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The Justice Department on Thursday announced new manslaughter charges against four Blackwater mercenaries involved in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Iraq that left dozens of innocent civilians dead or severely wounded.
Ali Kinani, only nine years old at the time, was among the victims in the 2007 killings in Nisoor Square. The deadly incident in many ways began the unraveling of Blackwater, founded by a wealthy, ex-Navy Seal named Eric Prince. Subsequent to Nisour Square, Blackwater changed its name twice—first to Xe and then to its current name, Academi—and Prince ultimately severed ties with his company following a stream of bad press.
Justice for the victims of the killings, however, remained illusive as earlier charges against the for-profit militants were dropped and coverage of the story dimmed as the U.S. media turned its attention away from the damage wrought by the bloody and extended damage caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
As The Washington Post reports:
A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia returned a fresh indictment charging the four guards with voluntary manslaughter and other crimes in the shooting in Nisour Square.
The guards were providing security under a State Department contract for diplomats in Iraq at the time of the shooting. On Sept. 16, 2007, they were part of a four-vehicle convoy that was securing an evacuation route for U.S. officials fleeing a bombing. The guards told U.S. investigators that they opened fire on the crowd in self-defense.
In a long investigation after the attack, the FBI and federal prosecutors concluded that the shooting was an “unprovoked illegal attack” on civilians.
“Today’s indictment charges four Blackwater guards with killing or wounding 32 defenseless Iraqi citizens, including women and children, in a Baghdad traffic circle in September 2007,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. “These defendants abused their power through a relentless attack on unarmed civilians that recklessly exceeded any possible justification.”
And Al-Jazeera adds:
The original US charges filed against the men in 2008 were thrown out in December 2009, about a month before a scheduled trial.
The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed Americans considered themselves above the law. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Baghdad in 2010, expressed his "personal regret" for the shootings and declared that the US would appeal the court decision.
The case ran into trouble because the State Department promised the guards that their statements explaining what happened would not be used in a criminal case.
The guards told investigators that they fired their weapons, a crucial admission because forensic evidence could not determine who fired.
Because of a limited immunity deal, prosecutors had to build their case without those statements, a high legal hurdle.
The case was reinstated in 2011 and prosecutors began a lengthy review of what charges they could prove in court.
The new indictment returned by a grand jury in Washington charges 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
The men, Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard had pleaded not guilty to the nearly identical charges brought five years ago.
Writing in The Nation in 2010, journalist Jeremy Scahill recounted the story of the massacre's youngest victim, Ali Kinani, who was just nine years old when he was gunned down by the Blackwater soldiers. Scahill concludes his story about Kinani and the events of that day by quoting Ali's father, Mohammed, who said: "I wish the US Congress would ask [Erik Prince] why they killed my innocent son, who called himself Allawi. Do you think that this child was a threat to your company? This giant company that has the biggest weapons, the heaviest weapons, the planes, and this boy was a threat to them?"
"I want Americans to know that this was a child that died for nothing."
And Democracy Now! now hosted this exclusive report by Scahill and filmmaker and journalist Rick Rowly about Kinani and Nisour Square:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Four former contractors with a notorious US private security firm, formerly known as Blackwater, are facing new charges over a deadly 2007 shooting which left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.
On September 16, 2007, Blackwater guards, who were hired to guard US diplomats, opened fire on the streets of Baghdad and killed 17 civilians including women and children.
According to prosecutors, the heavily-armed Blackwater guards carried out an unprovoked attack, using heavy machine guns and grenades, which also wounded at least 20 other people.
Washington rejected Iraqi officials’ demands that the US guards face trial in Iraq.
One year after the deadly attack in Baghdad, the guards were charged with manslaughter and weapons violations.
However, in 2009, a federal trial judge in Washington, Ricardo Urbina, threw out the case saying the US Department of Justice withheld evidence from a grand jury and violated the guards' constitutional rights.
Urbina’s dismissal of the case outraged the Iraqi people.
In 2011, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals reinstated the case, ruling Urbina had wrongly interpreted the law.
Four Blackwater guards have been charged with counts of voluntary manslaughter and of attempting to commit manslaughter.
Initially, US prosecutors charged five guards with counts of manslaughter and took a guilty plea from a sixth. However, last month, they dismissed their case against the fifth guard, Donald Ball, and the sixth, Jeremy Ridgeway, is awaiting sentencing.
Blackwater is currently called Academi, and is based in the US state of Virginia.
Generally, the US is slow to convict its troops or US-based security contractors of war crimes and when a punishment is imposed for such crimes, it usually takes the form of life in prison or house arrest.
In August, a US soldier who murdered 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting spree last year, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, was sentenced to life in prison.
Meanwhile, Washington is insisting that any US troops left in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of foreign forces from the country must enjoy legal immunity from Afghan courts.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that US troops must remain under Washington’s jurisdiction, and it is the US courts where American troops would stand trial.
Google distances itself from the Pentagon, stays in bed with mercenaries and intelligence contractors
Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
Shocking ‘Extermination’ Fantasies By the People Running America’s Empire on Full Display at Aspen...
Shocking ‘Extermination’ Fantasies by the People Running America’s Empire on Full Display at Aspen...
The Privatisation of War: “Private Security Companies” on Contract with UN “Humanitarian” and “Peace...
Internet Censorship: Youtube Takes Down Videos Depicting Atrocities Committed by Syria Opposition Rebels
Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the XIXth and XXth centuries, reappeared in the 1960’s during the decolonization period operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.
These non-state entities of the XXIst century operate in extremely blurred situations where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations recruiting former militaries as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.
However, these individuals cannot be considered as civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive/defensive to an active/offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law either, since they are not part of the army or in the chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.
PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.
Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally, with the mandate: “To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights (…) and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”.
During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies. In our reports we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America (20 July to 3 August 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.3; on the Mission to Afghanistan (4-9 April 2009), Document A/HRC/15/25/Add.2, and the general report of the Working Group containing the Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council, Document A/HRC/15/25.
In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicate the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors”, “private soldiers” or “guns for hire”, whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals employed by private military and security companies as civilians but in general heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of these companies, which the Working Group has examined one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention; of trafficking of persons; serious health damages caused by their activities; as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their basic rights, and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.
On 16 September 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts indicate the use of arms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to this company.
There are also concerns over the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic, in particular their use of lethal force. This particular incident was not the first of its kind, neither the first involving Blackwater.
According to a congressional report on the behaviour of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts which provided that the company could engage only in defensive use of force, the company reported that in over 80 per cent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.
In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities, as well as in May 2007, where another incident involving the same company reportedly occurred involving guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.
Also in central Baghdad the shooting of employees of the PMSC, Unity Resources Group (URG), protecting a convoy, left two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis dead on 9 October 2007 when their car came too close to a protected convoy. The family of Genevia Antranick was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.
This company was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Professor Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10am.
Two United States-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services, contracted by the Government of the United States, were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.
Seventy two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq, have sued L-3 Services, Inc. (“L-3”), a military private contractor which provided civilian translators for United States military forces in Iraq and Adel Nakhla, a former employee of L-3 who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. They allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and that they should be held liable in damages for their actions. The plaintiffs assert 20 causes of action, among which: torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) such as the arbitrary detention and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the involvement in CIA rendition flights as well as joint covert operations. Employees of PMSC would have been involved in the taking of detainees, from “pick up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) transporting them in rendition flights and delivering them to drop off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA’s “black sites”.
Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. (a subsidiary company of Boeing) on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA disappearing in overseas prisons kept by USA secret services. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention.
The 2009 annual report of DynCorp International refers to four lawsuits concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador on behalf of 3 Ecuadorian Providences and 3266 plaintiffs.
From 1991, the United States Department of State contracted the private company DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of 30 January 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of activities of Colombia, in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country, and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.
An NGO report indicated the consequences of the spraying carried out within the Plan Colombia had on persons living in the frontier region. One third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship of the air fumigations of the Plan Colombia with damages in the genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.
This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the United States would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the PMSC contracted (DynCorp) the same as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.
The 2004 attempted coup d’état, which was perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of States. In this particular case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that had become famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs as was the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland. It also included a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC “Steele Foundation” and had given protection to President Aristide of Haiti and conducted him to the plane who took him to exile.
Trafficking in persons
In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing/or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras. The instruction consisted in anti‐guerrilla tactics such as possible ambushes and deactivation of explosives and mortars how to avoid them. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and were illegally in Honduras. They used high‐caliber weapons such as M‐16 rifles or light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of Triple Canopy.
They were part of a group, which included also 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the United States Department of State. The strong contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in several groups with a stopover in Iceland. Then reached the Middle East and were smuggled into Iraq.
The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in Illinois, United States of America, which in turn had been subcontracted by Triple Canopy, based in Chicago, United States of America. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract by Unity Resources Group (URG).
Human rights violations committed by PMSC to their employees
PMSC often put the contracted private guards in situations of danger and vulnerability, such as the ‘private contractors’ of Blackwater, killed in Fallujah in 2004 allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means that Blackwater was supposed to provide in order to carry out the mission.
It should not be forgotten that this incident changed dramatically the course of the war and the occupation by the United States in Iraq. It may be considered as the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 America troops were killed, and 560 wounded.
The U.S. military first denied that it has use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah – cite_note-17 This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre”. In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study, which shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The over 300 000 classified military documents made public by Wikileaks show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq”, as has been widely reported by the international media recently.
The United States has relied and continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The United States used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the United States used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Nowadays, it is in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular that the State is massively contracting out security functions to private firms.
In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractors (all types) while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 per cent of these contractors are armed security contractors, i.e. about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, with 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.
The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide United States personnel and facilities with personal protective and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs, namely, Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the U.S. Training Center, part of the Xe (then Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.
Lack of transparency
The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts between the Government of the United States and PMSCs is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when companies subcontract to others. Often, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public despite extensive freedom of information rules in the United States, either because they contain confidential commercial information or on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.
Lack of accountability
Despite the fact of their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or employee of these companies has been sanctioned.
In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the Government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the Government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the Government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.
It looks as if when the acts are committed by agents of the government they are considered human rights violations but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSC it is “business as usual”.
The human rights violation perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy itself by the privatization of inherently public functions such as the monopoly of the legitimate use of force. In this connection I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of President Eisenhower.
In 1961, President Eisenhower warned the American public opinion against the growing danger of a military industrial complex stating: “(…) we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.
Fifty years later, on 8 September 2001, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech in the Department of Defence warned the militaries of the Pentagon against “an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America (…) Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is (…) a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. (…) The adversary. (…) It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. (…)That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.”
Rumsfeld should have said the shift from the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush Administration: the number of persons employed by contract which had been outsourced (privatized) by the Pentagon was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.
It is not anymore a military industrial complex but as Noam Chomsky has indicated “it’s just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext”.
The articles of the Washington Post “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control”, by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (19 July 2010) show the extent that “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work”.
The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States; and that an estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the report of the Washington Post.
The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 per cent of the budget of United States intelligence is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities carried out by these contractors.
The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic, which responds to a commercial logic of the industry.
A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as on their address-books, confirms we are not any longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel uniting high tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defence Industries, Lockheed Martin), with speculative financiers (Lazard Frères, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank), together with raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on the ground, private military and security companies.
The majority of the private military and security companies has been created or are managed by former militaries or ex-policemen for whom it is big business. Just to give an example MPRI (Military Professional Resources Incorporation) was created by four former generals of the United States Army when they were due for retirement. The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the C.I.A.. Social Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the Rotating Door Syndrome.
The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.
“Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller–a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty -a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly–two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors”.
The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE impact of Private Security Contracting on U.S. Goals in Afghanistan
Conclusion I: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010 the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.
Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S. funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security, guards at the Airbase.
Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council
Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights the Working Group on mercenaries in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly has recommended a legally binding instrument regulating and monitoring their activities at the national and international level.
The motion to create an open ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations, in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom and of a lot a pressure exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass the resolution by consensus. But even so the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir”.
The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.
The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council where civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies. The new open ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs, not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries but also of other initiatives such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.
However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well defended as was the case in a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSC.
We urge all States to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.
The participation of the UK and USA main exporters of these activities (it is estimated at 70% the industry of security in these two countries) as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.
The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:
support the Congress Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions which are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector;
rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements;
carry out prompt and effective investigation of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators;
ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs;
establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad;
set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs;
ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the Government to carry out activities abroad; and
respond to pending communications from the Working Group.
