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Amnesty Intl: "This is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama"

(I took this down last night in GD to make room for the Williams death reports - posting it here to keep it for reference)

Amnesty Intl: "This is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama"
Noah Shachtman ‏@NoahShachtman 1h

US concealed evidence of troops' war crimes as recently as last year, according to a brutal new Amnesty Intl report. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/11/amnesty-us-concealed-troops-war-crimes-in-afghanistan-as-recently-as-last-year.html

____ The U.S. military has systematically covered up or disregarded “abundant and compelling evidence” of war crimes, torture, and unlawful killings in Afghanistan as recently as last year, according to a report by Amnesty International published today in Kabul.

The human rights organization alleges that the U.S. military has routinely failed to properly investigate reports of criminal behavior and, in some instances, tampered with evidence to conceal wrongdoing. On the rare occasions when servicemen are held to account, the report found that the compromised military justice system seldom secured justice for the victims of enforced disappearances, killings, and abuse that included torture.

“President Obama has admitted that ‘we tortured’ people in the past—but this is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama,” said Joanne Mariner, the author of the report.

While torture and other abuses by the CIA and the military were sanctioned by the Bush administration, Obama entered office vowing to end such practices. There have been a number of prosecutions and punishments of military units that have committed crimes and atrocities in Afghanistan under Obama, but Amnesty says the White House has to do more to ensure his policy changes are respected in the field.

read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/11/amnesty-us-concealed-troops-war-crimes-in-afghanistan-as-recently-as-last-year.html


AmnestyInternational ‏@AmnestyOnline 20m
#Afghanistan: No justice for thousands of civilians killed in #US /NATO operations http://bit.ly/1owxqyG #humanrights

The families of thousands of Afghan civilians killed by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice, Amnesty International said in a new report released today. Focusing primarily on air strikes and night raids carried out by US forces, including Special Operations Forces, Left in the Dark finds that even apparent war crimes have gone uninvestigated and unpunished.

“Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by US forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress. The US military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

“None of the cases that we looked into – involving more than 140 civilian deaths – were prosecuted by the US military. Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored.”

The report documents in detail the failures of accountability for US military operations in Afghanistan. It calls on the Afghan government to ensure that accountability for unlawful civilian killings is guaranteed in any future bilateral security agreements signed with NATO and the United States.

Amnesty International conducted detailed investigations of 10 incidents that took place between 2009 and 2013, in which civilians were killed by US military operations. At least 140 civilians were killed in the incidents that Amnesty International investigated, including pregnant women and at least 50 children. The organization interviewed some 125 witnesses, victims and family members, including many who had never given testimony to anyone before . . .

read more: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/afghanistan-no-justice-thousands-civilians-killed-usnato-operations-2014-08-11

Pres. Obama Pledges Support for a New Iraqi Leader (my own view fwiw)

New York Times World ‏@nytimesworld 1m
Obama Pledges Support for a New Iraqi Leader http://nyti.ms/1oEBMnu

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Obama said Monday that Iraq had taken a “promising step forward” in forming a more inclusive government even as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared to resist efforts to replace him as the country’s leader.

Speaking briefly to reporters from his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Maliki but pledged his support for Haider al-Abadi, the man chosen to succeed him. And Mr. Obama vowed to step up his support for a new government in its intensifying fight against Sunni militants.

“There will be difficult days ahead,” Mr. Obama said. “We stand ready to partner with Iraq in its fight against these terrorist forces.”

The president spoke as the president of Iraq, Fuad Masum, named Mr. Abadi to succeed Mr. Maliki as prime minister. It was less than a day after Mr. Maliki demanded in a television address that the nation’s army come to the defense of the constitution and his right to stay in the office he has held for eight years.

Mr. Obama has previously said that support for the Iraqi government is dependent on a new government that includes all of the country’s factions to unify against the militants. In his remarks Monday evening, Mr. Obama praised Iraq’s leadership for beginning the process of building that government.

“Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort,” Mr. Obama said.

read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/world/middleeast/obama-pledges-support-for-a-new-iraqi-leader.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimesworld&_r=0

here's a sightly different account w/new info:

____ The Iraqi political system is in crisis, with the country's parliament electing a new prime minister to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is so far refusing to leave office. It's not clear whether or how Maliki, who has taken an increasingly authoritarian turn during his eight years as Iraq's leader, might try to cling to power. The Obama administration has said very clearly that it's ready for the next Iraqi government. Here's what we know so far about the crisis and where it could lead Iraq next.

