a “guest editorial” by the Prophet.

There is some question as to how Islam regards depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. The Qu’ran does not ban depictions of the Prophet. However, some variations of the hadeth – a collection of Muhammad’s teachings that I could best compare to Proverbs – outlaw the practice.

Reaction has been swift, with French President François Hollande denoting Thursday as a day of mourning. The United Nations and United States were also quick to condemn. Muslims not affiliated with the Islamic State were quick to denounce the killings. Jon Stewart took some time on The Daily Show to talk about it. While some outlets are censoring the covers that Charlie Hebdo has put out, others have reacted with spiteful malice towards this attitude. Of course, the usual suspects in America have ratcheted up the Islamophobia.1

It should also be noted that French Muslims have dealt with considerable discrimination despite their heavy presence in France’s population when compared to the rest of Europe; in 2010, a French government panel recommended banning the Hijab in public buildings. The response by some on the French right has been openly hostile to Islam, and many Muslims are bracing for retaliation.

Even The Onion, which has responded to threats of violence in the past by responding with hilarious and often NWS retorts, was noticeably downcast in their response.

It is my personal belief – one that I will concede risks politicizing this topic at a sensitive time – that one thing bears mentioning: I don’t know of too many children who have the ability to write who put down “I want to kill people when I grow up!” on paper. That’s because just about any form of extremism is born from desperation. The Islamic State isn’t an uprising of well-to-do people; it, along with Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, is an uprising of people who feel that they have nothing else to live for, being taken advantage of by people who are teaching a perverted form of Islam to those that don’t have the means to know any better. When you live every day in abject poverty, in fear of drone strikes, a bunch of virgins start to sound enticing.

Times like this bear a link to what Afghanistan used to look like. Miniskirts, uncovered heads, a useful economy… it’s hard to place those images with what has replaced them in my lifetime. But a populist revolt overthrew the King in 1973, and starting in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded as part of their larger proxy war against the United States, leading to a civil war that lasted ten years and only ended thanks to American intervention. The country never recovered.

I bring up Afghanistan in this context because that’s basically been the entirety of the Arab middle east: a pawn for the two big superpowers to play with, damn the consequences. Those countries’ destruction opened the way for many extremist groups to come about; The Islamic State is little more than a Pokemon evolution of all of the movements before it. Those groups, for many in this area, are the only way to get out of their sorry way of life. Those groups teach the bastardized form of Islam that educated Muslims denounce on a daily basis. Every time a drone strikes a wedding party in one of these countries, we make those groups a little stronger.

Free speech and free thought are the antithesis of what extremist Muslims – or really, extremists of any religion – want or believe in. If we want to create less extremists, we must allow the way of life in these countries to improve. Until that point, what happened to Charlie Hebdo, the girls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram, the beheading of the Western journalists and aid workers, and other cases of extreme terrorism will continue, the head-shaking will continue, the hatred will continue, and the cycle will get stronger and stronger, not unlike the circling of water around a toilet drain.

UPDATE @11:46AM ON 1/8: Charlie Hebdo’s Patrick Pelloux has defiantly announced that, instead of printing the standard run of 60,000 magazines, their next issue will print 1m copies.

Charlie Hebdo will publish next Wednesday to defiantly show that “stupidity will not win,” columnist Patrick Pelloux told Agence France-Presse, adding that the remaining staff will soon meet.

“It’s very hard. We are all suffering, with grief, with fear, but we will do it anyway because stupidity will not win,” he said.

1 – I will not link to or mention any of these people or their hashtag. I refuse to give them oxygen.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Rectal Rehydration, Death by Hypothermia and “Enhanced Interrogation” of the Illegally Detained: Agency Gone Rogue or Approved by the Administration?

Did the White House approve the conduct set forth in the CIA Torture Report? Or did the CIA engage in that conduct without the approval of any political branch of government?

The question is not merely academic.

If the CIA’s conduct was not approved by elected officials who answer to the voters, then to whom does the CIA answer? If the CIA’s conduct was approved, then the voters need to know by whom so they can cast future votes with full understanding of what is at stake.

By now we have had time to digest the disturbing details in all their infamy: the rectal “feedings,” the ice baths and sleep deprivation; the death of Gul Rahman; the forced placement of body weight on broken limbs; sensory deprivation so intense it lead to self-mutilation and hallucinations; and, the mistaken identifications, false accusations and simple negligence that lead to the illegal detention of 26 human beings and “enhanced interrogation” of our own intelligence sources.

Rather I should say all of us have heard those details now except for Dick Cheney. Or at least he had not heard of them last week, when he sat down with Fox New’s Bret Baier.

As scathingly detailed by Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, Dick Cheney is trying to have his torture cake and eat it too. When Baier asked whether it was true that “President Bush was not fully briefed on the program and deliberately kept in the dark by the CIA,” Cheney was unequivocal in his response:

The notion that … somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis and that we weren’t being told or that the President wasn’t being told is just a flat out lie.

Later in the interview, Cheney reiterated that:

The men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program.

