"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Assassin-In-Chief: Secret “Kill List”, Drone Strikes & Covert Wars Significantly Expanded Under Obama

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Oldspeak:”Assassination has been thoroughly institutionalized, normalized, and bureaucratized around the figure of the President. Without the help of or any oversight from the American people or their elected representatives, The president alone is now responsible for regular killings thousands of miles away, including those of civilians and even children.  He is, in other words, if not a king, at least the king of American assassinations.  On that score, his power is total and completely unchecked.  He can prescribe death for anyone “nominated,” choosing any of the “baseball cards” (PowerPoint bios) on that kill list and then order the drones to take them (or others in the neighborhood) out. can stop any attack, any killing, but there is no one, nor any mechanism that can stop him.  An American global killing machine (quite literally so, given that growing force of drones) is now at the beck and call of a single, unaccountable individual.  This is the nightmare the founding fathers tried to protect us from.” –Tom Engelhardt. More failed, murderous and counterproductive atrocity worthy Bush-era terrorism policy expanded, unfettered and completely unaccountable to anyone but Barack Obama. While corporate sponsored sheeple ring their hands over psuedo-divisive and sensationalized “issues” like gay marriage, Our president has done away with 5th amendment right not to “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Everyone in a “strike zone” is civilian or not, designated as a “combatant” or “militant” and is thus subject to summary execution at the whim of the President. The U.S.homeland has been designated as a “battleground”, and the military is allowed to operated here. Unmanned drones are watching us from U.S. skies right now. Protestors are classified as “low-level terrorists”. What happens when the “terrorist threat” from within becomes greater than that from without? As we’ve seen from the brutality of responses to Occupy Wall Street Protests nation-wide by hyper-militarized and aggressively trained police forces, whatever happens ain’t pretty. Protestors homes have been raided, and they’ve been arrested, detained, and charged with terrorism BEFORE THEY EVEN ACTUALLY PROTEST. Pre-crime is now prosecutable.All the elements are in place to facilitate a rapid transition to a fully formed totalitarian state. I highly recommend you read the NY Times propaganda piece before you read the articles below. “War Is Peace”, “Freedom Is Slavery”

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Hope Burning

Obama Expands Secret Wars Across The Globe

By Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch.com:

Be assured of one thing: whichever candidate you choose at the polls in November, you aren’t just electing a president of the United States; you are also electing an assassin-in-chief.  The last two presidents may not have been emperors or kings, but they — and the vast national-security structure that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidential self — are certainly one of the nightmares the founding fathers of this country warned us against.  They are one of the reasons those founders put significant war powers in the hands of Congress, which they knew would be a slow, recalcitrant, deliberative body.

Thanks to a long New York Times piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” we now know that the president has spent startling amounts of time overseeing the “nomination” of terrorist suspects for assassination via the remotely piloted drone program he inherited from President George W. Bush and which he has expanded exponentially.  Moreover, that article was based largely on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.”  In other words, it was essentially an administration-inspired piece — columnist Robert Scheer calls it “planted” — on a “secret” program the president and those closest to him are quite proud of and want to brag about in an election year.

The language of the piece about our warrior president was generally sympathetic, even in places soaring.  It focused on the moral dilemmas of a man who — we now know — has personally approved and overseen the growth of a remarkably robust assassination program in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan based on a “kill list.” Moreover, he’s regularly done so target by target, name by name.  (The Times did not mention a recent U.S. drone strike in the Philippines that killed 15.)  According to Becker and Shane, President Obama has also been involved in the use of a fraudulent method of counting drone kills, one that unrealistically deemphasizes civilian deaths.

Historically speaking, this is all passing strange.  The Times calls Obama’s role in the drone killing machine “without precedent in presidential history.”  And that’s accurate.

It’s not, however, that American presidents have never had anything to do with or been in any way involved in assassination programs.  The state as assassin is hardly unknown in our history.  How could President John F. Kennedy, for example, not know about CIA-inspired or -backed assassination plots against Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, and South Vietnamese autocrat (and ostensible ally) Ngo Dinh Diem? (Lumumba and Diem were successfully murdered.)  Similarly, during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, the CIA carried out a massive assassination campaign in Vietnam, Operation Phoenix.  It proved to be a staggeringly profligate program for killing tens of thousands of Vietnamese, both actual enemies and those simply swept up in the process.

In previous eras, however, presidents either stayed above the assassination fray or practiced a kind of plausible deniability about the acts.  We are surely at a new stage in the history of the imperial presidency when a president (or his election team) assembles his aides, advisors, and associates to foster a story that’s meant to broadcast the group’s collective pride in the new position of assassin-in-chief.

Religious Cult or Mafia Hit Squad?

Here’s a believe-it-or-not footnote to our American age.  Who now remembers that, in the early years of his presidency, George W. Bush kept what the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward called “his own personal scorecard for the war” on terror?  It took the form of photographs with brief biographies and personality sketches of those judged to be the world’s most dangerous terrorists, each ready to be crossed out by Bush once captured or killed. That scorecard was, Woodward added, always available in a desk drawer in the Oval Office.

Such private presidential recordkeeping now seems penny-ante indeed.  The distance we’ve traveled in a decade can be measured by the Times’ description of the equivalent of that “personal scorecard” today (and no desk drawer could hold it):

“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. This secret ‘nominations’ process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases, and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia. The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by [counterterrorism ‘tsar’ John O.] Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name.”

In other words, thanks to such meetings — on what insiders have labeled “terror Tuesday” — assassination has been thoroughly institutionalized, normalized, and bureaucratized around the figure of the president.  Without the help of or any oversight from the American people or their elected representatives, he alone is now responsible for regular killings thousands of miles away, including those of civilians and even children.  He is, in other words, if not a king, at least the king of American assassinations.  On that score, his power is total and completely unchecked.  He can prescribe death for anyone “nominated,” choosing any of the “baseball cards” (PowerPoint bios) on that kill list and then order the drones to take them (or others in the neighborhood) out.

