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On the Issue of the United States, Pakistan Is Playing with Fire

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the “Pakistan Papers,” cables from the trove of more than 250,000 US State Embassy cables that WikiLeaks obtained which specifically deal with Pakistan. Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: Pakistan’s military asked for continued drone coverage, the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

I managed to connect with Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan, who regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN. He’s also worked in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and has some writing on Dawn’s website on the Pakistan Papers.

The interview was planned for Sunday at 3 pm New York Time/midnight Pakistan Time. We were going to do the interview over Skype.

Just after 3 pm, I reminded Rumi that the interview was to begin. He logged on fifteen to twenty minutes after the time we had arranged and messaged me: “Sorry I got distracted. Never a dull moment here.” At that exact moment, the Mehran naval aviation base in Karachi was under attack from militants (an attack that Adnan Rehmat says highlights “the ability of al Qaeda to function effectively as an extremist, reactionary organisation post-bin Laden”). I mention this to highlight how gracious Rumi was to take time out from Pakistan to share with me, an American, his insights on what is going on in a country that some refer to as “a hard country.”

[The interview was recorded. To hear audio, click here. And, click play on the embedded player.]

I ask Rumi about the Pakistan military and what the Pakistan Papers release tells the Pakistani people and the world about how the Pakistan military has been deceiving its people.

…It’s not just the Pakistan military. I would say Pakistan’s civilian and military elites have never trusted their people and they have been posturing on the one hand on an anti-Americanism platform and on the other they have been negotiating and bargaining with the West and in particular the Americans. And so I think this is an absolute shame because the more you do such things in a country, which is armed with nuclear weapons and where you have very strong public opinion on the particular issue of the US, you’re playing with fire. It’s an irresponsible behavior by the elites.

I ask Rumi to address President Barack Obama’s assertion that the US has the authority and right to come into Pakistan and kill any “militants” or al Qaeda leaders the US deems dangerous and how that might further complicate relations.

Rumi mentions the Pakistan Parliament recently established a stated position in early May through a parliamentary resolution that says “Pakistan’s Parliament is seriously worried about the breach of sovereignty that the US operations such as the OBL operation caused.”
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Release the Dead bin Laden Photos

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Celebration Photos Just as Likely to Inflame ‘Terrorists’ as Bin Laden Death Photos

The decision to not release photos of a dead and fatally wounded Osama bin Laden rests on at tenuous set of reasons that rest purely on Beltway conventional wisdom.

The argument that the release of photos could inflame the Middle East has been made before (recall the Obama Administration blocked the release of “torture photos” in May 2009 that the ACLU was seeking to obtain through a Freedom of Information Act request). Greg Mitchell with The Nation reminds Americans of the debate that surrounded the decision to release photos of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after his death.

Jon Stewart made a good point last night on “The Daily Show”:

We’ve been fighting this war for nearly ten years. Thousands of US deaths, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and we’ve seen nearly zero photographic evidence of it. Member how long the media had to fight to show military coffins returning from overseas? Maybe not because you saw pictures of it the day they won the case and not since. Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny gold coin.

Essentially, the key argument should not be that the photos should be released to debunk conspiracy theories (which the White House has helped fuel by not really getting all the details straight on the bin Laden killing). It shouldn’t be don’t release the photos because it will hand Republicans a victory and they won’t be satisfied and will just ask for more like Donald Trump wants to know more even though he got the president to release his long-form birth certificate.

The argument should be that Americans see the photo so they can see what they have been celebrating. They should see the image of brutality, which so many vehemently believe is justified.

What makes anyone think photos of celebration at Ground Zero or the White House on the day bin Laden was killed won’t inflame the Middle East or haven’t already provoked some cell of terrorists to plan a new scheme for attacking America?

This guy with “Rest In Hell Osama” scrawled on his body could be on a recruiting poster for al Qaeda (if they use recruiting posters).

This guy could be on a recruiting poster too. Not because he looks like he lusts for blood but because he looks like a dopey Westerner whose ideals those in al Qaeda likely despise vehemently.

Even this seemingly benign photo could inflame those who would support al Qaeda’s mission against the West. The flag-waving in celebration of the execution of a human being on their side is enough to move them to organize an attack.

The front pages of the editions of The Daily News and the New York Post that ran the day after bin Laden was killed are enough to inflame those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause too. The Daily News’ front page said, “Rot in Hell!” The Post’s front page cried, “Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard!” The first sentence in the Post read, “We finally got the miserable son of a bitch.”

This irresponsible tabloid journalism was being gobbled up by New Yorkers as a reasonable characterization of what went down. People hung the front pages up nearby Ground Zero and took photos of the front pages posted on a wall.