The United Nations Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, initiated a review in November 2010 in Geneva, focussing on the human rights record of the United States. The above article is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on 3 November 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.
 Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation battered by its criticized work in Iraq, renaming its family of two-dozen businesses under the name Xe’, see Mike Baker, ‘Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name’, AP News Break, 13 February 2009.
 URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently one of those “private guards” shot himself, ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, 16 September 2010.
J.Mendes & S Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?”, ABC News Australia, 16 September 2010.
 Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, Filed 07/29/10. Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue, among others, that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions, and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that Plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss allowing the case to go forward.
 Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraphs 22.
 James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids ”, New York Times, 10
 Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, 26 May 2009.
ACLU Press Release, UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors, New York, 14 September 2010.
 The reports also indicates that the Revenues of DynCorp for 2006 were of USD 1 966 993 and for 2009 USD 3 101 093
 Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2
 A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, other in Equatorial Guinea itself the place where the coup was intended to take place to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to get the rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008 the trials took place in Equatorial Guinea of those arrested in connection with this coup attempt, including of the British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The President of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to this coup attempt in November 2009 by. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.
 Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.
 Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken, Friday Sep 21st, 2007
 Among which General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama; General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the USA Army in Europe and General Ron Griffith. The President of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.
 Such as Cofer Black, former Chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former Chief of Operations and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the Company
 Article published in the Spring 2010 issue of the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Privatization’s Pretensions” by Jon D. Michaels, Acting Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law
 INQUIRY INTO THE ROLE AND OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS IN AFGHANISTAN, R E P O R T TOGETHER WITH ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE, 28 September 2010
Ten years ago, as President George W. Bush and his administration were putting the finishing touches on their unprovoked invasion of Iraq, the mainstream U.S. news media had long since capitulated, accepting the conventional wisdom that nothing could – or should – stop the march to war.Hussein Kamel, former Iraqi minister of military industry, was killed after returning to Iraq, but not before explaining in great detail to US and British intelligence that Iraq had, in fact, destroyed its WMD stockpiles.
The neocon conquest of the major U.S. news outlets – the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the national TV news – was so total that the Bush administration could reliably count on them as eager co-conspirators in the Iraq adventure rather than diligent watchdogs for the American people.
By now a decade ago, the New York Times had published Judy Miller’s infamous “mushroom cloud” article about Iraq’s aluminum tubes, the Washington Post’s op-ed page had lined up in lock-step to hail Colin Powell’s misleading United Nations speech, MSNBC had dumped Phil Donahue after he allowed on a few anti-war voices, and CNN had assembled a chorus of pro-war ex-military officers as “analysts.”
Despite massive worldwide protests against the impending invasion, the U.S. news media only grudgingly covered the spectacle of millions of people in the streets in dozens of cities. The coverage mostly had a tone of bemusement about how deluded such uninformed folks could be.
The U.S. news media’s consensus was so overwhelming that it may have freed up a few lesser outlets to publish some undeniable facts, which then could be safely dismissed and ignored.
Such was the case when Newsweek correspondent John Barry was allowed to publish the leaked contents of an interrogation of a senior Iraqi official who inconveniently disclosed that Iraq had destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons years earlier.
Barry, usually a reliable voice for Washington’s conventional wisdom, may have struggled over what to do with the leaked document, but he ultimately wrote this truthful lede:
“Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them. Kamel … had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.”
In a classic understatement of about his own report – as the White House was on the verge of unleashing the dogs of war in pursuit of Iraq’s alleged WMD – Barry commented, “The defector’s tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.”
Barry explained that Kamel had been interrogated in separate sessions by the CIA, British intelligence, and a trio from the U.N. inspection team; that Newsweek had been able to verify the authenticity of the U.N. document containing the text of Kamel’s debriefing; and that Kamel had “told the same story to the CIA and the British.” Barry added that “The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.”
Barry’s story was, of course, completely accurate. According to page 13 of the transcript of the debriefing by U.S. and U.N. officials, Hussein Kamel, one of Saddam Hussein’s sons-in-law, said bluntly: “All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed.”
The story of Kamel’s admission was published in the March 3, 2003, issue of Newsweek after appearing on the magazine’s Web site on Feb. 24.
No WMD in Iraq?
By then, of course, the Newsweek story really didn’t matter. The media “hot shots” had already shifted from covering the excuses for war to preparing for the exciting duty as embedded “war correspondents.”
No one wanted to risk being left out of those career-building moments of racing across the Iraqi desert in a Humvee, with your cameraman filming you in green-tinted night-vision video, your body bulked up by body armor, your camouflage outfit matching what the real troops were wearing, and perhaps your hair blowing in the wind.
Back at corporate headquarters, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and other cable-news anchors couldn’t wait for the start of “shock and awe.” The pyrotechnics would surely mean a big bump in ratings. Over at Fox News and MSNBC, which was then trying to out-Fox Fox from the Right, producers were planning for video montages honoring “the Troops” as super-hero liberators of Iraq.
So there was not much buzz about the Newsweek scoop. The rest of the mainstream media only went through the motions of checking out this strange information about Iraq having no WMD. Reporters called the CIA for clarification.
CIA spokesman Bill Harlow responded by fishing out half of the descriptors from his “Debunking Adjectives File” at CIA’s Office of Public Affairs. He warned that the report was “incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.”
Would the CIA ever tell a lie? Puleeze! And so the mainstream media said, in effect, “Gosh. Thanks for letting us know. Otherwise, we might have run a story on it.”
Nor were mainstream media outlets at all interested in coming back to the story two days later, when the complete copy of the Kamel transcript, in the form of an internal U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency document stamped “sensitive,” was made public by Cambridge University analyst Glen Rangwala.
Rangwala had already revealed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pre-war “intelligence dossier” on Iraq was largely plagiarized from a student thesis.
The conventional wisdom in Official Washington was: Why should anyone place his or her precious career between the innocents who would die in war and the war juggernaut of Bush and his neocon advisers? After all, what good would it do? The war was going to happen anyway and you would just get run over.
And what would happen if the U.S. military did discover some cache of WMD somewhere in Iraq? You’d be forever known as that Saddam Hussein apologist who questioned the wisdom of the Great War President.
So the war juggernaut rolled on. Wolf Blitzer expressed some disappointment that the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad wasn’t more spectacular. NBC’s Tom Brokaw sat among a panel of ex-military officers and blurted out that “in a few days, we’re going to own that country.” MSNBC and Fox News rushed out Madison Avenue-style tributes to “the Troops” complete with stirring sound tracks and images of thankful Iraqis. Disturbing stories and images of overflowing hospitals and innocent Iraqis being dismembered and incinerated by U.S. bombs were played down.
However, the Bush administration found none of the promised stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, nor any evidence of an active nuclear program. After eight years of a bloody war and occupation, the big losers were the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqis; the nearly 4,500 dead U.S. soldiers and more than 30,000 wounded; and the U.S. taxpayers who got stuck with a bill of around $1 trillion.
Things worked out a lot better for people like CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. He found out that working for CIA Director George Tenet could be quite lucrative, even after they both left the CIA. Harlow convinced Tenet, who resigned in 2004, that an exculpatory memoir could polish up Tenet’s tarnished reputation and make money.
Harlow also volunteered to help, since he sensed the boss would need a scribe and since the advance was sizable. Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, co-written with Harlow, was released in April 2007. By then, however, even some in the mainstream media were able to see the two for the charlatans they were.
Not even Harlow’s hired pen could disguise this lame attempt at self-justification. Pro that he is, Harlow simply could not manage to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of Tenet’s career. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How George Tenet Lied.”]
At the Center of the Storm amounted to an unintentional self-indictment of Tenet for the crimes with which Socrates was charged: making the worse cause appear the better, and corrupting the youth. At the time, I found myself thinking that Tenet wished he had opted to just fade away, as old soldiers and spies used to do.
And I would have been right, I suppose – except for the money. A $4 million advance was nothing at which to sniff, even if Tenet had to share it with Harlow.
Despite what should have been a negative credibility rating, Harlow remained a trusted figure for many old news media friends. He was sent into the breach once more in August 2011 to help Tenet fend off explosive charges from former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke that Tenet had withheld information from him that could have thwarted the attacks of 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Information?”]
In an interview aired on a local PBS affiliate in Colorado, Clarke directly accused Tenet and two other senior CIA officials, Cofer Black and Richard Blee, of sitting on information about two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 — al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.
The two had entered the United States more than a year before the 9/11 attacks, and CIA knew it. After 9/11, the agency covered up its failure by keeping relevant information away from Congress and the 9/11 Commission, Clarke said.
Withholding intelligence on two of the 9/11 hijackers would have been particularly unconscionable — the epitome of malfeasance, not just misfeasance. That’s why Richard Clarke’s conclusion that he should have received information from CIA about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar “unless somebody intervened to stop the normal automatic distribution” amounts, in my view, to a criminal charge, given the eventual role of the two in hijacking of AA-77, the plane that struck the Pentagon.
Tenet has denied that the information on the two hijackers was “intentionally withheld” from Clarke, and he enlisted the other two former CIA operatives, Cofer Black (more recently a senior official of Blackwater) and Richard Blee (an even more shadowy figure), to concur in saying, Not us; we didn’t withhold.
Whom to believe? To me, it’s a no-brainer. One would have to have been born yesterday to regard the “George is right” testimony from Black and Blee as corroborative.
Harlow to the Rescue
To dirty up Clarke a bit more, Bill Harlow emerged to empty the remaining half of the descriptors from his old “Debunking Adjectives File.” According to Harlow, Clarke’s charges were “reckless and profoundly wrong … baseless … belied by the record … unworthy of serious consideration.”
And so, naturally, the mainstream media dropped this extraordinary story involving the former White House counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, accusing the former CIA head, George Tenet, with suppressing information that could well have prevented 9/11.
Plus, by all indications, Harlow is still able to work his fraudulent magic on the Fawning Corporate Media. If Harlow says it’s not true … and hurls a bunch of pejorative adjectives to discredit a very serious charge … well, I guess we’ll have to leave it there, as the mainstream media is so fond of saying.
No matter Clarke’s well-deserved reputation for honesty and professionalism — and Tenet’s and Harlow’s reputations for the opposite.
The versatile Bill Harlow came back again this past January to help Jose Rodriguez, the CIA operations chief who oversaw waterboarding and other torture and then destroyed the videotaped evidence, argue his case in the ever-hospitable, neocon-dominated Washington Post.
Their argument this time was that “enhanced interrogation” – or what the rest of us would call “torture” – helped locate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee has refuted that claim.
Never mind. The Washington Post Sunday Outlook section on Jan. 6, 2013, ran a long article titled, “Sorry, Hollywood. What we did wasn’t torture.” The Post noted that the Rodriguez piece was “written with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow,” but offered readers no help in gauging Harlow’s checkered credibility. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Excusing Torture Again.”]
Rodriguez and Harlow disdained the word “torture,” but argued, in the context of the “hunt-for-bin-Laden” movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” that the rough-them-up tactics really helped. The two resorted to the George W. Bush-era word game that waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other calculated pain inflicted on detainees in the CIA’s custody weren’t really “torture.”
A decade after so many falsehoods led the United States into the disastrous Iraq War, it is curious indeed that the mainstream U.S. news media still affords some of the principal liars so much respect and “credibility.”
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
WASHINGTON - February 13 - KATHY KELLY, [email]
Just back from Afghanistan, Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She said today: “Obama is a ‘hawkish’ president who likes to sound ‘dovish.’ He spoke of ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and yet the Pentagon has already told the Afghan government that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan till 2024 and beyond. The Pentagon plans to keep U.S. Special Operations troops in Afghanistan. Just outside of Kabul, the former Blackwater firm, now called ‘Academi,’ is building a 10-acre base, ‘Camp Integrity,’ that will be used to train Special Forces for night raids, drone attacks and aerial bombardments.
“In Afghanistan, on Tuesday evening, February 12, at 10:00 p.m. U.S./NATO forces bombed two homes in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, claiming to attack Taliban forces. According to the Washington Post, nine civilians were killed.
“The Taliban has already responded to announcements about troop withdrawals, saying that troop levels don’t matter — they will continue fighting until the foreign troops leave. Continued U.S. military and security contractor fighting in Afghanistan will prolong the Taliban justification for fighting. The war will continue, and President Obama will force President Karzai to agree to immunity for all U.S. troops in Afghanistan, no matter what crimes they commit.