He and he alone can decide that assassinating known individuals isn’t enough and that the CIA’s drones can instead strike at suspicious “patterns of behavior” on the ground in Yemen or Pakistan. He can stop any attack, any killing, but there is no one, nor any mechanism that can stop him.  An American global killing machine (quite literally so, given that growing force of drones) is now at the beck and call of a single, unaccountable individual.  This is the nightmare the founding fathers tried to protect us from.

In the process, as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the president has shredded the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing Americans that they will not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel produced a secret memo claiming that, while the Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee does apply to the drone assassination of an American citizen in a land with which we are not at war, “it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”  (That, writes Greenwald, is “the most extremist government interpretation of the Bill of Rights I’ve heard in my lifetime.”)  In other words, the former Constitutional law professor has been freed from the law of the land in cases in which he “nominates,” as he has, U.S. citizens for robotic death.

There is, however, another aspect to the institutionalizing of those “kill lists” and assassination as presidential prerogatives that has gone unmentioned.  If the Times article — which largely reflects how the Obama administration cares to see itself and its actions — is to be believed, the drone program is also in the process of being sanctified and sacralized.

You get a sense of this from the language of the piece itself.  (“A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan…”)  The president is presented as a particularly moral man, who devotes himself to the “just war” writings of religious figures like Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, and takes every death as his own moral burden.  His leading counterterrorism advisor Brennan, a man who, while still in the CIA, was knee-deep in torture controversy, is presented, quite literally, as a priest of death, not once but twice in the piece.  He is described by the Times reporters as “a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama.”  They then quote the State Department’s top lawyer, Harold H. Koh, saying, “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”

In the Times telling, the organization of robotic killing had become the administration’s idée fixe, a kind of cult of death within the Oval Office, with those involved in it being so many religious devotees.  We may be, that is, at the edge of a new state-directed, national-security-based religion of killing grounded in the fact that we are in a “dangerous” world and the “safety” of Americans is our preeminent value.  In other words, the president, his apostles, and his campaign acolytes are all, it seems, praying at the Church of St. Drone.

Of course, thought about another way, that “terror Tuesday” scene might not be from a monastery or a church synod, but from a Mafia council directly out of a Mario Puzo novel, with the president as the Godfather, designating “hits” in a rough-and-tumble world.

How far we’ve come in just two presidencies!  Assassination as a way of life has been institutionalized in the Oval Office, thoroughly normalized, and is now being offered to the rest of us as a reasonable solution to American global problems and an issue on which to run a presidential campaign.

Downhill All the Way on Blowback Planet

After 5,719 inside-the-Beltway (largely inside-the-Oval-Office) words, the Times piece finally gets to this single outside-the-Beltway sentence: “Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president.”

Arguably, indeed!  For the few who made it that far, it was a brief reminder of just how narrow, how confining the experience of worshiping at St. Drone actually is.  All those endless meetings, all those presidential hours that might otherwise have been spent raising yet more money for campaign 2012, and the two countries that have taken the brunt of the drone raids are more hostile, more dangerous, and in worse shape than in 2009.  (And one of them, keep in mind, is a nuclear power.)  News articles since have only emphasized how powerfully those drones have radicalized local populations — however many “bad guys” (and children) they may also have wiped off the face of the Earth.

And though the Times doesn’t mention this, it’s not just bad news for Yemen or Pakistan.  American democracy, already on the ropes, is worse off, too.

What should astound Americans — but seldom seems to be noticed — is just how into the shadows, how thoroughly military-centric, and how unproductive has become Washington’s thinking at the altar of St. Drone and its equivalents (including special operations forces, increasingly the president’s secret military within the military). Yes, the world is always a dangerous place, even if far less so now than when, in the Cold War era, two superpowers were a heartbeat away from nuclear war.  But — though it’s increasingly heretical to say this — the perils facing Americans, including relatively modest dangers from terrorism, aren’t the worst things on our planet.

Electing an assassin-in-chief, no matter who you vote for, is worse.  Pretending that the Church of St. Drone offers any kind of reasonable or even practical solutions on this planet of ours, is worse yet.  And even worse, once such a process begins, it’s bound to be downhill all the way.  As we learned last week, again in the Times, we not only have an assassin-in-chief in the Oval Office, but a cyberwarrior, perfectly willing to release a new form of weaponry, the most sophisticated computer “worm” ever developed, against another country with which we are not at war.

This represents a breathtaking kind of rashness, especially from the leader of a country that, perhaps more than any other, is dependent on computer systems, opening the U.S. to potentially debilitating kinds of future blowback.  Once again, as with drones, the White House is setting the global rules of the road for every country (and group) able to get its hands on such weaponry and it’s hit the highway at 140 miles per hour without a cop in sight.

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the rest of them knew war, and yet were not acolytes of the eighteenth century equivalents of St. Drone, nor of presidents who might be left free to choose to turn the world into a killing zone.  They knew at least as well as anyone in our national security state today that the world is always a dangerous place — and that that’s no excuse for investing war powers in a single individual.  They didn’t think that a state of permanent war, a state of permanent killing, or a president free to plunge Americans into such states was a reasonable way for their new republic to go.  To them, it was by far the more dangerous way to exist in our world.

The founding fathers would surely have chosen republican democracy over safety.  They would never have believed that a man surrounded by advisors and lawyers, left to his own devices, could protect them from what truly mattered.  They tried to guard against it.  Now, we have a government and a presidency dedicated to it, no matter who is elected in November.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Obama’s Secret Wars: How Shady U.S. ‘Counter-Terrorism’ Policies Are More Dangerous Than Actual Terrorism

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Oldspeak: “Ask yourself how you’d feel if you were just walking along minding your own business, and without warning, a Hellfire guided missile just dropped out of the sky and blew people up. I would venture to say you’d feel terrified and terrorized. That’s basically how innocents civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Libya feel. Quasi-discriminately bombing the shit out of civilians isn’t ‘Counter-Terrorism’. It’s just terrorism. State-sanctioned, but yeah, terrorism. And contrary to the reassuring speeches from Obama and his military commanders quoting cooked statistics, this tactic is not making us safer. It is exposing us to exponentially greater danger. Neither is paying the natives to torture and indefinitely detain ‘suspected terrorists’. Neither are the U.S. Air Forces’ plans to QUADRUPLE it’s drone air force on some ol ‘Empire Strikes Back’ shit. But these tactics are being held up as “”more efficient counterterrorism.”  Efficient for whom? Defense contractors? Bankers? War Profiteers? Definitely not for the countless dead and maimed. The reality is these policies have been losing the hearts and minds, turned whole populations against the U.S., while creating more and more extremists dedicated to killing U.S. citizens. ‘At present, however, U.S. “counterterror policy” is clearly on a collision course with reality. It can only be hoped that when U.S. leaders are finally forced to acknowledge the moral and strategic bankruptcy of their counterterrorism policy that the damage they have done will not be irreversible’. –Fred Branfman

By Fred Branfman @ Alter Net:

Obama should be held accountable for vastly expanding the military establishment’s worldwide license to kill.

