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Al Arabiya, the news agency owned by Saudi Arabia, recently reported that Frederic Hof, a State Department official, has saidthat he was told by Iranian diplomats that their country considers Saudi Arabia, not Israel or the United States, as the main threat to its national security. This is important, but not new to Iranians. Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, the relations between the two nations have been strained. Saudi Arabia has always helped in propagating the Salafi-Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam and considers itself the guardian of Islam’s holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, but the Shiite-led revolution in Iran challenged its authority and created a competitor and alternative for what it preaches.
The first challenge to Saudi Arabia after the Iranian revolution was about Palestine. The Islamic Republic considered itself the most important supporter of the Palestinians, constantly espousing the view that the Arab governments are puppets of the United States and, hence, do not react strongly to occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel. This could not be considered as mere Shiite propaganda, as Iran was giving funds and weapons to Sunni Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. To protect itself against Israel and to expand its influence in the region, Iran also helped in the founding of Lebanese Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia’s Support for Iraq during its War with Iran
Less than two years after the Islamic Revolution, Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded Iran. The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf provided Iraq with tens of billions of dollars in aid. During the first 20 months of the war Saudi Arabia was giving $1 billion a month. A report by the CIA stated that Western powers gave Iraq $35 billion, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates provided another $30-40 billion. Another report indicated that the trio gave Iraq $30.9, $8.2, and $8 billion, respectively.
Breakdown of the Diplomatic Relations
But, two events during the war led to termination of diplomatic relations between the two countries, both tied to Iranian pilgrims to Mecca. In his daily memoirs of the war, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wrote on 11 August 1986, “[Interior Minister} Mr. [Ali Mohammad] Besharati informed me that Saudi Arabia has announced that the explosive T.N.T. has been found in the luggage of several Iranian pilgrims.” On 28 August 1986 he wrote that Saudi Arabia had released 110 of the 113 of the Iranians that it had detained, and Mehdi Karroubi, a representative of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was to thank King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for their release.
In his resignation letter to then President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 5 September 1988, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi wrote, “I became aware of the explosives in Saudi Arabia only after they had been discovered. Unfortunately, and despite all the damage that such moves have inflicted on our nation, they can still happen at any moment and in the name of the government.” In a letter to Khomeini dated 10 October 1986, Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri who was Khomeini’s deputy at that time, wrote , “During Haj [Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca] the Sepaah [IRGC] commits inappropriate acts, abusing the luggage of old men and women without informing them, and making a bad name for Iran and the Revolution, so much so that Mr. Karroubi must ask [King] Fahd for a favor [to release the arrested people].” In response, Khomeini’s son Ahmad wrote, “Is there any other way to carry out revolutionary acts in Mecca? Sometimes such acts go smoothly, sometime they create problems. I do not necessarily support them, but this is typically how they are done.”
Then, in a demonstration on 31 July 1987 in Saudi Arabia, Iranian pilgrims chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel.” The Saudi security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 402, of whom 275 were Iranians, and injuring 649. Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Tehran and cut off its diplomatic relations.
Resumption of Diplomatic Relations
The Iran-Iraq war ended in July 1988, but on 2 August 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait and annexed it to its territory. The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf asked Iran for help. On 23 August 1990 Kuwait’s foreign minister visited Iran, followed by Saudi’s foreign minister’s visit on October 28. Then Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati spoke by phone with Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, on 13 February 1991, and a few days later the two met in Geneva. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed on 20 March 1991.
Terrorists attacked the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia on 25 June 1996, where U.S. military personnel were living, killing 19 and injuring 400. President Bill Clinton ordered the Pentagonto update its plans for bombing Iran, but did not order any attacks. The next year the reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected Iran’s president and Clinton wanted to pursue diplomacy with Iran. Saudi officials believed that the bombing had been done by domestic dissidents, who might have received some help from Iran. A report in 2003 indicated that the attacks had been carried out by Al Qaeda. In his memoirs, Clinton wrote that during summer of 1996 there was no definitive evidence as to who had carried out the attacks.
Saudi Arabia Demand Bombing of Iran
Saudi Arabia views Iran as its most dangerous enemy. A document released by WikiLeaks indicates that in a meeting in April 2008 between King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus, the King urged the United States to bomb Iran. King Abdullah had reportedly said that the U.S. “must cut off the head of the snake,” namely, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Another secret cable released by WikiLeaks indicated that in December 2005 King Abdullah lashed out at George W. Bush’s administration for ignoring his warnings against invading Iraq in 2003, noting that the new Iraqi government was dominated by Shiites with close ties to Iran. “Whereas in the past the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein had agreed on the need to contain Iran, U.S. policy had now given Iraq to Iran as a ‘gift on a golden platter,’” the U.S. Embassy cable quoted the king as complaining. And, in his memoirs Bush wrote that both Israel and Saudi Arabia pressured him to attack Iran, and that when he met with King Abdullah in January 2008, he told him that he was angry with the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 that stated that Iran did not have an active nuclear-weapons program. Saudi Arabia has also always supported imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Iran, which are now in effect.
