Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category
A new controversy aggravating already strained relations between Washington and Caracas threatens to destabilise relations with other South American countries. On Thursday night Venezuelan Secretary of State Elias Jaua announced that the United States denied the Presidential Plane the right to fly over Puerto Rico on it’s way to China for diplomatic meetings. Outraged at American refusal to grant Venezuelan state leaders authorisation to fly over American airspace President Nicolas Maduro denounced Washington’s decision: “To refuse permission to a head of state to fly over airspace that they colonized in Puerto Rico is a serious offense.” This comes months after the United States refused to recognize the results of Venezuela’s elections in the aftermath of President Chavez’s death. Canadian based Foundation for Democratic Advancement ranked Venezuelan elections number 1 in fairness. The International Elections Report released by the Carter Center for Peace also found Venezuelan elections to be among the fairest in the world.
Responding to the news Ecuadorean Secretary of State Ricardo Patino posted on his twitter account:”First it was Bolivia. Now it is Venezuela. What do they want? To jeapordize the goodwill between peoples and peace in the world?” Patino was alluding to the forced landing of Bolivian President Evo Morales this past July. The United States ordered European countries to prevent the plane from flying through their airspace because, the US believed, Edward Snowden may have been aboard the President’s plane.
From Venezuela’s perspective Thursday’s rift fits into a wider context of American aggression in Venezuela. Less than a decade ago the Bush administration sought to oust Hugo Chavez from the Presidency of Venezuela. In a secretly backed coup, America threw its weight behind businessman Pedro Carmona. Carmona was installed. But the coup was reversed within 48 hours restoring Chavez to power. Washington’s ambitions to prop up a leader running on deregulation, privatization and hacking social programs (the typical conditions of securing US financed loans) would never materialize. Chavez bounced back bedeviling the Bush administration. Salivating foreign investors and oil tycoons lost their shot at bonanza in the resource-rich country.
Washington’s latest airspace bully controversy also comes just days after Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff canceled a meeting with President Obama at the White House. Leaks by Edward Snowden that were reported by Glenn Greenwald and TV Globo revealed that the NSA had been spying on President Rouseff’s personal communications and had targeted the computer systems of Petrosbas, Brazil’s majority-owned state oil company.
Refusing to recognize election results, grounding planes or refusing their travel, backing coups in Latin America as the Bush Administration did in 2002 or tacitly supporting coups as the Obama Administration did in Honduras in 2009 are all indicators of the arrogance of US Foreign Policy. Furthermore they highlight Washington’s refusal to accept the geopolitical shift known as Latin America’s “second independence”, that has resulted in a wave of popularly elected governments across the region. The rising tide of Latin American governments challenging neoliberal orthodoxy and refusing to bow to Washington reflects a real rebalancing of power. America’s aggressive tactics aren’t persuasive to leaders who were elected without covert American military backing. Reacting to the US forced landing of Morales’ plane in July Argentina’s President Christina Kirchner tweeted, “They’ve definitely gone crazy.” That the Obama Administration could have possibly calculated any strategic advantage in prohibiting Venezuelan heads of state from flying over Puerto Rico is, just that, crazy.
Before recalling James Madison’s admonition that “no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare” President Obama reminded us that “a price must be paid for freedom”. Speaking at the National Defense University on Thursday President Obama delivered a speech about a range of US counter terrorism issues. Touching upon everything from his administration’s controversial drone strikes to force feeding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, from the nature of current threats posed by a network of global terrorists to the government’s chilling response to information leaks Obama sought to respond to growing criticism that his administration is unaccountable, secretive and contemptuous of the law.
Obama wasted no time responding to such criticisms: “Over the last four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists – insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.”
Rather than clarifying his Administration’s counterterrorism policies and addressing their legality, Obama masterfully demonstrated his ability to wield nice rhetoric about morality, accountability, just wars and their end. But any claims of transparency, accountability and ending the war over are immediately discredited by the Administration’s habitual use of secrecy and the disturbing theory used to justify America’s longest war, “the world as a battlefield” doctrine. This is real and it’s referred to in elite circles as the “Operational Preparation of the Battlespace“.
