Category: Iraq

Jul 24

The Ghost of Judith Miller: NYT Still Shilling For Government

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In 2004 a editorial, the editors of The New york Times profoundly apologized for its complicity in the run up to the Iraq war and for not having been more aggressive in its examination of the claims made by government officials. Much of the blame for the erroneous reporting was placed on one writer, Judith Miller, who resigned from the paper. But still today, despite the promises to be more questioning of anonymous sources, the spirit Judith Miller persists in the Times reporting on national security and international affairs. As Glenn Greenwald observes in  his article at The Intercept, the writers are still blithely taking to word of anonymous sources as the truth.

Let’s look at an illustrative example from yesterday to see how this toxic process works. The New York Times published an article about ISIS by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard based entirely and exclusively on unproven claims from officials of the U.S. government and its allies, to whom they (needless to say) granted anonymity. The entire article reads exactly like an official press release: Paragraph after paragraph does nothing other than summarize the claims of anonymous officials, without an iota of questioning, skepticism, scrutiny or doubt.

Among the assertions mindlessly repeated by the Paper of Record from its beloved anonymous officials is this one:

The Islamic State has also studied revelations from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about how the United States gathers information on militants. A main result is that the group’s top leaders now use couriers or encrypted channels that Western analysts cannot crack to communicate, intelligence and military officials said.

Leave to the side the banal journalistic malpractice of uncritically parroting the self-serving claims of anonymous officials, supposedly what the paper is so horrified at Judy Miller for having done. Also leave to the side the fact that the U.S. government has been anonymously making these Helping-The-Enemy claims not just about Snowden but about all whistleblowers for decades, back to Daniel Ellsberg, if not earlier. Let’s instead focus on this: the claim itself, on the merits, is monumentally stupid on multiple levels: self-evidently so.

To begin with, The Terrorists™ had been using couriers and encryption for many, many years before anyone knew the name “Edward Snowden.” Last August, after NPR uncritically laundered claims that Snowden revelations had helped The Terrorists™, we reported on a 45-page document that the U.K. government calls “the Jihadist Handbook,” written by and distributed among extremist groups, which describes in sophisticated detail the encryption technologies, SIM card-switching tactics and other methods they use to circumvent U.S. surveillance. Even these 2002/2003 methods were so sophisticated that they actually mirror GCHQ’s own operational security methods for protecting its communications.

This “Jihadist Handbook” was written in 2002 or 2003: more than a full decade before any Snowden revelations. Indisputably, terrorists have known for a very long time that the U.S. government and its allies are trying to intercept their communications, and have long used encryption and other means to prevent that.

The New York Times‘ claim that ISIS learned to use couriers as a result of the Snowden revelations is almost a form of self-mockery. Few facts from Terrorism lore are more well-known than Osama bin Laden’s use of couriers to avoid U.S. surveillance. A 2011 article from the Washington Post – more than two years before the first Snowden story – was headlined: “Al-Qaeda couriers provided the trail that led to bin Laden.” It described how “Bin Laden strictly avoided phone or e-mail communications for fear that they would be intercepted.” [..]

If one were engaged in journalism, one would include some of these facts in order to scrutinize, question and express skepticism about the claims of anonymous officials that ISIS now uses encryption and couriers because of Snowden reporting. But if one is engaged in mindless, subservient pro-government stenography, one simply grants anonymity to officials and then uncritically parrots their facially dubious claims with no doubt or questioning of any kind. Does anyone have any doubts about what these New York Times reporters are doing in this article?

There’s one more point worth noting about the New York Times‘ conduct here. As has been documented many times, Edward Snowden never publicly disclosed a single document: Instead, he gave the documents to journalists and left it up to them to decide which documents should be public and which ones should not be. As I’ve noted, he has sometimes disagreed with the choices journalists made, usually on the ground that documents media outlets decided to publish should have, in his view, not been published. [..]