Saudi Arabia Confronting the Arab Spring
Saudi Arabia has been opposed to the Arab Spring, because it was meant to replace dictatorships with democratic systems that respect human rights. Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki al-Faisal declared that Arab Spring is a cause of “ruin and destruction.” The Arab Spring is “evil,” declared a member of the Grand Oulemas, Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan, and Saudi officials have referred to the Arab Spring as fitna—sedition. On the other hand, Saud al-Faisal declared arming the opposition in Syria “a duty.” Thus, Saudi Arabia began countering the democratic aspirations of the Arab people by carrying out major plans for financial and military backing to those that it saw fit. Some of what the Saudis have done is as follows:
One is transforming the struggle for democracy to a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis. The sectoring war has been consolidated, leading to more religious killings. But, the Islamic Republic fiercely opposes such a war because Shiites are a minority in the Islamic world, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has called Arab Spring an “Islamic awakening” against Israel and the United States. Muslims killing other Muslims also benefits only their enemies, a point emphasized by Khamenei time and again, who has warned against what he calls “Islamic takfiri terrorists.” A takfiri is a Muslim that accuses other Muslims of apostasy, which is what some Sunnis do routinely against the Shiites. In addition, Iran lacks the resources to fight the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, even if it were inclined to—during 2012-2013, for example, Saudi Arabia increased its military budget by 111 percent, totaling $59.6 billion in 2013. Iran cannot match this.
Second, the secular regime of President Bashar al-Assad tried to violently put down its opponents. Russia, China and Iran are allies of Assad’s regime, but the U.S., its European allies, a majority of Arab nations and Saudi Arabia want to overthrow the regime. Thus, the war in Syria, in addition to being sectarian, has also become one of vicegerency, one in which each side fights on behalf of its supporters. In the process, Syria has been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have been killed. It has become a great magnet to, and a center of terrorism in the world, and the Salafi fundamentalists that are supported by Saudi Arabia and are the enemies of democracy and human rights have become stronger. Saudi Arabia is still pursuing the fall of the Assad regime and its replacement by the groups that it supports. It is also opposed to Iran’s participation in the Geneva peace conference. Iran, while having no particular attachment to Bashar al-Assad, views his leaving the scene as the complete collapse of his regime and the dominance of Al Qaeda-linked groups, which it opposes.
Third, Saudi Arabia also opposed the Arab Spring in Bahrain, dispatching its troops there and helping the ruling Sunni minority to violently crackdown on the protestors, hence playing the most important role in the defeat of Arab Spring in Bahrain.
Fourth, Saudi Arabia has been an ardent supporter of Egypt’s military regime that staged the July 2013 coup and overthrew the regime of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. It has given the Egyptian regime billions of dollars in aid. The Brotherhood did have close relations with Iran either. In fact, it is in Iran’s interest to see the Middle East run by secular governments, as religious ones do not tolerate one another.
Finally, the Shiite power in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen provoked Saudi Arabia and, thus, it has transformed the three nations to its battlegrounds with Iran. In 2013 alone, 8868 Iraqis were killed in the fight with Al Qaeda and Salafi groups, and another 1013 in January of this year. Iraq has repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the terrorists. 45 percent of Yemen’s population is Shiite, and that has turned Yemen to another stage for the war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Many believe that the Yemeni government is under the control of the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia Support for Terrorism in Iran
There have been many reports on Saudi Arabia’s support for the rise of new Salafi groups in Iran’s provinces that are on its borders with Iraq and Pakistan. For example, Jundallah, a Baluchi separatist group, is one that employs the language and methods of Salafi groups. And there are reports indicating Salafi jihad In Iran’s province of Kurdistan.
Saudi Arabia’s Opposition to the Geneva Nuclear Accord
Saudi Arabia has been concerned about a rapprochement between Iran and the U.S., and the Geneva Accord between Iran and P5+1 further frustrated it. Anne Patterson, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt,acknowledged recently the sectarian nature of the war in Syria, and said that Iran and Saudi Arabia have never liked each other, but their current enmity toward one another is at its most intense level ever. The U.S., she says, must explain to the Saudis its policy toward Iran on a daily basis. The President will also go to Saudi Arabia in March to further explain this policy. Jordan and Saudi Arabia’s kings have told President Obama that he should try to end Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy—but if that does not succeed, that he should try to achieve the goal through crippling economic sanctions and, if necessary, military strikes.
The Way Forward
Given Saudi Arabia’s enmity toward Iran, what can Iran do to lower the tension?
One is to improve its relations with the United States and other Western powers. Friendly relations between Iran and the U.S. are in the national interests of both countries. Confronting the terrorist groups, and addressing the crises in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region put the two nations in the same front.
Second, Iran must improve its relations with the countries of the region. This entails recognizing the legitimate interests of these countries in having national security, political independence and sovereignty. Proposing practical ways of ridding the region of weapons of mass destruction, guaranteeing collective security for all, and agreeing not to resort to force for solving problems between the nations of the region will greatly help the cause. Turki al-Faisal has described the Saudis views about the principles of a collective agreement on the security of the region. Iran must also do the same and begin negotiating with Saudi Arabia and the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf.
The fault lines of the regions are between democracy and dictatorship. Every regime in the region is trapped by corruption, repression and violent crackdowns on their own people. No problem will be solved without democratization of the region. The Islamic Republic too faces similar problems, and cannot escape them without recognizing the legitimate rights of its people—respecting their votes and their rights as citizens and as humans. Iran’s present rulers can also be a part of this process, to the extent that their social base of support indicates. Either all the political forces and groups in Iran, including the current ruling group, accept pluralism in Iran or the repressed aspirations and demands of the Iranian people will, at some point, lead to social explosion and possibly another revolution.