Without even commenting on Guantanamo the Obama Administration’s record of accountability and transparency is laughable. Even more so in light of Obama’s campaign promise to usher in the “most transparent government” in history. A short list of three alarming developments over the past four years looks something like this:
1. War on whistle blowers and journalists – President Obama has used the Espionage Act to prosecute more governmental whistle blowers than all other US Presidents combined. Since taking office Obama has prosecuted six whistle blowers under the anachronistic act and as stated last night will continue to “keep information secret that threatens our operations”. The 2009 indictment of Stephen Kim, a State Department Adviser who is being prosecuted for allegedly sharing information with Fox News correspondent James Rosen that North Korea would respond to new UN sanctions by performing additional nuclear tests shows the Obama Administrations obsession with secrecy. The information Kim is accused of communicating to Rosen was not even classified. So if a government employee doesn’t share top secret information, steal classified documents and release them to the public or collude with the enemy, that employee, like Mr. Kim can still face up to 10 years in prison for “spying”, also known as talking outside of the Department of Defense. Talking is illegal when the Obama Administration says so. Thomas Drake, John Kirakou, Shami K. Leibowitz, Jeffery Sterling, Bradley Manning and Stephen Kim can all attest to this. The AP leak scandal is further evidence of this disturbing trend. By punishing governmental whistle blowers the Obama Administration effectively freezes the outflow of information about its policies and conduct. This threatens the essence of investigative journalism, the very instrument used to keep power in check. The flow of information is becoming increasingly unilateral. This past weeks mantra: “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”
2. Secret Kill List and Strategic Declassifications – Terror Tuesdays have been a weekly ritual carried out by Obama, his top intelligence advisors and cabinet members and apparently, as Obama divulged yesterday with Congressional approval too: “Congress has agreed on every strike that we have made, including Awlaki”. The convenient declassification of documents relating to the “targeted killing” of Awlaki and three other Americans killed in signature strikes a day before Obama addressed the National Defense University follows a strategic pattern of releasing classified information to the public before brief televised statements about the controversial material. The same thing happened earlier this year. A day before John Brennan’s confirmation hearing for CIA directorship was scheduled, NBC magically obtained a copy of the Department of Justice memoranda that purported to justify Obama’s targeted killing program without due process. The staged spectacle was carried out with thespian fervor reaching a climax when protagonist Dianne Finestein boasted about the Senate’s oversight of drone strikes paving the way for the responsible new assassination czar John Brennan. The declassification of documents pertaining to the due-process-free killing of four Americans follows the Obama Administration’s strategy of releasing controversial information for brief, controlled statements about government activities. During his speech Obama referred to codifying oversight and accountability by signing the Presidential Policy Guidance. But the only thing that has been codified by the Obama Administration are the reviled policies of Bush II including warrantless wire-tapping, sprawling surveillance, indefinite detention, and the frightening Bush/Cheyneyesque view that the planet is a massive battle ground that the US must engage. Which brings us to Obama’s assertion on Thursday that all wars must end.
3. The War is Permanent – Obama’s claims that America’s longest war is finite counter previous statements by his Administration. Last Thursday Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reported that Assistant Secretary of Defense, Michael Sheehan while speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing on the AUMF -the statutory basis that makes Obama’s war a “legal war” and with some moral gymnastics, a “just war” – stated that the war would last “at least another 10 to 20 years”. That’s because Obama’s war on terror, like that of his predecessor, is by it’s very design endless. As Obama acknowledged himself “Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies”. As long as the US “is at war with terrorists” the cycle will continue to reproduce the violence it claims to end. With every Fort Hood, Christmas Bombing attempt or Boston Marathon attack, the Administration reasserts its right and the rationality of executing a war against terrorism. Until the US war effort in all of its manifestations, conventional or space age stops being a “local” phenomenon waged asymmetrically against the most marginalized peoples across the world the words of Obama will ring hollow and the rage of Obama’s victims will be channeled into anti-imperialist, anti-American ideologies. Furthermore there is too much riding on the perpetuation of this war for big interests. Military contractors and the surveillance industry who benefit the most from continual warfare will do everything in their power to keep the nation at war and their ranks are seated in top offices throughout the government.
