Medea Benjamin / Code Pink & Paul Craig Roberts / OpEd News – 2012-06-07 01:33:03
Why I Interrupted Obama Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan
Medea Benjamin / Code Pink
(May 1, 2012) — No one who helped Obama get elected understood we were working for an assassin. Since 2004, the U.S. has killed between 2,500-3,000 people in Pakistan. Of those, between 479 and 811 were civilians, 174 of them children. Drones did most if not all of this. How many others have been killed by the 18 intelligence agencies we now have? How many have military Special Ops teams killed? Why do Americans accept this evil?
Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC on April 30 to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was the first time a high level member of the Obama Administration spoke at length about the U.S. drone strikes that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command have been carrying out in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
“President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts,” Brennan explained.
I had just co-organized a Drone Summit over the weekend, where Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar told us heart-wrenching stories about the hundreds of innocent victims of our drone attacks. We saw horrific photos of people whose bodies were blown apart by Hellfire missiles, with only a hand or a slab of flesh remaining.
We saw poor children on the receiving end of our attacks–maimed for life, with no legs, no eyes, no future. And for all these innocents, there was no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.
The U.S. government refuses to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences. It deems the entire world a war zone, where it can operate at will, beyond the confines of international law.
So there I was at the Wilson Center, listening to Brennan describe our policies as ethical, “wise,” and in compliance with international law. He spoke as if the only people we kill with our drone strikes are militants bent on killing Americans. “It is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives — the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens.”
The only mention of taking innocent lives referred to Al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda’s killing of innocent civilians, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of Muslims around the world.” This is true, but the same must be said of U.S. policies that fuel anti-American sentiments in the eyes of Muslims around the world.
So I stood up and in a calm voice, spoke out.
“Excuse me, Mr. Brennan, will you speak out about the innocents killed by the United States in our drone strikes? What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with drone strikes in the Philippines, in Yemen, in Somalia?
“I speak out on behalf of those innocent victims. They deserve an apology from you, Mr. Brennan. How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how many innocents have been killed?”
My heart was racing as a female security guard and then a burly Federal Protection Service policeman started pulling me out, but I kept talking.
“I speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old in Pakistan who was killed simply because he wanted to document the drone strikes. I speak out on behalf of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old born in Denver, killed in Yemen just because his father was someone we don’t like.
“I speak out on behalf of the Constitution and the rule of law.” My parting words as they dragged me out the door were, “I love the rule of law and I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people. Shame on you, John Brennan.”
I was handcuffed and taken to the basement of the building, where I was questioned about my background and motives. To their credit, it seems the Wilson Center thought it would not be good to have someone arrested for exercising their right to free speech, so I was released.
Brennan’s speech came the day after another U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, one that killed three alleged militants. After the strike, the Pakistani government voiced its strongest and most public condemnation yet, accusing the United States of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign “a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations.”
Earlier in April, the Pakistani Parliament unanimously condemned drone strikes and established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country’s frayed relationship with the United States, which included the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.
The attacks in Pakistan, carried out by the CIA, started in 2004. Since then, there have been over 300 strikes. The areas where the strikes take place have been sealed off by the Pakistani security forces, so it has been difficult to get accurate reports about deaths and damages.
John Brennan has denied that innocents have even been killed. Speaking in June 2011 about the preceding year, he said “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.”
Mr. Brennan later adjusted his statement somewhat, saying, “Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq.”
This is just not true. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is the group that keeps the best count of casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. According to its figures, since 2004, U.S. has killed between about 2,500-3,000 people in Pakistan. Of those, between 479 and 811 were civilians, 174 of them children.
Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who has been representing drone victims and who started the group Foundation for Fundamental Rights, disputes even these figures and claims that the vast majority of those killed are ordinary civilians. “I have a problem with this word “militant.’ Most of the victims who are labeled militants might be Taliban sympathizers but they are not involved in any criminal or terrorist acts, and certainly not against the United States,” he claimed.
