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____ 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.
Posted by bigtree | Mon Aug 11, 2014, 11:59 AM (7 replies)
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.
Posted by bigtree | Sun Aug 10, 2014, 10:30 PM (36 replies)
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:
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.
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."
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.
Posted by bigtree | Sun Aug 10, 2014, 08:51 AM (7 replies)
. . . 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.
Posted by bigtree | Sun Aug 10, 2014, 02:50 AM (4 replies)
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
Posted by bigtree | Sun Aug 10, 2014, 02:11 AM (0 replies)
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.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Aug 9, 2014, 09:59 PM (7 replies)
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.
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.
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.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Aug 7, 2014, 11:07 PM (11 replies)
. . . 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
Posted by bigtree | Tue Aug 5, 2014, 01:19 AM (0 replies)
WHAT'S the point in engaging in a multi-year long investigation into the torture policy and practice of the Bush-era 'terror war' if it's not intended to produce some consequence or material accountability for offenders?
Is it merely an informational document? Did we really need an investigation costing millions of dollars and man-hours just to tell us that these practices are wrong?
Well, the answer to the second question of mine is, likely yes, Americans probably do need to see and hear the extent of abuses with their own eyes and ears in order for them to get up enough gumption to persuade our legislators to finally act to outlaw them. The stark and disturbing realities of those practices and policies may well go a long way in convincing the public to pressure their elected officials to finally act to criminalize the behaviors and policies.
Moreover, if there's some way of demonstrating the counterproductive and ineffective result of these actions taken by Bush-era interrogators, then these documents will serve a useful and lasting purpose.
However, merely releasing these findings of the Senate investigatory committee without immediately calling for and insisting on some sort of congressional action to legislate the practices and policies out of existence will amount to nothing more than a self-aggrandizing effort which will only serve opportunists and demagogues alike in their cynical recitation of the occurrences revealed for whatever hollow purpose they devise.
We need to be alert to the way the executive summary is crafted and presented to the American people. That summary is all that the White House and the Senate intends for the public to see. That's why the manner in which it's crafted -what's left in, what's taken out - is so critical to whatever we hope to achieve by the effort.
We also need to remain cognizant of what the prospect for congressional action on these issues currently is. There isn't a ready quorum of politicians poised to push through relevant and meaningful legislation in the present Congress regarding torture. Perhaps the report will motivate our legislators to action. Perhaps the committee investigation's findings can be perpetuated in upcoming campaigns and the banner of reform taken up and carried into office by a new breed of elected officials.
Barring that eventuality, the most effective route to ensuring that these practices aren't repeated by a new presidency hostile to the executive directive President Obama put in place early in his term outlawing many of the torture practices -overturning his order with a flick of their pen - is to push for a renewed effort to actually prosecute someone for the offenses uncovered in the report.
I know that people will tell us that is a long-shot; and they will claim that is unrealistic, given the limits of the law and given the limited will of even this Democratic-appointed Justice Dept.. Historically, justice has been shown to possess a long memory, yet it is only as determined and sure as the intensity of our political activism and advocacy dictates.
We will need to be vigilant to ensure that the release of whatever information the politicians, and the cronies who are actively working to limit whatever the public eventually sees, is the product of something more meaningful than fodder for blistering news accounts and editorials. Otherwise, what would be the point?
Posted by bigtree | Sun Aug 3, 2014, 03:12 AM (13 replies)
We have a new administration which has already asserted itself in the torture debate by moving ahead of Congress in 2009 by establishing the Executive Order 13491 - Ensuring Lawful Interrogations which outlaws many of the torture policies and practices of the anti-constitutional Bush-era 'war on terror.'
Although the directive from President Obama effectively outlaws those practices, it can be easily undone by successive administrations; that eventuality demonstrated with reasonable surety by Mitt Romney in his declaration during his presidential campaign that he supported some of the most objectionable practices outlawed by the WH order.
In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder closed without charges the only two cases the Obama administration chose to investigate that involved Bush's torture program.
from the Holder's statement on his Justice Dept. decision:
On Aug. 24, 2009, based on information the Department received pertaining to alleged CIA mistreatment of detainees, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he had expanded Mr. Durham’s mandate to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. Attorney General Holder made clear at that time, that the Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. Accordingly, Mr. Durham’s review examined primarily whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute.
Notwithstanding an act by Congress in revising existing legislation or passing new legislation specifically outlawing the objectionable practices outlawed by President Obama's executive order, those torture policies and practices remain up to the discretion of the person in the White House. What Holder's decision represented was the last word by the Obama administration on actually bring accountability and consequence to the actions of the Bush-era torturers.