Obama’s speech on Thursday was characterized by fugues of moralistic posturing and cynical promises. A drone court? A journalist shield law? These non-sequiturs in the Administration’s logic = a FISA court styled rubberstamp factory for assassinations and a piecemeal law that provides the barest protections to journalists while prosecuting with the full weight of law the very people journalists need as their sources, government employees.
The price that “must be paid for freedom” couldn’t be clearer. Americans must accept the “legal” diminshment of their legal rights. Freedom of the press, of speech, of due process, habeas corpus, freedom from assassination by government, privacy in communications, the security of living in a country that doesn’t furnish new enemies and living with the confidence that the government will put its citizens before war profiteers are all dreams of a halcyon past. Americans have been ordered to relinquish any claims to such rights. Challenging the awesome powers of the US government is grounds for prosecution as America’s six brave whistle blowers have demonstrated. Challenging the official narrative that the American execution of global war is anything other than good and just warrants a oneway conversation with the President where you are told, “Why don’t you sit down, and I will tell you exactly what I’m going to do.” This has been the command of choice for authoritarians since time immemorial.
Nearly 100 national delegations met in Brussels Wednesday at the international donor conference for development called “Together for a New Mali”. Opening up the conference, EU Committee of the Regions President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso called upon delegations to pledge their support for The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali. Broken down into a 12 point approach, the plan focuses on everything from ensuring “peace, security and public services everywhere” to organizing elections. But the 48 page plan that formed the basis of the conference fails to addresses the ethnic fault line that was again ripped open between sub-saharan blacks and lighter-skinned Tuaregs, Berbers and Arabs of the Saharan north by the crisis that began last January.
At the beginning of 2012 Mali descended into turmoil when the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) chased the Malian military out of the northern stretches of the country, a territory it claims is the historical homeland of the peoples of northern Mali. The MNLA is comprised predominantly of ethnic Tuaregs but it’s ranks also include Songhai, Fulani, and Arabs. Exploiting the instability battle hardened islamists from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) soon took control from the MNLA terrorizing Mali’s northernmost cities and clearing the way for the foreign mujahideen fighters of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Ansar Dine of Timbuktu to seize control of Mali’s northern expanse. Interim President Diancounda Traore requested military assistance from France after the northern territories were taken.
The French led military intervention that was launched on January 11, 2013 was swift and received widespread support from Malians. France with military assistance provided by the US (Germany, Belgium, Canada and Denmark also provided logistical and financial support for the incursion) overwhelmed the islamist forces. After reconquering territory from the islamists the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) was charged with maintaining security in the “liberated” zones of the north. As France begins reducing troops to make way for a UN peace keeping force scheduled for deployment in northern Mali on July 1st sporadic attacks continue to shake the region.
Despite The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali’s stated objective – to ensure peace and security across the country and foster economic development – Malian leaders unwillingness to engage a dialogue with any factions that don’t renounce their claim to territories in the north seriously undermines the Malian governments affirmation that “the “essence of the Roadmap reflected in this plan incorporates the lessons learned from this crisis”.
A brief recap of the Tuareg’s 50 plus year struggle for independence, something unmentioned in The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali highlights the irony of calling this conference Together for a New Mali.
Tuaregs and other minority ethnic groups of the north have launched successive revolts against the state of Mali since it’s independence in 1960. Although the exact boundaries of this idealized state are vague, it is clear that Azawad refers to the towns and territory that Tuaregs, Songhai, Fulani and Berabiche Arabs have historically roamed through and occupied in the Saharan north. Dreams of reclaiming this vast desert territory have led to decades of tensions between the desert dwellers of the north and sub-Saharan groups in the South that have fomented rebellion.
The first major Tuareg rebellion in the early 1960’s was ultimately quashed by the Malian army relegating Tuaregs to a virtually unrepresented ethnic group in the poverty stricken north. The second Taureg rebellion in 1990′s descended the country into an effective civil war fought in Mali’s northern territory. Though that conflict ceased with the 1995 Peace Accord and the ceremonial Burning of the Guns in Timbuktu, the Tuaregs remained restive, resentful of their lack of participation in the military, and politics and frustrated by the lack of resources invested in their region. By 2006 a short outburst had gripped the north as Tuaregs attacked government buildings in Gao, citing lack of opportunity as an aggravation. According to the IMF the more fertile south of the Sahel state constitutes 95 percent of GDP, 91 percent of the population and 99.5 percent of tax revenue.