He said the Americans often assumes that if someone wears a turban, has a beard and carries a weapon, he is a combatant. “That is a description of all the men in that region of Pakistan. It is part of their culture.” Shahzad believes that only those people who the Americans label “high-value targets”, which would be less than 200, should be considered militants; all others should be considered civilian victims.
While President Obama is gearing up for an election campaign and using his drone-strike killing spree to as a sign of his tough stance on national security, people from across the United States and around the world are organizing to rein in the drones.
Gathering in Washington DC on April 28-29, they came up with a new campaign to educate the American public about civilian deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere as a result of the use of drones for illegal killing and to pressure members of Congress, President Obama, federal agencies, and state and local governments to restrict the use of drones for illegal killing and surveillance.
The tactics include court challenges, delegations to the affected regions, direct action at U.S. bases from where the drones are operated, student campaigns to divest from companies involved in the production of killer drones and outreach to faith-based communities.
If you would like to get involved, make sure to sign up here.
Ms. Benjamin is a member of Codepink.
Is The War On Terror A Hoax?
Paul Craig Roberts
(September 30, 2011) — There are now 15,000 FBI undercover agents, infiltrating anti-war and anti-corporate groups within the US. This is 10x as many as during the Vietnam protests of the past. These agents justify their existence by inciting young, alienated protesters and leading them into violent plots, then ensnaring them. News headlines tell us of another Terrorist Plot from which we have been saved by our alert Homeland Security forces.
In the past decade, Washington has killed, maimed, dislocated, and made widows and orphans of millions of Muslims in six countries, all in the name of the “war on terror.” Washington’s attacks on the countries constitute naked aggression and impact primarily civilian populations and infrastructure and, thereby, constitute war crimes under law. Nazis were executed precisely for what Washington is doing today.
Moreover the wars and military attacks have cost American taxpayers in out-of-pocket and already-incurred future costs at least $4,000 billion dollars — one third of the accumulated public debt — resulting in a US deficit crisis that threatens the social safety net, the value of the US dollar and its reserve currency role, while enriching beyond all previous history the military/security complex and its apologists.
Perhaps the highest cost of Washington’s “war on terror” has been paid by the US Constitution and civil liberties. Any US citizen that Washington accuses is deprived of all legal and constitutional rights. The Bush-Cheney-Obama regimes have overturned humanity’s greatest achievement — the accountability of government to law.
If we look around for the terror that the police state and a decade of war has allegedly protected us from, the terror is hard to find. Except for 9/11 itself, assuming we accept the government’s improbable conspiracy theory explanation, there have been no terror attacks on the US. Indeed, as RT pointed out on August 23, 2011, an investigative program at the University of California discovered that the domestic “terror plots” hyped in the media were plotted by FBI agents.
FBI undercover agents now number 15,000, ten times their number during the protests against the Vietnam war when protesters were suspected of communist sympathies. As there apparently are no real terror plots for this huge workforce to uncover, the FBI justifies its budget, terror alerts, and invasive searches of American citizens by thinking up “terror plots” and finding some deranged individuals to ensnare.
For example, the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, and the plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago were all FBI brainchilds organized and managed by FBI agents.
RT reports that only three plots might have been independent of the FBI, but as none of the three worked they obviously were not the work of such a professional terror organization as Al Qaeda is purported to be. The Times Square car bomb didn’t blow up, and apparently could not have.
The latest FBI sting ensnared a Boston man, Rezwan Ferdaus, who is accused of planning to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol with model airplanes packed with C-4 explosives. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz assured Americans that they were never in danger, because the FBI’s undercover agents were in control of the plot.
Ferdaus’ FBI-organized plot to blow up the Pentagon and US Capitol with model airplanes has produced charges that he provided “material support to a terrorist organization” and plotted to destroy federal buildings — the most serious charge which carries 20 imprisoned years for each targeted building.