Look at what the New York Times, yet again, has done. Isn’t it amazing? All anyone in government has to do is whisper something in its journalists’ ears, demand anonymity for it, and instruct them to print it. Then they obey. Then other journalists treat it as Truth. Then it becomes fact, all over the world. This is the same process that enabled the New York Times, more than any other media outlet, to sell the Iraq War to the American public, and they’re using exactly the same methods to this day. But it’s not just their shoddy journalism that drives this but the mentality of other “journalists” who instantly equate anonymous official claims as fact.

You can read the entirety of Glenn’s article at “The Intercept.”

Jun 15

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Daesh & Switch – iconoclastic commodities as common capitalist theft

By Annieli

                    Artwork in Iraq gets destroyed by Daesh/ISIS-ISIL (Video)

Polytheistic idolatry is the only thing that gets destroyed, says Daesh, which somehow rationalizes the destruction of historical antiquities, as though there can only be one history, apparently a Sunni and/or Ba’athist one. Only statues that are deemed idolatrous would get destroyed or apparently as originals resold with copies destroyed for social media documentation. But what counts as idolatrous in a modern commodity economy.

Daesh is only controlling the mythology reproduced by the media in order to further not the goals of actual religious beliefs, as they are simply looters maximizing accumulatable wealth. One can say that they are even projecting a pre-modern accumulation of dominance and subjugation returning West Asia and North Africa to some pre-capitalist mode of production. Of course the ideological contradictions will flourish as Daesh elites will keep their modern networked social media and slick magazines as well as their modern weapons in an attempt to reduce all other variants of Islam to their hegemony. Daesh are not the Sentinelese or the Auvergnats – they are common crooks, the lowest form of banditry tarted up when they refer to their genocidal barbarism as a “management of savagery“.

ISIS’ efforts to erase pre-Islamic pictorial art successfully communicates their brand image. What ISIS fails to mention is that they are destroying fakes. Blouin Art Info reports that upon the release of the Mosul Museum video, experts determined that “most, if not all’ of the statuary on view were plaster fakes. The officials at the Mosul Museum had previously transported the originals to the Baghdad Museum. The New York Times reported that many of these sculptures were replicas of ancient objects and a portion of the sculptures on display were reconstructed from fragments which included original shards of ancient sculptures.

Fox News’ misreading is that this is something more immoral than the actual activity of the market in art forgery, made complicit often in human history by an entire discipline of art history and archaeology so that Fox’s headline “How ISIS created a terrorist art market“, is simply that they are following practices of pillaging going back even before the period to which Daesh wishes to return if only symbolically.

Of course the killing of suspected homosexuals will deprive Daesh of many of the population from which the making of such artwork come. These are the premodern warlord-despots of an imagination-free fundamentalist world of gender, class, and ethnic subjugation. They predictably lack the civility of the Greeks upon losing their (Elgin) Marbles.

Footage released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed the ruins of Syria’s Palmyra untouched as the militant group claimed it only destroy statues which it deems polytheistic, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Palmyra is home to a massive Roman theatre where ISIS reportedly executed 20 foreign fighters earlier this week who had been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

ISIS militants have reportedly executed at least 400 people in Palmyra since capturing the ancient Syrian city, Syrian state media said earlier this week.

ISIS captured Palmyra – and Iraq’s Ramadi – earlier this month despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes.

A YouTube account believed to be affiliated with ISIS posted a video on May 26 showing parts of the city’s ancient ruins and colonnades. It was not clear when the video was shot.

An activist with an anti-regime group in Palmyra said the ruins have not been damaged adding that ISIS said they would only destroy statues they deem idolatrous.

“They haven’t been damaged and members of the organization [ISIS] told residents that they will not damage the city’s antiquities, but will destroy the idols,” the activist with the anti-regime Local Coordination Committee for Tadmur, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“Perhaps it’s because the Palmyra antiquities are mostly columns and large buildings and not statues of people, which they consider idols that must be destroyed, and they have no problem with the other antiquities.”