The roots of Mali’s current conflict broke through parched earth last year when Tuareg mercenaries returned to Mali heavily armed after the fallout of Qadaffi to reclaim their historical homeland from the weak government, mired with corruption in the South.
Tensions between the north and south have only been heightened by allegations of human rights abuses carried out by Malian soldiers against Tuaregs in the North. Many Malians blame the MNLA for initiating the rebellion and problematically conflate innocent civilians in the north with separatists and Al-Qaeda. Pascal Fletcher reported in Reuters this past March:
“MNLA, Ansar Dine, MUJAO, AQIM, they are the same, they need to be punished,” said Alou Gniminou, a 39-year-old cobbler who is secretary general of the artisan market.
Having raised over $4 billion to ensure peace and security without addressing the historical grievances of a marginalized and impoverished population is bound to perpetuate future conflicts. On the issue of the restive peoples of the Saharan north the summit meeting may have been more appropriately named Together for the Same Mali.
Delegates from nearly 50 countries, as well as representatives from major international organizations met in London yesterday to attend the Somalia Conference and discuss signs of progress in a country that has been devastated by 21 years of war. The British Foreign Office described the goals of the conference in anticipation of the event:
The Somalia conference in London aims to capitalize on the significant progress made over the past year and to agree coordinated international support for the government of Somalia’s plans to build political stability by improving security, police, justice and public financial management systems.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud seized the opportunity to call upon assembled heads of governments, foreign investors and international financiers to secure the funding needed to spearhead Somalia’s security and development challenges. “We need support; we need assistance and investment; and we need protection from those who try to knock us over.”
With the United States pledging to provide $40 million in additional funds to develop Somalia’s security sector, stabilize the country and provide humanitarian assistance on top of the UK’s commitment of $54 million to assist Somalia in it’s fight against international terrorism, and piracy, it looks like Somalia left the conference with it’s gift basket full.
Somalia has a recent history of accepting assistance from countries that have helped create the problems Somalia must confront.
As early as 2001 former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speculated, “Somalia has been a place that has harbored al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is.” Early plans to conduct military strikes in Somalia as part of America’s “war on terror” were initially abandoned “because of insufficient intelligence”. In 2006 the United States provided training, drones and military equipment to Ethiopian troops to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group American intelligence officials theorized had connections to an East African Al-Qaeda cell. Headed at the time by Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the United States sought to destroy the Islamic Courts Union and the Sheik himself. Once the nascent order established by the Islamic Courts Union was toppled, Al-Shabaab, the feared islamist group conference attendees vowed to help dismantle, sought to fill the power vacuum. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support newly elected President Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the leader they overthrew three years earlier and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy. In 2009 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to the US Embassy in Nairobi to confirm the United State’s support for Somalia’s new leader and pledge assistance in developing the country’s security forces. Within months Somalia was receiving US training and military equipment to assist the transitional government in it’s fight against the islamist organization, Al-Shabaab.
The origins of Al-Shabaab are rooted in the 2006 intervention. After the Islamic Courts Union was defeated by US backed Ethiopian forces hardline members splintered from the movement, merged with disparate groups of radical islamists and formed Al-Shabaab. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support the leader they previously overthrew and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy.
In addition to setting the stage for Al-Shabaab the United States implementation of “preventative counter insurgency operations” in the Horn of Africa have by some estimates resulted in the killing of 42 civilians. Detailed analysis by The Nation’s Jeremy Schahill reveal the extent to which the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA have been carrying out a covert war in the country with lethal consequences for enemies and non-enemies alike. On January 7, 2007 the United States carried out it’s first military strike on Somalia after tracking a suspected Al-Qaeda convoy with a predator drone which was reported to have killed militants responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings. A third air-strike three days later was reported to have had different results.
4-31 total reported killed
4-31 civilians reported killed, including 1 child
Heavy civilian casualties were reported in airstrikes on Hayi near Afmadow, on Hayi, 250km northwest of Ras Kamboni, and other parts of southern Somalia, in confusing reports which may conflate activity by US and other forces. An elder told Reuters 22-27 people had been killed, while a Somali politician told CBS News that 31 civilians ‘including a newlywed couple’ had been killed by two helicopters near Afmadow, while Mohamed Mahmud Burale told AP that at least four civilians were killed on Monday evening in Hayi, including his four-year-old son.