This photo of university students should have the US national security establishment frightened not because students shouldn’t be allowed to go to spontaneous and patriotic Spring Break-type events, where they act like they are at a pep rally for an upcoming football game. The photo should have those in government worried because that girl with the cigar in her mouth could easily remind the terrorists of this girl with the cigar(ette) in her mouth.

The point is not that people shouldn’t be able to go out and celebrate and mark the deaths of America’s with American flags and signs that express satisfaction. The point is, if the photos of a dead bin Laden could be a potential threat to America if released, what about the photos of people celebrating his death?

Jeremy Scahill of The Nation appeared on “The Tavis Smiley Show” to discuss how he really thinks the death of bin Laden is a “somber occasion.” He thinks Americans should reflect on the destruction that has taken place since 9/11 and those who have died in wars instead of simply treating the killing like a “sporting event.” And, he finds the celebrations give off an image of a “culture that celebrates execution.”

Additionally, Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her pregnant daughter on 9/11 writes:

As a family member of a young woman killed in the attacks, I want the response to the death of bin Laden to be one of somber reflection, one that marks how far we have come from the days of that attack and accounts for all we have lost—our civil rights, our trust in our government to act ethically. I want our civil liberties back, our reliance on the Constitution and the rule of law. I want, again, for my children to feel free.

Let’s take that energy and reclaim our land as the land of the free, the civilized and the just. There are dire costs to shirking this duty. We’ve just seen it in our streets.

O’Connor also states, “We should recognize the energy that came from the elimination of this criminal at the hands of the U.S. government and we should try to craft, instead, the end of the terror years.”

Back to the photos themselves, Michael Shaw at HuffingtonPost has this to say:

What the powers-that-be never get is that an erasure is not without it’s own moral baggage and trace. Disappearing the photo, given the reality that an image represents (especially these days, when in Egypt, in Libya and in Syria, we see citizens dying by the day just for the cause of pushing pictures to twitpics), the willful act of suppressing the photo, in our every more visually-mediated and documented society, equates to the intention of keeping the killing in the dark. It’s this signal, by way, this act of omission reinforced by the President’s dismissive and defensive tone, that not just insults the intelligence of the American people but actually reinforces the suspicions of the Muslim street.

By not releasing the photos, we are letting the terrorists win—just as we have been letting them win since 9/11. We are adapting our behavior and applying more restraints to freedom and transparency. Doing this likely empowers terrorists.

Release the photos. They will do the US no harm. Now, continuing the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continuing to support dictatorial regimes in the Middle East will.

Questions On Bin Laden Killing As WikiLeaks Notes Gitmo File Had Details On His Whereabouts

2:06 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Hours ago, WikiLeaks sent out a tweet noting the US had suspected or known since 2008 that Osama bin Laden might have been living in Abottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by a US black ops team, JSOC, in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday. The note begs a few questions.

Why was this detail missed when the New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post, and NPR put together coverage? How did this detail not become a headline on The Guardian’s or the Telegraph’s website?

Does it have anything to do with the way the media organizations searched the files? Or, was this small detail in one of the files not covered because of the fear that it might jeopardize efforts to track down bin Laden? Is it possible the New York Times met with the Pentagon and was urged to omit this detail?

The section that is getting attention comes from Abu al-Libi’s leaked detainee assessment report:

In October 2002, Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi, aka (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi),ISN US9IZ-010026DP (IZ-10026), contacted and asked detainee to work with him in Peshawar. Detainee accepted the offer and spent the next five to six months working underIZ-10026 organizing the purchase of supplies for fighters including medicine, lights,batteries, food, and clothing. In July 2003, detainee received a letter from UBL’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility ofcollecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. UBL stated detainee would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad, PK and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.

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World as a Battlefield Policy Leads to Targeted Killing of ‘Bastard’ Bin Laden

8:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Nearly a decade after the Bush Administration announced a “war on terrorism” after the attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, the US mounted a covert military operation that killed Al Qaeda figurehead and leader Osama Bin Laden. The operation was an extrajudicial assassination exercise that involved a firefight, which killed at least twenty people in Abbotabad, Pakistan.

This was how President Barack Obama described the operation in a late-night announcement on a “national security issue” on Sunday, May 1, 2011. After putting the launching of this operation in the context of 9/11 and how the US has “tirelessly” and “heroically” fought al Qaeda and other terrorists over the past ten years, Obama delivered the news:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.[emphasis added]

What’s remarkable about the operation is not that Bin Laden is dead but rather the fact that he was killed by a targeted military operation. Intelligence the US had was used. With cooperation from Pakistan state security–the ISI, the CIA, the US military and the Obama Administration worked together for months to plan out a mission that could lead to Bin Laden’s assassination (so, as US leaders and pundit are saying, he could be brought to justice).