“U.S. war and development aid have not improved life for the majority of Afghans. The most recent U.S. ‘SIGAR’ [Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction] report said that the U.S. development aid to Afghanistan is now approaching a sum of $100 billion. Yet close to a million Afghans under five are acutely malnourished, according to a UN-backed survey.
“Mainstream media has begun to question ‘drones’ and the ‘kill list’ — U.S. citizens should healthily question everything they have presumed to be ‘acceptable’ — for example, they should question the acceptability of ‘immunity’ for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.”
NORMAN SOLOMON, [email]
Available for a limited number of interviews, founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of War Made Easy, Solomon just wrote the piece “What Obama Said — and What He Meant — About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties,” which critiques Obama’s statements (in bold):
“After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”
How’s that for an applause line? Don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. I’m planning to have 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan a year from now, and they won’t get out of there before the end of 2014. And did you notice the phrase “in uniform”? We’ve got plenty of out-of-uniform military contractors in Afghanistan now, and you can expect that to continue for a long time.
“And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”
If you believe that, you’re the kind of sucker I appreciate — unless you think “our war in Afghanistan” doesn’t include killing people with drones and cruise missiles.
“Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.”
We’re so pleased to help Afghan people kill other Afghan people! Our government’s expertise in such matters includes superb reconnaissance and some thrilling weaponry, which we’ll keep providing to the Kabul regime. And don’t you love the word “counterterrorism”? It sounds so much better than: “using the latest high-tech weapons to go after people on our ‘kill lists’ and unfortunately take the lives of a lot of other people who happen to be around, including children, thus violating international law, traumatizing large portions of the population and inflicting horrors on people in ways we would never tolerate ourselves.”
Last week, Solomon debated Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, on “Democracy Now!” Solomon wrote the piece “Washington’s War-Makers Aren’t ‘in a Bubble,’ They’re in a Bunker” based on the debate.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During his confirmation hearing Thursday, President Obama’s nominee to run the CIA, John Brennan, forcefully defended the president’s counterterrorism policies, including the increased use of armed drones and the targeted killings of American citizens. He also refused to say that waterboarding was a form of torture, and he admitted that he did not try to stop waterboarding while he was a top CIA official under President George W. Bush.
Four years ago, Brennan was a rumored pick for the CIA job when Obama was first elected, but he was forced to withdraw from consideration amid protests over his public support for the CIA’s policies of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and extraordinary rendition program.
AMY GOODMAN: The start of Brennan’s confirmation hearing had to be temporarily halted following repeated interruptions by protesters. Members of the group CODEPINK began standing up one by one to condemn Brennan’s role in the drone war, much to the chagrin of Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein.
JOHN BRENNAN: Chairman Feinstein, Vice Chairman Chambliss, members of the committee, I am honored to appear—
ANN WRIGHT: [inaudible]
JOHN BRENNAN: —before you today as the—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: All right.
JOHN BRENNAN: —president’s nominee to—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Would you halt please? We’ll ask the police to please remove this woman.
ANN WRIGHT: ...no children, no women. We cannot—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.
ANN WRIGHT: [inaudible] the sort of thing going on [inaudible]. But we cannot [inaudible]—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Please remove—
ANN WRIGHT: —torture. It’s jeopardizing U.S. soldiers. It’s not defending them.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That CODEPINK protester interrupting John Brennan was retired Army colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright, who oversaw the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001 as deputy chief of mission. When she interrupted Brennan, she was wearing a sign around her neck with the name of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old Pakistani boy who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011. The sign she held up read, "Brennan equals drone killing." Ann Wright and seven others were arrested. John Brennan later addressed the protesters as he defended the drone program.
JOHN BRENNAN: I think there is a misimpression on the part of some American people, who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there’s no other alternative to taking an action that’s going to mitigate that threat. So, we need to make sure that there is understanding, and the people that were standing up here today, I think they really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government and the care that we take and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths. And as the chairman said earlier, the need to be able to go out and say that publicly and openly, I think, is critically important, because people are reacting to a lot of falsehoods that are out there.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined via Democracy Now! videostream by Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the documentary, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival. His book, Dirty Wars, goes on sale in April. He’s national security correspondent for The Nation, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and Democracy Now! correspondent.
Jeremy, welcome to Democracy Now! Your assessment of what it is that John Brennan said yesterday and the questions he was asked?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, if you—if you look at what happened yesterday at the Senate Intelligence Committee, I mean, this is kabuki oversight. This was basically a show that was produced by the White House in conjunction with Senator Feinstein’s office. I mean, the reality was—is that none of the central questions that should have been asked of John Brennan were asked in an effective way. In the cases where people like Senator Angus King or Senator Ron Wyden would ask a real question, for instance, about whether or not the CIA asserts the right to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, the questions were very good. Brennan would then offer up a non-answer.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s—
JEREMY SCAHILL: And then there’d be almost no follow-up.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, let’s go to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden’s questioning of John Brennan Thursday. He has led the push for the White House to explain its rationale—Senator Wyden has—for targeting U.S. citizens.
SEN. RON WYDEN: Let me ask you several other questions with respect to the president’s authority to kill Americans. I’ve asked you how much evidence the president needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed and whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. In my judgment, both the Congress and the public need to understand the answers to these kind of fundamental questions. What do you think needs to be done to ensure that members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it’s allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues, the question of evidence and the authority to use this power within the United States?
JOHN BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs, as far as our explaining what we’re doing. What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. I don’t think that it’s one or the other. It’s trying to optimize both of them. And so, what we need to do is make sure we explain to the American people what are the thresholds for action, what are the procedures, the practices, the processes, the approvals, the reviews. The Office of Legal Counsel advice establishes the legal boundaries within which we can operate. It doesn’t mean that we operate at those out of boundaries. And, in fact, I think the American people will be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined, very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.
AMY GOODMAN: That was John Brennan answering Senator Wyden’s question. He’s been the chief critic. President Obama, two days ago, called Senator Wyden, because a group of them had said they would stop the hearing if information wasn’t provided about the legal basis for drone strikes. When Wyden yesterday attempted to get that information, he raised in the hearing that he wasn’t able to. Jeremy Scahill?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, if you listen to John Brennan, I mean, it’s like he’s talking about buying a used car and what, you know, sort of little gadgets and whistles it has on it. He used "optimize"? Ron Wyden was asking him about whether—about the extent of the CIA’s lethal authority against U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil and abroad. And, see, the problem is that while some questions were asked that are central questions, there was almost no follow-up. People wouldn’t push—senators wouldn’t push Brennan back when he would float things that were nonsensical or just gibberish, you know, or using terms like "we need to optimize this, we need to optimize that." There was no sense that—I mean, remember, this is a guy who is, for all practical purposes, President Obama’s hit man or assassination czar. This guy has been at the center of a secret process where the White House is deciding who lives and who dies around the world every day, and yet the conversation that took place was as though they were, you know, sort of talking about whether or not they’re going to add a wing onto a school in Idaho or something, when they were talking about life-and-death issues for people, not only U.S. citizens, but around the world.
There was no discussion at all of the so-called signature strikes—the idea that the U.S. is targeting people whose identities it doesn’t know, whose actual involvement in terror plots is actually unknown. There was no discussion of the fact that the Obama administration authorized operations that killed three U.S. citizens in a two-week period in 2011, one of whom was a 16-year-old boy who was sitting and having dinner with his cousins in Yemen. No discussion of the case of Samir Khan, a Pakistani American who was killed alongside Anwar Awlaki. His family had met with the FBI prior to his death. The FBI told his family that Samir Khan was not indicted, that Samir Khan was not accused of a crime, and yet you have three U.S. citizens being killed.
When Anwar Awlaki’s name was raised during the course of the hearing, it was one of the most disgusting displays of a show trial or a faux trial that I’ve ever seen. Dianne Feinstein and John Brennan set out to put Anwar Awlaki on trial, posthumously, without presenting any evidence and to issue a guilty verdict. The whole thing was a show. And I believe that—
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, let’s go to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein asking Brennan to talk about Anwar Awlaki, what you’re describing, the American citizen who was assassinated in Yemen in a drone strike in 2011.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Could I ask you some questions about him?
JOHN BRENNAN: You’re the chairman.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: You don’t have to answer. Did he have a connection to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who would attempt to explode a device on one of our planes over Detroit?
JOHN BRENNAN: Yes, he did.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Can you tell us what that connection was?
JOHN BRENNAN: I would prefer not to at this time, Senator. I’m not prepared to.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: OK. Did he have a connection to the Fort Hood attack?
JOHN BRENNAN: That is a—al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a variety of means of communicating and inciting individuals, whether that be websites or emails or other types of things. And so, there are a number of occasions where individuals, including Mr. Awlaki, has been in touch with individuals. And so, Senator, again, I’m not prepared to address the specifics of these, but suffice it to say—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, I’ll just ask you a couple of questions. You don’t—did Faisal Shahzad, who pled guilty to the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, tell interrogators in 2010 that he was inspired by al-Awlaki?
JOHN BRENNAN: I believe that’s correct, yes.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Last October, Awlaki, did he have a direct role in supervising and directing AQAP’s failed attempt, well, to bring down two United States cargo aircraft by detonating explosives concealed inside two packages, as a matter of fact, inside a computer printer cartridge?
JOHN BRENNAN: Mm-hmm. Mr. Awlaki—
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Dubai?
JOHN BRENNAN: —was involved in overseeing a number of these activities, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Brennan answering Senator Feinstein’s questions. Jeremy Scahill, continue.
JEREMY SCAHILL: All right. I mean, see, what you’re seeing there—first of all, let’s remember, the Obama administration never sought an indictment against Anwar Awlaki, that we know of. He was never charged with a crime, that we know of. And he was executed on orders from the president of the United States in September of 2011. The issue here is not who Anwar Awlaki was or what we think of Anwar Awlaki. The issue here is the Constitution. The issue here is due process.
And what we saw, I believe—I believe that Senator Feinstein’s office coordinated this moment with the White House to put on this show trial because of the deadly serious questions surrounding the killing of a U.S. citizen without due process. And what we saw play out there was absolute theater, where you had Anwar Awlaki being posthumously tried, with no evidence. And what came after the clip you just played is Feinstein and Brennan agreeing, quite happily, that Anwar Awlaki was a bad man and that it was justified to take him out and kill him. There was no question about the fact that two weeks later they killed Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, who no one has ever alleged had any ties whatsoever to terrorism or any militant organization. His only connection was his lineage, who his father was. So, you know, there was something really insidious that happened there, and I think it really is patronizing of the sensibility of the American people to engage in something like that, with one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill essentially conspiring with the White House and its nominee to be the CIA to retroactively justify the killing of a U.S. citizen who was never charged with a crime.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeremy—
JEREMY SCAHILL: I’m not—go ahead.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeremy, I’d like to move to another aspect of the hearing, because in a few cases, some of the Republican members asked somewhat tougher questions of Brennan, and especially Saxby Chambliss, questioned him about the whole—the whole issue of high-value targets and how effective this program had been. Here’s a clip from that exchange.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: How many high-value targets have been captured during your service with the administration?
JOHN BRENNAN: There have been a number of individuals who have been captured, arrested, detained, interrogated, debriefed and put away by our partners overseas, which is, we have given them the capacity now, we have provided them the intelligence. And unlike in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when a lot of these countries were both unwilling and unable to do it, we have given them that opportunity. And so, that’s where we’re working with our partners.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: How many high-value targets have been arrested and detained, interrogated by the United States during your four years with the administration?
JOHN BRENNAN: I’ll be happy to get that information to you, Senator, in terms of those high-value targets that have been captured with U.S. intelligence support.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: I submit to you the answer to that is one. And it’s Warsame, who was put on a ship for 60 days and interrogated.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Saxby Chambliss. However, Dianne Feinstein had a little different take in terms of what had happened in terms of the high-value targets. This is what she said at a certain point in the hearing.
SEN. ANGUS KING: Having the executive being the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all in one, is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country, and particularly in a situation where there is time. If—a soldier on a battlefield doesn’t have time to go to court. But if you’re planning a strike over a matter of days, weeks or months, there is an opportunity to at least go to some outside-of-the-executive-branch body, like the FISA court, in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.