Although President’s Obama’s partial Afghan troop withdrawal announcement has received more attention, his June 29 “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” is of far greater long-term significance. This remarkable document states that the U.S. government intends to “disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents,” in the following “areas of focus”: “The Homeland, South Asia, Arabian Peninsula, East Africa,Europe, Iraq, Maghreb and Sahel, Southeast Asia (and) Central Asia.”

This assassination strategy is already operational in six Muslim countries with a combined population of 280 million: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, which has become a laboratory experiment for urban drone assassinations. The London Sunday Times reported a year ago that “President Obama has secretly sanctioned a huge increase in the number of US special forces … with American troops now operating in 75 countries.” There are presently 60,000 Special Operations forces worldwide, with 7,000 U.S. assassins unleashed upon Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq. Lt.-Col. John Nagle (ret.), an enthusiastic assassination supporter, has correctly called these operations “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine.”

Obama vs. Petraeus in 2012

President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and rhetorical advocate of the Rule of Law cannot possibly reconcile his previously stated beliefs with his presently creation of an “industrial-size killing machine” that sees U.S. leaders unilaterally hunt, kidnap and murder any person anywhere on earth — including “the Homeland” — whenever they feel like it, without outside oversight or their victims enjoying any legal or human rights whatsoever. Whatever his personal beliefs at this point, the president likely hopes that this “counterrorism strategy” will help protect him from inevitable Republican attempts to blame him during the 2012 presidential campaign for the likely losses the U.S. will sustain in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the next 16 months. And normally principled liberal supporters like the Center for American Progress, which called the strategy “more efficent counterterrorism,” may well have made the same calculation.

But this “counterterrorism” program not only formalizes extrajudicial state killing formerly associated in the public mind only with the Gestapo and KGB. It also drastically weakens, not strengthens, U.S. national security. The U.S. is bedeviled today precisely because previous presidents created long-term disasters by making disastrous short-term political decisions — steadily escalating in Indochina to avoid defeat before the next election, creating al-Qaeda and allowing Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq to acquire nuclear weapons in the name of fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, arming the Shah of Iran and then arming Saddam Hussein against Iran after the Shah fell.

It is true that America badly needs an alternative to occupying foreign lands. But a worldwide assassination program that motivates countless potential suicide bombers, weakens friendly governments, strengthens U.S. foes and increases the danger of nuclear materials falling into the hands of anti-Americanterrorists, is hardly more “cost-effective counterterrorism.” On the contrary. It exponentially increases America’s enemies while doing them comparatively little damage.

David Petraeus claimed success for his “counterinsurgency surge” in Iraq on the grounds that it reduced violence there. He has thus failed in Afghanistan by his own criteria, since his “counterterror surge” has seen violence increase by 51 percent over a year ago according to the U.N., and in Pakistan where militant activity has increased by more than 400 percent since he expanded U.S. war-making there after becoming Centcom commander.

Despite this, newly appointed CIA Chief Petraeus has now been tasked with expanding his failed counterterror policies worldwide. He will seek to integrate military and CIA assassination capabilities; vastly increase and make more deadly a drone airforce, both that of the CIA and a U.S. Airforce which alone plans to quadruple its drone force and now “trains more pilots to operate drones than to fly bombers or fighter jets”; and he will increase the numbers and geographic scope of 60,000 Special Operations assassins and their backup support.

Besides the state of the economy, the 2012 presidential election may well hinge on whom the public blames more for the losses likely to occur in the next 18 months in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Republicans are already blaming Obama, using Petraeus’s manifest disloyalty to his Commander-in-Chief when he criticized Obama’s partial Afghan troop withdrawal. It may well be that Obama’s reelection will depend on the public learning the truth: that U.S. losses in the “AfPak theater” are due to Petraeus’ reckless and irresponsible expansion of U.S. war-making into Pakistan after becoming Centcom Commander in the fall of 2009, and his failed shift from “counterinsurgency” to “counterterrorism” after taking over in Afghanistan in September 2010.

The truth is that Obama has been listening to his “Commanders in the field” for 30 months now, as the Republicans have demanded, and they have failed him. If Obama does lose the 2012 election because of the military’s failures, he will have only himself to blame. Previous U.S. presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Harry Truman, gained political strength by risking cashiering incompetent military officers. By promoting Petraeus, Obama has placed himself in a no-win situation, inextricably binding himself — and his nation — to the general’s countless reckless misjudgements, strategic failures and such manipulations of the media as his recent false claim to have reduced violence 5 percent in Afghanistan.

Two months after David Petraeus’ fateful decision to unleash “counter-terror” in southern Afghanistan, the international press (it was ignored in the U.S.) reported that the floor of Kandahar’s only hospital was “on some days, filled with blood”, and civilian casualties so exceeded its capacity that sick patients had to be transported to Pakistan for medical help. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, close ally Britain’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, stated that David Petraeus should be “ashamed of himself,” explaining that “he has increased the violence (and) trebled the number of special forces raids.”

“For Every Dead Pashtun Warrior, There Will Be 10 Pledged to Revenge.”