If the West, led by the United States, supports peace, stability and elimination of terrorism in the Middle East, it must set aside its double standards. Protesting the gross violations of human rights and repression of the dictatorial regime must be uniformly done, without differentiating between allies and foes. The West must support the transition process to democracy and respect for human rights, but the experience with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya—which has been practically partitioned into two parts—and Syria taught everyone a great lesson: military intervention cannot democratize any country. Such interventions have destroyed the invaded nations, and helped terrorism grow.
In a recent interview with the BBC, former CIA director and secretary of defense RobertGates questioned whether “artificial” states in the Middle East “like Libya, Iraq and Syria can be held together absent of repression,” because in his opinion they were made up of “historically adversarial groups.” Thus, Gates seems to have recognized that regime change based on military intervention may lead to the disintegration of the invaded countries. Is it not sad and depressing that after twelve years of intervention in that region, invading Iraq and Afghanistan for “democratizing the Middle East” and imposing a terrible fate on the people of the region, a statesman like Gates talks about the region in this fashion?
Akbar Ganji is an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident. He was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, and his writings are currently banned in Iran.
The U.S. Government Condemns Authoritarian Regimes Which Use Anti-Terror Laws to Stifle Journalism
It is widely known that authoritarian regimes use “anti-terror” laws to crack down on journalism.
But this extreme tactic is becoming more and more common. The Committee to Protect Journalistsreported a year ago that terrorism laws are being misused worldwide to crush journalism:
The number of journalists jailed worldwide hit 232 in 2012, 132 of whom were held on anti-terror or other national security charges. Both are records in the 22 years CPJ has documented imprisonments.
The American government has rightly condemned such abuses. For example, the U.S. State Department noted last April:
Some governments are too weak or unwilling to protect journalists and media outlets. Many others exploit or create criminal libel or defamation or blasphemy laws in their favor. They misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists. They pressure media outlets to shut down by causing crippling financial damage. They buy or nationalize media outlets to suppress different viewpoints. They filter or shut down access to the Internet. They detain and harass – and worse.
The State Department condemned Burundi in 2012 for treating journalists as terrorists.
The 2012 State Department human rights report on Turkey criticized the country for imprisoning “scores of journalists…most charged under antiterror laws or for connections to an illegal organization.”
The State Department rightly announced in 2012:
We are deeply concerned about the Ethiopian government’s conviction of a number of journalists and opposition members under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. This practice raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law, and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The arrest of journalists has a chilling effect on the media and on the right to freedom of expression. We have made clear in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the Ethiopian government that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental elements of a democratic society.
As Secretary Clinton has said, “When a free media is under attack anywhere, all human rights are under attack everywhere. That is why the United States joins its global partners in calling for the release of all imprisoned journalists in every country across the globe and for the end to intimidation.”
Last October – in response to respected Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla being arrested under an anti-terror law for linking to a Youtube video – the State Department said:
We are concerned with the government of Morocco’s decision to charge Mr. Anouzla. We support freedom of expression and of the press, as we say all the time, universal rights that are an indispensable part of any society.
U.S. and U.K. Do the Exact Same Thing
Unfortunately, the American and British governments are doing the exact same thing.
The British High Court just ruled that Glenn Greenwald’s partner could be treated like a terrorist because he was trying to deliver leaked documents to reporters.
Amnesty International writes:
It is clearly deeply troubling if laws designed to combat terrorism can be used against those involved in reporting stories of fundamental public interest. There is no question the ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the future.
Indeed, the British government considers the following activities to constitute terrorism:
The disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government [or] made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause.
The ACLU’s Ben Wizner satirically writes:
Relax, everyone. You’re not terrorists unless you try “to influence a government.” Just type what you’re told.
The U.S. government is targeting whistleblowers in order to keep its hypocrisy secret … so that it cankeep on doing the opposite of what it tells other countries to do.
Veteran reporters and journalists say that the Obama administration is the most “hostile to media” of any administration in history.
The government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws (and here). For example, after Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing aboutbad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge
After the government’s spying on the Associated Press made it clear to everyone that the government is trying to put a chill journalism, the senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek tweeted:
Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama’s war on whistleblowers, let’s just call it what it is: Obama’s war on journalism.
- The Pentagon smeared USA Today reporters because they investigated illegal Pentagon propaganda
- Reporters covering the Occupy protests were targeted for arrest
- The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officers, bloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war
- In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this)
- The NSA and its British counterpart treated Wikileaks like a terrorist organization, going so far as to target its employees politically, and to spy on visitors to its website
Sisi’s Russia visit is seen as a move to reduce Egypt’s reliance on the US [EPA]
|Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would support a presidential bid from Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, wishing him luck after holding talks in Moscow.”I know that you, Mr defence minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt,” Putin said, according to Russian news reports.
“It’s a very responsible decision… I wish you luck both from myself personally and from the Russian people.”
Sisi, who is widely expected to run for Egypt’s top job, has not yet officially declared his candidacy and there was no announcement from the Egyptian government.
Sis and Nabil Fahmy, Egypt’s foreign minister, also held separate talks with Sergei Shoigu and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian defence and foreign ministers.
“We are closely watching the situation in your country. We are interested in Egypt being a strong and stable country,” Shoigu said in his opening remarks at the meeting with Sisi, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“In the current situation, it is good to adopt a new Egyptian Constitution in a national referendum … We believe your efforts to establish stability in the country are being effective.”