The ideologically-driven destruction of priceless Iraqi artifacts by Islamic State may be a ruse that actually hides a much more cynical operation, in which fakes are smashed to pieces while real treasures are smuggled out of the country and sold on the black market to fund the terrorist army…

Whether worthless or priceless the verdict for destruction is the same. The current terrorist art and antiquities market is dictated by two factors: (1) can an item be transported to a location where a buyer exists for it, and (2) can the artwork be passed off as legitimate once it arrives.  

Apr 14

Civilian Contractors Sentenced for Iraq Massacre

After years of investigations, set backs, a 10 week trial, 28 days of deliberations and the four men convicted, the sentencing for the Blackwater guards who slaughtered 17 people in Nisour Square, Baghdad on Sept. 16, 2007, took place in a courtroom in Washington, DC.

One former Blackwater security contractor received a life sentence on Monday and three others received 30-year sentences for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. [..]

Nicholas A. Slatten, a former Army sniper from Tennessee, was convicted of murder for firing the first fatal shots. Three others – Dustin L. Heard, also of Tennessee; Evan S. Liberty of New Hampshire; and Paul A. Slough of Texas – were convicted of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and the use of a machine gun in a violent crime. The last charge carried a mandatory 30-year prison sentence under a law passed during the crack cocaine epidemic.

Mr. Slatten was sentenced to life in prison, and Mr. Heard, Mr. Liberty and Mr. Slough to 30 years. The men are all in their 30s.

Now where is the justice for all the other civilians who have been killed and, or, tortured by American soldiers, drone pilots and contractors? Where are the prosecutions of those who ordered it and wrote the memos that justified the violations of US and International law? Where and when will the United States do the honorable thing for them?

Today justice was served but it should just be the beginning. This is not enough.

Jan 16

War On-With Parades

So we’ve recently passed another milestone in our perpetual War. Sunday December 28th 2014 marked the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan.

And we recently passed another set of new year’s parades Rose Bowl and Mummers etc. I’d ask the question “Who doesn’t love a parade?” but I get that there are plenty of people who have an aversion to parades in the same way some people are freaked out by clowns.

Anyhow, I thought it was as good a time as any to reflect on the time line of the country’s aversion to a ticker tape parade celebrating the end of longest running “combat operations” in our history.

Obviously, a ticker tape victory parade makes some people feel a little awkward. And it should. It highlights the fact that combat is NOT over. Military action should never have be used as a substitute for law enforcement action. Not to mention all the rest of the hypocrisy: the false pretenses, the unprosecuted torture war crimes, the illegal spying on and execution of American citizens. There’s plenty for the country to be outraged about. At the very least embarrassed.

A parade forces people to recon with what exactly we went to war for. Can you really declare victory against a tactic? What’s the difference between a War On something and a War With something? And when will we have that victory parade for the war on with drugs?

more War on with-

Oct 22

Blackwater Mercenaries Convicted for 2007 Baghdad

Three security guards who worked for private security contractor, Blackwater, were found guilty of manslaughter stemming from a 2007 shooting of unarmed civilians in Baghdad, Iraq. A fourth guard was found guilty of murder. All are facing long prison terms.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence.The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, (Nicholas) Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence. [..]

Jeremy Ridgeway, another member of the convoy known as Raven 23, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2008 and agreed to testify against his colleagues in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

The Legal Director of Center for Constitutional Rights, Baher Azmy issued this statement upon hearing the verdicts:

While today’s verdict cannot bring back the innocent Iraqis killed at Nisoor Square, it is a step towards full accountability for Blackwater’s actions. However, holding individuals responsible is not enough.  If corporations like Blackwater, now known as Academi, are granted the rights accorded to “people” they must also bear the responsibilities.  Private military contractors played a major role in the pressure to go to war in Iraq and have engaged in a variety of war crimes and atrocities during the invasion and occupation, while reaping billions of dollars in profits from the war.  To this day, the U.S. government continues to award Blackwater and its successor entities millions of dollars each year in contracts, essentially rewarding war crimes.