Obama counterterrorism advisor John Brennan sought to package Obama’s strategy as consisting of only surgical strikes on known al-Qaeda leaders, making the delusional and fanatic claim that in the last year “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.” In fact, Reuters reported 13 months ago that “the CIA received approval to target … a wider range of targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas … in many, if not most cases, the CIA had little information about the foot soldiers killed in the strikes.” The evidence clearly indicates that the U.S. has since conducted hundreds of strikes in Pakistan without knowing how many civilians were among the 1900 people it has murdered — only 56 of whom were named as “al Qaeda and Taliban Leaders” by the strongly pro-drone Long War Journal.

If manned helicopter strikes in the middle of Baghdad, with pilots hovering over and discussing their targets, can murder a Reuters journalist for carrying a camera and a doctor trying to rescue him — as revealed in the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video — one can only imagine the drone-caused civilian carnage in remote areas of both Pakistan and Afghanistan that are inaccessible to the outside world.

The mentality behind counterrorism has been described by former head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center in 2005-6, Robert Grenier as “kill them before they kill you” — a primitive law of the jungle mentality more appropriate to organized crime than a superpower which confronts a 1.8 billion strong Muslim world in which, for each of “them” the U.S. kills it creates exponentially more of “them” committed to killing “us.”

This strategy is thus not only immoral and illegal, but poses a clear and present danger to U.S. national security. In return for killing a handful of “al-Qaeda leaders” it dramatically increases the ranks of potential anti-U.S. suicide bombers, weakens friendly governments, strengthens U.S. foes, and increases the risk of nuclear materials falling into unfriendly hands. Its basic premise — that there is a fixed quantity of “al-Qaeda leaders, adherents and affiliates” whose death reduces the threat to the U.S. — is simply wrong. As Cowper-Coles has explained, “for every dead Pashtun warrior, there will be 10 pledged to revenge.” Former CIA counterrorism operative Michael Scheuer has stated that “Petraeus’s ‘decapitation’ approach was also unlikely to work. ‘The Red Army tried that for 10 years, and they were far more ruthless and cruel about it than us, and it didn’t work so well for them.'”

Does it really make sense to kill a handful of top leaders, who can be easily replaced by often more competent deputies, at the cost of motivating entire populations to support killing Americans?

The latest example is Yemen where, the Washington Post has reported,”attacks on electricity plants and oil pipelines have left Yemen’s economy on the edge of collapse, with the most damaging strike carried out in retaliation for a U.S. counterterrorism raid.” After the U.S. assassinated a tribal chief’s innocent son, he retaliated by cutting Yemen’s main oil pipeline. By aiding Yemen’s economic collapse, U.S. counterterrorism is increasing support for terrorism.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Pakistani militants focused almost entirely on their immediate surroundings. But now, as a result of U.S. war-making in Pakistan, former CIA counterterrorism chief Grenier has explained that “it’s not just a matter of numbers of militants who are operating in that area, it also effects the motivations of those militants … They now see themselves as part of a global Jihad. They are not just focused on helping oppressed Muslims in Kashmir or trying to fight the NATO and the Americans in Afghanistan, they see themselves as part of a global struggle, and therefore are a much broader threat than they were previously. So in a sense, yes, we have helped to bring about the situation that we most fear.”

It was one thing for U.S. leaders in years past to murder and enslave defenseless Native Americans and Africans, impose vicious dictatorships throughout poverty-stricken Latin America, and kill 3 million Indochinese who posed no threat whatsoever to Americans. But it is quite another for the U.S. today to slowly and inexorably turn vast portions of the 1.8 billion strong and oil-rich Muslim world against it – especially nuclear-armed Pakistan which has already conclusively demonstrated how “counter-terrorism” harms U.S. interests far more than helps it.

U.S. Policy Increasing The Nuclear Danger in Pakistan
In the wake of Osama Bin-Laden’s murder, Congress, the media and pundits have finally begun to awaken to the fact that, as John Kerry recently stated, “in many ways, the Afghanistan war is a sideshow to the main event, if you will, that is next door.” But officials and pundits blame the problems in Pakistan entirely on a “Pakistani military (which views) the United States as a hostile force trying to perpetuate a state of `controlled chaos’ in Pakistan and determined to `denuclearize’ the regime,” as Fareed Zakaria recently wrote. None have had the intellectual courage to admit that, given the paranoia and incompetence of Pakistan’s leaders, U.S. “counterterrorism” policy has made the situation infinitely worse.

The current attempt to blackmail “main event” Pakistan into supporting U.S. military efforts in “sideshow” Afghanistan by withholding $800 million in military aid is only the latest example of the incoherence of present U.S. policy, and strengthens the case – as discussed below – for shifting to a focus on economic and social aid.

Pakistan has in many ways been a laboratory for counterterrorism, and U.S. experience there proves conclusively that any successes it has enjoyed are far outweighed by its failures. President Obama stated in his Afghan withdrawal speech that “together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al-Qaida’s leadership.”

But, as I have been warning for two years now, the failures of U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan are so great that it is madness to extend this failed policy to the entire Muslim world. U.S. counter-terror policy in Pakistan has contributed to:

— A vast increase in overall militant strength: While U.S. officials claim drone strikes are hurting Pakistani militants in tribal areas, in fact the Federation of American Scientists reports that “in less than a decade Pakistan has witnessed terror incidents increase almost fifty-fold.” Though the CIA quintupled drone strikes in Pakistan to an annual average of 79 in 2009-10 from16 in 2004-8, it has not reduced violence. On the contrary, incidents of reported terrorism in Pakistan havequadrupled from an annual 2004-8 average of 470 to a 2009-10 annual average of 1723, with the number and seriousness of attacks skyrocketing even higher in 2011. Numerous reports indicate that drone strikes have driven jihadi forces further east into Karachi and then the Punjabi heartland where they are increasingly cooperating together and pose a growing danger to the Pakistani state. It has also increased the risk of suicide-bombers among the more than one million Pakistanis in the U.K., many with British passports able to travel freely to the U.S., whom David Cameron reported in Wikileaks cables were “radicalized” by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been presumably even more upset by growing U.S. murder of Pakistanis since.