That special forces were able to bring down what many Americans likely considered to be the chief target in the “war on terrorism” signals how flawed it is and was for the US to argue in the aftermath of 9/11 that it needed to launch a war and occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or any other country in order to keep America safe from another attack. The killing operation that occurred demonstrates any “bad guys” that pose threats can be killed without sacrificing or spending massive amounts of blood and treasure, without killing tens of thousands if not millions of civilians in a country.

It also showed that the US does not need to use drones to kill people that it deems to be a threat. The technology was not used to kill Bin Laden. A team of human beings was sent to the compound where Bin Laden was hiding and the robotic machine, which the United Nations has suggested is possibly illegal, was not needed at all.

The killing also showed where the Obama Administration is at when it comes to dealing with terrorists. Bin Laden was not arrested, detained, and sent to a secret prison. Had he, one might imagine quite a bit of intelligence could have been gleaned. Would he have talked? It’s tough to answer that question with anything beyond speculation, but, if other individuals were worth sending to Bagram or Guantanamo, certainly Bin Laden would have been worth sending somewhere so that the US could work to glean information necessary for keeping America safe.

Bin Laden died from a “targeted killing” operation, an operation that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is part of a regimen for “killing terror suspects–including US citizens–located far away from zones of actual armed conflict.” In this case, Bin Laden happened to be in Pakistan, a country where ongoing US military operations have been taking place without proper Congressional authorization and notification .

President Obama used the killing operation to justify the war in Pakistan:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The ISI, Pakistan’s state security agency, allegedly worked with the US to find Osama Bin Laden and mount the operation. That’s significant given the fact that in the past months there has been much tension over what happened with Raymond Davis, the ex-Blackwater contractor who was working for the CIA and shot and killed two Pakistani men. Pakistani authorities arrested Davis. The Obama Administration falsely asserted he was a US diplomat. He was eventually turned over to the US but the Pakistani government wound up issuing calls to the CIA to cease its operations.

President Barack Obama used the death of Bin Laden as a moment for celebration:

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What must be said is that there is a risk to celebrating the death of Bin Laden patriotically and proudly. There is nothing wrong with privately enjoying the fact that somebody responsible for the deaths of many people is no longer alive, however, if one really wants to keep the country safe and not do things that might provoke terrorism, bragging about an operation that killed someone who may now be regarded as a martyr is probably not the best reaction.

That argument would be foolish if US citizens did not buy the notion that WikiLeaks endangers lives when it releases previously classified information that terrorists could use against America. That argument would be stupid if it weren’t for the fact that the Obama Administration refused to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request and release torture photos for fear of endangering US troops. And, that argument would be irrational if not for the Obama Administration’s outrage toward Pastor Terry Jones after he burned a Koran that made people in Afghanistan angry, which subsequently led to the deaths of people connected to the United Nations.

The celebration foreshadows a continuation, reaffirming and, perhaps, expansion of US operations in a “war on terror” that President Obama has worked to rebrand. The speech tonight suggests that, in a country that may be losing interest in waging wars abroad, America will not waver in its commitment to keep hunting terrorists down.

President Obama’s announcement built on his May 2009 speech on national security, where he did not discard the premise for national security that the Bush Administration had used to formulate domestic and international policy but rather embraced that premise. Just like President Bush said while in office, “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” Obama said during that 2009 speech, “For the first time since 2002, we’re providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy.”

The tactic of “taking the fight to the extremists” sets up theaters for war and ensures entire regions of the world are devastated. For what does this devastation occur and why do Americans allow this tactic born out of fear to be the way the US works to “secure” the world from extremism?

Over nearly ten years, the fight against extremism has produced a “new normal” for Americans. A climate now exists where there is beefed-up airport security that violates rights to privacy, individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

The trampling of civil liberties has been permitted by America largely because many have bought into the idea that there are networks of fanatical enemies out there tirelessly plotting the death and destruction of America, who hate America for its freedom. Americans have allowed terrorism to be personified and now increasingly associate terrorism with Muslims even though all humans could potentially pose a terrorist threat to mankind. The arousal of primal fear from conjured perception and the fact that those who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured, and denied rights don’t look like “real Americans” has pushed America closer and closer to the world one reads about on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden will renew this psyche in Americans’ minds. And, President Barack Obama will be able to re-brand US wars that each and every day more and more Americans reject.