The may be a great deal of satisfaction that these men will pay the price for their crimes but their boss, Eric Prince, and the other architects of war crimes remain free.

While Barack Obama pledged to reign in mercenary forces when he was a senator, once he became president he continued to employ a massive shadow army of private contractors. Blackwater – despite numerous scandals, congressional investigations, FBI probes and documented killings of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan – remained a central part of the Obama administration’s global war machine throughout his first term in office.

Just as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, it is only the low level foot-soldiers of Blackwater that are being held accountable. Prince and other top Blackwater executives continue to reap profits from the mercenary and private intelligence industries. Prince now has a new company, Frontier Services Group, which he founded with substantial investment from Chinese enterprises and which focuses on opportunities in Africa. Prince recently suggested that his forces at Blackwater could have confronted Ebola and ISIS. “If the administration cannot rally the political nerve or funding to send adequate active duty ground forces to answer the call, let the private sector finish the job,” he wrote.

None of the U.S. officials from the Bush and Obama administrations who unleashed Blackwater and other mercenary forces across the globe are being forced to answer for their role in creating the conditions for the Nisour Square shootings and other deadly incidents involving private contractors. Just as the main architect of the CIA interrogation program, Jose Rodriguez, is on a book tour for his propagandistic love letter to torture, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, so too is Erik Prince pushing his own revisionist memoir, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.

Oct 22

Arming the Syrian Kurds. What Could Go Wrong?

The Obama administration has decided to arm the Kurdish militants in Kobnani to fight ISIS. What could possibly go wrong?

Isis claims it has US airdrop of weapons intended for Kurds

· Pentagon investigating claims but admits one load missing and it would be embarrassing if it ended up in terror group’s hands

· Turkey criticises arms airdrops saying the strategy will never lead to desired results

A US airdrop of arms to besieged Kurds in Kobani appears to have missed its target and ended up in the hands of Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Video footage released by Isis shows what appears to be one of its fighters for in desert scrubland with a stack of boxes attached to a parachute. The boxes are opened to show an array of weapons, some rusty, some new. A canister is broken out to reveal a hand grenade.

The Pentagon said it was investigating the claim but admitted that one of its airdrops had gone missing. If confirmed, it would be an embarrassment for the US, given the advanced technology available to its air force.

The seemingly bungled airdrop comes against a steady stream of US-supplied weapons being lost to Isis forces, mainly from the dysfunctional Iraqi army. Isis is reported to have stolen seven American M1 Abrams tanks from three Iraqi army bases in Anbar province last week.

After Ignoring ISIS Assault on Kobani, U.S. Launches Major Strikes & Arms Turkey’s Kurdish Foes

Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not act to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Kobani because the Syrian Kurdish town was not a “strategic objective.” But as news cameras on the Turkish-Syrian border showed Islamic State fighters assaulting a town in plain sight, the U.S.-led coalition responded with the most airstrikes of its Syria campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has also begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move it had resisted for weeks. Now Turkey says it will open its border with Syria to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters join the fight. The Turkish government had opposed aiding the Syrian Kurds in Kobani because of their links to Turkey’s longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. To help us sort out this complicated picture, we are joined by longtime international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who has just returned from four months in Turkey.

Oct 20

Visas for Translators: Even Kafka Wouldn’t Put His Name on This

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver tackled an issue that has gotten little attention from the mainstream media, helping to save the Iraqis and Afghans that helped the United States in the wars it started in their countries. The audience may have laughed but much of this is heartbreaking and anger inducing, anger at the United States for being so inhumane and heartless.


Translators who have aided the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and Iraq are in great danger in their home countries, but red tape is making it impossible for many of them to leave. John Oliver interviews Mohammad, one translator who made it out.

For more info on efforts to assist U.S.-affiliated refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan see, and

“To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,”

For the American public, the war in Iraq is over, receding quickly from our memory.