Shoigu also said Moscow supported Cairo’s efforts to “fight against terrorism”.
“In this regard, we will discuss in some important issues of military and military-technical cooperation, the terms of that and future prospects… We are interested in the development of such cooperation. Cooperation between our countries has deep historical roots,” he said.
Arms deal speculation
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Moscow, said that well-informed sources have said a major weapons deal will be signed during the trip.
Russian and Egyptian media carried reports of a $2bn Gulf-funded arms agreement in the making between the countries. The reports said the deal is to be funded mainly by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
If signed, it will underscore the Gulf states’ support for Egypt’s military-backed government.
The visit is also seen as a move to reduce Egypt’s reliance on the United States after relations cooled following the coup against former president Mohamed Morsi and Cairo’s harsh response to protests that followed it.
According to Brennan, Egyptian authorities have said they are not seeking to move away from their relationship with the US, but are instead working to diversify and add to their list of international allies.
Sisi made a rare appearance in civilian clothes on his way to Moscow, fuelling speculation he was trying to appear more presidential before announcing a bid for top office. The country’s top military body recently endorsed his candidacy .
He has become hugely popular among a large segment of Egyptians who see him as the nation’s saviour for ending the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, who many accused of dominating power under Morsi.
Still, a deadly security crackdown on supporters that has left hundreds dead and a subsequent campaign of intimidation and arrests of secular-leaning critics have raised concerns about Sisi’s tolerance for dissent.
The government says it is in a war against terrorism, citing a wave of bombings and suicide attacks that have targeted police and the military, leaving scores dead and wounded.
Washington’s “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT): Violence, War and Instability in an “Arc of Terror” | Global Research
Twelve years into America’s “war on terror,” it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an “arc of terror” stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond. If we examine the pretext for all this chaos, that it could possibly be a legitimate or effective response to terrorism, it quickly becomes clear that it has been the exact opposite, fueling a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.
The U.S. State Department’s “terrorism” reports  present a searing indictment of the “war on terror” on its own terms. From 1987 to 2001, the State Department’s “Patterns of Global Terrorism” reports had documented a steady decline in terrorism  around the world, from 665 incidents in 1987 to only 355 incidents in 2001. But since 2001, the U.S. “war on terror” has succeeded in fueling the most dramatic and dangerous rise in terrorism ever seen.
The State Department reports seem, at first glance, to show some short-term success, with total terrorist incidents continuing to decline, to 205 incidents in 2002 and 208 in 2003. But the number of more serious or “significant” incidents (involving death, serious injury, abduction, kidnapping, major property damage or the likelihood of such results) was already on the rise, from 123 incidents in 2001 to 172 in 2003.
But then the 2004 report , due to be published in March 2005, revealed that the number of incidents had spiked to an incredible 2,177, including 625 “significant” incidents, even though the report excluded attacks on U.S. occupation forces in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice took decisive action, not to urgently review this dangerous failure of U.S. policy, but to suppress the report. We only know what it said thanks to whistleblowers who leaked it to the media, and to Larry Johnson , an ex-CIA and State Department terrorism expert and a member of Ray McGovern’sVeteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity .
Rice eventually released a reformatted version of the 2004 report, ostensibly replacing “Patterns of Global Terrorism” with a new report titled “Country Reports on Terrorism” that excluded all statistical data. The State Department has continued to publish “Country Reports on Terrorism” every year, and was forced to include a “statistical annex” beginning with the report for 2005. The reports also include disclaimers that this data should not be used to compare patterns of terrorism from one year to the next because of the “evolution in data collection methodology”. In other words, a report that used to be called “Patterns in Global Terrorism” should not be used to study patterns in global terrorism!
So, what is the State Department afraid we might find if we used it to do just that? Let’s take a look. The politicization of these reports certainly undermines their reliability, but, as Secretary Rice understood verywell, the dramatic rise in global terrorism that they reveal is undeniable.
The numbers obviously spiked in Iraq and Afghanistan while under U.S. occupation, so we’ll exclude the figures for those periods in those countries. The rationale for the “war on terror” was always that, by “fighting them there”, we wouldn’t have to “fight them here”, so we’ll just look at the effect “here” and everywhere else.
On that limited basis, the State Department reports nonetheless document an explosion of terrorism, from 208 incidents in 2003 to 2,177 in 2004 to 7,103 incidents in 2005. Since then, the total has fluctuated between a high of 7,251 incidents in 2008 and a low of 5,029 incidents in 2009, after President Obama’s election temporarily raised hopes of a change in U.S. policy. The State Department has not issued a report for 2013 yet, but the number of “terrorist” incidents in 2012 remained at 5,748, documenting an intractable crisis that is the direct result of U.S. policy.
The ineffectiveness of the war on terror is intricately entwined with its illegitimacy. In my book,Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq, I argued that the illegitimacy of the hostile U.S. military occupation of Iraq was at the root of all its other problems. The U.S. forces who illegally invaded the country lacked any real authority to restore the rule of law and order that they themselves had destroyed. Even today, two years after expelling U.S. forces, the Iraqi government installed by the U.S. occupation remains crippled by fundamental illegitimacy in the eyes of its people.