In his statement Friday, preemptively responding to revelations due to emerge from the Senate Intelligence agency report detailing abuses involving members Bush's CIA, Pres. Obama correctly condemned the practices, but also gave a curious defense of the motives behind such abuses.
“I understand why it happened,” Obama stated. “I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent.”
Much was made by observers of the fact that the President made a historic reference in that statement Friday to the practices as 'torture.' In 2009, early in his presidency, Obama took Cheney to task for his defense of waterboarding: "I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake," he said.
Again in his 2011 campaign, President Obama rebuked the republicans advocating the practice, stating, "Anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that's not something we do -- period."
Making reference to his objections to torture in reference to the Senate report is significant, in that he has relied on his stated position in favor of public release of the intelligence committee report to deflect criticisms from advocates and foes alike. His intention that Congress sort all of it out for him is reflected in his statement yesterday that "we have to as a country take responsibility for that."
"I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report and send it to us, and we will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past. And that can help guide us as we move forward," he told reporters in March.
What's significant about his use of the word 'torture' is that the Senate Intelligence Committee report is said to have neglected to use that word to describe any of the abuses they detail. Still, the document is said to contain chilling descriptions of practices during the Bush administration, including many not previously publicized.
Even if the release of the Senate report goes as planned, the public will not see the entire version, but will be offered a summary of the findings.
Last night, on the eve of what most folks expected would finally be the release of the Senate report, news came that the White House, obstensibly meaning President Obama, had objected to sections of the document and had 'blacked-out' portions. That lead senators involved in the investigation to delay the release, citing 'significant redactions' in the White House 'executive summary.'
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement:
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the committee, also remarked on the White House redactions.
“I am concerned about the excessive redactions Chairman Feinstein referenced in her statement, especially given the president’s unequivocal commitment to declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study,” Udall said. “I promised earlier this year to hold the president to his word and I intend to do so.”
Sen. Feinstein had already indicated in April that she was committed to the publicizing of information after the Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 to release the torture documents.
Sen. Udall had taken a further step in March in a letter to the President requesting that he declassify the document:
"It is my belief that the declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and that decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA, but directly handled by the White House," Udall wrote in the letter. "I strongly believe there should be a public and unequivocal commitment from the White House to the fullest and most expedited possible declassification of the Committee's Study. Such a commitment is especially vital in light of the fact that the significant amounts of information on the CIA's detention and interrogation program that has been declassified and released to the American public is misleading and inaccurate."
In admissions by the CIA Director Brennan this week, there was confirmation of charges made in March by Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Udall that the agency had made an incredible and apparently illegal effort to interfere with the Intelligence Committee's investigation which produced the torture report.
Brennan had extensively denied the agency had hacked into the Senate Intelligence Committee staffer's computers which held the product of their investigation that contributed to the report. ”Let me assure you,” Brennan had assured Senators in March, “the CIA was in no way spying on the Senate committee.”
The Bush CIA had already withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program in 2005 when it deliberately destroyed tapes and information about its rendition and torture program. A civil lawsuit ACLU revealed in 2009 that 92 videotapes had been deliberately destroyed.
The then-Director, Michael Hayden, assured the Senate committee under Jay Rockefeller that despite the destruction, there were adequate documents which would describe the practices in detail. When Sen Feinstein took over the committee in 2009 the committee had completed their review.
By the time the two staffers completed their review into the CIA’s early interrogations in early 2009, I had become chairman of the committee and President Obama had been sworn into office.
After searching the committee computers and removing documents in an amazingly blatant attempt to chill the investigating staff, the CIA actually referred the staffers to the Justice Dept. for investigation into whether they had removed the documents illegally.
Committee staff confronted CIA officials about the removal of documents and were told that it was the result of 'contractors' who had been hired by the agency to declassify the material before releasing it to the committee. One of the excuses offered was that it was the White House which had demanded the removal.
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that certain documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
At some point after that, the committee uncovered draft copies of an internal review by former director Panetta. In effect, the internal Panetta review actually corroborated the committee's own findings, rather than representing the only info available. In 2012, the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and sent the report to the executive branch.
The Brennan CIA responded that they agreed with some of the report but disagreed with other parts of it. Most importantly, the parts they disagreed with were those which were actually confirmed by the Panetta review.
As CIA Director Brennan has stated, the CIA officially agrees with some of our study. But, as has been reported, the CIA disagrees and disputes important parts of it. And this is important: Some of these important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review.
