|By: Barry Lando Monday April 29, 2013 1:50 pm|
|By: Barry Lando Tuesday April 16, 2013 4:03 am|
As I write this, we still don’t know who was responsible for the horrific bombing attack in Boston. Perhaps it will turn out to be the work of home grown rightwing nuts; perhaps it’s the act of foreign terrorists. But, whatever the source, what strikes me is the number of times the barbaric assault is being denounced as “cowardly.”
As in Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s warning that “This cowardly act will not be taken in stride.”
Indeed, “Cowardly” is the epithet being used by political figures across the United States; it was used by an editorial writer in Kansas City Star and a spokesman for the United Maryland Muslim Council in Baltimore.
After all, what could be more cowardly than for some unknown, unseen, unannounced killer to blow apart and maim innocent men women and children, without any risk to himself.
But, if that be the definition of cowardice, what could be more cowardly, than the now cliché image of the button-down CIA officer agent driving to work in Las Vegas to assume his shift at the controls of a drone circling high over some dusty village on the other side of the world?
How different are the images produced by such attacks—shattered bodies, dismembered limbs, severed arteries, frantic aid givers and terrified survivors—how different from the moving images of the tragedy in Boston now being broadcast and rebroadcast on TV stations around the globe?
With those scenes in mind, I would ask you to read a portion of a blog on Drone Wars I posted a few weeks ago, citing the fact that over the past few years, U.S. drones have made mincemeat out of an estimated 3000 to 4000 people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. At least 200 of them were children.
“The figures are very rough because no one–certainly not the U.S. government–is releasing an accurate count. The London based Center for Investigative reporting, which attempts to track the drone strikes, has been able to identify by name only a few hundred of the actual victims. Who knows what their political affiliations really were? Or even less, what considerations—legal and otherwise—went into justifying their demise?
“It’s a terrifying situation.” Jennifer Gibson told me. She’s an American lawyer in London with Reprieve, an organization taking on the “drone war” issue. “There are villages in Pakistan,” she says “that have drones flying over them 24 hours a day. Sometimes they’ll stay for weeks. But my clients and people there have no way of knowing if they are being targeted. Or what kind of behavior is likely to get them killed.
“They don’t know if the person riding beside them in a car or walking with them in the marketplace may be a target. It’s terrorizing entire communities. Even after an attack, there is no acknowledging by the U.S. government, no response at all, absolutely no accountability. And the vast majority of casualties don’t even have names attached to them.”
“Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards. He suggested that some strikes may even constitute “war crimes”.
“But, few Americans seem to carry about U.N. rapporteurs. It’s only when Americans are potential targets for those drones, that Congress and the media get stirred up.
“And they’re probably right. A recent poll taken by Farleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind, found that by a two to one margin (48% to 24%) American voters say they think it’s illegal for the U.S. government to target its own citizens abroad with drone strikes.
“But, when it comes to using drones to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.” voters were in favor of a margin of six-to-one [75% to 13%].
You may be interested in checking out another blog I wrote-“Drone Wars: The End of History?”
|By: Barry Lando Friday April 12, 2013 6:58 am|
Mali: Mission Accomplished! Hollande’s Bush Moment:
As Colin Powell famously warned George H.W. Bush on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, “if you break it, you own it.”
France is not responsible for “breaking” Mali. The country was already a West African basket case long before the French intervention.
But France, which enraged many Americans by refusing to participate in the invasion of Iraq, now finds itself stuck with the results of their own intervention. And there’s no crazy glue in sight.
That’s what I wrote a couple of months ago after President Francois Hollande dispatched French troops to Mali.
The irony today is that not only is there no obvious solution to Mali’s plight, but Hollande himself is having enormous problems running his own deeply troubled country.
Back in January Hollande’s aides hoped that a forceful intervention in Mali would give the lie to the charge that he was a feeble, indecisive leader.
But now, in mid April, with 4,600 French troops in Mali, the magazine L’Express is running an abject photo of Holland on the cover, over the humiliating headline: “M. FAIBLE.” (Mister WEAK). Similar devastatingly mocking jibes fill the media—from all sides of the political spectrum.
Indeed, with Hollande confronting a major domestic political crisis, after his Budget Minister-in charge of collecting taxes–admitted to having stashed money in secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Singapore, the president’s popularity is still plummeting (now about 20%).
It’s being driven ever lower by France’s abysmal economic situation, mounting crime and racial tensions. With three of Hollande’s own ministers now publicly challenging the government’s economic program, the ineluctable conclusion is that no one’s really in charge.