The United States’ “war on terror” faces the same problem on a global scale. The notion of fighting “terror with terror” or a “war on terror” was always fundamentally flawed, both legally and in its prospects for success. As Ben Ferencz , the only surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials, explained to NPR on September 19th 2001 , a week after the mass murders of 2,753 people in his hometown, New York City:
“It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened. I wouldn’t say there is no appropriate role (for the military), but the role should be consistent with our ideals… our principles are respect for the rule of law, not charging in blindly and killing people because we are blinded by our tears and our rage. We must first draw up an indictment and specify what the crimes were, calling upon all states to arrest and detain the persons named in the indictment so they can be interrogated by U.S. examiners… I realize that (the judicial process) is slow and cumbersome, but it is not inadequate… We don’t have to rewrite any rules. We have to apply the existing rules.”
Ferencz took issue with the use of terms like “war”, “war crimes” and “terrorism.”
“What has happened here is not war in its traditional sense… War crimes are crimes that happen in wartime. There is confusion there… Don’t use the term “war” crimes, because that suggests there is a war going on and it’s a violation of the rules of war. This is not in that category. We are getting confused with our terminology in our determination to put a stop to these terrible crimes… To call them “terrorists” is also a misleading term. There’s no agreement on what terrorism is. One man’s terrorism is another man’s heroism… We try them for mass murder. That’s a crime under every jurisdiction and that’s what’s happened here and that is a crime against humanity.”
British military historian Michael Howard told NPR that U.S. leaders were making “a very natural but a terrible and irrevocable error” in declaring a “war on terrorism.” He elaborated in a lecture in London  a few weeks later:
“…to use, or rather to misuse the term “war” is not simply a matter of legality, or pedantic semantics. It has deeper and more dangerous consequences. To declare that one is “at war” is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counter-productive for the objective that we seek. It will arouse an immediate expectation, and demand, for spectacular military action against some easily identifiable adversary, preferably a hostile state…”
In the U.S. Congress in 2001, Barbara Lee stood alone  against a sweeping Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), giving the president the authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” whom he judged to have “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the mass murders of September 11th.
Barbara Lee implored her colleagues not to “become the evil we deplore,” but she was the only Member with the clarity and courage to vote “No” to the AUMF. Twelve years later, she has 31 co-sponsors forH.R. 198 , a bill to finally repeal the 2001 AUMF. They include former civil rights leader John Lewis, who said recently , “If I had to do it all over again, I would have voted with Barbara Lee. It was raw courage on her part. So, because of that, I don’t vote for funding for war. I vote against preparation for the military. I will never again go down that road.”
From the outset, few Americans understood that the “war on terror” was not legally a real war in which the civilian rule of law was suspended. Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned as Deputy Legal Advisor to the British Foreign Office in protest at the U.K.’s “crime of aggression” against Iraq in 2003. A year later, she told theIndependent , “This rather extraordinary war on terror, which is a phrase that all lawyers hate… is not really a war, a conflict against terror, any more than the war on obesity means that you can detain people.”
As the Obama administration took office in 2009, an Eminent Jurists Panel  convened by the International Commission of Jurists, and headed by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson issued a report on the U.S. response to terrorism since 2001. The report concluded that the U.S. government had confused the public by framing its counter-terrorism activities within a “war paradigm.” It explained,
“The U.S.’ war paradigm has created fundamental problems. Among the most serious is that the U.S. has applied war rules to persons not involved in situations of armed conflict, and, in genuine situations of warfare, it has distorted, selectively applied and ignored otherwise binding rules, including fundamental guarantees of human rights laws.”
Like Ben Ferencz, the ICJ panel insisted that established principles of law “were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle terrorism.”
But Barack Obama was an unlikely candidate to restore the rule of law to U.S. policy, to demilitarize the “war on terror” or to derail the gravy train of the largest military budget since World War II. Hislong-term ties to General Dynamics CEO Lester Crown  and his thorough vetting by Crown and other military-industrial power-brokers ensured that the 2008 election was the first in 14 years in which Democrats raised more campaign cash from the weapons industry than Republicans, even after the Republicans almost doubled the military budget in 8 years and nominated industry darling John McCain for president.
A persistent part of the Obama myth is his description of himself as a “constitutional law professor.” While serving as an Illinois State Senator, Mr. Obama did have a part-time job as a lecturer teaching 3 two-hour seminars per year at the University of Chicago in a program that brought politicians and other prominent people into the law school to give students a taste of the “real world.” Most of the seminars were on public interest law or racism, not constitutional law , but in the looking-glass world of Obama mythology, this has transformed him into a “constitutional law professor” for political purposes.
Obama has failed to close Guantanamo, escalated the longest and most unpopular war  in U.S. history in Afghanistan, maintained the largest military budget since World War II , conducted23,000 air strikes  (mostly in Afghanistan ), launched or expanded covert and proxy wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria, and deployed U.S. special forces to 120 countries .
But perhaps the signature initiative of Obama’s war policy has been the expansion of assassination operations  using unmanned drones and JSOC death squads. These operations violate still-standing executive orders  by previous presidents that prohibit assassination by U.S. forces or officials. They are not legally covered by the 2001 AUMF, because very few of the people he is killing were involved in the crimes ofSeptember 11th, as former State Department Legal AdviserJohn Bellinger pointed out to the Washington Post  in 2010.
Just as Bush administration lawyers wrote memos claiming that torture was not torture, Obama’s have reportedly written memos claiming that assassination is not assassination and that innocent civilians in half-a-dozen countries are somehow implicated in September 11th and therefore legitimate targets under the 2001 AUMF. But after Bush’s torture memos were widely ridiculed as legal fig-leaves to justify war crimes, the Obama administration has drawn a veil of secrecy over its assassination memos. If Obama’s legal training has taught him nothing else, it’s that he can’t afford to expose his illegitimate cover for war crimes to public scrutiny and global outrage.