The crisis began late Sunday, at 12 am Baghdad time: the deadline for Maliki to form a new governing coalition in the country's parliament. When he missed the deadline, he announced that he would be staying on as prime minister anyway. On Monday, Maliki's own party voted for a new leader party leader: a member of parliament and former finance minister named Haider al-Abadi. He will legally become the next prime minister if he can form a government within the next 30 days. Iraq's president, whose position is otherwise largely ceremonial, gave Abadi the authority to do that. All of this bring Abadi very close to replacing Maliki as prime minister. But it's still unclear whether Abadi will be able to form a new government — or whether Maliki will let go of power peacefully.

This political crisis started because Iraqi parties couldn't agree on forming a government. Maliki's State of Law coalition won a plurality of Iraqi seats in the April elections, but he couldn't figure out how to put together a coalition large enough to get a governing majority by the Sunday midnight deadline. Part of the problem here is factionalism: Iraqi politics are divided along largely sectarian lines. Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds mainly vote for sectarian parties (Maliki is part of the Shia majority), and there's also competition even inside the sectarian blocs. Abadi, just appointed to replace Maliki as the leader of the State of Law coalition, is now trying to form his own governing majority, which would make him prime minister.

Maliki is now legally obligated to step down. After Maliki's Sunday night announcement that he planned to stay on as prime minister, his own party took that choice away from him. About 50 members of parliament from the State of Law coalition — over half of the party's total numbers — voted to nominate Abadi for Prime Minister rather than Maliki. That means Maliki no longer controls the largest bloc in parliament, and therefore no longer has any claim to be prime minister. Legally, he is required to abdicate in favor of Abadi once Abadi puts a government together. So far, Maliki hasn't.

Maliki wants to stay on. Maliki was very clear on this point in his speech on the Sunday midnight deadline: he's staying in office. Legally, he can stay on as caretaker prime minister, unless Abadi forms a new government, in which case Abadi will legally replace Maliki as prime minister. If that occurs, then one of three things happens: Maliki is persuaded to step down peacefully, he's ejected by force, or he manages some long-shot political compromise that allows him to stay.

Abadi was appointed to form a new government. Abadi, a reasonably popular Shia politician (who's open to overt Iranian intervention against ISIS), has been charged by Iraqi President Fuad Masum to form a new government. A rough count suggests Abadi has the support of about 128 members of parliament, which is still short of the 165 needed for a majority . . .

read more: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/10/5989367/maliki-iraq-coup?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=voxdotcom&utm_content=monday

my own view, fwiw:

. . . I personally didn't agree with the autocratic way Maliki lead the Iraqi government or military, but I don't feel comfortable at all as an American talking trash about what the Iraqis should do with their political system of government.

That said, let me talk a bit of trash . . . I think that now the Iraqi parliament has spoken, the onus is correctly on Maliki to respect that process; just as he expected them to as he challenged the Iraqi president and parliament to name a leader last night. They've acted according to their political process, as he demanded, and he should respect their choice and adhere to Iraqi law and their constitution.

That said, I don't believe it's the business of our government to dictate what happens in their political system and I'm not at all comfortable with the way our government and Pres. Obama appeared to be pressuring Maliki to step aside, even before their parliament had spoken.

It's further aggravated by the fact of our military forces and their direct action within Iraq, and our continued exercise of our 'counterterrorism mission within Iraq and the region which, in many instances, is at odds with sizable portions of the Iraqi population.

I DO think, so far, the President has been as careful as he can be with his rhetoric while exercising his very dangerous and destabilizing military deployment and strikes in Iraq. That's not to say that I don't view his military posture and activity as destabilizing and counterproductive to even his own stated goals. But I do see that he's walking a careful line with his rhetoric and that's appreciated by me, somewhat.

I'd like to see the U.S. disengage our military forces completely from Iraq, but I don't believe that's going to happen anytime soon. I fully believe Pres. Obama's military ambitions go far beyond rescuing Kurdish civilians off a mountain; or even are limited to preserving or defending the Kurdish state.

His stated intention in Iraq is to pursue his 'war on terror' from Iraq and I'm certain that we'll see much more military activity there which is removed from just focusing on ISIS/ISIL. That, I believe is unsustainable, counterproductive, and dangerously destabilizing, as history and even his own intelligence agencies are indicating today.

So, I hope for the best, and intend to continue to protest U.S. military action and ambitions in Iraq. I hope for the safety and welfare of the Iraqi people, above all other concerns. I think opposing, at least. unilateral, U.S. military action there is an integral part of that.