JOHN BRENNAN: Senator, I think it’s certainly worthy of discussion. Our tradition, our judicial tradition, is that a court of law is used to determine one’s guilt or innocence for past actions, which is very different from the decisions that are made on the battlefield as well as actions that are taken against terrorists, because none of those actions are to determine past guilt for those actions that they took. The decisions that are made are to take action so that we prevent a future action, so we protect American lives. That is an inherently executive branch function.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Angus King, Senator Angus King, questioning Brennan, not Dianne Feinstein. But, Jeremy, your response to those two clips?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, first of all, Senator Angus King did a very good job of raising some of these issues. I mean, he’s new to the Senate and didn’t get the memo that you don’t talk to—to White House officials that way, so it was actually kind of a relief within the hearing when King started to ask these questions.
You know, Juan, though, you brought up the issue of the Republicans asking tougher questions. I mean, in general, what we saw the Republicans doing was engaging in a partisan theater of their own, where, you know, they made the whole issue about White House leaks, for the most part. They were talking about, you know, Benghazi, which is sort of the second coming of 9/11 to the—to a lot of the Republicans on Capitol Hill and this sort of Watergate-type scandal. But I think there’s something—while the Republicans did ask some good questions, there’s something that’s just fundamentally dishonest and full of hypocrisy with the GOP line on this. You know, they’ve been hammering, since the Department Justice white paper came out a couple of days ago, that sort of outlines some of the legal basis for—or, purported to outline the legal basis for targeting U.S. citizens—they’ve been hammering away on the Obama administration and saying, you know, "How is it that Obama is able to essentially conduct these killing operations around the world with very little protest?" The reality is that, you know, when George Bush was president, he was doing these very same actions and engaged in a widespread targeted killing operation, and he was running secret prisons around the world, and they were torturing people, and they were using waterboarding and other techniques, and the Republicans are sort of portraying it as though: "Well, in the good old days of the Bush administration, we would actually arrest people, and we would ask them questions, and now Obama is just running around the world bumping them off." Well, there’s some nugget of truth to the idea that the Obama administration seems to prefer to just kill people rather than take them into custody. But the idea that the Republicans have a moral ground to stand on with this is absolutely laughable. I mean, these guys were Murder Inc. for two straight administrations, where members of Congress just participated in rubber stamping these operations, particularly the Republican members of Congress. So, you know, I take what they say with a grain of salt.
But at the end of the day, I mean, I can’t say I was surprised at what happened on Capitol Hill, but it really was more or less a love fest between the most powerful senators, when it comes to intelligence operations in the U.S., and John Brennan, a man who could not get confirmed last time Obama tried to make him CIA director, because of very serious questions about his views on and role in the torture program under the Bush administration—has served for more than four years as the assassination czar, and it basically looked like they were discussing purchasing a used car on Capitol Hill. I mean, it was total kabuki oversight. And that’s a devastating commentary on where things stand right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jeremy, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, in her opening statement, asserting few civilians have died in U.S. drone strikes.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I would invite all—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to—we’re going to play a clip.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: [I’ve ... been attempting to speak publicly] about the very low number of civilian casualties that result from such strikes; I have been limited in my ability to do so. But for the past several years, this committee has done significant oversight of the government’s conduct of targeted strikes, and the figures we have obtained from the executive branch, which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, your final comment?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. I would invite Senator Feinstein and other members of the Intelligence Committee to travel to Abyan province in Yemen, where I was a few months ago, and meet with the Bedouin villagers of al-Majalah, where more than 40 people were killed, several dozen of them women and children, their bodies shredded into meat with U.S. cluster bombs, and then come back and go on national television and talk about single digits. There were over 40 people killed in one strike alone. And you know what? That wasn’t even a drone strike. That was a cruise missile strike. Everyone is talking about drones these days and obsessed with drones. The U.S. uses AC-130 gunships, night raids, Tomahawk cruise missile strikes. Some of the most devastating strikes were not even drone attacks.
So, you know, this Congress is totally asleep at the wheel when it comes to actually having any effective oversight. You know, they allowed John Brennan to say repeatedly, "Well, I’m not a lawyer," while simultaneously saying, "Everything we’ve done is perfectly legal." And then they say, "Well, what about torture?" And he goes, "Well, I’m not a lawyer, and that has legal implications." I mean, what kind of a show is this? I mean, what does this say about our society when this is the extent of the debate we can have when an administration in power has asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens and foreigners alike around the world without trial? I mean, it’s devastating. It should be a very sobering moment for all of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, the last bit of news that we read in headlines today about the U.S. news outlets—you complained about the Democratic senators working with the White House. What about U.S. news outlets facing criticism for revealing they complied with an Obama administration request to hide the location of a U.S. drone base in Saudi Arabia that had already been publicly reported?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, what’s new? What’s new? I mean, this has been going on—this has been going on forever in this country. I mean, look at how many times we had major powerful media outlets colluding with the Bush administration to either—you know, either facilitating administration propaganda, or as you’ve called it, sort of this conveyor belt of lies, or, on the other hand, concealing potentially illegal programs or actions that were being conducted by the Bush administration. I mean, this happened throughout the Bush era. And so, to have it right now with the Obama administration is just par for the course. I mean, this is how things are done in Washington.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, we want to thank you for being with us. Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine, he is also the narrator and subject of the new film, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, and is author of a forthcoming book by the same title.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the woman who has just returned from Pakistan who went to John Brennan’s house, knocked on the door, and he answered, invited her in, and they had a conversation. She’s the founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin. Stay with us.
In psychology and politics, perception is key. Perception is reality. But perception lies to us all the time. There's a phenomenom well known in psychology circles called the "Flashed Face Distortion." If you look at a pair of flashed faces aligned at the eyeline, suddenly the rest of their features look grotesque. Attractive people now look cartoonish and scary.
There's a little bit of that in politics now too. Sadly, it's often the liberal ideas that only get those flashes of exposure. And correspondingly, they're perceived as distorted by the traditional media, who rarely get anything outside of their comfy conservative framing in which they're surrounded. But if you got to take a good, long uninterrupted look at any one of those ideas, I bet you wouldn't find them bizarre or scary at all, but beautiful and sensible and intelligent.
The question is how we get that opportunity for a good, long look.
ABC's "This Week" -- Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Republican strategist and ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace; and Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz. Author George Saunders
NBC's "Meet the Press" -- Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Panel: Democratic Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush now columnist for the Washington Post, Michael Gerson; GOP strategist Mike Murphy and the BBC's Katty Kay. NBC’s Michael Isikoff.
NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" -- Joe Klein, TIME; David Ignatius, The Washington Post; Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times; Gloria Borger, CNN.
CBS' "Face the Nation" -- Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars director Jane Harman, a former Democratic representative from California, Center for Strategic and International Studies expert Jim Lewis and CBS News Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Bob Orr. The New York Times' David Leonhardt and The Washington Post's Kevin Merida.
MSNBC's "UP with Chris Hayes" -- Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winner and New York Times Op-Ed Columnist; Jeremy Scahill, National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army”; Richard Epstein, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, professor of law at New York University Law School; Greg Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.”; Heather McGhee, vice-president of Demos; Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project for the ACLU; Dean Baker, co-director Center for Economic & Policy Research, author of “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive;” Alexis Goldstein, a former vice president of information technology at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist.
MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry" -- Laura Flanders, Author of Blue Grit / Host & Founder of GritTV.org; Vicki DeFrancesco Soto, NBC Latino; Tara Wall, Writer and Founder, PTP Foundation for Media Arts; Richard Kim, Executive Editor at The Nation Magazine; Richard Kim, Executive Editor at The Nation Magazine; L.Y. Marlow, Domestic Violence Survivor and Advocate.
CNN's "State of the Union" -- Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Angus King, I-Maine; former Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-Illinois); Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Republican Senator from Texas; Amy Walter, the National Editor of the Cook Political Report, and CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta.
CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" -- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, columnist Arianna Huffington, businessman Ed Conard, and Boston Properties co-founder Mort Zuckerman; India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani; the prime ministers of Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, the Palestinian Authority and Morocco's chief of government from Davos, Switzerland.
" _ Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Panel: Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard/Fox News Contributor; Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor; Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR); Juan Williams, Fox News Contributor.
So what's catching your eye this morning?
The US media, over the last decade (at least), has repeatedly acted to conceal newsworthy information it obtains about the actions of the US government. In each instance, the self-proclaimed adversarial press corps conceals these facts at the behest of the US government, based on patently absurd claims that reporting them will harm US national security. In each instance, what this media concealment actually accomplishes is enabling the dissemination of significant government falsehoods without challenge, and permitting the continuation of government deceit and even illegality.The Washington Post this week admitted it was part of an "informal arrangement" to conceal from its readers a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Alamy
One of the most notorious examples was in mid-2004 when the New York Times discovered - thanks to a courageous DOJ whistleblower - that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law. But after George Bush summoned to the Oval Office the paper's publisher (Arthur Sulzberger) and executive editor (Bill Keller) and directed them to conceal what they had learned, the NYT complied by sitting on the story for a-year-and-a-half: until late December, 2005, long after Bush had been safely re-elected. The "national security" excuse for this concealment was patently ludicrous from the start: everyone knew the US government was trying to eavesdrop on al-Qaida communications and this story merely revealed that they were doing so illegally (without warrants) rather than legally (with warrants). By concealing the story for so long, the New York Times helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans.
The Washington Post's Dana Priest, in a superb act of journalism, reported in 2005 that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret "black sites" where detainees were interrogated and abused beyond the monitoring scrutiny of human rights groups and even Congress. But the Post purposely concealed the identity of the countries serving as the locale of those secret prisons in order to enable the plainly illegal program to continue without bothersome disruptions: "the Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials."
In 2011, the New York Times along with numerous other US media outlets learned that the American arrested in Pakistan for having shot and killed two Pakistanis, Raymond Davis, was not - as President Obama falsely claimed - "our diplomat", but was a CIA agent and former Blackwater contractor. Not only did the NYT conceal this fact, but it repeatedly and uncritically printed claims from Obama and other officials about Davis' status which it knew to be false. It was only once the Guardian published the facts about Davis - that he was a CIA agent - did the Times tell the truth to its readers, admitting that the disclosure "pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the CIA".
The NYT, as usual, justified its concealment of this obviously newsworthy information as coming "at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk". But as the Guardian's Deputy Editor Ian Katz noted, "Davis [was] already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to US intelligence" and "disclosing his CIA role would [therefore not] expose him to increased risk".
And now, yet again, the US media has been caught working together to conceal obviously newsworthy government secrets. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two years ago, the Obama administration established a base in Saudi Arabia from which it deploys drones to kill numerous people in Yemen. including US citizen Anwar Awlaki and, two weeks, later his 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman. The US base was built after the US launched a December, 2009 cruise missile/cluster-bomb attack that slaughtered dozens of Yemeni women and children.
But the Post admitted that it - along with multiple other US media outlets - had long known about the Saudi Arabia drone base but had acted in unison to conceal it from the US public:
"The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network's most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.
"The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year."
The "other news organization" which the Post references is the New York Times. The NYT - in a very good article yesterday on the role played by CIA nominee John Brennan in US drones strikes in Yemen - reported that Brennan "work[ed] closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret CIA drone base there that is used for American strikes". As the paper's Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, explained, the NYT was one of the papers which "had withheld the location of that base at the request of the CIA", but had decided now to report it. That was why the Post did so.
The existence of this drone base in Saudi Arabia is significantly newsworthy in multiple ways. The US drone program is drenched with extreme secrecy. The assassination of Awlaki is one of the most radical acts the US government has undertaken in the last decade at least. The intense cooperation between the US and the incomparably despotic Saudi regime is of vital significance. As Sullivan, the NYT's Public Editor, put it in defending the NYT's disclosure (and implicitly questioning the prior media conspiracy of silence):
"Given the government's undue secrecy about the drone program, which it has never officially acknowledged the existence of, and that program's great significance to America's foreign policy, its national security, and its influence on the tumultuous Middle East, The Times ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible on it."
As usual, the excuses for concealing this information are frivolous. Indeed, as the Guardian's Roy Greenslade noted, "the location of several drone bases was published as long ago as September last year on at least one news website, as this item on the North America Inter Press Service illustrates." Gawker's Adrian Chen documents numerous other instances where the base had been publicly disclosed and writes:
"In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren't protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story. . . . The fact that the drone base was already reported renders the rationale behind the months-long blackout a farce."
In an article on the controversy over this self-censorship, the Guardian this morning quotes Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University:
"The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger. The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven."
The same dynamic drives most of these acts of US media self-censorship. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims of national security. Indeed, none of these facts - once they were finally reported - ultimately resulted in any harm. Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.