As the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston wrote in June 2010 ,
“Targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law, as they are increasingly used in circumstances which violate the rules of international law… The most prolific user of targeted killings today is the United States, which primarily uses drones for attacks… the United States has put forward a novel theory that there is a “law of 9/11″ that enables it to legally use force in the territory of other states as part of its inherent right to self-defense on the basis that it is in an armed conflict with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces,” although the latter group is fluid and undefined. This expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defense goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the UN Charter.”
The prohibition against the threat or use of force in Article 2.4 of the UN Charter  is the foundation of peace in the modern world. As Alston implied, it is either an unintended victim or an intended target of the “war on terror.” The history of U.S. war policy since the end of the Cold War suggests the latter. U.S. officials came to see the Charter’s prohibition on the threat or use of force as a constraint on their ability to exploit the “power dividend ” they gained from the collapse of the Soviet Union. For ten years, they struggled to sell the world on new interventionist doctrines of “reassurance “, “humanitarian intervention “, “responsibility to protect ” and “information warfare .” In the Clinton administration’s 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) , itclaimed the right to use unilateral military force to “defend vital national interests,” including “preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition…(and) ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.”
As the British Foreign Office’s top Legal Adviser  told his government during the Suez Crisis in 1956, “The plea of vital interest, which has been one of the main justifications for wars in the past, is indeed the very one which the U.N. Charter was intended to exclude.” So the implicit threat in Clinton’s QDR was a violation the U.N. Charter, and his attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 was a flagrant violation and a crime of aggression. When British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Secretary Albright the U.K. was having difficulty “with its lawyers” over the plan to attack Yugoslavia, she told him the U.K. should “get new lawyers.”
When planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, counter-terrorism still seemed an unlikely pretext for overturning the U.N. Charter. But, within hours, according to Under-secretary Cambone’s notes  obtained by CBS News, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told a meeting at the Pentagon, “Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time – not only UBL (Usama Bin Laden)… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
Twelve years later, as Michael Howard predicted, it is much harder to unscramble the consequences of America’s “natural but terrible” embrace of open-ended aggression and militarism. But underlying all the crimes and atrocities committed in our names is the fiction that we are at “war” with “terror”, whatever that can possibly mean. What it means in practice is that the U.S. government has applied an opportunistic soup of peacetime and wartime rules to justify whatever it wants to do, to use force anywhere in the world, to kill or maim anybody, to spy on anybody, to violate any treaty or human rights law and to project power anywhere, to effectively place itself beyond the rule of law. To paraphrase Richard Nixon , “When the United States does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
The analysis of international lawyers like Ben Ferencz and other experts gives us a clear road-map to ending the war on terror and starting to undo its terrible consequences. There is a surprisingly clear consensus across the political spectrum on what needs to be done.
On the one hand, we have Noam Chomsky saying , on October 18th 2001, that, “The only way we can put a permanent end to terrorism is to stop participating in it.” On the other hand we have Eliza Manningham-Buller, the first woman to head MI5, the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency, describing a meeting at the British Embassy  in Washington on September 12th 2001, where “there was one thing we all agreed on: terrorism is resolved through politics and economics, not through arms and intelligence… I call it a crime, not an act of war… I have never thought it helpful to refer to a “war” on terror any more than a war on drugs.”
Ending the failed war on terror means restoring the rule of law to U.S. policy – not by secret interpretations of extraordinary laws granting unconstitutional emergency powers, but by genuine compliance with U.S. law and international treaties like the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions. If we allow our government to persist in this failed and disastrous policy, it will continue to corrupt and erode its own authority, it will destabilize the entire world and it will leave us defenseless in the face of real existential dangers like climate change and nuclear war.
Nothing could be more urgent than ending the failed war on terror (FWOT). These are the practical steps we must demand of the President and Congress:
1) Pass Barbara Lee’s bill, H.R.198 , to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
2) Close the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. Transfer accused criminals to stand trial in legitimate courts under fair trial standards, and release and compensate people wrongly imprisoned and/or tortured.
3) Halt all drone strikes, assassinations and military or paramilitary operations that violate the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions or other established principles of international law.
4) Substantially cut the U.S. military budget to end the most expensive and destabilizing unilateral arms build-up in the history of the world.
5) Acknowledge that the U.S. has committed aggression, torture and other war crimes during the past 12 years. Restore legal accountability and compensate victims.
6) Make a new commitment to good faith diplomacy and cooperation with other countries to deal with the world’s pressing political, economic, social and environmental problems, including the explosion of terrorism caused by the war on terror.
Nicolas J. S. Davies is author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the just released book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
Perpetual war represents perpetual profits for the ever expanding business and government interests [AFP]
|In January 1961, US President Dwight D Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn the nation of what he viewed as one of its greatest threats: the military-industrial complex composed of military contractors and lobbyists perpetuating war.
Eisenhower warned that “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” had emerged as a hidden force in US politics and that Americans “must not fail to comprehend its grave implications”. The speech may have been Eisenhower’s most courageous and prophetic moment. Fifty years and some later, Americans find themselves in what seems like perpetual war. No sooner do we draw down on operations in Iraq than leaders demand an intervention in Libya or Syria or Iran. While perpetual war constitutes perpetual losses for families, and ever expanding budgets, it also represents perpetual profits for a new and larger complex of business and government interests.