DiFi wrote to the agency requesting complete copies of the Panetta review. Sen. Udall also requested the documents in a committee hearing. The CIA denied the request, claiming that it was incomplete and 'deliberative.'
That's when the CIA went into full protection mode and insisted they be allowed to conduct a search of the committee's computers.
In late 2013, I requested in writing that the CIA provide a final and complete version of the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses.
I outlined all of this in an earlier post which included more detail, but the point of highlighting this is that the White House and their CIA director appear to be on the same page in seeking to limit, obscure, or obfuscate from information contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report.
The latest action from the White House in redacting portions of the report from their executive summary, and the subsequent objections of Sens. Feinstein and Udall to releasing what they obviously feel would be an inadequate and incomplete account of findings from their investigation, are cause to question the assertions from president Obama that he intends the release to "help guide us" in the effort to "take responsibility" for the abuses. At least, the Senators who crafted the report don't believe so.
Where is the pressure coming from to modify the executive summary? We know from news reports, that former Bush Officials, including the head of Bush's CIA, George Tenet, who had approved the tortures which he had called 'enhanced interrogation,' were allowed to work hand in hand with the Obama CIA to craft a defense of their actions and to basically refute portions of the Senate report they disagreed with.
John Brennan served from 1999 to 2001 as Chief of Staff to George Tenet, who was then Director of Central Intelligence. Mr. Brennan next worked as Deputy Executive Director of the CIA until 2003, when he began leading a multi-agency effort to establish what would become the National Counterterrorism Center. In 2004, he became the Center’s Interim Director.
from NBC News:
After Brennan’s return to Washington from Saudi Arabia 2002, Tenet made him deputy executive director of the CIA. The job took him out of intelligence gathering and into administration. As the No. 2 in the CIA's administrative office, Brennan was essentially "deputy mayor" of the agency, "making the trains run on time" for the worldwide operation, as one former Tenet aide put it.
from the NYT:
Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.
In the past, Obama's CIA director Brennan has expressed his approval of the Bush CIA's policy of 'extraordinary renditions' and voiced at least some support for the Bush-era torture policy operated by his former boss, Tenet, of 'enhanced interrogations.'
from PBS Newshour in 2007:
Brennan has defended renditions, the practice of sending terror suspects to other countries, where they might be subject to torture, as he did on the NewsHour in 2005.
from CBS News in 2007 (Early Show, 11/2/07):
The CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as enhanced interrogation tactics, and only a small proportion of those have in fact been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures…. There have been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.
Brennan insisted at the time of his nomination by the President that his opposition to torture comprised what he said were objections he claimed to have raised during the Bush years and, remarkably, in his defense, the White House has pointed to his tenure as Obama's 'chief counterterrorism adviser' to insist that Brennan was instrumental in crafting the executive decision the President made to outlaw the practices.
from Jake Tapper in 2008:
In a letter released to the media, apparently by Brennan or someone operating on Brennan’s behalf, the former CIA official wrote, “It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush Administration such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, too include waterboarding. The fact that I was not involved in the decision making process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored. Indeed, my criticism of these policies within government circles why I was twice considered for more senior-level positions in the current Administration only to be rebuffed by the White House.”
Whether Obama's CIA chief is presently opposed to the torture policies of his former boss, Tenet, or not, there is a clear conflict of interest in allowing him to direct the crafting of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report - the only public view of the committee findings that is likely to be allowed.
That conflict is made even more egregious in the way that former CIA officials, including two other former C.I.A. directors - Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden - have reportedly been allowed to actively participate in that process of declassification and editing the documents.
One of the questions which need answering concerning Brennan's grudging admission that his agency had, in fact, interfered in the Senate committee's investigation into CIA activities is what extent these former operators contributed to the process of omitting portions of that report from the public as well as the private version of the Senate's findings?
It's disturbing to hear President Obama actually offering his own justifications for torture practices and policies he's already identified as far outside or constitution or our national conscience. It's chilling to see that even a summary of that report - in effect, itself auguring an inadequate and incomplete accounting to the American people - is being redacted in such a 'significant' way by one of the partners to those abuses; now an integral partner to this President's representation of the only significant and extensive official accounting of all of that.
With all of the admitted interference by the Obama CIA in the committee investigation, and all of the collusion of the principal subjects in the Bush-era practices in revising and rebutting the investigator's findings, it may well be that we'll need yet another investigation to provide an un-redacted accounting of events and actions and to provide that 'responsibility' for the abuses that President Obama says we deserve.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Aug 2, 2014, 03:26 PM (22 replies)