There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That's when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: "most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations."
As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.
Recall the extraordinary 2009 BBC debate over WikiLeaks in which former NYT executive editor Bill Keller proudly praised himself for concealing information the Obama administration told him to conceal, prompting this incredulous reply from the BBC host: "Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the government in advance and say: 'What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,' and you get clearance, then?" Keller's admission also prompted this response from former British diplomat Carne Ross, who was also on the program: "It's extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the US Government."
After the Guardian published the truth about Raymond Davis, former Bush DOJ laywer Jack Goldsmith, in 2011, defended the New York Times' concealment of it by hailing what he called "the patriotism of the American press". He quoted former Bush CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as saying that "American journalists display 'a willingness to work with us' . . . but with the foreign press 'it's very, very difficult'". Goldsmith said that while foreign media outlets will more readily report on secret US government acts (he named The Guardian, Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks), US national security journalists with whom he spoke justified their eagerness to cooperate with the US government by "expressly ascrib[ing] this attitude to 'patriotism' or 'jingoism' or to being American citizens or working for American publications."
That is the key truth. The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency's vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama's assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative "informal" agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.
© 2013 the Guardian
Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.
Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America," and “ Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. Welcome to this week's edition of The Ratner Report with Michael Ratner.Michael now joins us from New York. Michael's the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He's chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He's also a board member of The Real News. And he's got all kinds of other hats, too.Thanks for joining us, Michael.MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: It's good to be with you, Paul.JAY: So tell us what you've been following this week.RATNER: Well, other than getting a slight flu and a cold, I made it over to Sundance, which is the big film festival in the United States. And there I saw some films that just are—very depressing is the best way to say it—about what's happened in America and what's happened to the issues of torture and the rehabilitation of the CIA. The film I saw there was called Manhunt. And it's supposedly the real story, with the real CIA agents, of how they murdered or killed Osama bin Laden. The film has the real agents in it. It has the women who were on the team. It has a man named—a CIA agent named Marty Martin, who supposedly led the team as an analyst, and then overall in charge of the team.So the first thing you recognize about a film called Manhunt is that to get the authority of the CIA to give up these agents' names, they had to do a film that the CIA was going to like. And let me tell you, the CIA is going to like this film, or they liked it if they saw the cut before, because, first, it justifies—and completely justifies—torture. It essentially says—not essentially; it says openly that torture is how we got the clues that allowed us to kill people from al-Qaeda all over the place, including track down Osama bin Laden. And they have as the talking head in the film—and this is where I was almost ready to run out of the movie theater—they have Jose Rodriguez. Jose Rodriguez was in charge of the counterterrorism section of the CIA in the first decade, or part of the first decade, of 2000 to 2010. He is the one who destroyed the tapes of the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, supposedly waterboarded, or according to government documents, 183 times. Those tapes, the videos, were destroyed by Jose Rodriguez, who was in charge of that whole operation. Now, what was incredible is he stood on that screen, he was on that screen talking to these whole Sundance fancy upper middle class, middle class audience, saying first [unintel.] techniques, you know, shaking people, slapping them around, that's not torture. And then the four last techniques, while he didn't use the word, he said, that's how we got what we needed; we have to use techniques like waterboarding, we have to use drones; that's what we're about. And they never say in the film—and that's why it's—in one way why it's such a slanted film—they never say, this is the man, Jose Rodriguez, who actually got rid of the very videotapes of the waterboarding. So you have Rodriguez saying that. Then you have Marty Martin, who's no longer at the CIA but apparently made a lot of money afterwards, Marty Martin again saying that, yes, these techniques are absolutely necessary. And one of the great ironies, which if people have seen Zero Dark Thirty, which is the sort of supposedly based on the truth, but the more narrative form of how they got Osama bin Laden—it's the Kathryn Bigelow film. If you see that, in both of these films, in Manhunt and in Zero Dark Thirty, there's the incident that happened up in Khost in Afghanistan, which is where a doctor from Jordan came in and he blew up and killed a half a dozen CIA agents, maybe more, including a woman who was involved or in charge of that base, a CIA person named Jennifer, who actually appears in the film Manhunt—and, of course, all the CIA agents are crying about how she got killed.But the incredible irony about how she got killed, about how Jennifer got killed by a person who wore a explosive belt, the Jordanian doctor, into that military base in Afghanistan, the incredible story they follow in Manhunt—and what they say is this Jordanian doctor was really angered by the Iraq War, and he started blogging against America, etc., etc., from Jordan. Eventually his house gets raided by some combination of the U.S. and their Jordanian intelligence agencies, and allegedly he turns and becomes an informant for the United States. I say allegedly because the United States made the mistake of trusting him. He comes up to that military base to give them a lead of how they're going to reach Osama bin Laden, and what does he do? He wears an explosive belt. Because they trust him so much, they don't inspect him, and he blows up these CIA agents.Now, I say irony about the film Manhunt and its basically lauding of interrogation techniques like waterboarding is because if you look at the Iraq War, a key link in selling the Iraq War to the United States was the claim, the claim that Saddam Hussein was supporting al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Where did that, quote, evidence come from, evidence that was used by Colin Powell, our secretary of state, at the UN? It came from the torture of a man named al-Liby by the CIA. It was false evidence, not real evidence. So here you have the irony of a CIA that is supporting torture, supporting waterboarding, being blown up by a man who is angry because of an Iraq War justified in part by a false relationship between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.Let me step back for a second and let's go to a bigger picture. So you have Manhunt, which justifies the CIA waterboarding, torture, etc. Then you have Zero Dark Thirty, which while it's been—enough written about it to fill a phone book, the majority of the opinions that I respect, including my own (and I saw the film), is that that film justifies torture, opens with torture (the agent eventually gets acclimated to torture), and of course doesn't show what we did as a result of these wars to Muslims all over Afghanistan and Iraq, Pakistan. But it justifies torture, in my view, Zero Dark Thirty. You put that together with Manhunt, Zero Dark Thirty justifying torture, and you add to that two films that I think most of your viewers will be familiar with. One is called Argo, which is the recent film about how the CIA successfully helped get some people who had been—or wouldn't have been held hostage after the Iranian Revolution in '79, and got them out of Iran, and how the CIA played a heroic role in that. And then a film called Green Zone about the green zone in Iraq, where again there's an avuncular CIA agent in that film getting the truth that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So now you have four films—Zero Dark Thirty, Manhunt, Argo, and Green Zone—all incredibly justifying and really rehabilitating a CIA that is known for and should be known for what it really does, which is to assassinate people and infiltrate legitimate institutions all over the world. And that's all in the last couple of years. So what we're seeing now in the media is really the justification of torture in two major films, and in four films really a rehabilitation of a CIA that I spent much of my life fighting against what it did in Central America, in South America, and over the world. And it leads me to, really, the last point I want to make for this talk today on torture in film, because one of the trials going on right now are the military commissions at Guantanamo. A military commission's an illegitimate form of trial. They were set up 11 years ago by President Bush. We expected them not to be continued by President Obama. He of course continued them. They're not like military—they're not like court martials, they're not like regular trials. They're set up after the crimes have been committed, and the rules are all slanted. Those are going on in Guantanamo as we speak. And one of those people on trial now in the so-called 9/11 conspiracy case is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, if we circle back to the beginning of this talk, in Manhunt is the person who was allegedly waterboarded—not allegedly; he was waterboarded 183 times. I say allegedly because Jose Rodriguez, who is the one who destroyed the tapes of those waterboardings, says in the Manhunt film, it wasn't really waterboarding 183 times, it was 183 pitchers of water, as if that's somehow better. Once you get to one waterboarding, it seems you're at 183. But in any case, we would actually know what's going on had Jose Rodriguez—someone who I believe is a war criminal—had Jose Rodriguez not destroyed the tapes. So that trial is going on now in Guantanamo. And it's a farce. It's been a farce for 11 years. So it's going on in Guantanamo. It's a farce then; it's a farce today.So, recently what happened is you go down to that trial, and there's a glass window in front of you. You can't hear anything in the courtroom. If you're a reporter or if you're a human rights person, you can sit behind that glass window and watch, and they feed the trial into you so you can hear what's going on. And there's someone who sits next to the judge with the red button, and when there's something that's classified that comes up in the trial, that person hits the red button and cuts off the feed so that I as a reporter or a human rights person cannot hear the classified material. None of that's good. I object to it. It's all bad. They classify everything. But what happened recently was really astonishing, apparently even to the judge. The feed is coming in to the reporters. All of a sudden what's happening in the courtroom is shut off. And the judge doesn't even know why it's shut off. Apparently, unbeknownst to the judge, there's another CIA person somewhere outside that court (it's hard to believe the judge didn't know this) somewhere with another red button. That person cuts off stuff going on at trial so the reporters can't hear it even if the judge didn't order it cut off. The judge, to his credit at least, or maybe to at least his credit that he thinks he controls the courtroom when he really doesn't, got outraged and said, this isn't going to happen anymore; I control the red button; you don't. So the trial just goes on like that with farce after farce after farce. And the next thing that's happened in that trial, which also is going to throw the whole thing into a tizzy: there's only been two people convicted by trial at Guantanamo in all these many years—all these many years. And both of those trials, both of those convictions seem to be in jeopardy. One has already been overturned because they tried the person on a conspiracy count—....So there's only been two people tried at Guantanamo by trial. Those two convictions are in great jeopardy. One has already, as I recall, been overturned because he was tried for conspiracy—that's bin Laden's alleged driver. And according to the court of appeals now, there's no such crime of conspiracy that can be tried by a military commission. So that conviction is gone. But, of course, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 conspirator, is on trial for that very act, conspiracy. So the prosecutor at Guantanamo is saying, I don't want to try him on this; he's going to get—this conviction may be reversed; let's not try him on this. The government, the Obama administration, says, no, no, we want to keep going forward on a conspiracy. It may be that they can't prove anything but a conspiracy. So you have that craziness of the trials.This would have all been avoided had they brought Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others to New York to try them as they were supposed to do, as Eric Holder supposedly wanted. And then Obama overruled Eric Holder, and then Congress got into the act. So you have these farces going on at Guantanamo. You still have a Guantanamo that's open with 187 people there. And I'll end on this really not optimistic note. When Obama took office 4.5 years ago, or just over 4 years ago, he promised to close Guantanamo in a year, issued an executive order to that. He appointed a special person to close Guantanamo, Ambassador Fried. Ambassador Fried was in the State Department. His one portfolio: close Guantanamo. And guess what happened a couple of days after Obama took office this time, when he just got—took the oath again? Mr. Fried no longer has a job to close Guantanamo; that office to close Guantanamo at the State Department has been closed. And now Ambassador Fried is in charge of the sanctions against Iran and Syria.So we no longer have an office to close Guantanamo. It looks to me, Paul, sadly, that something that was an abomination 11 years ago continues today. Guantanamo, indefinite detentions, and rump kangaroo trials continue. And so you put that all together, we have movies justifying all of this behavior, torture, etc. This country has gone a long way on the road to perdition.JAY: Alright. Well, one question. Go back to Sundance. How did the audience react to that film?RATNER: Oh, I'm really glad you asked that, Paul. Manhunt received standing ovations, particularly when the CIA agents took the stage. They were there. Two of the women were there and Marty Martin were there. And of course, you know, in some way it's—understandable is not the right word, but to the audience, it looked like these CIA people were heroes. They saved us. They were looking for Osama bin Laden for years. They eventually found him. And that's why we haven't had a terrorist attack or that's how they at least, you know, got to kill Osama bin Laden. So they took the stage and everybody cheered for them. So it was disheartening to see that. And as we left the theater, the people basically said that to us, because there were some people who objected to the film and said, well, you know, what about the destruction of the tapes, what about the waterboarding, isn't this torture, and they said, we just know that these people are keeping us safe.I do want to say that it's unclear what exactly was going on, because we also saw the best single film at Sundance, which people will see soon in this country because it was bought and it'll be distributed in 15 markets, and that's—['krOliz] was the director and Jeremy Scahill was the person they followed. He had written Blackwater. And that film was called Dirty Wars. And that's about the drone wars going on in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, throughout the Middle East, and the consequences of those drone wars for the peoples not only in those areas, but mainly in those areas, but the blowback that's going to have in the United States. That film also got a standing ovation. So it could be different audiences, it could be same audiences, etc. But I would say that it was impossible, impossible to make headway against what has now become, I would—the idea or the principle in this country that torture works. It was used to capture Osama or to kill Osama bin Laden, and we needed it when we needed it, and it's justified. I mean, that sense, you have to say that Obama, despite banning the worst aspects of torture, was a total failure. Had he actually prosecuted someone like Jose Rodriguez or the people who wrote the memos or the people who carried out the waterboarding or Cheney and Bush, who ordered the waterboarding, we wouldn't be having films like Zero Dark Thirty and Manhunt which justified torture. So I laid this, obviously, at the feet of President Bush. But Obama, for allowing this to be—for allowing torture to become essentially a political football—and I wish it were still that—but to essentially be something that people can now justify in this country, I lay that at the feet of Obama.JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Michael.RATNER: Thank you, Paul.JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
EndDISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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The British security firm G4S is set to rake in massive profits thanks to crises in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the world’s biggest security firm, the group’s brand plummeted during the London Olympics last year due to its failure to satisfy conditions of a government contract. But with growing unrest in North and West Africa, G4S is expected to make a speedy recovery.French legionnaires in Mali, which used to be part of France's African empire. (Photograph: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)
The January 16th hostage crisis at Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas plant, where 38 hostages were killed, ushered in the return of al-Qaeda not as extremists on the run, but as well-prepared militants with the ability to strike deeply into enemy territories and cause serious damage. For G4S and other security firms, this also translates into growing demands. “The British group (..) is seeing a rise in work ranging from electronic surveillance to protecting travelers,” the company’s regional president for Africa told Reuters. “Demand has been very high across Africa,” Andy Baker said. “The nature of our business is such that in high-risk environments the need for our services increases.”
