Trump’s new war plan is an awful lot like the old one

Capture

The Trump administration has a new plan for the war in Syria, Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast, and it’s the same as the old one: bomb the hell out of the Islamic State and other extremists while not just leaving the greatest purveyor of violence there alone, but treating it as a de facto partner.

This is, for those following along, broadly the same plan that the previous U.S. administration pursued. Despite the Assad regime crossing President Barack Obama’s self-imposed “red line” in 2013, it wasn’t until a year later that the U.S. bombs began falling on the Islamic State and other extremists. The hereditary dictator and his forces were spared, and not for a lack of humanitarian justification, but because U.S. foreign policy elites had long before decided that a change in regime posed the greatest threat to perceived U.S. interests.

Leftists who embraced realists’ perverted version of anti-imperialism — support for dictators in the name of stability, not just when threatened by Western invasions but in the face of popular uprisings overlooked this thematically inconvenient war on terror and the new president’s repeated desire to escalate it. As late as last fall left-liberal pundits were continuing to gravely warn of a coming war, portraying better informed critics of the regime-change storyline as the warmongers even as they ignored the thousands of U.S. airstrikes those purported warmongers decried. The latter’s crime was decrying Syrian and Russian airstrikes, too, which is well established as the road to World War III.

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Let’s Talk About Genocide: Shurat HaDin and The Genocide Legalization Conference

This week, the organization Shurat HaDin is having a conference titled “Towards a New Law of War”. They don’t hide where their alliances lie, and on their online conference page (nostalgically illustrated with WWII British bombers) you can find their Western-supremacist and racist agenda stated loud and clear:

…exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against non­traditional, non­-democratic, non-­state actors.

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Guantánamo and Inflaming Passions in the Courthouse and the World

By Johnny Barber

Four members of Witness Against Torture were found guilty in a jury trial at D.C. Superior Court on January 5, 2012. The jury brought back guilty verdicts in the cases of defendants Brian Hynes of the Bronx, NY, Mike Levinson of White Plains, NY, Judith Kelly of Arlington, Virginia, and Carmen Trotta of New York City, NY. Josie Setzler of Fremont, Ohio was acquitted mid-trial after the prosecution’s witnesses failed to identify her.

The demonstrators were charged with one count of disorderly and disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds. The charges stemmed from protests against a Defense Appropriations Bill—a precursor to the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA)—that took place in the citizen’s gallery at the House of Representatives on June 23, 2011. The protests were in response to provisions in the bill that make it essentially impossible to close the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and that legalize indefinite detention.

Prior to the start of the trial, the Prosecutor Brandon Long asked District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher to disallow any statements regarding Guantánamo into the courtroom fearing that mentioning the detention center and the torture that occurred there “could possibly inflame the jury”. Judge Fisher readily agreed, saying, “Speaking about Guantánamo is inappropriate for the purposes of this trial.” Carmen Trotta responded that it was vital for him to mention Guantánamo Bay because “due process everywhere is being threatened and we have the privilege of due process here, right now.” The judge rejected Trotta’s argument, saying, he “does not want an improper politicization of the defendants’ charge.”

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Blackwater’s Youngest Victim

On the evening of May 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of  Jeremy Scahill’s brave new documentary, Blackwater’s Youngest Victim. The film, which is a collaborative effort by Scahill and Rick  Rowley of Big Noise Films, tells the story of nine year old Ali Khanani, who was shot by Blackwater mercenaries on September 16, 2007 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

Nisour Square is considered to be the highest profile deadly incident involving Blackwater–or any private war contractor.  The government’s case against five former Blackwater security guards charged with manslaughter and firearms violations in the Nisour Square incident was supposed to finally hold private security companies accountable for their alleged crimes. However, earlier this year, federal court judge Ricardo Urbina decided  to dismiss that case. Rather than focusing on the evidence that existed against these men, Urbina based his decision for dismissal on the grounds that prosecutors in the case had committed gross misconduct and violated  the constitutional rights of Blackwater men. The administration responded to the courts decision with assurances that the dismissal would be appealed, but legal analysts everywhere predict that the case is a losing battle. And, perhaps we should not be surprised given the administration’s painstakingly apparent contradictory agenda in both claiming that it wants to hold Blackwater accountable, while simultaneously maintaining Blackwater (now Xe) as a war contractor in what can only be described as the most privatized war in history. As Scahill’s ongoing reporting for The Nation suggests, the number of private contractors currently hired by the state has more than doubled under the Obama Administration.

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Demolishing Bagram to Destroy Evidence?

In a notification filed on December 30th in a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department has announced that in addition to shifting prisoners from Bagram to a newly built facility nearby, the Pentagon also intends to demolish the original facility at Bagram.  According to the notification, the Department of Defense will shift prisoners to the new facility by January 19th.  Shortly thereafter, plans to demolish the Bagram facility will be put into effect.

According to an article in the Huffington Post on December 31st, Ramzi Kassem – a lawyer serving as counsel for several Guantanamo and Bagram detainees – has stated that the plan to demolish Bagram “amounts to destroying evidence in the cases of detainees who say they were tortured there.”

Kassem, also a law professor at City University of New York, maintains that Bagram ought to be preserved as evidence and as a crime scene. In Kassem’s view, the administration’s decision to demolish the facility  can be read as an  “underhanded attempt” on the part of a government concerned with “covering its own tracks.”

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The Privatization of War: Scahill reports 121,000 contractors in Afghanistan

During an interview with Riz Khan on December 21st Jeremy Scahill reported that the Obama administration has surpassed the Bush era’s privatization of war, having nearly doubled the number of security contractors in Afghanistan over the past several months. Amongst the contracting firms who remain in Afghanistan is Blackwater (now operating under the name XE)a firm that Scahill describes as “one of the most powerful private actors in the so called War on Terror.

In a series of reports for The Nation in November and December of 2009, Scahill revealed that “members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives” both inside and outside of Pakistan. Despite public indictments, Blackwater continues to work for the State Department without oversight.

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