Scooter Libby/Plame Leak Figure, Robert Grenier Offers Questionable Pushback to Torture Report

____ Robert L. Grenier is a longtime CIA officer who served as the CIA's top counter-terrorism official (2004-2006) and was fired from that position by CIA director Porter Goss. (Wiki) Later, Grenier joined Kroll, Inc., as Managing Director. In 2009 he was appointed Chairman of ERG Partners, an independent financial and strategic advisory firm focusing on the security and intelligence sectors . . .

The London Sunday Times reported (way back when) that Grenier lost his job with the CIA "because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as 'water boarding'.

In early 2006, Grenier was identified in court documents in connection with the ongoing CIA leak grand jury investigation and charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Grenier told Libby on June 11, 2003, one month before the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA identity, that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and was involved in arranging Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger. Libby claims to have forgotten about the conversation.

On January 24, 2006, Grenier testified in the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, telling jurors Lewis Libby asked him for information about Joseph Wilson's investigatory trip to Niger on June 11, 2003, and that he reported back to Libby about Wilson's wife's involvement in the trip, as well as Wilson's wife's employment by the CIA, later on June 11. Grenier did not, however, mention Plame's name to Libby, which appeared in a column by Robert Novak a month later.more

Today, apparently, Grenier is taking on the task of pushback to the Senate torture report . . . Marcy Wheeler ( is her handle on her excellent blog), who closely followed the Scooter Libby trial and was a reliable set of eyes and ears for many locked out of the hearing, has offered her view of Grenier's efforts:

emptywheel ‏@emptywheel 54m
Folks, 1st 1,000 words of Grenier's piece are lies. But well worth reading the last 1,000 -- read my post for why: http://www.emptywheel.net/2014/08/11/cias-torture-pushback-gets-more-artful/

August 11, 2014 | By emptywheel

____ I well remember when Robert Grenier testified at Scooter Libby’s trial. His performance — and it, like most of the witness testimony — was a performance. But I was more intrigued by the response. Even the cynical old DC journalists were impressed by the smoothness of the performance. “You can tell he was a great briefer,” one journalist who had written a book on the CIA said.

Today, he takes up the role of bogus pushback to the Senate torture report, complete with all the false claims about the report, including:

--SSCI should not have relied exclusively on documents — which, if true, is an admission that millions of CIA’s cables are fraudulent and false
--The claim that members of the Gang of Four were briefed earlier and more accurately than even CIA’s own documents show them to have been
--SSCI — and not CIA — made the decision that CIA officers should not testify to the committee
--That a report supported by John McCain and Susan Collins is a Democratic report (Grenier also claims all involved with it know history from history books, not — as McCain did — from torture chambers)
--That the CIA cables exactly matched the torture depicted on the torture tapes (see bullet 1!), and that CIA’s IG reported that, both of which are false

But perhaps Grenier’s most cynical assertion is his claim — in a piece that falsely suggests (though does not claim outright) that Congress was adequately briefed that Congress’ job, their sole job, is to legislate, not oversee.

A second, related reason would be to build support for comprehensive legislation — that is what Congress is supposed to concern itself with, after all — to remove any of the interpretive legal ambiguity which permitted coercive interrogation to be considered in the first place, and ensure it never happens again.

It is a cynical move, but given the rest of his argument, the part that I find compelling, necessary.

Because Grenier warns Dianne Feinstein that her attack on the Presidentially authorized counterterrorism methods of the past will chill President Obama’s preferred presidentially authorized counterterrorism methods — drone strikes — going forward . . .

I told you CIA would invoke Obama’s drone strikes to limit the damage of the torture report . . .

Grenier then launches a more interesting implicit threat — that CIA will stop doing what the President demands under Article II (authority to fight ISIS covertly). . .

please read more (I'd post more of this here if I thought it was proper): http://www.emptywheel.net/2014/08/11/cias-torture-pushback-gets-more-artful/

. . . what Marcy Wheeler is describing contains so much nuance and knowledge that I'm not sure can be translated effectively into some pat defense or opposition to whatever we want to oppose about the administration's efforts in handling the Senate investigation and report.

It's a clear and good analysis of some of the mind-numbing details surrounding the torture report which will scatter advocates and opponents alike in all sorts of directions; likely that dissonance is someone's deliberate design. At any rate, this is a fascinating read by Marcy which I heartily recommend and am grateful to emptywheel for an interesting and compelling account of this one pushback on the Senate torture investigation findings for anyone interested in this report's release and process of eventual accountability.