If Algeria’s deadly encounter with al-Qaeda was enough to add then north African country to private security companies emerging African market, Libya must be a private security firm paradise. Following NATO’s toppling of the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his brutal assassination in Sirte on October 20, 2011, numerous militias sprung up throughout Libya, some armed with heavy weapons, courtesy of western countries. Initially, such disturbing scenes of armed militias setting up checkpoints at every corner were dismissed as an inevitable post-revolution reality. However, when westerners became targets themselves, ‘security’ in Libya finally became high on the agenda.
Many private security firms already operate in Libya; some were even present in the country before the former Libyan government was officially overthrown. Some of these firms were virtually unknown before the war, including a small private British firm, Blue Mountain Group. The latter was responsible for guarding the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, which was torched on Sep 11 last year. It later emerged that the attack on the embassy was preplanned and well-coordinated, resulting in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. It remains unclear why the State Department opted to hire Blue Mountain Group, as opposed to a larger security firm as is usually the case with other western embassies and large companies that now vie to reconstruct the very country that their governments conspired to destroy.
The lucrative business of destroying, rebuilding and securing has been witnessed in other wars and conflicts spurred on by western interventions. Private security firms are the middlemen that keep local irritants from getting in the way of post-war ‘diplomacy’ and the work business giants.
When a country eventually collapses under the pressure of bunker busters and other advanced weapons, security firms move in to secure the realm as western diplomats start their bargaining with the emerging local elites over the future of the country’s wealth. In Libya, those who contributed the biggest guns were the ones that received the largest contracts. Of course, while the destroyed country is being robbed blind, it is the local population that suffers the consequences of having brute foreigners with guns watching their neighborhoods in the name of security.
It must be said that the new Libyan government has specifically rejected Blackwater-style armed contractors – as in having boots on the ground – fearing provocations similar to those that occurred in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and similar killing throughout Afghanistan. The aim in Libya is to allow smooth business transactions without occasional protests provoked by trigger-happy foreigners. But considering the deteriorating security in Libya which has been created by the systematic destruction of the central government and its entire military apparatus, a solution to the security vacuum remains a major topic of discussion.
Private security firms are essentially mercenaries who offer services to spare western governments the political cost of incurring too many casualties. While they are often based in western cities, many of their employees come from so-called Third World countries. For all involved, it’s much safer this way, for when Asian, African or Arab security personnel are wounded or killed on duty, the matter tends to register, if ever, as a mere news item, with little political consequence, Senate hearings or government enquiries.
Mali, a west African country that is suffering multiple crises – military coups, civil war, famine and finally an all-out French-led war – is the likely next victim or opportunity for the deadly trio: western governments, large corporations and of course, private security firms.
In fact, Mali is the perfect ground for such opportunists, who will spare no effort to exploit its massive economic potential and strategic location. For years, the west African country has fallen under political and military western influences. The year 2012 represented a text-book scenario that ultimately and predictably lead to western intervention that finally took place on January 11, when France launched a military operation supposedly aimed at ousting armed Islamic extremists. The military operations will last “as long as necessary,” declared French President Francois Hollande, echoing the same logic of the Bush administration when it first declared its ‘war on terror.’
But as inviting as the Malian setting may seem, it is equally intricate and unpredictable. No linear timeline can possibly unravel in simple terms the crisis at hand. However, all arrows point to large caches of weapons that made their way from Libya to Mali following the NATO war. A new balance of power took hold, empowering the ever-oppressed Tuareg and flooding the country with desert-hardened militants belonging to various Islamic groups. Two symmetrical lines of upheavals developed at the same time in both the north and south parts of the country. On one hand, Tuareg’s National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared independence in the north and was quickly joined by Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA). On the other hand, US-trained army captain Amadou Haya Sanogo made his move in the southern part of the country in March, overthrowing President Amadou Toumani Touré.
The Malian storyline developed so rapidly, giving the impression that there was no other option but imminent confrontation between the south and the north. France, Mali’s old colonial master, was quick to wave the military card and worked diligently to enlist west African countries in its war efforts. The plan was for the intervention to appear as if it’s purely an African effort, with mere logistical support and political backing by their western benefactors. Indeed, on Dec 21, the UN Security Council approved the sending in of an African-led force (of 3,000 soldiers) from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to chase after northern militants in the vast Malian desert.
That war was scheduled for Sep. 2013, however, to allow France to form a united western front and to train fragmented Malian forces. But the militants’ capture of the town of Konna, close to the capital Bamako, has reportedly forced France’s hand to intervene in Mali and without UN consent. The war which was waged in the name of human rights and Mali’s territorial integrity, has already sparked outcries from major human rights organizations regarding crimes committed by foreign forces and their Malian army partners. However, what seems thus far as an easy French conquest has left other western powers licking their chops over the potential of having access to Mali, which is unlikely to have a strong central government anytime soon.
On Jan 25, the African Press Agency's page on Mali was filled with news items about eager western involvement in solidarity with the French war buildup. It ranged from “Italy to send aircraft to help transport troops to Mali” to “Germany pledge aid to Africa for Mali intervention.” All calls for political dialogue, especially as ethnic strife is likely to devastate the country for years to come, seem to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, according to APA, the UK is offering help to Mali in finding a ‘political roadmap’ aimed at security the ‘political future of the West African country.’
As France, the US and EU countries determine the future of Mali through military efforts and political roadmaps, the country itself is so weakened and politically disfigured beyond any possibility of confronting outside designs. For G4S and other security firms, Mali now tops the list in Africa’s emerging security market. Nigeria and Kenya follow closely, with possibilities emerging elsewhere.
From Libya to Mali a typical story is forming, coupled with lucrative contracts and massive opportunities of all sorts. When private security firms speak of an emerging market in Africa, one is to safely assume that the continent is once more falling prey to growing military ambitions and unfair business conduct. While G4S is likely to polish its tarnished brand, hundreds of thousands of African refugees (800,000 in Mali alone) will continue their endless journeys into unfamiliar borders and unforgiving deserts. Their security matters to no one, for private security firms have no room for penniless refugees.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).
Private military contracting has ballooned into an industry worth more than $100bn a year. (Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)In early 1995, Sierra Leone was on the brink of collapse. A violent civil war had ravaged the country, leaving thousands dead and countless others wounded. The insurgent rebels, infamous for recruiting child soldiers, were just weeks from the beleaguered capital, Freetown, and appeared unassailable.
Several months later, however, the tide had turned: the government's authority was strengthened, rebel forces were repelled, and control over the country's major economic assets was restored. Executive Outcomes, a private military contractor armed with helicopters and state of the art artillery, helped change the course of the war.
Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year.
The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It's the norm.
The United States relied so heavily on contractors during the recent Iraq war that no one knows with certainty how many were on the ground. In late 2010, the United Arab Emirates, fearful that the Arab uprisings might spread to the Gulf, paid Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, $529m to create an elite force to safeguard the emirate. And today, Russia is openly considering forming a cadre of private military contractors to further its interests abroad.
Yet, the laws that govern this industry tell a different story. Instead of a transnational system with meaningful collaboration, we have a patchwork of state laws that allow companies to forum-shop and circumvent regulations. Contractors can likewise relocate, as they typically rent the equipment necessary to complete their contracts; their primary source of capital is human, not physical.
In addition to closing loopholes, states must monitor contractors, and prosecute them when they commit crimes. To this day, not a single contractor has been successfully prosecuted for its role in the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities or the Nisour Square massacre, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.
Contractors claim that their services are market- and self-regulated. They contend that wanton violence would stop governments from seeking their assistance. Yet, the theatre of war often obscures their activities.
In its final report to the US Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the US government lost more than $30bn to contractor waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, corporations can rename and rebrand, thereby mitigating reputational harm. Consider Blackwater USA, which changed its name to Xe Services LLC, and then to Academi – all in the last four years.
The UN working group on the use of mercenaries has suggested that certain military functions, like combat services and interrogation, not be outsourced to private contractors. Its guidelines should be followed. Outsourcing foreign policy goals undermines democratic oversight because contractor activities, including casualties, typically escape public scrutiny. It can also allow states to evade legislative oversight.
The greatest check against war is the horror of war itself. Yet, as the physical distance between warring states grows, so does the temptation to loosen our moral compass. Violence that lacks immediacy is easier to ignore. Permitting third parties to wage war for profit risks a world in which war is not the last resort but an economic transaction in which the victims are faceless and nameless.
And so, we return to Sierra Leone. Although the intervention by Executive Outcomes is sometimes touted as illustrating the viability of military contractors, history suggests otherwise. The contractor was later accused of interfering in domestic politics to pursue financial gain, and an associated firm received payment through diamond mine concessions, which compromised the country's economic future.
Moreover, violence resumed after Executive Outcomes left Sierra Leone. It became clear that the government had over-relied on the contractor and undercut its own institutions.
The fog of war is hazy enough. We don't need additional, unregulated cloud cover.
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
(Photo: Spc. Kim Browne / US Army)The tendency to invoke a national security framework in discussions of climate change can lead to misguided and opportunistic policies centered on greenwashed imperialism.
Over the past few years a handful of liberal environmentalists, pundits and scientists have been co-opting the language and methods of the National Security State in order to declare a "War on Climate Change."
A number of recent articles on the topic illustrate just how far militarism has coiled its way around climate change politics. A recent blog post by Joe Romm, an editor at Climate Progress, noted President Obama's likely (and now actual) nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) as secretary of state. The article described Kerry as a "climate hawk" who "believes that climate change is the 'biggest long term threat' to national security."
Then there is the blog Climate Code Red, which published "Scientists call for war on climate change, but who on earth is listening?" on December 7, 2012. The magazine New Scientist, in a November 2, 2012 editorial: "The US military is a useful ally on climate change," it exclaimed. "Letting the military lead the way might be the best way to build a new energy economy." The editorial lauds the Pentagon's ability to generate research dollars, and as a result develop new markets for new technologies." Greens, too, should support the man oeuvre ... when you've got a war to fight, it helps to have the big boys on your side."
And three days after the New Scientist editorial, Boston Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem wrote, "After Sandy, environmentalists, military find common cause," adding to the chorus of voices singing the praises of the National Security State's interest and involvement in climate change.
Kayyem, coincidentally a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote, "War might be an entirely accurate - and now even more appropriate - word to describe the urgency of the effort to curb climate change ... because climate change poses a continuing and unpredictable threat to national and global security." The Pentagon first ranked climate change as a national security threat in 2010, and in November 2012 the National Academy of Sciences sounded alarms in a report that noted "the security establishment is going to have to start planning for natural disasters, sea-level rise, drought, epidemics and the other consequences of climate change." However, the Boston Globe's Kayyem does point out that the Pentagon's involvement is not driven by altruistic humanitarian or ecological concern, but rather US geopolitical interests, such as the potential threat to US military bases around the globe as a result of a rise in sea-level.