But for tens of thousands of Iraqis who have risked their lives in the service of America, it continues at a perilous clip.  They continue to receive death threats from militants who view them as traitors.  Some have been assassinated since our withdrawal.

Sadly, the current policy of the United States towards these is simple: submit your application and wait.  If you can survive for two years (the current amount of time an Iraqi must wait for their first interview to be scheduled), we might consider resettling you.

Even worse, the Afghans who stood beside us for the past decade are now coming up against the unmoving bureaucracy of the U.S. Government, which is only processing a small number of cases each month.

The List Project has helped nearly 2,00 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis make it to safety over the years, but our work continues. We continue to rely on small donors for operational support: please consider a small donation if you’re able.

On September 3, 2013, Scribner published “To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind,” Kirk W. Johnson’s memoir about the List Project’s seven-year long struggle to protect thousands of Iraqis on the list.  The book centers around the lives of four Iraqis who stepped forward to help the United States, following them as they flee from Iraq and come up against the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

An execuive order could ease the process. We need to take care of the people who put their lives at risk to help the US, that includes their families.

Sep 24

Are Syria Strikes an Illegal War?

Are the Syria strikes an illegal war? By what authority has President Barack Obama ordered these attacks? The administration says that it doesn’t need congress to approve it and congress, along with the courts, has surrendered its responsibility.

United States Bombs Syria In Latest Undeclared War

By Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Law Professor George Washington University

I just completed a two-city debate with former Bush official John Yoo on executive power with a focus on undeclared wars. It appears Yoo won the debate . . . at least with President Obama. Indeed, Yoo appears to have had Obama at “hello” to quote Jerry Maguire. Without any declaration of war, Obama has launched attacks against targets in Syria – an act of war by any measure and a violation of international law.

We have been discussing the growing concerns over President Barack Obama’s series of unilateral actions in ordering agencies not to enforce law, effectively rewriting laws, and moving hundreds of millions of dollars from appropriated purposes to areas of his choosing. One of the greatest concerns has been his unchecked authority asserted in the national security area.

The most serious acts of unilateral presidential action falls within war powers – powers that the Framers expressly and carefully limited to prevent precisely this type of attack. Of course, the Administration does not use the word “war.” I previously represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war without a declaration from Congress. In the case, President Obama insisted that he alone determines what is a war and therefore when he needs a declaration. Since the court would not recognize standing to challenge the war, it left Obama free to engage in war operations in any country of his choosing.

Professor Turley joined David Corn, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief, on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss just how legal are these attacks.

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Lawyers use Iraq’s right of self-defence and weakness of Syrian regime – which US has undermined – to justify failure to seek UN approval

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf. [..]

The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat. [..]

The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years. [..]

Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

But this means arguing that Isis is equivalent to al-Qaida, even though the groups are split – logic that several critics in Congress, such as Virginia senator Tim Kaine, have argued is flawed and requires a fresh authorisation to fix.

Power reached for similar arguments in her letter to the UN, arguing that Tuesday’s separate attack on Khorasan rebels in Syria was also an act of self defence by the US due to the group’s closeness to al-Qaida.

Is Obama misleading the world to war? Depends how you define ‘misleading’

By Trevor Timm, The Gusrdian

When it comes to military strikes against Isis in Syria, his administration’s strategy relies on what the meaning of ‘is’ is

Want to decipher what the US military is really doing in Iraq and Syria, or figure out whether its regional war against the Islamic State (Isis) is legal? Good luck. The Obama administration’s secret efforts to redefine the ordinary meaning of key legal terms and phrases has made that near impossible.

For instance, in his Tuesday statement that US airstrikes that have expanded into Syria, Obama studiously avoided any discussion about his domestic legal authority to conduct these strikes. That dirty work was apparently left up to anonymous White House officials, who told the New York Times’s Charlie Savage that both the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 (meant for al-Qaida) and the 2002 war resolution (meant for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) gave the government the authority to strike Isis in Syria.