The young Yemeni Farea Al-Muslimi’s testimony before a Senate hearing on drones last month illustrates the counter productivity of American drone and air strikes in countries associated with the war on terror. Muslimi, whose village had been bombed by drones a week before the hearing described how these operations increased the numbers of people who sympathized with extreme islamists rather than preventing the growth of anti-American sentiments.
What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.
AQAP’s power and influence has never been based on the number of members in its ranks. AQAP recruits and retains power through its ideology, which relies in large part on the Yemeni people believing that America is at war with them . . .
I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It’s sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends.
With President Mohamoud lined up to receive an additional $95 million from the United States and the UK to help Somalia combat terrorism, one wonders if terrorism in Somalia is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. The United States main target in Somalia continues to be Al-Shabaab as African Command General Carter Ham reported before the American Forces Press Service. Yet Al-Shabaab was non-existent before America began it’s “classic proxy war” by assisting Ethiopia in its invasion of Somalia in 2006. Furthermore it was not until 2007 that leaders of the islamist group affiliated themselves with Al-Qaeda, six years after the United States identified Somalia as part of the war on terror.
President Mohamoud will receive the support, assistance, investment and protection he sought at yesterday’s Somalia Conference. Unfortunately he will be receiving it from those largely responsible for creating the conditions that threaten “to knock [Somalia] over”.
You can also see this article with the comments at Truth-Out.
Four years ago John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration as Obama’s CIA Director due to widespread objections to his appointment over concerns raised about his support of Bush’s torture policies. Although deemed unfit to serve as CIA Director on his first go around, Brennan was again appointed to the post on January 7th. Responding to questions with non-answers at his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, John Brennan averted discussing the most contentious aspects of Obama’s war on terror policies, namely the issues surrounding the administration’s policy of “targeted killing” and his role as architect and avid supporter of those polices.
When Senator John Wyden asked Brennan whether or not he thought the President had the authority to kill Americans, Brennan offered nothing but circuitous garble in response:
SEN. RON WYDEN: Let me ask you several other questions with respect to the president’s authority to kill Americans. I’ve asked you how much evidence the president needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed and whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. In my judgment, both the Congress and the public need to understand the answers to these kind of fundamental questions. What do you think needs to be done to ensure that members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it’s allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues, the question of evidence and the authority to use this power within the United States?
JOHN BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs, as far as our explaining what we’re doing. What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. I don’t think that it’s one or the other. It’s trying to optimize both of them. And so, what we need to do is make sure we explain to the American people what are the thresholds for action, what are the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, the reviews. The Office of Legal Counsel advice establishes the legal boundaries within which we can operate. It doesn’t mean that we operate at those out of boundaries. And, in fact, I think the American people will be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined, very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.
The hearing was itself a staged spectacle. On Wednesday, the day before the hearing was scheduled NBC obtained a copy of the Department of Justice memoranda that purports to justify Obama’s targeted killing program without due process. Conscious of the growing controversy over the targeted killings in addition to Brennan’s controversial second appointment, the Senate Intelligence Committee acted in tandem with the White House pretty much establishing a faux hearing for John Brennan while providing a misleading memo whose legal premises the committee was supposed to accept.
On Capitol Hill concerned Senators ceremoniously grilled the assassination czar and later proposed a piecemeal effort to implement more transparency and accountability to the extrajudicial killing process-a new court, “analogous to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court” that would oversee targeted killings. Journalist Jeremy Scahill described Brennan’s confirmation hearing: “it really was more less a love fest between the most powerful senators when it comes to intelligence operations in the U.S. and John Brennan.” As the hearing progressed it became clear that more was left unsaid than said. For instance, there was no discussion about Obama’s “signature strikes” where intelligence officials identify targets who they assert are terrorists or affiliated with terrorists and pose an “imminent” threat to the American people. Also left out from this interrogation, which the Washington Post described as “intense” and “aggressive”, was the Obama administration’s killing of three American citizens in Yemen within a two week period.