Just who is in charge of the political process in Iraq - Iraqis or the Obama administration??

The Guardian ‏@guardian 33m
US slaps down Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki after he accuses president: http://gu.com/p/4vjf8

The United States has thrown its weight behind Iraqi president Fuad Masum after he was accused by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki of violating the constitution.

As security forces massed in the capital Baghdad, the under-pressure Maliki made the surprise announcement on state television on Sunday night that he would be filing a complaint against Masum.

“I will submit today an official complaint to the federal court against the president of the Republic for committing a clear constitutional violation for the sake of political calculations,” said Maliki.

But US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement: “The United States fully supports president Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi constitution.

“We reaffirm our support for a process to select a prime minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner,” she said, echoing an earlier comment made on Twitter by deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs Brett McGurk.

“We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process.”

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-iraqi-maliki-accuses-president

____ How does the United States get to claim some high ground in their manipulation of the Iraqi political process; claiming they know better what the 'consensus' of Iraqis is than the Iraqis do themselves? They can dictate the process just by virtue of this deployment of our military and still accuse Iraqis themselves of 'manipulation?

What right does the U.S. have to dictate the political process of a sovereign government in Iraq? How is a lawsuit in the Iraqi courts 'manipulation?' How is the U.S. military action and insistence not 'coersion?' It's Orwellian, in the extreme.

What the U.S. really wants is capitulation by the Maliki regime to the wishes of the U.S. occupiers who have their warships and planes poised to strike wherever and whenever they please in Iraq. It's no wonder there's strong and active resistance among many Iraqis to U.S. involvement.

One moment we're enabling Maliki into power by way of a devastating military occupation - the next, we're demanding that autocrat's removal behind the renewed force of our re-occupying, threatening military. Where's the democratic process behind all of that? How is demanding that Maliki just step down respecting the Iraqi democratic process?

This is a outrageous display of U.S. imperialism.

The President's ability to wage limited war appears almost unlimited. . . and then some

My wife and I were shaking our heads (up until dawn) about the almost utter futility in stopping a president from waging the type of limited airstrikes that President Obama has authorized in Iraq, not only to defend Kurdish civilians besieged in the mountains, but also for the other defenses he outlined in his order.

Outside of the protection and humanitarian defense of the Yazidi sect, President Obama has also defined the defense of our military deployments in Baghdad and Irbil as areas where he intends to utilize airstrikes, if he deems necessary. The targets he's defined are the insurgent combatants known as ISIS, or ISIL.

I take the view that the U.S. has forfeited our moral authority to wage war in Iraq by our previous conduct there with the opportunistic and devastating military misadventure Bush perpetrated which ran roughshod over our own constitution and over the rights and safety of Iraqis, as well.

To many Iraqis subject to our bombs and airstrikes launched from planes, warships, or drones, they are scarcely less pernicious or dangerous than the violence from any insurgent group attacking them. I'll certainly allow that our nation's violence exercised there under President Obama is demonstratively or likely less devastating to the general population than Bush's violent attacks; or than the current combatant insurgents featured in his justifications for deploying troops. However, in their counterproductive nature - fostering and fueling even more resistant violence in response - I believe that's a matter of degree, but not effect.

I've been mulling over ways in which someone in America who shares my concerns would be able to, collectively, of course, in our legislative system, prevent the President from launching the types of limited airstrikes that he's outlined in Iraq. I've concluded that it's almost impossible.

The authority the President, as commander-in-chief has in his reach to wage limited war (which, by most definitions would cover airstrikes) is effectively unchecked. Even if Congress specifically prohibited a president from initiating such attacks, a president could advantage his actions with authorization gleaned from several different authorities.

First, observe that whatever authority President Obama is considering in his re-deployment of troops into Iraq; more importantly, his order for airstrikes to defend American positions and personnel in Baghdad, Irbil, and in defense of the besieged Kurdish civilians, is an amorphous and shifting affair.

The initial deployment of troops could be justified, as he did, as protection of embassy personnel. It gets trickier when defining the goal of military 'advisers' and their support troops, but that action could be authorized under a broad and certainly expansive reading of the original Iraq AUMF; or under the nebulous and autocratic declaration of our 'national security interest which can be either a short term concern or a long-term one which is speculative and subjective to whatever view there is of a future threat.