The new military-industrial complex is fuelled by a conveniently ambiguous and unseen enemy: the terrorist. Former President George W Bush and his aides insisted on calling counter-terrorism efforts a “war”. This concerted effort by leaders like former Vice President Dick Cheney (himself the former CEO of defence-contractor Halliburton) was not some empty rhetorical exercise. Not only would a war maximise the inherent powers of the president, but it would maximise the budgets for military and homeland agencies.
This new coalition of companies, agencies, and lobbyists dwarfs the system known by Eisenhower when he warned Americans to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex”. Ironically, it has had some of its best days under President Barack Obama who has radically expanded drone attacks and claimed that he alone determines what a war is for the purposes of consulting Congress.
Good for economy?
While few politicians are willing to admit it, we don’t just endure wars we seem to need war – at least for some people. A study showed that roughly 75 percent of the fallen in these wars come from working class families. They do not need war. They pay the cost of the war. Eisenhower would likely be appalled by the size of the industrial and governmental workforce committed to war or counter-terrorism activities. Military and homeland budgets now support millions of people in an otherwise declining economy. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow each year from the public coffers to agencies and contractors who have an incentive to keep the country on a war-footing – and footing the bill for war.
Across the country, the war-based economy can be seen in an industrywhich includes everything from Homeland Security educational degrees to counter-terrorism consultants to private-run preferred traveller programmes for airport security gates. Recently, the “black budget” of secret intelligence programmes alone was estimated at $52.6bn for 2013. That is only the secret programmes, not the much larger intelligence and counterintelligence budgets. We now have 16 spy agencies that employ 107,035 employees. This is separate from the over one million people employed by the military and national security law enforcement agencies.
The core of this expanding complex is an axis of influence of corporations, lobbyists, and agencies that have created a massive, self-sustaining terror-based industry.
In the last eight years, trillions of dollars have flowed to military and homeland security companies. When the administration starts a war like Libya, it is a windfall for companies who are given generous contracts to produce everything from replacement missiles to ready-to-eat meals.
In the first 10 days of the Libyan war alone, the administration spent roughly $550m. That figure includes about $340m for munitions – mostly cruise missiles that must be replaced. Not only did Democratic members of Congress offer post-hoc support for the Libyan attack, but they also proposed a permanent authorisation for presidents to attack targets deemed connected to terrorism – a perpetual war on terror. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers an even steadier profit margin. According to Morgan Keegan, a wealth management and capital firm, investment in homeland security companies is expected to yield a 12 percent annual growth through 2013 – an astronomical return when compared to other parts of the tanking economy.
There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington to guarantee the ever-expanding budgets for war and homeland security. One such example is former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff who pushed the purchase of the heavily criticised (and little tested) full-body scanners used in airports. When Chertoff was giving dozens of interviews to convince the public that the machines were needed to hold back the terror threat, many people were unaware that the manufacturer of the machine is a client of the Chertoff Group, his highly profitable security consulting agency. (Those hugely expensive machines were later scrapped after Rapiscan, the manufacturer, received the windfall.)
Lobbyists maintain pressure on politicians by framing every budget in “tough on terror” versus “soft on terror” terms. They have the perfect products to pitch – products that are designed to destroy themselves and be replaced in an ever-lasting war on terror.
It is not just revolving doors that tie federal agencies to these lobbyists and companies. The war-based economy allows for military and homeland departments to be virtually untouchable. Environmental and social programmes are eliminated or curtailed by billions as war-related budgets continue to expand to meet “new threats”.
With the support of an army of lobbyists and companies, cabinet members like former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, are invincible in Washington. When citizens complained of watching their children groped by the TSA, Napolitano defiantly retorted that if people did not want their children groped, they should yield and use the unpopular full-body machines – the machines being sold by her predecessor, Chertoff.
It is not just the Defense and DHS departments that enjoy the war windfall. Take the Department of Justice (DOJ). A massive counterterrorism system has been created employing tens of thousands of personnel with billions of dollars to search for domestic terrorists. The problem has been a comparative shortage of actual terrorists to justify the size of this internal security system.
Accordingly, the DOJ has counted everything from simple immigration cases to credit card fraud as terror cases in a body count approach not seen since the Vietnam War. For example, the DOJ claimed to have busted a major terror-network as part of “Operation Cedar Sweep”, where Lebanese citizens were accused of sending money to terrorists. They were later forced to drop all charges against all 27 defendants as unsupportable. It turned out to be a bunch of simple head shops. Nevertheless, the new internal security system continues to grind on with expanding powers and budgets. A few years ago, the DOJ even changed the definition of terrorism to allow for an ever-widening number of cases to be considered “terror-related”.
Our economic war-dependence is matched by political war-dependence. Many members represent districts with contractors that supply homeland security needs and our on-going wars.
Even with polls showing that the majority of Americans are opposed to continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new military-industrial complex continues to easily muster the necessary support from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It is a testament to the influence of this alliance that hundreds of billions are being spent in Afghanistan and Iraq while Congress is planning to cut billions from core social programmes, including a possible rollback on Medicare due to lack of money. None of that matters. It doesn’t even matter that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the US the enemy and said he wishes that he had joined the Taliban. Even the documented billions stolen by government officials in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated as a mere cost of doing business.