Yet this is the same man who is supposedly leading the battle to save Mali from ruin.
When France intervened in January, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius vowed the action would be over in “a matter of weeks.”
Now in mid April, 4,600 French troops are still in the country, supported by about 6,000 soldiers from several African states. Led by the French, they’ve retaken most of the major population centers from the jihadists who had threatened to overrun the country. They’ve also pummeled rebel redoubts in the North, reportedly killing hundreds of radicals and destroying tons of equipment.
Yet the situation is still tense. Islamists who had faded into the villages and rugged mountains are still capable of deadly hit-and-run attacks. And the ethnic Tuaregs in the North, who began the rebellion, are still demanding autonomy or independence.
Hollande is also out on a limb. Though he claimed he was acting to protect Europe from radical Islam spreading in Africa, he has received precious little support from his European allies. Nor—aside from some important intelligence and logistics support—has he received much real backing from the United States. After Iraq and Afghanistan, no one is rushing to get involved in yet another quagmire.
Meanwhile the Mali adventure is costing France—whose budget is already in disarray– close to three million Euros a day—probably much more. By this summer, the cost will probably have risen to at least half a billion Euros…and counting.
Hollande’s predicament now is not that different from the one facing President Obama in Afghanistan: how to drastically decrease France’s involvement in Mali without making it look like France has cut and run, leaving an unseemly chaos in his wake.
The solution: France will turn over the mess in their former colony, as soon as possible, to a new “democratically-elected” Malian government.
Thus it was that Hollande dispatched Foreign Minister Fabius to Bamako to lay down his dictat to the major political actors: presidential and legislative elections were to be held by July.
|By: Barry Lando Sunday February 17, 2013 4:42 am|
What if a new film came out about 9/11, “based on a firsthand account of actual events,” that convincingly showed no Jews were in the World Trade Center that fateful morning. The fiery disaster, in fact, was a Zionist/CIA plot to justify launching “The War on Terror”?
Or what about another film “based on true historical events,” that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and the drive for gun control paves the way for a jihadist takeover of America?
What about a film leaving the impression that brutal methods of torture, though perhaps morally repugnant, led to the assassination of America’s number one enemy.
The film about torture, however, is a sophisticated production, turned out by the Sony Corporation and a talented director, writer and cast, backed up by reams of expensive research, nominated for five Oscars, and reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in box offices around the world.
The movie, of course, is Zero Dark Thirty (ZDT).
In a way, that film, and others like it, are hijacking our history. I’ll get back to that charge.
Some commentators like the Times’ Roger Cohen have praised ZDT “as a courageous work that is disturbing in the way that art should be.”
Indeed, as befits a work of art, much of the story-line in ZDT is unstated, diffuse. There are a lot of shadowy images, elliptical scenes, muttered exchanges. But it’s difficult to come away from the film without the perception that brutal torture, such as water boarding, played an important role in the CIA’s finding Usama Bin Laden’s personal courier, which in turn led them to the Al Qaeda leader himself.
The problem is, according to a lot of people who should know, that was not the case. The film has been roundly criticized from Human Rights Watch, to prominent American Senators, to a former agent in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, for giving Americans the erroneous impression that torture played a key role in tracking down and killing Bin Laden.
In fact, when challenged on the film’s accuracy, director Kathryn Bigelow claims a kind of artistic license—as if her critics really don’t get what her craft is all about. “What’s important to remember is it’s a movie and not a documentary…It’s a dramatization of a 10-year manhunt compressed into two-and-a-half hours…There’s a lot of composite characters and it’s an interpretation.”
O.K., just an interpretation. But Bigelow and her publicists try to have it both ways. The film’s trailer breathlessly invites us to “Witness the Biggest Manhunt in History.”
And, as the film begins, we are solemnly informed that it is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”
But, “It does not say that it is a factual, unembroidered recounting of those events.” explains Roger Cohen, sounding less like the gimlet-eyed columnist and more like attorney for the defense. To bolster his case, Cohen quotes Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s observation that “Facts at times become the dire enemies of truth.’
“Or, put another way,” Cohen explains, “while reality is the raw material journalism attempts to render with accuracy and fairness, it is the raw material that art must transform.”
In other words, directors like Kathryn Bigelow must be given the license to shape and change the facts if necessary, so that her audience can benefit from the film- maker’s memorable take on history.
That’s one argument.