There isn't any argument that the President has the ability and need to protect and defend American military and civilian personnel he's inserted into Iraq. There's certainly room to argue that defense of troops deployed is a self-serving, self-perpetuating rationale, but there's no doubt that he has that authority.

It gets a bit more complicated when considering the actions of military advisers who he's ordered to help Iraqi forces direct attacks against whoever they deem a threat to Iraqi or U.S. interests in the country. The authority for that military deployment and activity could come from a number of Bush-era authorizations to war in Iraq, and elsewhere, which haven't expired or been voted out of existence by Congress; most notably, Bush's use of force authorization specific to Iraq which is still in effect.

Or, that authority could be drawn from the nebulous 'national security' concern I described above. At any rate, President Obama really hasn't spelled any of that authority out for Americans, or our legislature to measure or approve.

from June 12 Roll Call:

When asked about getting Congress’s permission to take action, (WH spokesman) Carney was noncommittal.

“We are in active consultation with members of Congress,” he said.

He demurred when asked directly about the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF). An administration spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, told Yahoo’s Olivier Knox in January “the administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF.”

Hayden emailed CQ Roll Call late Thursday and to reiterate that what she said then remains in effect.

She declined to comment on what authority Obama would have to act if he decided to launch a strike.

Roll Call again, June 18:

Pres. Obama met for about an hour in the Oval Office with McConnell, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Pelosi told reporters that she agreed that the president has all of the authorities that he needs in the authorizations to use military force passed by Congress previously.

“All of the authorities are there. That doesn’t mean I want all of them to be used, especially boots on the ground,” she said. “But I definitely think the president has all of the authority he needs by dint of legislation that was passed in 2001 and 2003.”

She appeared to be referring to the authorizations to use military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq. Neither of those authorizations have expired, although the official White House position is that the Iraq authorization should be repealed.

It's a bit slippery for the president to give lip service to the idea of repealing an authorization to war that he may well be advantaging authority from in Iraq. Still, he actually has as much authority to wage war as Congress allows, so it's fair enough to take that position.

Still, even though a formal declaration hasn't been made, the administration does appear to be leaning to the CIC defense of their authority to launch strikes.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, August 08, 2014:

"As to the domestic legal basis, we believe the President has the authority under the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief to direct these actions, which are consistent with this responsibility to protect U.S. citizens and to further U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Specifically, the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities is among his highest responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, and given the threats that we see on the periphery of Erbil, he has authorized the use of targeted military action."

"Similarly, we believe that there is an urgent humanitarian challenge that further poses a threat to U.S. interests. As I said this rises to the level of a potential act of genocide when you have an entire group of people being targeted for killing, and you have a population of the size that is on Mount Sinjar that is threatened with starvation as one option, or, as the President said, coming down that mountain and potentially being massacred by ISIL."

"If we do end up taking airstrikes, we would have to do a War Powers report consistent with how we respond when the United States is engaged in hostilities. So we have been consulting Congress for the last several weeks about Iraq, generally. And then throughout the day today we were able to reach a good number of members and leaders of Congress to advise them of our thinking and then of the President’s decision. And again, if there are airstrikes taken, we will comply with our responsibility to file a War Powers report."

In the case of limited war, or limited airstrikes as President Obama has ordered in Iraq, his authority, as commander-in-chief, appears unlimited.

If he relies on the Bush-era authorizations already in place - the one specific to Iraq, and others related to the broader 'war on terror' - in a legal sense, his actions never need be scrutinized by Congress for approval or disapproval.

If he relies on his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief - albeit under the War Powers Resolution enacted by Congress in 1973 and intended as a limiter on a president's ability to wage war without Congress' approval; passed in response to Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia - he has, at his disposal, demonstrated and historically upheld, broad powers to wage limited airstrikes without any weighing in from Congress at all.

Under the WPR, under Article Two of that act, "in the absence of a declaration of war, the president must report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing armed forces into such circumstances and must terminate the use of U.S. armed forces within 60 days unless Congress permits otherwise."

That provides more than enough opportunity for a president to launch the types of airstrikes President Obama has ordered in Iraq without relying on any of the Bush-era documents; with virtual impunity.

I'm obviously dismayed that there doesn't seem to be a lever for the public, or for our elected representatives and senators, to automatically or quickly restrain any president from warring on a limited basis. I'm certainly dismayed over our ability to legally or legislatively restrain President Obama from waging limited war, or otherwise, in Iraq.

That's the way it goes. Notwithstanding a major uprising by Americans in opposition, it's highly unlikely that there's anything that can or will be done to actually cause President Obama to limit or halt his military ambitions in Iraq.