The latest war metaphor was coined by Grist staff writer David Roberts in an October 2010 column, "Introducing 'climate hawks'." Roberts says he wanted a new label to define a new subset of people concerned with climate change and clean energy. For Roberts, traditional environmentalists should not be leading the discussion on climate change. No, Roberts wanted to create a name that could bring people together from the usually opposed corporate, military and activist communities. He asked his readers for ideas, although "climate hawk" ended up being proposed by one of his colleagues at Grist. Roberts explains why he liked the term:
First and foremost, it doesn't carry any implications about The Truth. It doesn't say, 'I'm right, you're wrong. I'm smarter and more enlightened than you.' Instead it evokes a judgment: that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.... It becomes about values, about how hard to fight and how much to sacrifice to defend America and her future.... The health of Mother Earth just doesn't move that many people. For better or worse, more Americans respond to evocations of toughness in the face of a threat. In foreign policy a hawk is someone who, as Donald Rumsfeld used to put it, 'leans forward,' someone who's not afraid to flex America's considerable muscle, someone who takes a proactive attitude toward gathering dangers.
Climate Progress's Romm chose "Climate Hawk" as their phrase of the year in 2010. But the term has been gaining ground. More recently, after November's election, it was used in a headline by Mother Jones,"Five Climate Hawks Who Won Tuesday", demonstrating that the term is finding its way into mainstream environmental vernacular.
A "climate hawk" flexes muscles, fights and - most importantly - defends America. The term and the reasoning co-opt the language and logic of masculinity, militarism and nationalism, and thus perpetuate a cultural ailment that afflicts US society and how it approaches national and international dilemmas (think War on Drugs, War on Terror, etc.)"Any term one chooses to describe a movement will be more inviting to some and more alienating to others," said Robert Jensen, a professor of journalism at University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication. "Someone like me, who has been a harsh critic of US militarism and imperialism and an advocate for radical change to deal with climate, doesn't care what a movement is called, because the work goes on."
According to George Lakoff, Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, the use of the term "climate hawk" and using national security within a climate frame are ambiguous and open to interpretations. He believes that a term like "climate hawk" and the nexus between climate change and national security are being used by some with the intention of instilling the urgency of the situation to our health as a nation and the need for aggressive policy and action. "Resorting to turning climate policy over to the Defense Department is certainly a failure," said Lakoff, of a possible misinterpretation. "I don't think that is what either Romm or Kerry has in mind."
However, in its militarism, the term can alienate women, who are often on the front lines of climate struggle. "Many would argue that a culture of militarized nationalism is firmly established in the US, and that patriarchy directly relates to this culture. Patriarchy marginalizes that which is associated with femininity while privileging masculinity," said Nicole Detraz, assistant professor of political science at the University of Memphis. "Societal depictions of women as caregivers or mothers, and men as leaders or fighters establish men as the 'most appropriate' actors to take care of the real world of security."
Militarism has been creeping into the mainstream environmental movement for years. On December 4, 2012, The World Wildlife Federation announced it would use drones to track poachers in Africa, thanks to a $5 million grant from Google. Al Jazeera correspondent Eddie Walsh examined the global implications of non-state actors engaging in drone surveillance and other international security activities. Private military security contractors operating largely with impunity in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones already have brought similar issues to light.
"I strongly believe militarism stands in the way of achieving progress on climate change," said Betsy Hartmann, director of the population and development program and professor of development studies at Hampshire College, who currently focuses on the militarization of climate change in her research and writing. "Linking climate change and national security is a dangerous road to go down."
First "climate hawks," now "enviro-drones." While climate change does have the capacity to cause destabilization in areas of the world, as well as become an existential threat for many, looking at this through a national security framework divides the world between us and them, while reinforcing the dangerous notion of American exceptionalism. "Using this language suggests that there are no solutions, so we have to fight," added Hartmann.
Unfortunately, this is a road we have been traveling down for some time now, and adopting foreign policy discourse and tools exacerbates this troubling tendency.
According to Detraz, whose research critically examines the environment, security and gender, the trend of "utilizing security discourse" for national and international problems dates back to the Cold War. "There is typically a perception that security issues garner a great deal of attention and resources, and that framing environmental issues as security issues can tap into this," said Detraz. "For these reasons, environmentalists who want to raise awareness of climate change may use concepts/terms like climate security, the insecurity of energy dependence, or environmental conflict."
In a 2009 editorial, The New York Times advocated securitizing environmental discourse. Lamenting Congress's failure to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, it argued in an editorial, "The Climate and National Security," that, "Proponents of climate change legislation have now settled on a new strategy: Warning that global warming poses a serious threat to national security," and that it was "pretty good politics" because "many politicians will do anything for the Pentagon." Hampshire's Hartmann said that this strategic decision by mainstream environmentalists is a testament to the power of the fossil fuel industry and climate denial in this country.
Also in 2009, the CIA opened the Center on Climate Change and National Security. But when a historian at the National Security Archived sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA for copies of its reports on climate change the request was denied because the agency said the information was classified. Another example of the "benefits" of the CIA's partnership with climate change activists comes courtesy of WikiLeaks. The US State Department, acting at the behest of the CIA, sent out a directive "seeking human intelligence on UN diplomats," as well as "compromising intelligence on the officials running the climate negotiations" to undermine and manipulate the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, as the Guardian reported in two separate articles on Dec. 3, 2010.
The Obama Administration ended up closing the CIA's center on climate change in November 2012. "The goal of the intelligence apparatus is to help make Americans safer and more secure," Romm, also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Public Radio International's (PRI) program, "Living on Earth" on December 6, 2012. "And, since global warming is clearly a growing threat to our security, both directly and through how it affects countries that we have an interest in, we need to focus the CIA's and the Pentagon's thinkers on climate change."
Do we? Professor Detraz argues that if actors adopt a relatively narrow, environmental conflict discourse we are likely to get policies that are narrowly focused on protecting and enhancing state security.
An October 2011 report prepared by the Defense Science Board, which advises the secretary of defense, supports Detraz's argument. "The United States, however, has neither the knowledge nor the resources needed to produce widespread amelioration. US resources must be focused on the most serious US national risks," it reads. The report, which pays particular attention to Africa, also pointed out, "In some instances, climate change will serve as a threat multiplier, exacerbating tensions between tribes, ethnic groups and nations. In other cases, [it] will seem more like Mother Nature's weapon of mass destruction."
"It's dangerous that some liberal environmentalists bought into this climate conflict narrative about poor people of color becoming violent when climate change makes resources scarce. This narrative draws on deep-seated stereotypes of Africans in particular as savages and barbarians, incapable of technological and institutional innovation or cooperation," said Hartmann. "The media loves this stuff because fear sells in this country, especially racialized fears of poor people. The tragedy is that this approach works against the kind of international solidarity we need to build popular, democratic and effective solutions to climate change."
There have been other national security climate change projections of regional destabilizations caused by famine, droughts, subsequent migration flows, as well as wars fought over resources. This also calls into question the term "climate refugees," a depoliticized term that minimizes or fails to consider the socioeconomic factors and institutionalized structures of racism and oppression that make certain populations more vulnerable to environmental instability.
"One of the strongest critiques of environmental security discourses [is] that they result in othering populations, many of whom are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change impacts. It is true that when institutions from the global North have discussed climate migrants they have tended to assume that it is a problem of people from Southern states entering their borders," according to Detraz.
This can lead racist, xenophobic backlashes by both state actors and right-wing movements. "I advocate using narratives that highlight the human security threats that stem from environmental degradation, and the economic, social, and political vulnerabilities that make environmental insecurity a very real experience for millions of people," she added.
As the Defense Science Board points out, it is not about stopping or reversing climate change, but rather the focus is about mitigating and adapting to projected crises that threaten US national security interests. And we shouldn't fool ourselves. These interests are guided by maintaining US global hegemony and unfettered access to the world's resources, not empathy, human rights or environmental sustainability. Accepting and perpetuating the narrative of climate security, and by talking about climate change through a national security framework, opens doors for the national security state to execute its imperial tools, with a new imperial alibi: a new, green humanitarian imperialism, with some NGO's, International Financial Institutions, and academics serving as accessories. This is another method of preserving the global world order and Western-based notions of development.
For instance, the Pentagon's enlisting of academics in its war efforts has stirred controversy in the recent past with university anthropologists helping the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and University of Kansas geographers mapping indigenous land in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Scientific American reported in March 2012 in an article, "US Defense Department Develops Map of Future Climate Chaos" that University of Texas researchers, courtesy of a 5-year $7.6 million defense department grant, will be creating maps to show "where vulnerability to climate change and violent conflicts intersects throughout the African continent." The US has expanded military operations in recent years with the creation of AFRICOM, something viewed as driven by "resource exploitation and imperial expansion," and announced in December that it will be increasing troops and drones for 2013. The continent is in the midst of a natural resource boom, and China's growing presence in the continent's resource markets has bothered Washington and is perceived as challenging US hegemony in the region.
Also lurking in the dark imaginations of Pentagon planners could be something akin to regional military climate change operations - think Plan Colombia for climate change, and how the War on Drugs is not exclusively about stopping or controlling drug trafficking or consumption.
Guatemala has already provided an example of so-called environmental security. In 2010, then-president of Guatemala Alvaro Colom created a "green battalion" allegedly to protect Laguna del Tigre National Park Maya Biosphere Reserve in the department of Petén. But the creation of the battalion was the result of an agreement with French oil company Perenco. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, "Colom said oil drilling is not the cause of environmental damage in that region and instead put the blame on land invasions by small farmers and cattle raising." Indeed, this prediction seems to be coming true. "Some of these soldiers have taken part in forced evictions of communities living inside the park and are currently responsible for what amounts to a state of siege for those still living inside. Not only are the 25 to 30 communities inside the park forbidden from cutting a tree without a permit, they are under constant pressure from soldiers and armed park rangers," wrote journalist Dawn Paley, writing for Briarpatch magazine in July 2012. In the US we've seen private mercenary company Blackwater called upon for security in response to natural disaster Hurricane Katrina, while BP hired private security contractors in 2010 to keep reporters away from the beaches after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
It is sad that a national discussion on climate change that points to facts, science, solidarity and peaceful democratic measures has been lost on some people and deemed ineffective. Nevertheless, Lakoff, who is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, a book widely believed to have influenced the Democratic Party and progressive organizations, points out that, "Peace, justice, and equality have been tried and don't even motivate liberals, despite their truth." But the voices that apply these principles risk being excluded from the conversation as a militaristic, fear-mongering framework gains more traction. It is important to examine the cultural pathologies that have taken us down this "dangerous road."
"Human beings have always had a capacity for violence, but not all societies are pathological in their glorification of violence. I believe the root of this pathology is patriarchy, the foundational hierarchy of men over women," said the University of Texas's Jensen. "The domination-subordination dynamic at the heart of patriarchy defines our world, including our conceptions of nation, of racial identity, of wealth accumulation."
This also currently defines our relationship with nature, which in modern times has been driven by accumulation and domination. Responses guided by this pathos, whether it is through militarism or scientific "panaceas," such as genetically modifying agriculture or geoengineering, further illustrate this mentality.
So where do we begin?
"We start by recognizing that the story of progress, technological solutions and endless bounty are a fantasy. We face the fact that the human species is now facing an end to the endless expansion of the fossil fuel era and a permanent contraction," said Jensen. "We start by growing up."
Since the kindling of the conflict inside Syria in 2011, it was recognized, by friend and foe alike, that the events in that country were tied to a game plan that ultimately targets Iran, Syria’s number one ally.  De-linking Syria from Iran and unhinging the Resistance Bloc that Damascus and Tehran have formed has been one of the objectives of the foreign-supported anti-government militias inside Syria. Such a schism between Damascus and Tehran would change the Middle East’s strategic balance in favour of the US and Israel.
If this cannot be accomplished, however, then crippling Syria to effectively prevent it from providing Iran any form of diplomatic, political, economic, and military support in the face of common threats has been a primary objective. Preventing any continued cooperation between the two republics has been a strategic goal. This includes preventing the Iran-Iraq-Syria energy terminal from being built and ending the military pact between the two partners.
All Options are Aimed at Neutralizing Syria
Regime change in Damascus is not the only or main way for the US and its allies to prevent Syria from standing with Iran. Destabilizing Syria and neutralizing it as a failed and divided state is the key. Sectarian fighting is not a haphazard outcome of the instability in Syria, but an assisted project that the US and its allies have steadily fomented with a clear intent to balkanize the Syrian Arab Republic. Regionally, Israel above all other states has a major stake in securing this outcome. The Israelis actually have several publicly available documents, including the Yinon Plan, which outline that the destruction of Syria into a series of smaller sectarian states is one of their strategic objectives. So do American military planners.