What is the terrorist organization that Ferdaus is serving? Surely not al Qaeda, which allegedly outwitted all 16 US intelligence services, all intelligence services of America’s NATO and Israeli allies, NORAD, the National Security Council, Air Traffic Control, Dick Cheney, and US airport security four times in one hour on the same morning. Such a highly capable terror organization would not be involved in such nonsense as a plot to blow up the Pentagon with a model airplane.
As an American who was in public service for a number of years and who has always stood up for the Constitution, a patriot’s duty, I must hope that the question has already popped into readers’ minds why we are expected to believe that a tiny model airplane is capable of blowing up the Pentagon when a 757 airliner loaded with jet fuel was incapable of doing the job, merely making a hole not big enough for an airliner.
When I observe the gullibility of my fellow citizens at the absurd “terror plots” that the US government manufactures, it causes me to realize that fear is the most powerful weapon any government has for advancing an undeclared agenda. If Ferdaus is brought to trial, no doubt a jury will convict him of a plot to blow up the Pentagon and US Capitol with model airplanes. Most likely he will be tortured or coerced into a plea bargain.
Apparently, Americans, or most of them, are so ruled by fear that they suffer no remorse from “their” government’s murder and dislocation of millions of innocent people. In the American mind, one billion “towel-heads” have been reduced to terrorists who deserve to be exterminated. The US is on its way to a holocaust that makes the terrors Jews faced from National Socialism into a mere precursor.
Think about this: Are not you amazed that after a decade (2.5 times the length of WW II) of killing Muslims and destroying families and their prospects in six countries, there are no real terrorist events in the US?
Think for a minute how easy terrorism would be in the US if there were any terrorists. Would an Al Qaeda terrorist from the organization that allegedly pulled off 9/11 — the most humiliating defeat ever suffered by a Western power, much less “the world’s only superpower” — still in the face of all the screening be trying to hijack an airliner or to blow one up?
Surely not when there are so many totally soft targets. If America were really infected with a “terrorist threat,” a terrorist would merely get in the massive lines waiting to clear airport “security” and set off his bomb. It would kill far more people than could be achieved by blowing up an airliner, and it would make it completely clear that “airport security” meant no one was safe.
It would be child’s play for terrorists to blow up electric sub-stations as no one is there, nothing but a chain link fence. It would be easy for terrorists to blow up shopping centers. It would be easy for terrorists to dump boxes of roofing nails on congested streets and freeways during rush hours, tying up main transportation arteries for days.
Before, dear reader, you accuse me of giving terrorists ideas, do you really think that these ideas would not already have occurred to terrorists capable of pulling off 9/11?
But nothing happens. So the FBI arrests a guy for planning to blow up America with a model airplane. It is really depressing how many Americans will believe this.
Consider also that American neoconservatives, who have orchestrated the “war on terror,” have no protection whatsoever, and that the Secret Service protection of Bush and Cheney is minimal. If America really faced a terrorist threat, especially one so professional to have brought off 9/11, every neoconservative along with Bush and Cheney could be assassinated within one hour on one morning or one evening.
The fact that neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, William Kristol, Libby, Addington, et. al., live unprotected and free of fear is proof that America faces no terrorist threat.
Think now about the airliner shoe-bomb plot, the shampoo-bottled water plot, and the underwear-bomb plot. Experts, other than the whores hired by the US government, say that these plots are nonsensical. The “shoe bomb” and “underwear bomb” were colored fireworks powders incapable of blowing up a tin can. The liquid bomb, allegedly mixed up in an airliner toilet room, has been dismissed by experts as fantasy.
What is the purpose of these fake plots? And remember, all reports confirm that the “underwear bomber” was walked onto the airliner by an official, despite the fact that the “underwear bomber” had no passport. No investigation was ever conducted by the FBI, CIA, or anyone into why a passenger without a passport was allowed on an international flight.
The purpose of these make-believe plots is to raise the fear level and to create the opportunity for former Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff to make a fortune selling porno-scanners to the TSA.