I believe that, no matter what one's view of his actions are there, it should be a concern just how easily a president is able to wield the devastating force of our military abroad. So much for trying to figure a way out of this mess.

What are the limits on President Obama's ability to order direct military action in Iraq?

. . . there aren't really any, are there, beyond Congress stepping in and cancelling the original AUMF?

After all, President Obama, even the ranking Democrat in Congress, Rep. Pelosi, has claimed he has all the authority he needs in that 2002 authorization.

Why do we tolerate allowing the President of the United States to advantage his military ambitions off of a stale, open-ended AUMF? Bush's AUMF, at that . . . the one we opposed with marches and protests.

How would progressives feel with a republican president holding that open-ended authority? That could be our future.

Now that folks supported direct U.S. strikes for this humanitarian cause in Iraq... Are they all-in?

. . . will there ever come a point where our military action will be unjustified in the minds of supporters of these 'targeted strikes?' How effective will protests against wider, direct military action be, now that folks have signed on to airstrikes in support of this one humanitarian cause?

Will support for airstrikes for this 'humanitarian' reason transfer or continue beyond the defense of this one mass of civilians besieged on the mountain?

We know that our military's mission in Iraq, originally using this particular insurgency as justification for the reintroduction of troops into Iraq, isn't limited to this one humanitarian defense. Will supporters of this humanitarian/military action be willing now, to approve airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL in other areas of Iraq which aren't strictly defenses of Kurdish civilians?

The President also mentioned defense of Baghdad as an area where he's authorizing airstrikes. Are supporters of this humanitarian action all-in with any and all direct U.S. strikes against this insurgent group, anywhere in Iraq or elsewhere?

Are you effectively hooked? If not, do you think there can still be an effective protest against a wider air war in Iraq; direct military action wherever ISIS/ISIL threatens?

We Break the World. . . Help Repair It

We Break the World. . . Help Repair It

To thee old cause!
Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be really fought, for thee,)
These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.

- Walt Whitman, from 'Leaves of Grass' To Thee Old Cause (1871; 1881)

We used to understand, progressives here and elsewhere who are glossing this U.S. military response to the humanitarian crisis atop that mountain in northern Iraq. Glossing over the fact we should know well, that our military presence and action in Iraq is an irresistible lure for individuals looking to do battle with America; in this case, individuals who view America as an enemy of their religion.

What doesn't seem to be understood by progressives here who are rightly concerned about the safety of the Kurdish civilians is that the U.S. military attacks - our country's military presence and activities - are ultimately counterproductive to the goals of eliminating any threat that comes from the fundamentalist groups fomenting violence in Iraq - or anywhere else, for that matter.

Opposition to U.S. military action in Iraq goes deeper than just advocating non-violence, which is likely not the solution to protecting the Kurdish men, women, and children trapped and besieged where they fled by the self-identified Islamic insurgents. It's an opposition to exactly the same 'dumb-war' behavior that President Obama correctly described early in his presidency. It's the misguided notion that the U.S. is indispensable in these matters.

It's the twisted logic that 'we broke it,' therefore, we have to fix it. Except, fixing it means to this administration and military - as it meant to the Bush administration and military - fomenting even more violence in the vain and hopeless aim of ending it.

It's not a matter of just leaving these people to die, as many describe the position of opponents of U.S. military intervention - other nations are more suited to help them and we should use our energy and whatever influence we have to encourage them.

It's about the realization that our country, having already broken the country with our destabilizing, destructive, and opportunistic war waged for greed and petty political purposes, can scarcely hope to repair it using the same destabilizing and destructive violence.

As Bush's own spy agencies correctly cautioned in their 2006 intelligence estimate, our military activity in Iraq had the effect of fostering and fueling even more individuals bent on violent resistance to U.S., our allies, and our interests, than they were able to put down.

It should be no surprise at all to see the report today from this President's intelligence agencies that our military presence and activity in Iraq - however altruistic the mission - is having the exact same effect of drawing more individuals looking to do battle with our nation, from around the globe, to rally to this emerging insurgent group's deadly cause.

Our nation has, years ago in our invasion and occupation in Iraq, forfeited any moral authority we may believe we have which would distinguish in the minds of many Iraqis - and many individuals around the world who associate their religion with the twisted and contradictory fundamentalism promoted by groups like ISIS/ISIL or al-Qaeda - the killing and atrocities of this insurgent group from our own vigilantist, or charitable violence.