— A growing nuclear threat: U.S. counterterror drone strikes have contributed to 59 percent of the Pakistani people — over 110 million people — regarding the U.S. as their “enemy.” While U.S. leaders continue to cavalierly disregard Pakistani public opinion, former U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson reported in the Wikileaks cables that because of the public’s hatred of the U.S., the Pakistani government has refused to cooperate with the U.S. on safeguarding its nuclear materials. U.S. ignoring Pakistani public opinion has thus helped create the single greatest threat to U.S. national security today. “Despite its political instability, Pakistan … has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile,” the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently reported. And it is considered one of the most insecure by nuclear experts. Former Senator Sam Nunn, who heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative, has said that “we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe” in Pakistan.

U.S. policy has so angered the Pakistani military that the possibility of a pro-jihadi military coup is openly discussed in the N.Y. Times and in a new book by Bruce Riedel, who coordinated Obama’s fall 2009 Afghan policy review and worked at the CIA when the Ronald Reagan armed Osama Bin Laden and supported Muslim extremist General Zia ul-Haq during the 1980s, the key U.S. foreign policy mistake leading to 9/11. Riedel’s book describes in chilling detail precisely the “all-too-inevitable”disaster that current U.S. counterterrorism strategy could lead to. He writes that the “simplest way a jihadist Pakistan would emerge would be another military coup led by a general who shares the the worldview of Zia ul-Haq. A new Islamic Emirate of Pakistan … would take control of the nuclear arsenal.” Aligned with al Qaeda and armed with nuclear weapons, such a state would be a nightmare.

And, as he notes, there is precious little the U.S. could do in the event of such a coup: “U.S options to change the regime by means of a coup or assisting dissidents … would be limited. The United States is so unpopular in Pakistan today that its endorsement of a politician is a kiss of death.” And if the U.S. tried to invade,he writes, “the Pakistanis would of course use their nuclear weapons to defend themselves … an invasion would be a mission from hell. There are no good choices.” He also explores the possibility of another Mumbai-like attack on India from Pakistan, concluding that “sooner or later a Pakistan-based terror attack on India is going to lead to Armageddon.”

Nothing illustrates the incoherence of U.S.-Pakistan policy more, however, than Riedel’s next chapter. America’s most oft-quoted expert on Pakistan and participant in U.S. policy-making actually proposes expanding the very policies — drone strikes, pressure on border areas and attacks within Pakistan that have made a military coup an “all-too-possible nightmare scenario.” His most striking proposal is that “Washington could specifically target ISI officers (by) taking action against their individual and corporate financial holdings.” It is difficult to imagine any single action more likely to provoke the very coup that Riedel properly warns against. King’s College professor Anatol Lieven has correctly written that “any US action that endangered the stability of the Pakistani government would be insane. Nukes could fall into the hands of terrorists, along with huge quantities of conventional arms.” Yet Riedel proposes, and the U.S. government is today conducting, precisely such “insane” policies, making the prospect of an anti-U.S. military coup ever more likely!

“Counterterrorism” Harms U.S. National Security More Than “Terrorism

Although most Americans opposed postwar “communism,” by the late 1950s they had concluded that the “anti-communist” overreaction — including Joe McCarthy, loyalty oaths, blacklists, the House Unamerican Activities Committee and FBI spying on Americans — posed a far more immediate threat to American democracy. Similarly today, while no one can doubt that “terrorism” poses a threat, it is already clear that today’s U.S. “counterterrorism” crusade poses a far greater danger both to U.S. national security and American values by exponentially increasing those committed to murdering Americans.

The best way for the U.S. to fight terror in Pakistan is to end its drone strikes and violations of Pakistani sovereignty, and focus on effective economic and humanitarian aid. Perhaps then public hatred of the U.S. will be sufficiently reduced so as to allow for collaborative police work that targets terrorists effectively, and safeguards nuclear weapons.

A second priority for U.S. policy is to promote the Pakistani military’s stated desire,according to former U.S. Ambassador Patterson, for “deterrence, dialogue and development” toward its enemies. The Pakistanis, unlike the U.S., will have to live with their adversaries for the rest of time. They should be supported in their efforts to reach accommodations with them.

A third priority would be to realize that effective economic aid, e.g. bringing a reliable supply of electricity to the tens of millions of Pakistanis who lack it, will advance U.S. interests — including cooperation on nuclear materials — far more than drone strikes. The Pakistan Tribune has reported that Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani believes that “America should also help Pakistan in addressing its problems, particularly the prevailing issue of loadshedding. He said the government was working on a war footing to resolve the issue of loadshedding … The prime minister also said he had discussed with the US leadership the growing resentment against the local people due to rapid drone attacks on Pakistani territory.”

And a fourth priority, of course, would be to accelerate the U.S. withdrawal from “sideshow” Afghanistan.

At present, however, U.S. “counterterror policy” is clearly on a collision course with reality. It can only be hoped that when U.S. leaders are finally forced to acknowledge the moral and strategic bankruptcy of their counterterrorism policy that the damage they have done will not be irreversible.

Fred Branfman exposed the U.S. Secret Air War against Laos, wrote Jobs From the Sun, California’s SolarCal strategy, and developed high-tech and “investment economics” as a Cabinet-level official for Gov. Jerry Brown, head of Sen. Gary Hart’s think tank, and directing Rebuild America whose advisors included Larry Summers, Paul Krugman and Robert Noyce.

 

As Debt Talks Threaten Medicare, Social Security, Study Finds U.S. Spending $4 Trillion On Wars

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Why is it that state and local governments are going broke and selling everything not nailed down to stay afloat, public and government workers are being discarded in droves, infrastructure is crumbling, millionaire politricians from “both” parties want to cut social safety nets and entitlement programs for poor, elderly, sick and disenfranchised people, but the U.S. government magically can find 4 TRILLION DOLLARS to kill more innocents than bad guys in illegitimate & illegal wars using borrowed money to pay for? Why is corporate media leading us to believe that “entitlement programs” and unions, and teachers and public workers and their fat pensions are to blame for the monumental U.S. debt crisis? Why is so little attention being paid to the TRILLIONS that have been printed by the U.S. Treasury and given away to Military-Fianacial Industrial Complex to keep it running, to the detriment of many other sectors of the U.S. Economy? Why is war more vital an interest that medical care, care for the elderly, and maintenance of a robust public sector? War is big business. War expands empire. War aquires other nations oil. War promotes scarcity. War is a drug. A drug the U.S. desperately needs to kick.