Instead of probing John Brennan on the legality, scope and secret details of the covert assassination program, the Senate Committee, at times, seemed more focused on minimizing the human cost of Obama’s covert war. The “very low number of civilian casualties that result from such strikes” surfaced as a mantra during the proceedings. Referring to the role of the committee’s role Senator Dianne Fienstien stated, “this committee has done significant oversight of the governments conduct of targeted strikes and the figures we have obtained from the executive branch which we have done our utmost to verify confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits.” One strike that occurred last year in al-Majalah, Yemen where 40 Bedouin villagers, dozens women and children, were “shredded into meat with U.S. cluster bombs” overwhelmingly contradicts Fienstein’s carefully verified death counts. The evidence gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Covert War on Terror Project also points to the contrary:
Total US strikes: 363
Obama strikes: 311
Total reported killed: 2,634-3,468
Civilians reported killed: 473-893
Children reported killed: 176
Total reported injured: 1,268-1,431
Total confirmed US operations (all): 54-64
Total confirmed US drone strikes: 42-52
Possible extra US operations: 135-157
Possible extra US drone strikes: 77-93
Total reported killed (all): 374-1,112
Total civilians killed (all): 72-178
Children killed (all): 27-37
Total US strikes: 10-23
Total US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 58-170
Civilians reported killed: 11-57
Children reported killed: 1-3
So what does John Brennan’s appointment to the CIA directorship and the secrecy surrounding everything from Obama’s targeted killing program to Brennan’s hearing itself say about Obama and his war on terror?
Obama has come to embody accuser, prosecutor, judge jury and executioner in his role as President. The very process of executing this role is one shrouded in secrecy and carried out exclusively within the executive branch. A game of cards is literally employed before Obama and his administrative underlings choose who should die at cutely named “Terror Tuesday” meetings. Here top intelligence officials go over the kill list with Obama identifying terrorists on “baseball cards” before deciding whether or not to give the fatal green light of assassination.
By asserting that “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US”, the memoranda strategically equates the accused with the guilty. Absent judicial proceedings , Obama’s intelligence advisors hold the gavel in one hand, the kill list in the other. In sum, because some top ranking intelligence official has said a person is guilty, without contest that person is guilty and should die. The reasoning is similar to that used to construct the pretext to invade Iraq. In 2003 top ranking intelligence officials George Tenet, then Director of the CIA and his Deputy Director John McLaughlin informed President Bush that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; therefore WMDs existed posing an imminent threat to national security and America needed to invade Iraq. The dangers of this perverse logic became eminently clear once the United States was embroiled in the war in Iraq. By then it was already too late to assess the credibility of this intelligence or undo the invasion. The same holds for Anwar Awlaki and his sixteen year old son among many others whose fate has been decided in the shadows and whose guilt has been determined without due-process.
The irony underlying the popular justification for Obama’s use of covert drone strikes (in addition to night raids and tomahawk cruise missile strikes, the even less discussed scandal of Obama’s secret executions) is as Glenn Greenwald pointed out that “without any due process, transparency or oversight, there is no way to know who is a “senior al-Qaida leader” and who is posing an “imminent threat” to Americans. All that can be known is who Obama, in total secrecy, accuses of this”. Is it possible that in appointing the man who wrote the manual for these operations Obama is himself threatening national security?
Two factors suggest that this is the case.
First if waging war, covert or overt heightens the risk of Americans being attacked by an enemy America has waged war against at home, on the battlefield or at bases abroad, then relying on the Bush/Cheyney “world-is-a-battlefield-theory” undermines the safety of America’s soldiers and civilians by putting them up against enemies spanning an entire globe in one big, unlimited battlefield. The memo demonstrates that this theory is central to Obama’s war on terror and the operations his administration carries out to wage it. According to the memo, the President “retains authority to use force against al-Qaida and associated forces outside the area of active hostilities“. Essentially there are no geographical limits to where the president can carry out targeted killings. Furthermore, as reports have indicated, America’s use of force “outside the area of active hostilities”, contrary to it’s stated purpose of undermining terrorism engenders terrorism. In countries like Yemen and Pakistan populations that have been terrorized by aerial strikes and drone attacks have come to sympathize with Islamist struggles against western imperial might. As Sir Peter Ustinov put it: “Terrorism is the poor man’s war, and war is terrorism of the rich.”