In other words: the legal authority provided to the White House to strike al-Qaida and invade Iraq more than a dozen years ago now means that the US can wage war against a terrorist organization that’s decidedly not al-Qaida, in a country that is definitely not Iraq. [..]

So when you hear the words “imminent attack”, “civilians”, militants” or “ground troops” from now on, be careful: if the government says they’re not misleading you, it might only be because they’ve secretly changed the definition of “misleading”.

Public Law 107-40  – the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001

Public Law 107-243 – The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq

Neither one of those laws applies to this situation. The president is in violation of his oath of office.

Sep 24

Khorasan Who?

First it was Al Qaeda, then it was ISIS (or Is, or ISIL, whatever), now a new “monster under the bed” has been marched out as the latest excuse to bomb another Muslim country, number seven for President Barack Obama, who has managed to surpass any of his predecessors. So who and what is “Khorasan”? Are we now suppose to believe a proven liar, James Clapper, that this group is such a threat to US national security that it’s necessary to violate Syria’s sovereignty, further enabling terrorist groups to attract members? All of a sudden this group is an imminent threat when as recently as Monday weren’t even on the radar.

Marcy Wheeler isn’t biting into this either:

It appears the legal logic behind the attack (besides the fact that Congress hurriedly approved funding for war through December so it could get back to the campaign trail) is that in addition to striking ISIS in Syria (an attack we don’t have any reasonable  legal justification for) we are also attacking a group that James “Too Cute by Half” Clapper just rolled out, “Khorasan,” which unlike ISIS has not been kicked out of Al Qaeda and therefore might be targetable under the 2001 AUMF. [..]

Today’s continuation of that narrative appears in CNN (and ABC, which I won’t link to because of their infernal auto-play ads), which doesn’t ask how the US hoped to surprise Khorasan if they had just rolled them out as the big new boogeymen. [..]

The threat of Ibrahim al-Asiri – who with one bomb that could not have worked and several more claimed attacks identified by double agents in Saudi employ not only created the excuse for millions of dollars in TSA scanner profits, but also the ability to label Yemen an “imminent” threat and therefore bomb it – has moved to Syria.

Label the country an “imminent” threat. Then bomb.

In Obama’s statement, he emphasized the Khorasan tie.

She’s not the only one questioning the latest excuse to start another war:

So far the only source for any information about this new group comes from two people, who as Marcy says, “have a somewhat strained relationship with the truth and a very cozy relationship with disinformation,” Clapper and Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

This latest US military intervention has gone from a humanitarian rescue, to assisting the Iraq army fighting ISIS to bombing another sovereign nation under the guise of “national security” in a mere 6 weeks. While there is no dispute that ISIS and Kordasan are terrorist groups and some very bad people, but this has the whiff of being just another excuse to overthrow Syrian President Bashir Assad.  

Sep 23

Here We Go Again: US Strikes Syria

US launches air strikes against Isis targets in Syria

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

  • US and allies have deployed jets and missiles against militants
  • Isis stronghold of Raqqa is among targets, says US official
  • ‘Dozens’ of fighters are killed, says monitoring group
  • Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan involved

The United States stepped up its war against the Islamic State militant group, launching air strikes on targets in Syria for the first time.

The Pentagon press secretary, rear admiral John Kirby, confirmed that the US and allied nations sent fighter jets, bomber aircraft and Tomahawk missiles in an operation against Isis that he described as “ongoing”.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that Raqqa, a Syrian stronghold of Isis, was among the targets of the operation, which began in the early hours of Tuesday morning local time.

The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later at around 10pm EDT (2am GMT), but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours. [..]

The US was joined in the Syria operation by Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, an official said.

The strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft, while the Tomahawk missiles were launched from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush is in the Gulf.

Kirby said the strikes were ordered by army general Lloyd Austin, the commander of US forces in the Middle East and South Asia “under authorisation granted to him by the commander in chief”. [..]

Syria’s foreign ministry says the US informed Damascus’ envoy to the United Nations before launching the raids.