RELATED LINKS

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

As part of ongoing debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade — twice what Obama had proposed earlier. While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of the U.S. wars overseas. A new report from Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion — far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal that because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. We speak with Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, and a Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House Thursday and vowed not to sign a short-term extension of U.S. $14.3 trillion debt ceiling beyond the approaching August 2nd deadline. As part of the debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual deficits over the next decade – twice what Obama had promised earlier.

While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of U.S. wars overseas. The U.S. military and the C.I.A. are currently carrying out operations in at least six countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report released by Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion – far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal because the war is being financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. It could cost nearly another $1 trillion to pay for the medical care and disability for current and future war veterans.

To discuss the cost of war, we’re going up to Boston University to speak with Professor Neta Crawford. She’s the co-director of the Cost of War Project and a professor of political science at Boston University. The significance of this report, even as they’re debating the deficit in Washington, and talking about agreeing on deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare – Neta Crawford, the cost that the United States is spending right now in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and what you’re pointing out in this report – equally in Pakistan – right now?

NETA CRAWFORD: Yes, the United States has already spent about $3 trillion and it will spend much more than that over the next several decades, including that maybe $1 trillion that was mentioned by your reporter, on veterans and medical.

AMY GOODMAN: Lay out for us what you have found, these massive costs that we, in this country I think, have very little awareness of the media covering actual war less and less.

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, there are two aspects of that. First, the president and many people focus on just the Pentagon’s appropriation for the wars in the last 10 years, and that’s $1.3 trillion in constant dollars. But the costs are deeper than that. They go to veterans medical and disability costs, foreign assistance, homeland security, and then, as you mentioned, interest on the debt. When you add all that up, it is about twice what we tend to talk about if we just focus on Pentagon appropriations.

The other element of the costs is that future cost, which we must pay – the interest on the debt and veterans’ medical and disability. Then there’s another layer of costs which we were not able to fully calculate, which are the social costs to families and also the cost to state and local governments for veterans’ care. Then there are many other pockets of cost if you look all over the U.S. government.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yesterday on the show we talked about the problems of post-traumatic stress with many veterans and the suicide rates. What portion of this cost that is never factored in did you conclude was a result of both the need for current medical treatment for returning veterans as well as future treatment?

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, the U.S. has already spent already about $32 billion in medical and disability for veterans, but that doesn’t include what families are spending privately nor what state and local governments are spending. Of course, all of this is an under-estimate of the toll because as you know, until recently, the U.S. was not including many people who do have traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress because those were under-diagnosed.

AMY GOODMAN: Why aren’t we seeing this reflected in the conversations on the networks, as this whole discussion about deficits takes place? The massive cost that is going into the state of war rather than back into the states of this country, that are in such dire need, Professor Crawford?

NETA CRAWFORD: I think it’s partly that after 9/11, we are in such shock and fear that this lingered, and the tendency not to question what seemed to be defense expenditures, were actually – they could have been questioned. That’s a long-term sort of hangover of the 9/11 attacks, our sort of inability to be questioning these budgets. I think another element here is that, again, the cost is sort of hidden from view and put in these different budgets so it’s hard, unless you take a more comprehensive view, to get a handle on the scale of the cost.

A third factor is perhaps that these wars have been funded mostly through special appropriations or emergency appropriations until recently. Those costs are not scrutinized as much by Congress as they out to be.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course, one part of that that has been now structurally put into our budget is Homeland Security. Your assessment of the enormous expenditure? Because it seems that no matter what the budget deficit is, there’s always money available for more efforts at Homeland Security. Can you talk about this impact of actually militarizing the domestic budget of the United States?

NETA CRAWFORD: That is about an additional $400 billion over the last 10 years for Homeland Security. Of course, it is in a way ironic because at the same time U.S. has spent this money to increase preparedness, it took away National Guard troops and equipment and moved them abroad. In a sense, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, included in the cost of war – you’ve got the financial costs, far more than has been estimated before here in this country. I mean, Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes at Harvard, the Nobel Prize winning economists, say we’re talking about actually estimates over years of something like $5 trillion, but also the human casualties cost of war.

NETA CRAWFORD: We calculated, estimated about 225,000-250,000 people have died – that’s including soldiers, civilians, contractors. But more than that, we know this is a conservative estimate because in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, there has been a tendency to under count and not report the direct war dead. In addition, we tend to focus on those were killed by bombs and bullets, but pay less attention to those who died because of lack of safe drinking water or disease or displacement and inability to eat, so that rates of malnourishment are still high in Iraq. Malnutrition is very high in Afghanistan. Millions of people in Pakistan are displaced and don’t have regular access to food and safe drinking water.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, we’ll leave it there but we’ll link to your report at democracynow.org, called Cost of War. Professor Crawford is professor of political science at Boston University.

US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis Organized Terrorist Activities With Taliban In Pakistan

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Oldspeak: Blowback: the violent, unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them.[1] Specifically, blowback denotes the resultant, violent consequences—reported as news fact, by domestic and international mass communications media, when the actor intelligence agency hides its responsibility via media manipulation. Generally, blowback loosely denotes every consequence of every aspect of a secret attack operation, thus, it is synonymous with consequence—the attacked victims’ revenge against the civil populace of the aggressor country, because the responsible politico-military leaders are invulnerable.”

By Dave Lindroff @ This Can’t Be Happening:

Pakistani and Indian newspapers are reporting that Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor in jail in Lahore facing murder charges for the execution-slayings of two young men believed to be Pakistani intelligence operatives, was actually involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

As the Express Tribune, an English-language daily that is linked to the International Herald Tribunereported on Feb. 22:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab Police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP [the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The article goes on to explain a motive for why the US, which on the one hand has been openly pressing Pakistan to move militarily against Taliban forces in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, would have a contract agent actively encouraging terrorist acts within Pakistan, saying:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

According to a report in the Economic Times of India, a review by police investigators of calls placed by Davis on some of the cell phones found on his person and in his rented Honda Civic after the shooting showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an group identified as terrorist organization by both the US and Pakistan, which has been blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for the brutal slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (You’d think this would be a big story for the Wall Street Journal, especially on the editorial page, but so far, there has been no mention of it in Murdoch’s rag.)

