Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer for Democracy Now interviews the youth activist and blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah, in Tahrir Square on where the revolution stands now (Day 15, Feb 9). Alaa describes the contributions of the various groups driving the revolution, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and the challenges of making decisions among a [...]
Aluf Benn must be living in an alternate universe:
“Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was perceived in Israel as a shining victory. Rocket fire from Gaza was brought to a halt almost completely. The Israel Defense Forces emerged from its failure during the Second Lebanon War and deployed ground forces with few casualties. ‘The [...]
The Wall Street Journal reported on October 5, 2009 that there might not be a referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Iraq and the United States. The SOFA is actually two documents that set the future relations between the two countries. When it was originally debated in Iraq’s parliament, the [...]
At long last, the Obama administration has provided a draft of its objectives with respect to the ongoing military occupation of Afghanistan, as well as a series of metrics for gauging the success in terms of meeting those aims. Unfortunately, the enunciated objectives are themselves typical of the muddled and contradictory goals, tactics and strategies associated [...]
Andrew Sullivan is right:
The document reads, like so much else from the Cheney years, like a document from a South American dictatorship in the 1970s or 1980s. If someone had told me a few years ago that it had popped up in the Soviet archives, I would have believed him. Read the whole thing if you can. It is a distressing document. Here’s what the “CIA pros” did to prisoners (the non-CIA pros improvised the president’s directive to torture and abuse prisoners in very similar ways): stress positions, nudity, hooding, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, long time standing, beatings, hypothermia, and walling. They key thing, according to the CIA, is to enhance “the potential dread a high-value detainee might have of US custody”. Notice the shift from the standards of the past. In the past, the US was known for being a country whose soldiers would never mistreat prisoners; now, the US wants the world to know that US custody is something to be dreaded. That’s what Cheney did to America. He’s proud of it. If you are ever captured by a US soldier, and suspected of terrorism, you know that torture will be coming soon. The values of Washington and Eisenhower and Reagan are inverted. The reputation of the US as a defender of human rights is reversed. The point is that America must be feared for its willingness to abandon all human rights.
This is what the neocon right believe in, even as they prattle on about extending human rights as an American value. They say they believe in democracy. What they also believe in is what we saw done to innocent human beings at Abu Ghraib:
Nudity. The HVD’s clothes are taken from him and he remains nude until the interrogators provide clothes to him.
Sleep deprivation. The HVD is placed in the vertical shackling position to begin sleep deprivation. Other shackling procedures may be used during interrogations. The detainee is diapered for sanitary purposes, although the diaper is not used at all times.
The diapers are necessary because when you shackle someone in the same position for hours and hours on end and feed him Ensure, he will shit himself. All torturing regimes deal with shitting torture victims. The US followed other regimes in both diapering prisoners or, better still, forcing them to lie in their own excrement, as was discovered by horrified FBI agents at Gitmo. Other torture regimes capture piss and shit in bowls beneath the torture victims. Various forms of nude shackling, sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation (all barred under Geneva and the UN Convention) are then supplemented by constant bombardment with light, loud noise, water-dousing and walling. These techniques can be used in combination. [emphasis added]
Don’t it make you proud? Don’t you wonder why the Obama administration would want to politicize criminal conduct by actually investigating torture and holding those that tortured accountable under the law?
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Ben Smith is impressed with the Obama administration’s relatively low-key approach to counterterrorism:
One of the most striking differences between the Obama and Bush administration is the handling of domestic terror arrests. The Bush White House trumpeted every arrest and disrupted plot — in some cases, ones that were nowhere close to fruition — as a major win in the War on Terror and a reminder of the need to be vigilant.
The Obama administration, by contrast, keeps them relatively quiet. There hasn’t been a statement from the White House, or any comment save a Justice Department press release, on the arrest of seven men on charges that they helped raise money and provide training for attacks in Israel, and trained to participate in attacks in Israel and Kosovo.
The decision not to talk about terrorism is just that — a choice, with the goal of ending the "politics of fear" that Obama denounced during the campaign.
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I don’t envy President Obama’s predicament in Afghanistan. It’s hard to think of a region that has been less hospitable to foreign interlopers throughout ancient and modern history (earning itself the moniker "Graveyard of Empires"). And yet despite this foreboding track record, it is unclear that President Obama is willing to deviate from that familiar, if tragic, path traveled most recently by Britain and the USSR. Not that Obama’s options are all that attractive. Bush left him with a mismanaged and directionless occupation to unwind (or not). The exact nature of the hoped-for success via a continued military occupation is hard enough to define, let alone achieve, yet withdrawal has its downsides as well – including the potential for an intense civil war and the return of repressive elements such as the Taliban.
While entirely too much has been made of the importance of Afghan safe havens in terms of conducting successful terrorist attacks (just as too little has been made of the ability to replicate similar safe havens elsewhere and our ability to disrupt any such haven from afar now that we are making such interdiction a priority), there is little doubt that Obama would pay a steep political price if he were to withdraw and an attack occurred that had some traceable connection to Afghanistan. While an attack emanating from hubs in, say, Europe or Yemen may be just as (or more) likely, those connections would not prove as damaging despite the underlying reality of the terrorist threat.
So it is that Obama seems to be trading Bush’s muddled vision of Afghanistan for his own, with a vague yet grandiose (if often contradictory) recitation of implausible goals and exaggerated fears, all buttressed by a refusal to acknowledge the costs of continuing our occupation. As if they were trivial (think trillions of dollars – less than the costs of health care that has Washington in a tizzy, but then wars never seem to count as spending). As Rory Stewart suggests, it’s almost impossible to decipher an actual policy direction from the pomp and flourish:
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