We may well feel this is our fight, or our responsibility to step in and rescue the Kurdish civilians, but we are unable to do so without fomenting even more reprisals against them and even more bloodshed among them after we've landed our warplanes and steered our combat carriers toward home.

There's nothing at all charitable or altruistic in any of that.

I'm watching a film with Edward Norton, 'Leaves of Grass' about a pot grower and his mostly innocent twin brother who killed a rival and others with the aim of putting past problems to rest and moving on to a drug and violence-free life with his expectant wife - setting off a chain of violence which ended in his own death and several others; along with the near-death of his innocent twin.

In one scene, the innocent twin went to the Rabbi of the man his brother had killed to tell her that it wasn't a hate crime, as his brother had made him promise to as he was laying on the ground dying from a gunshot wound.

The rabbi asked him if that was all he wanted to say and the innocent brother asked her, why, why do we . . . ?

"Because we're animals," the woman Rabbi answered, and our brains trick us into thinking we're not . . . We break the world." she said. "Help repair it."

I can't think of anything more concise or profound to say about our country's actions than that.

We break the world. . . help repair it.

We break the world. . . help repair it.

Whitman's poem continuing. . .

(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,
Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)

Thou orb of many orbs!
Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!
Around the idea of thee the war revolving,
With all its angry and vehement play of causes,
(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)
These recitatives for thee,--my book and the war are one,
Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,
As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,
Around the idea of thee.

Just a Smidgen More U.S. Military Force in Iraq

Production for use . . .that's what a gun's for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that's why you used it -- Yes, I think you're right. That's what a gun's for isn't it? Production for use! There's nothing crazy about that is it? - Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews convict in ' His Girl Friday', 1940

I'm reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk's movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war - the scene where the newspaper's lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.

I'm listening to President Obama address Americans underneath a portrait of Lincoln explaining that he's ordered the military forces he's sent to Iraq to strike targets if the rebel forces called ISIL move toward the city of Irbil where U.S. personnel are based.

This order represents a clear escalation from the original mission described by the commander-in-chief which was the protection of U.S. embassy personnel and the insertion of military 'advisers' to help the Iraqi military direct attacks against the insurgent forces in defense of the embattled Maliki regime.

Declaring that, "Today America is coming to help," President Obama, nonetheless insisted that, "I will not allow America to be dragged into another war in Iraq."

Despite the fact that it was the President's decision to introduce U.S troops back into Iraq in June as a stopgap measure, he wrapped his decision tonight to significantly escalate our military involvement there as a defense of U.S. personnel, saying, “When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That is my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.”

In June, as he ordered additional troops to Iraq to join the several hundred he had already sent under the auspices of protecting U.S. embassy personnel, Pres. Obama cautioned (presumably himself) that, "We always have to guard against mission creep . . . American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again," he told Americans at the time.

That admonition against mission creep from the President may have seemed to some a remote possibility when he declared it in June; now, on the eve of his order for U.S. forces to defend the Americans he chose to place in harm's way in Iraq, that promise appears as hollow as the expectation most Americans have had for most of his term that his decision to pull all troops out represented a complete end to the Iraq war (certainly to those who voted for him in the expectation he'd end U.S. military involvement there).

Although the President and the State Dept., tonight, justified his order of military action as a protection against genocide - as a protection of the Yazidi minority who are besieged outside of the city of Sinjar - that's not the substance of the order he described which is little more than a defense of the U.S. troops he's inserted into the middle of Iraq's civil war.

"To stop the advance on Irbil," he said, "I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Irbil and our embassy in Baghdad."

Earlier, before his address to the nation, the president was said to be 'weighing' a decision between humanitarian airdrops of food and supplies and airstrikes. The President chose both.

This deployment and defense of that deployment is the same form of protection scheme that George Bush used to justify keeping our military bogged down in Iraq for years in a self-actualizing, self-perpetuating defense of his own prerogatives there; and as a defense of the U.S. enabled Iraqi regime. This is little more than that.

I'll attest to our moral obligation to assist civilians in danger. I wonder, though about other times when our government doesn't seem to give a damn about civilian deaths and it makes these defenses offered as justification for escalated militarism in Iraq seem opportunistic to our government's present ambitions there - why we provide weapons to one occupying military force (Israel) who is operating it's own militarism with blatant disregard for civilian lives (Palestenians) in the way of their guns and missiles?