All right then. The CIA was doing exactly what Bush and Cheney wanted when its operatives injected pureed food into the anuses of detainees. The CIA was doing exactly what Bush and Cheney wanted when its operatives left a man half-naked man chained to the floor in a frigid cell.

Only Cheney is either a coward or he does not actually know what he is talking about, because later in the interview he retreats to what appears to be an inconsistent position. As noted by Friedersdorf:

… Baier notes a particularly depraved tactic. “At one point, this report describes interrogators pureeing food of one detainee and then serving it in his anus,” he says, “something the agency called ‘rectal rehydration.’ I mean, is that torture?” (More to the point, did Bush and Cheney know about that? Is it “exactly” what they asked the CIA to do?)

“I don’t know anything about that specific instance,” Cheney said. “I can’t speak to that. … “

Cheney cannot have it both ways. If he wants to be the face of the defense for the enhanced interrogation program, he should own it. If he is not willing to own it, in all its gory particulars, then he cannot really present a meaningful defense. Either the administration approved the conduct described in the report—or the CIA acted without the approval or knowledge of the political branches tasked with overseeing that agency on the people’s behalf. That the CIA was trying to prevent future attacks is not related in any logical way to which of those things is true.

Cheney’s tactic throughout the interview is to avoid being pressed on this issue by: 1) extolling the praises of the CIA for doing exactly as Cheney and Bush wanted ; 2) denying knowledge of any of the troubling accusations contained in the torture report; and, 3) then getting emotional and bringing up 9/11.

Consider the following examples.

Baier asks Cheney whether Bush was comfortable with leaving a man chained to the ceiling in a diaper to urinate and defecate on himself. Cheney responds:

I have no idea. I never heard of any such thing.

If Cheney does not know the details, why is he giving interviews? Why should anyone take his word about any of it? That is the topic at hand, sir!

Baier raises the issue of Gul Rahman, who died of hypothermia shackled naked from the waist down to a freezing cement floor in a frigid cell:

Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did. And I have no sympathy for them.

There is a missing link in the logic here. Even if we assume there are people so bad that we can sleep with unfettered consciences while our CIA tortures them to death, what is the evidence Gul Rahman was one of them?

Rahman was not captured on a battlefield, like enemy combatants of yore. To the contrary, Associated Press reporting states that:

Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He was staying with Baheer, an old friend, when U.S. agents and Pakistani security forces stormed the house and took both men, two guards and a cook into custody.

In fact, in addition to this Gul Rahman, who died in CIA custody, the CIA apparently kept a different Gul Rahman in isolation for a month because its operatives were confused about which Gul Rahman was the target (page 133/499 of the Committee report).

At least 26 people were found to have been improperly detained. Two of our own intelligence sources were subjected to enhanced interrogation. Tortured detainees gave information that falsely implicated others. One man provided false intelligence under torture that was used in Colin Powell’s address to the UN in advance of the Iraq War.

Dick Cheney is not troubled by these details.

On Meet the Press this past Sunday, he gave yet another interview, in which he disavows any problems with the detention of innocent people. He also disavows any qualms over the death of Gul Rahman, despite appearing to agree that the wrong Gul Rahman ended up frozen to death:

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, what do you say to Gul Rahman, what do you say to Sulaiman Abdula, what do you say to Khalid al-Masri? All three of these folks were detained, they had these interrogation techniques used on them. They eventually were found to be innocent. They were released, no apologies, nothing. What do we owe them?

DICK CHENEY: Well—

CHUCK TODD: I mean, let me go to Gul Rahman. He was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water, froze to death in C.I.A. custody. And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity.

DICK CHENEY: —Right. But the problem I had is with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield. …

CHUCK TODD: 25% of the detainees though, 25% turned out to be innocent. They were released.

DICK CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are—

CHUCK TODD: Well, I’m asking you.

DICK CHENEY: —you going to know?

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD: Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?

DICK CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States.

But Cheney did not offer any evidence that “enhanced interrogation” prevented other attacks. He cited without elaboration to the “West Coast” “Second Wave” plot. But that claim was debunked in the CIA Torture Report based on information provided to the Committee by the CIA itself. If the Torture Report is wrong or incomplete on this issue, Cheney needed to tell us why.

Baier challenged him by repeating a claim made on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Mark Udall that the classified Panetta Review found no “direct linkage” between enhanced interrogation techniques and thwarting any attacks. As chronicled by Friedersdorf:

Here is Cheney’s actual retort:

“Well, I don’t know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn’t in the bunker.”

That is a non-answer.

A U.S. Senator who has seen the documents said on the floor of the U.S. Senate that Leon Panetta found no direct link between enhanced interrogation and thwarted attacks—and Dick Cheney’s response is, “Well he wasn’t in the bunker with us?”

The American people deserve more.

Their defenders deserve more.

What is lost in Cheney’s chest pounding is a meaningful reflection on why, beyond principles, civilized nations disavow torture. It is done for the same practical reasons that, for thousands of years, enemies have agreed to return bodies, to ensure last rites, to grant quick deaths or to refrain from persecuting surviving family members.

Because they want to make sure their own people get the same consideration.

What have we done for so little gain?

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
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