As Doc Maddow would say, “watch this space.”

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, host of “The Last Word.” spoke with several MSNBC contributors and observors.

Sep 19

Full Disclosure

Yesterday the Senate joined the House of Representatives to give the Pentagon funds to train un-vetted moderate fighters of the Syrian rebel army. The pro-war pundits have been all over the media. So as the US inches its way into another war in the Middle, Lee Fang of The Nation asks a good questions: Who is paying the pro-war pundits? Shouldn’t the public know about their links to Pentagon contractors?

If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle IS. Or as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.

But what you won’t learn from media coverage of IS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.

Keane is a great example of this phenomenon. His think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which he oversees along with neoconservative partisans Liz Cheney and William Kristol, has provided the data on IS used for multiple stories by The New York Times, the BBC and other leading outlets. [..]

Left unsaid during his media appearances (and left unmentioned on his congressional witness disclosure form) (pdf) are Keane’s other gigs: as special adviser to Academi, the contractor formerly known as Blackwater; as a board member to tank and aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics; a “venture partner” to SCP Partners, an investment firm that partners with defense contractors, including XVionics, an “operations management decision support system” company used in Air Force drone training; and as president of his own consulting firm, GSI LLC.

To portray Keane as simply a think tank leader and a former military official, as the media have done, obscures a fairly lucrative career in the contracting world. For the General Dynamics role alone, Keane has been paid a six-figure salary in cash and stock options since he joined the firm in 2004; last year, General Dynamics paid him $258,006.

To expose the conflicts of interest by these media analysts. Mr. Fang joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh of Democracy Now.

Transcript can be read here

The media needs to be honest with the public about who they are presenting as “experts” to promote the push to another illegal war.

Sep 18

US Middle East Presence Just Making Things Worse

While Congress is holding hearings on whether or not President Barack Obama’s current plan to contain ISIS and assist so-called moderates of the rebel Syrian army, the CIA expressed its doubts on what the agency most likely perceives as an encroachment on their not so covert operations to train these un-vetted rebels that has been going on for a year in Jordan. That was reported earlier this week by Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein:

One Democratic member of Congress said that the CIA has made it clear that it doubts the possibility that the administration’s strategy could succeed.

“I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,” the congressman said in an email. “Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.”

He added that, as the CIA sees it, the ramped-up backing of rebels is an expansion of a strategy that is already not working. “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands,” the congressman said, echoing intelligence sources.

Probably for all the wrong reasons, the CIA is right. President Obama’s plan is not just doomed to failure but may well make matters worse.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Ann Cury, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his doubts about the strategy and condemned ISIS


“Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?” Rouhani said.

“If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice.

“Maybe it is necessary for airstrikes in some conditions and some circumstances,” he added. “However, air strikes should take place with the permission of the people of that country and the government of that country.”  [..]

Asked about the extremists’ beheading of American James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Rouhani said ISIS’ actions are at odds with Islamic tenets.

“They want to kill humanity,” he said. “And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it’s the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind.”

But he also took issue with the American-led coalition, saying members include nations that helped ISIS with weapons and training.

At emptywheel, Jim White, noticed what the MSNBC article failed to mention

Rouhani told the NBC that the US-led coalition against the ISIL group was not a serious movement and added that US had been present in the region since 2001 to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan but it not only did not solved the terrorism problem but exacerbated the crisis.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has emphatically stated that foreign ground troops are not needed or wanted

Al-Abadi praised the U.S. aerial campaign targeting the militants who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq and carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border, saying it has helped efforts to roll back the Sunni extremists.

But he stressed that he sees no need for the U.S. or other nations to send troops into Iraq to help fight the Islamic State.

“Not only is it not necessary,” he said, “We don’t want them. We won’t allow them. Full stop.” [..]

The comments provided a sharp rebuttal to remarks a day earlier by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American ground troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if President Barack Obama’s current strategy fails.

And the insanity will continue

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