The weapons we're attacking today, in the hands of the ISIS/ISIL insurgents are the same weapons we provided the Sunnis who's ranks were recruited into this rebel band of combatants. Many more that the airstrikes seek to destroy are remnants of the weapons we supplied members of the Iraqi forces that we spent countless millions training and arming.

I wonder why Iraqis can't be counted on to defend these besieged civilians in question; why we resist Iranians from providing military assistance we say is necessary; why did we introduce our troops there after Russia began supplying warplanes and fighters; is our opposition to anything the Syrian government does behind our resistance against Syrian forces defending against the very same threats in Northern Iraq that the President ordered defenses against tonight, against the same ISIS forces Syria is defending against in their own country?

I'll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karsai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11; acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).

In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts - buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.

Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority - notwithstanding his reluctance and fortunate diplomacy led by a Russian initiative - to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops when he saw fit.

The House passed a resolution July 25 on Iraq with a strong bipartisan vote of 370-40 to require the President to come to Congress before authorizing new combat in Iraq, but for now, even though he did consult key members of Congress today, Obama believes he has authority to initiate attacks on his own.

That determination of assumed authority was backed up by the top Democrat in the House in June. “All of the authorities are there, Rep. Pelosi said after the President met with a bipartisan delegation in the Oval Office.

"That doesn’t mean I want all of them to be used, especially boots on the ground,” she said. “But I definitely think the president has all of the authority he needs by dint of legislation that was passed in 2001 and 2003.”

It's a similar argument that he uses in 'leaving his options open' on initiating attacks in Iraq - not withstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action - President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit.

The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.

What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of the Iraq sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It's also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief's justifications for war as their own.

However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis - now ordering our own troops to conduct those attacks - however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren't willing to sacrifice lives for - there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.

800 US troops to Iraq, 4,000 Hellfire missiles, Apache helicopters, drones . . . all of these weapons re-introduced into the country we withdrew from portended to everyone looking on that the President's insistence that his order didn't represent escalation was either a naive promise, or an outright deception.

Shoveling more weapons into Iraq only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?

One of the ironies since that withdrawal from Iraq has been the degree our government's hawkishness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war - maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.

Indeed, Barack Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, actually used that occasion which celebrated peace to lay down justifications for war; 'Just Wars' he called them. The new president wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his acceptance speech in Oslo. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations.

War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, made evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and 'just' war.

Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he had prolonged, distanced himself from the one he intended to redefine and escalate in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.

"Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize," he told the committee," is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other."

The president acknowledged civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.

In Iraq, the war that the president insisted at the time was 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation was a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.

I'm old enough to remember when all of Bush's intelligence agencies reported that our military forces and military action in Iraq was having the effect of creating more 'terrorists' than we were putting down. His administration's 2006 National Intelligence Estimate said the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was actually fueling terrorism, not ending it; his Iraq war creating an even worse threat to the U.S. and our interests and allies.

The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all in his Norway speech. Absent a definitive solution, the president said, we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.

"A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale," he said.

"Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred."

"I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace."

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

It's obvious what the president was alluding to. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.

The prevention of genocide, as the president couched today's order for airstrikes in Iraq, is certainly a noble and understandable goal. Yet, there's a nagging question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan, or now in Iraq, can be justified as part and parcel of anything one might believe was worthwhile in Bush's original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorizations to use military force.

The emerging practice from politicians in Washington is to construct mechanisms of preemptive aggression in the vain hope of keeping war at bay. Is there anything more delusional than fomenting war to prevent war? Production for use.

That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represented as universal to any conflict, is fiction; at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building - all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their seemingly deliberate freedom from justice.

The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to advantage the politics behind propped-up regimes. The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations. Many are just as suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan or Iraq who are al-Qaeda; now that threat they percieve taking the form of a new 'enemy called ISIS. Yet the U.S. military aggression in defense of regimes we helped ascend to power in corrupt elections is directed against an entirely different enemy who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining ethically-challenged regimes in dominance over the very people we pretend to be defending.

At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks in his own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. . .

As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .

It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his own exercise of military force; or as a defense against what he correctly terms genocide against this (relatively) newly recognized faction of combatants threatening a newly recognized faction of civilians in Iraq.

Yet, King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."

And, so it goes.

In the future, schoolchildren and other visitors will read these words with awe and wonder

. . . as well as with regret for the opportunity lost. (my prediction)

Geysar Gurbanov ‏@geysar 3m
Saw this today at #Boston @museumofscience #WaterCrisis #Water #Environment #Awareness #Quote
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