Like Iraq next door, Syria does not need to be formally divided. For all intents and purposes, the country can be divided like Lebanon was alongside various fiefdoms and stretches of territory controlled by different groups during the Lebanese Civil War. The goal is to disqualify Syria as an external player.
Since 2006 and the Israeli defeat in Lebanon in that year there was renewed focus on the strategic alliance between Iran and Syria. Both countries have been very resilient in the face of US designs in their region. Together both have been key players for influencing events in the Middle East, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Their strategic alliance has undoubtedly played an important role in shaping the geo-political landscape in the Middle East. Although critics of Damascus say it has done very little in regard to substantial action against the Israelis, the Syrians have been the partners within this alliance that have carried the greatest weight in regards to facing Israel; it has been through Syria that Hezbollah and the Palestinians have been provided havens, logistics, and their initial strategic depth against Israel.
From the beginning the foreign-supported external opposition leaders made their foreign policy clear, which can strongly be argued was a reflection of the interests they served. The anti-government forces and their leaders even declared that they will realign Syria against Iran; in doing so they used sectarian language about returning to their “natural orbit with the Sunni Arabs.” This is a move that is clearly in favour of the US and Israel alike. Breaking the axis between Damascus and Tehran has also been a major goal of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms since the 1980s as part of a design to isolate Iran during the Iraq-Iran War.  Moreover, the sectarian language being used is part of a construct; it is not a reflection of reality, but a reflection of Orientalist conjecture and desires that falsely stipulate that Muslims who perceive themselves as being Shia or Sunni are inherently at odds with one another as enemies.
Among the prostrating Syrian opposition leaders who would execute the strategic goals of the US has been Burhan Ghalioun, the former president of the Istanbul-based and foreign-sponsored Syrian National Council, who told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 that Damascus would end its strategic alliance with Iran and end its support for Hezbollah and the Palestinians as soon as anti-government forces took over Syria.  These foreign-sponsored opposition figures have also served to validate, in one way or another, the broader narratives that claim Sunnis and Shiites hate one another. In synchronization the mainstream media in the countries working for regime change in Damascus, such as the US and France, have consistently advertized that the regime in Syria is an Alawite regime that is allied to Iran, because the Alawites are an offshoot of Shiism. This too is untrue, because Syria and Iran do not share a common ideology; both countries are aligned, because of a common threat and shared political and strategic objectives. Nor is Syria run by an Alawite regime; the government’s composure reflects Syrian society’s ethnic and religious diversity.
Israel’s Stake in Syria
Syria is all about Iran for Israel. As if Tel Aviv has nothing to do whatsoever with the events inside Syria, Israeli commentators and analysts are now publicly insisting that Israel needs to deal with Iran by intervening inside Syria. Israel’s involvement in Syria, alongside the US and NATO, crystallized in 2012. It was clear that Israel was working in a conglomerate comprised of the US, Britain, France, Turkey, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon’s minority March 14 Alliance, and the NATO-supported usurpers that have taken over and wrecked the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
Although it should be read with caution, it is worth noting the release of the hacked correspondence of Strategic Forecast Incorporated’s Reva Bhalla to her boss, George Friedman, about a December 2011 meeting in the Pentagon between herself (representing Stratfor), US, French, and British officials about Syria.  The Stratfor correspondence claimed that the US and its allies had sent in their military special forces to destabilize Syria in 2011 and that there actually were not many Syrian anti-government forces on the ground or, as Bhalla writes, “there isn’t much of a Free Syrian Army to train.”  The Daily Star, which is owned by Lebanon’s Hariri family which has been involved in the regime change operations against Syria, soon after reported that thirteen undercover French officers were caught by the Syrians conducting operations inside Homs.  Instead of a categorical no to the information about the captured French officers, the French Foreign Ministry’s response to the public was that it could not confirm anything, which can be analyzed as an omission of guilt. 
Days earlier, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar station revealed that Israeli-made weapons and supplies, ranging from grenades and night binoculars to communication devices, were captured alongside Qatari agents inside the insurgent stronghold of Baba Amr in Homs towards the end of April and start of March.  An unnamed US official would later confirm in July 2012 that the Mossad was working alongside the CIA in Syria.  Just a month earlier, in June, the Israeli government began publicly demanding that a military intervention be launched into Syria, presumably by the US and the conglomerate of governments working with Israel to destabilize Syria. 
The Israeli media has even begun to casually report that Israeli citizens, albeit one has been identified as an Israeli Arab (meaning a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship), have entered Syria to fight against the Syrian Army.  Normally any Israelis, specifically those that are non-Jewish Arabs, which enter Lebanon or/and Syria are condemned or prosecuted by Israeli authorities and Israeli news reports focus on this aspect of the story. Yet, it has not been so in this case. It should also be mentioned that the Palestinian opponents of Israel living inside Syria are also being targeted, just as the Palestinians living in Iraq were targeted after the US and UK invaded in 2003.
Syria and the Objective of Making Iran Stand Alone
The journalist Rafael D. Frankel wrote a revealing article for the Washington Quarterly that illustrates what US policymakers and their partners think about in Syria. In his article Frankel argued that because of the so-called Arab Spring that an attack on Iran by the US and Israel would no longer trigger a coordinated regional response from Iran and its allies.  Frankel argued that because of the events inside Syria an opportunity has been created for the US and Israel to attack Iran without igniting a regional war that would involve Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. 
Frankel’s line of thinking was not lost on circles in either NATO or Israel. In reality his line of thinking springs forth from the views and plans of these very circles. As a psychological enforcement of their ideas, his text actually found its way to NATO Headquarters in Brussels in 2012 for reading material. While the latter, Israel, released its own intelligence report about the subject.
According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the intelligence report by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has concluded that Syria and Hezbollah will no longer be able to open a second front against Israel should it go to war with Iran.  During the Israeli report’s release, one senior Israeli official was quoted as saying “Iran’s ability to harm Israel in response to an attack on our part declined dramatically.”
Many news wires, papers, and writers with hostile positions towards both Syria and Iran, such as The Daily Telegraph, immediately replicated the Israeli report’s findings about Iran and its regional allies. Two of the first people to reproduce the findings of the Israel report, Robert Tait (writing from the Gaza Strip) and Damien McElroy (who was expelled from Libya in 2011 by that country’s authorities during the war with NATO), summarize how significant the findings of the report are by effectively outlining how Iran’s key allies in the Levant have all been neutralized. 
The Israeli report has triumphantly declared that Syria has turned within and is too busy to join ranks with its strategic ally Iran against Tel Aviv in a future war.  The ramifications of the Syrian crisis have also placed Iran’s Lebanese allies, particularly Hezbollah, in an unsteady position where their supply lines are under threat and they have been politically damaged through their support of Damascus. If anyone in Lebanon should side with Iran in a future war the Israelis have said that they will invade through massive military operations on the ground. 
The new Egyptian government’s role in aiding US objectives under President Morsi also becomes clear with what the Israeli report says about his supportive role: “The foreign ministry report also predicted that Egypt would stop Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, from helping Iran by launching rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.”  This adds credence to the view that Morsi was allowed by the US and Israel to broker a peace between the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv, which would prevent the Palestinians there from standing with Iran during a war. In other words the Egyptian truce was setup to bind the hands of Hamas. The recent announcements about moves by Morsi’s government to engage Hezbollah politically can also be scrutinized as an extension of the same strategy applied in Gaza, but in this case for unbinding Iran from its Lebanese allies. 
There is also clamouring for steps to be taken to de-link Hezbollah, and by extension Iran, from its Christian allies in Lebanon. The German Marshall Fund showcased a text essentially saying that the Lebanese Christians that are allies to Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran need to be presented with an alternative political narrative to replace the one where they believe that Iran will ultimately run the Middle East as a great power.  This too is tied to further eroding Iran’s alliance system.
The conflict in Syria is not merely an Israeli affair. The slow bleeding of Syria has other interested parties that want to smash the country and its society into pieces. The US is foremost among these interested parties, followed by the Arab dictators of the petro-sheikhdoms. NATO has also always been covertly involved.
NATO’s involvement in Syria is part of the US strategy of using the military alliance to dominate the Middle East. This is why it was decided to establish a component of the missile shield in Turkey. This is also the reason that Patriot missiles are being deployed to the Turkish border with Syria. The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue are components of these plans too. Additionally, Turkey has ended its veto against the further integration of Israel into NATO. 
NATO has been reorienting itself towards asymmetrical warfare and greater emphasis is now being put on intelligence operations. NATO strategists have increasingly been studying the Kurds, Iraq, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians. In the scenario of an all-out war, NATO has been preparing itself for overt military roles in both Syria and Iran.
Iraq is being destabilized further too. While Iran’s allies in Damascus have been weighed down, its allies in Baghdad have not. After Syria, the same conglomerate of countries working against Damascus will turn their attention to Iraq. They have already started working to galvanize Iraq further on the basis of its sectarian and political fault lines. Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are playing prominent roles in this objective. What is becoming manifest is that the differences between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims that Washington has cultivated since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now been augmented by Kurdish sectarianism.
It appears that many in the Israeli political establishment now believe that they have succeeded in breaking the Resistance Bloc. Whether they are correct or incorrect is a matter of debate. Syria still stands; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (which was by far the most active Palestinian group fighting Israel from Gaza in 2012) and other Palestinians will side with Iran even if Hamas will have its hands tied by Egypt; there are still Tehran’s allies in Iraq; and Syria is not the only supply line for Iran to arm its ally Hezbollah. What is also very clear is that the siege against Syria is a front in the covert multi-dimensional war against Iran. This alone should make people reconsider the statements of US officials and their allies about having concerns for the Syrian people merely on the basis of humanitarianism and democracy.
 Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “Obama’s Secret Letter to Tehran: Is the War against Iran On Hold? ‘The Road to Tehran Goes through Damascus,’” Global Research, January 20, 2012.
 Jubin M. Goodarzi, Syria and Iran: Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East (London, UK: I.B. Tauris, 2009), pp.217-228.
 Nour Malas and Jay Solomon, “Syria Would Cut Iran Military Tie, Opposition Head Says,” Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011.
 WikiLeaks, “Re: INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces,” October 19, 2012: <http://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/209688_re-insight-military-intervention-in-syria-post-withdrawal.html>.
 Lauren Williams, “13 French officers being held in Syria,” The Daily Star, March 5, 2012.
 Israa Al-Fass, “Mossad, Blackwater, CIA Led Operations in Homs,” trans. Sara Taha Moughnieh, Al-Manar, March 3, 2012.
 David Ignatius, “Looking for a Syrian endgame,” The Washington Post, July 18, 2012.
 Dan Williams, “Israel accuses Syria of genocide, urges intervention,” Andrew Heavens ed., Reuters, June 10, 2012.
 Hassan Shaalan, “Israeli fighting Assad ‘can’t go home,’” Yedioth Ahronoth, January 3, 2013.
 Rafael D. Frankel, “Keeping Hamas and Hezbollah Out of a War with Iran,” Washington Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4 (Fall 2012): pp.53-65.
 “Weakened Syria unlikely to join Iran in war against Israel: report,” The Daily Star, January 4, 2013.
 Damien McElroy and Robert Tait, “Syria ‘would not join Iran in war against Israel,’” The Daily Telegraph, January 3, 2013.
 “Weakened Syria,” The Daily Star, op. cit.
 “Syria and Hezbollah won’t join the fight if Israel strikes Iran, top-level report predicts,” Times of Israel, January 3, 2013.
 McElroy and Tait, “Syria would not,” op. cit.
 Lauren Williams, “New Egypt warms up to Hezbollah: ambassador,” The Daily Star, December 29, 2011.
 Hassan Mneimneh, “Lebanon ― The Christians of Hezbollah: A Foray into a Disconnected Political Narrative,” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, November 16, 2012.
 Hilary Leila Krieger, “Israel to join NATO activities amidst Turkey tension,” Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2012; Jonathon Burch and Gulsen Solaker, “Turkey lifts objection to NATO cooperation with Israel,” Mark Heinrich ed., Reuters, December 24, 2012; “Turkey: Israel’s participation in NATO not related to Patriots,” Today’s Zaman, December 28, 2012.