Meanwhile, while the US continues to claim that Davis was “defending himself” against two armed robbers, the Associated Press is reporting that its sources in Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), are telling them that Davis “knew both men he killed.”

The AP report, which was run in Thursday’s Washington Post, claims the ISI says it “had no idea who Davis was or what he was doing when he was arrested,” that he had contacts in Pakistan’s tribal regions, and that his visa applications contained “bogus references and phone numbers.”

The article quotes a “senior Pakistani intelligence official” as saying the ISI “fears there are hundreds of CIA contractors presently operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistan government or the intelligence agency.”

In an indication that Pakistan is hardening its stance against caving to US pressure to spring Davis from jail, the Express Tribune quotes sources in the Pakistani Foreign Office as saying that the US has been pressing them to forge backdated documents that would allow the US to claim that Davis worked for the US Embassy. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top US officials have been trying to claim Davis was an Embassy employee, and not, as they originally stated, and as he himself told arresting police officers, just a contractor working out of the Lahore Consulate. The difference is critical, since most Embassy employees get blanket immunity for their activities, while consular employees, under the Vienna Conventions, only are given immunity for things done during and in the course of their official duties.

The US had submitted a list of its Embassy workers to the Foreign Office on Jan. 20, a week before the shooting. That list had 48 names on it, and Davis was not one of them. A day after the shooting, the Embassy submitted a “revised” list, claiming rather improbably that it had “overlooked” Davis. At the time of his arrest, Davis was carrying a regular passport, not a diplomatic one, though the Consulate in Lahore rushed over the following day and tried to get police to let them swap his well-worn regular passport for a shiny new diplomatic one (they were rebuffed). Davis was also carrying a Department of Defense contractor ID when he was arrested, further complicating the picture of who his real employer might be.

Dave Lindorff is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the blog, This Can’t Be Happening. A regular columnist for CounterPunch, he also writes frequently for Extra! and Salon, as well as for BusinessweekThe Nation and Treasury & Risk Magazine.

© 2011 This Can’t Be Happening All rights reserved.




“CIA spy” Raymond Davis Was Giving Nuclear & Biological Material To Terrorists For Use Against The U.S., Says Report

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm

A rally in Lahore on Monday against Raymond A. Davis, who shot and killed 2 Pakistani Intelligence Agents; a third man was killed by an American S.U.V.

Oldspeak:” False flag operation thwarted? This should be the top story in U.S. media. It is not. I watched a report on MSNBC, and read a report in the New York Times, and these, the most terrifying and scandalous details were left out. This is the title of the Yahoo News INDIA report. No comparable report on Yahoo News USA. Why? And the most terrifying fact disclosed in the New York Times report :”The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A”. The press has ceded its freedom to act as means of holding government and business accountable, instead acting as a propaganda arm for distributing approved information. Compare and contrast the Yahoo News India and New York Times story below. The differences in length and detail are striking.”

By Yahoo News India:

London, Feb 20(ANI): Double murder-accused US official Raymond Davis has been found in possession of top-secret CIA documents, which point to him or the feared American Task Force 373 (TF373) operating in the region, providing terrorists with “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents,” according to a report.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned “grave” as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports.

The SVR warned in its report that the apprehension of 36-year-old Davis, who shot dead two Pakistani men in Lahore last month, had fuelled this crisis.

According to the report, the combat skills exhibited by Davis, along with documentation taken from him after his arrest, prove that he is a member of US’ TF373 black operations unit currently operating in the Afghan War Theatre and Pakistan’s tribal areas, the paper said.

While the US insists that Davis is one of their diplomats, and the two men he killed were robbers, Pakistan says that the duo were ISI agents sent to follow him after it was discovered that he had been making contact with terrorists, after his cell phone was tracked to the Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, the paper said.

The most ominous point in this SVR report is “Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’s possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to terrorists “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents”, which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West’s hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse,” the paper added. (ANI)

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American Held in Pakistan Worked With C.I.A.

By Mark Mazzetti, Ashley Parker, Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt @ The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team collecting intelligence and conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.

Working from a safe house in the eastern city of Lahore, the detained American contractor, Raymond A. Davis, a retired Special Forces soldier, carried out scouting and other reconnaissance missions as a security officer for the Central Intelligence Agency case officers and technical experts doing the operations, the officials said.

Mr. Davis’s arrest and detention last month, which came after what American officials have described as a botched robbery attempt, have inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A.

The episode has exacerbated already frayed relations between the American intelligence agency and its Pakistani counterpart, created a political dilemma for the weak, pro-American Pakistani government, and further threatened the stability of the country, which has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal.

Without describing Mr. Davis’s mission or intelligence affiliation, President Obama last week made a public plea for his release. Meanwhile, there have been a flurry of private phone calls to Pakistan from Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all intended to persuade the Pakistanis to release the secret operative.

Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun-slinging overseas.

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.

On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication. George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the Davis matter, but said in a statement: “Our security personnel around the world act in a support role providing security for American officials. They do not conduct foreign intelligence collection or covert operations.”

Since the United States is not at war in Pakistan, the American military is largely restricted from operating in the country. So the Central Intelligence Agency has taken on an expanded role, operating armed drones that kill militants inside the country and running covert operations, sometimes without the knowledge of the Pakistanis.

Several American and Pakistani officials said that the C.I.A. team with which Mr. Davis worked in Lahore was tasked with tracking the movements of various Pakistani militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, a particularly violent group that Pakistan uses as a proxy force against India but that the United States considers a threat to allied troops in Afghanistan. For the Pakistanis, such spying inside their country is an extremely delicate issue, particularly since Lashkar has longstanding ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

Still, American and Pakistani officials use Lahore as a base of operations to investigate the militant groups and their madrasas in the surrounding area.