Second, in order to carry the covert drone war bases need to be built around the world for drones to fly in and out of. One of Bin Laden’s stated reasons for orchestrating the 9/11 attack was because Americans had military bases in Saudi Arabia. Islamic law prohibits non-Muslims from entering the holy cities like Mecca and Medina, both located in Saudi Arabia. After the 9/11 attacks Bush quietly closed those bases. Medea Benjamin, author of “Drone Warfare” noted on Democracy Now : “Now we have under Barack Obama, in fact under the leadership of John Brennan who was stationed in Saudi Arabia, a renegotiating of opening up a base for drones” in Saudi Arabia. John Brennan’s current role as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security is primarily to oversee plans that protect America from terrorist threats. Running military bases in Saudi Arabia has already proven its fatal consequences. Nevertheless, John Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor and author of the President’s controversial policy of targeted killing is lined up to protect America at another more prestigious post as Director of the CIA. With American military bases sprawling across the globe it is imaginable that their construction will exacerbate tensions much like they did before the towers fell.
What this all amounts to is a disturbing trend of totalizing power. Institutionalizing the exercise of execution in wreckless disregard of due-process laws that date back to the Magna Carta illustrates the frightening reach of Obama’s executive authority, an authority whose premises are being increasingly embraced by partisan lackeys. Where the Bush Administration institutionalized warrantless wiretapping and torture, the Obama Administration is institutionalizing murder. From Kabul and Sanaa to New York and Washington the awesome powers of the President will be exercised unrestrained.
France’s approach to military intervention differs from America’s heavy handed global militarism in one sense while mirroring aspects of it in another. Whereas American led interventions over the past 12 years have often been waged unilaterally, have been open-ended (no exit strategy), continued in spite of abysmal public support, or waged as shadowy covert operations (Obama’s so called light-foot print strategy) without oversight or congressional approval, France has tended to intervene in multilateral scenarios at the request of foreign governments (Ivory Coast in 2011, Mali 2012) and where protecting already established economic interests is concerned. America contrarily has a recent history of “preemptive warfare” to acquire access to new economic resources abroad and “forward engagement”, a project to prepare global rapid response teams to confront “unplanned consequences” around the world; in other words, position itself for future acquisitions of coveted resources.
Where France’s use of military force resembles the United States is in the way the state operates to ensure foreign investors that their investments abroad are safe. Look at how France immediately garnered logistical and financial support for the Mali incursion from Germany, Belgium, Canada and Denmark, all countries tied to gold mining, oil and gas prospecting and uranium extracting operations in the region. France, a nuclear power with the world’s fourth largest military budget operates as a corporate security force to assure major foreign investors that profits will continue to be generated in regions of the world where French based multinationals and quasi private public companies like Areva conduct business. The major difference between the French exercise of military might and America’s is the difference between the desire to maintain clout in existing regions of strategic interest and global domination. France’s more limited military capacity typically confines the global reach of the former colonial power to areas still defined by colonial borders like North and West Africa where France once dominated. America’s delusions of empire outlined in the recently published US National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 stand in stark contrast to France’s military pursuits. Global Trends 2030 makes clear America’s continued aspirations to be a benevolent “global security provider” or “global policeman”. The document is essentially a confessional by failed sci-fi writers who landed jobs in America’s intelligence-security-complex. As American military operations become increasingly secretive, as the CIA mutates more and more into a special operations outfit (as opposed to its traditional role as foreign intelligence provider), as the world wide construction of CIA bases comes to resemble an edifice complex, America reveals itself for what it is – a declinist fortress with a penchant for planetary destabilization. France’s military plays a more modest role – corporate security force of limited territory defined by history. The legacy of French intervention in its former colonies follows a disturbing trend: “it undertook 45 military operations in its former colonies between 1960 and 2005.” Including the 2011 ousting of Qadaffi, the 2011 intervention in Gabon, and the most recent intervention in Mali that amounts to 48. France’s policy of responding to its handpicked regional leaders seems to be trading off quite well as France and the business interests they back shore up greater access to the resources once sought in French colonies. The legacy of colonialism endures. When spun the right way it is made to seem heroic.