It is what Eisenhower described as the “misplaced power” of the military-industrial complex – power that makes public opposition and even thousands of dead soldiers immaterial. War may be hell for some but it is heaven for others in a war-dependent economy.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and has testified in Congress on the massive counter-terrorism budgets and bureaucracy in the United States.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Days after terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a State Department official ordered an executive at the security company charged with protecting the special compound not to respond to media inquiries, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
The order was delivered via electronic mail and it’s part of a new batch of State Department documents obtained by JW in an ongoing investigation of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack and subsequent cover-up by the Obama administration. Islamic jihadists raided the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya and murdered Ambassador Christopher Stevens—the first diplomat to be killed overseas in decades—and three other Americans.
The Obama administration has worked hard to keep details of the attack—and the negligence that led to it—from the American public, but JW has gone to court and filed a number of public records requests to expose the truth. JW has also published two in-depth special reports on Benghazi, the last one on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. Read the special reports here and here.
The latest batch of documents obtained by JW include a scandalous email from a State Department contracting officer named Jan Visintainer to an unidentified executive at Blue Mountain Group (BMG), the inexperienced foreign company hired to protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi. In the email, dated September 26, 2012, Visintainer writes: “Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments.”
Some of the records were redacted or simply not included. For instance Visintainer received a cryptic email from a redacted source with an attachment that was not provided to JW by the State Department. The exchange, just two days before the attack, received a lot of attention from both the State Department and BMG, which could indicate that perhaps it contained a more specific concern or warning about the U.S. mission’s vulnerability.
Last month JW released the Benghazi security contract that paid BMG, a virtually unknown and untested British company, $794,264 for nearly 50,000 guard hours. The Benghazi security deal had not been available to the public because it was not listed as part of the large master State Department contract that covers protection for overseas embassies. JW had to take legal action to get it.
The deal is for one year and includes very specific requirements for things like foot patrols, package inspection, contingency and mobilization planning. The total guard force was 45,880 with an additional 1,376 guards for “emergency services,” the contract shows. It also includes one vehicle and 12 radio networks. The guards were responsible for protecting the U.S. government personnel, facilities and equipment from damage or loss, the contract states. “The local guard force shall prevent unauthorized access; protect life; maintain order; deter criminal attacks against employees; dependents and property terrorist acts against all U.S. assets and prevent damage to government property.” Clearly the firm failed miserably to fulfill its contractual obligation.
Rather than go to exhaustive lengths identifying the “terrorists,” we identify (based on every piece of data you have ever touched in your life) the ‘patriots’ and thus, by process of elimination find the real terrorists…
- ZeroHedge: Patriot Act Author Calls For Clapper’s Prosecution And Reign In NSA Abuses (silveristhenew.com)
- NSA lies? Agency lacks evidence it thwarted 54 terrorist attacks (rinf.com)
- Patriot Act author prepares bill to put NSA bulk collection ‘out of business’ | World news | theguardian.com (theguardian.com)
Power, Money and Crushing Dissent Are Real Motives
The Guardian reports:
One unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoringby the NSA.
The NSA asked government agencies to share their Rolodexes, so the NSA would have phone numbers for top foreign political and military leaders.
A confidential government memo admits that the spying didn’t help prevent terrorism:
The memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”.
Because the leaders of allies such as Germany, Brazil, Mexico, the EU and G-20 have no ties to Al Qaeda terrorists, the spying was obviously done for other purposes.
The NSA conducts widespread industrial espionage on our allies. That has nothing to do with terrorism, either.
Indeed, there is no evidence that mass surveillance has prevented a single terrorist attack. On the contrary, top counter-terror experts say that mass spying actually hurts U.S. counter-terror efforts(more here and here).
If NSA spying were really focused on terrorism, our allies and companies wouldn’t be fighting back so hard against it.
And even the argument that 9/11 changed everything holds no water. Spying started before 9/11 … andvarious excuses have been used to spy on Americans over the years. Even NSA’s industrial espionage has been going on for many decades. And the NSA was already spying on American Senators more than40 years ago.
Governments who spy on their own population always do it to crush dissent. (Why do you think that the NSA is doing exactly the same thing which King George did to the American colonists … which led to the Revolutionary War?)
Of course, if even half of what a NSA whistleblower Russel Tice says – that the NSA is spying on – andblackmailing – top American government officials and military officers (and see this) – then things arereally out of whack.
Government Blurs the Lines Between Bad Guys and Average Americans
Preface: Whether you believe this is a conspiracy by the government – or just over-reaction, incompetence or cronyism – the end result is idiotic … and counter-productive.
Former NSA boss Michael Hayden compared privacy advocates to terrorists:
“If and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial, what does this group do?” said retired air force general Michael Hayden, who from 1999 to 2009 ran the NSA and then the CIA, referring to “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years”.
“They may want to come after the US government, but frankly, you know, the dot-mil stuff is about the hardest target in the United States,” Hayden said, using a shorthand for US military networks. “So if they can’t create great harm to dot-mil, who are they going after? Who for them are the World Trade Centers? The World Trade Centers, as they were for al-Qaida.”…
- Us Army Labels Me a Terrorist for Flying This Flag (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
- White House Compares Republicans to Terrorist Because They Don’t Want More Debt (ijreview.com)
- The Little Terrorists vs. The Real Big Terrorists (12160.info)
- Being too “extremist” for Obama is all the eligibility Statesman Ted Cruz needs for 2016 (thepatriotinfidel.wordpress.com)