The result of these hyped “terrorist plots” is that every American citizen, even those with high government positions and security clearances, cannot board a commercial airline flight without taking off his shoes, his jacket, his belt, submitting to a porno-scanner, or being sexually groped. Nothing could make it plainer that “airport security” cannot tell a Muslim terrorist from a gung-ho American patriot, a US Senator, a US Marine general, or a CIA operative.
If a passenger requires for health or other reasons quantities of liquids and cremes beyond the limits imposed on toothpaste, shampoo, food, or medications, the passenger must obtain prior approval from TSA, which seldom works.
One of America’s finest moments is the case, documented on YouTube, of a dying woman in a wheelchair, who requires special food, having her food thrown away by the gestapo TSA despite the written approval from the Transportation Safety Administration; her daughter arrested for protesting, and the dying woman in the wheelchair left alone in the airport.
This is Amerika today. These assaults on innocent citizens are justified by the mindless right-wing as “protecting us against terrorism,” a “threat” that all evidence shows is nonexistent.
No American is secure today. I am a former staff associate of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee. I required high security clearances as I had access to information pertaining to all US weapons programs. As chief economist of the House Budget Committee, I had information pertaining to the US military and security budgets. As Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, I was provided every morning with the CIA’s briefing of the President as well as with endless security information.
When I left the Treasury, President Reagan appointed me to a super-secret committee to investigate the CIA’s assessment of Soviet capability. Afterwards I was a consultant to the Pentagon. I had every kind of security clearance.
Despite my record of highest security clearances and US government confidence in me, including confirmation by the US Senate in a presidential appointment, the airline police cannot tell me from a terrorist.
If I were into model airplanes or attending anti-war demonstrations, little doubt I, too, would be arrested.
After my public service in the last quarter of the 20th century, I experienced during the first decade of the 21st century all of America’s achievements, despite their blemishes, being erased. In their place was erected a monstrous desire for hegemony and highly concentrated wealth.
Most of my friends and my fellow citizens in general are incapable of recognizing America’s transformation into a warmonger police state that has the worst income distribution of any developed country.
It is extraordinary that so many Americans, citizens of the world’s only superpower, actually believe that they are threatened by Muslim peoples who have no unity, no navy, no air force, no nuclear weapons, no missiles capable of reaching across the oceans.
Indeed, large percentages of these “threat populations,” especially among the young, are enamored of the sexual freedom that exists in America. Even the Iranian dupes of the CIA-orchestrated “Green Revolution” have forgotten Washington’s overthrow of their elected government in the 1950s. Despite America’s decade-long abusive military actions against Muslim peoples, many Muslims still look to America for their salvation.
Their “leaders” are simply bought off with large sums of money.
With the “terrorist threat” and Al Qaeda deflated with President Obama’s alleged assassination of its leader, Osama bin Laden, who was left unprotected and unarmed by his “world-wide terrorist organization,” Washington has come up with a new bogyman — the Haqqanis.
According to John Glaser and anonymous CIA officials, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen “exaggerated” the case against the Haqqani insurgent group when he claimed, setting up a US invasion of Pakistan, that the Hagganis were an operating arm of the Pakistan government’s secret service, the ISI.
Adm. Mullen is now running from his “exaggeration,” an euphemism for a lie. His aid Captain John Kirby said that Mullen’s “accusations were designed to influence the Pakistanis to crack down on the Haqqani Network.” In other words, the Pakistanis should kill more of their own people to save the Americans the trouble.
If you don’t know what the Haqqani Network is, don’t be surprised. You never heard of Al Qaeda prior to 9/11. The US government creates whatever new bogymen and incidents are necessary to further the neoconservative agenda of world hegemony and higher profits for the armaments industry.
For 10 years, the “superpower” American population has sat there, being terrified by the government’s lies. While Americans sit in fear of non-existent “terrorists” sucking their thumbs, millions of people in six countries have had their lives destroyed. As far as any evidence exists, the vast majority of Americans are unperturbed by the wanton murder of others in countries that they are incapable of locating on maps.
Truly, Amerika is a light unto the world, an example for all.
Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He was awarded the Treasury Department’s Meritorious Service Award for “his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy.” Roberts is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.
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