The officials gave various accounts of the makeup of the covert team and of Mr. Davis, who at the time of his arrest was carrying a Glock pistol, a long-range wireless set, a small telescope and a headlamp. An American and a Pakistani official said in interviews that operatives from the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command had been assigned to the group to help with the surveillance missions. Other American officials, however, said that no military personnel were involved with the team.

Special operations troops routinely work with the C.I.A. in Pakistan. Among other things, they helped the agency pinpoint the location of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban commander who was arrested in January 2010 in Karachi.

Even before the arrest of Mr. Davis, his C.I.A. affiliation was known to Pakistani authorities, who keep close tabs on the movements of Americans. His visa, presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late 2009, describes his job as a “regional affairs officer,” a common job description for officials working with the agency.

According to that application, Mr. Davis carried an American diplomatic passport and was listed as “administrative and technical staff,” a category that typically grants diplomatic immunity to its holder.

American officials said that with Pakistan’s government trying to clamp down on the increasing flow of Central Intelligence Agency officers and contractors trying to gain entry to Pakistan, more of these operatives have been granted “cover” as embassy employees and given diplomatic passports.

As Mr. Davis is held in a jail cell in Lahore — the subject of an international dispute at the highest levels — new details are emerging of what happened in a dramatic daytime scene on the streets of central Lahore, a sprawling city, on Jan. 27.

By the American account, Mr. Davis was driving alone in an impoverished area rarely visited by foreigners, and stopped his car at a crowded intersection. Two Pakistani men brandishing weapons hopped off motorcycles and approached. Mr. Davis killed them with the Glock, an act American officials insisted was in self-defense against armed robbers.

But on Sunday, the text of the Lahore Police Department’s crime report was published in English by a prominent daily newspaper, The Daily Times, and it offered a somewhat different account.

It is based in part on the version of events Mr. Davis gave Pakistani authorities, and it seems to raise doubts about his claim that the shootings were in self-defense.

According to that report, Mr. Davis told the police that after shooting the two men, he stepped out of the car to take photographs of one of them, then called the United States Consulate in Lahore for help.

But the report also said that the victims were shot several times in the back, a detail that some Pakistani officials say proves the killings were murder. By this account, Mr. Davis fired at the men through his windshield, then stepped out of the car and continued firing. The report said that Mr. Davis then got back in his car and “managed to escape,” but that the police gave chase and “overpowered” him at a traffic circle a short distance away.

In a bizarre twist that has further infuriated the Pakistanis, a third man was killed when an unmarked Toyota Land Cruiser, racing to Mr. Davis’s rescue, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and ran over a motorcyclist. As the Land Cruiser drove “recklessly” back to the consulate, the report said, items fell out of the vehicle, including 100 bullets, a black mask and a piece of cloth with the American flag.

Pakistani officials have demanded that the Americans in the S.U.V. be turned over to local authorities, but American officials say they have already left the country.

Mr. Davis and the other Americans were heavily armed and carried sophisticated equipment, the report said.

The Pakistani Foreign Office, generally considered to work under the guidance of the ISI, has declined to grant Mr. Davis what it calls the “blanket immunity” from prosecution that diplomats enjoy. In a setback for Washington, the Lahore High Court last week gave the Pakistani government until March 14 to decide on Mr. Davis’s immunity.

The pro-American government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, fearful for its survival in the face of a surge of anti-American sentiment, has resisted strenuous pressure from the Obama administration to release Mr. Davis to the United States. Some militant and religious groups have demanded that Mr. Davis be tried in the Pakistani courts and hanged.

Relations between the two spy agencies were tense even before the episode on the streets of Lahore. In December, the C.I.A.’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan hurriedly left the country after his identity was revealed. Some inside the agency believe that ISI operatives were behind the disclosure — retribution for the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, being named in a New York City lawsuit filed in connection with the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, in which members of his agency are believed to have played a role. ISI officials denied that was the case.

One senior Pakistani official close to the ISI said Pakistani spies were particularly infuriated over the Davis episode because it was such a public spectacle. Besides the three Pakistanis who were killed, the widow of one of the victims committed suicide by swallowing rat poison.

Moreover, the official said, the case was embarrassing for the ISI for its flagrancy, revealing how much freedom American spies have to roam around the country.

“We all know the spy-versus-spy games, we all know it works in the shadows,” the official said, “but you don’t get caught, and you don’t get caught committing murders.”

Mr. Davis, burly at 36, appears to have arrived in Pakistan in late 2009 or early 2010. American officials said he operated as part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Global Response Staff in various parts of the country, including Lahore and Peshawar.

Documents released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office showed that Mr. Davis was paid $200,000 a year, including travel expenses and insurance.

He is a native of rural southwest Virginia, described by those who know him as an unlikely figure to be at the center of international intrigue.

He grew up in Big Stone Gap, a small town named after the gap in the mountains where the Powell River emerges.

The youngest of three children, Mr. Davis enlisted in the military after graduating from Powell Valley High School in 1993.

“I guess about any man’s dream is to serve his country,” his sister Michelle Wade said.

Shrugging off the portrait of him as an international spy comfortable with a Glock, Ms. Wade said: “He would always walk away from a fight. That’s just who he is.”

His high school friends remember him as good-natured, athletic, respectful. He was also a protector, they said, the type who stood up for the underdog.

“Friends with everyone, just a salt of the earth person,” said Jennifer Boring, who graduated from high school with Mr. Davis.

Mr. Davis served in the infantry in Europe — including a short tour as a peacekeeper in Macedonia — before joining the Third Special Forces Group in 1998, where he remained until he left the Army in 2003. The Army Special Forces — known as the Green Berets — are an elite group trained in weapons and foreign languages and cultures.

It is unclear when Mr. Davis began working for the C.I.A., but American officials said that in recent years he worked for the spy agency as a Blackwater contractor and later founded his own small company, Hyperion Protective Services.

Mr. Davis and his wife have moved frequently, living in Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado.

One neighbor in Colorado, Gary Sollee, said that Mr. Davis described himself as “former military,” adding that “he’d have to leave the country for work pretty often, and when he’s gone, he’s gone for an extended period of time.”

Mr. Davis’s sister, Ms. Wade, said she was awaiting her brother’s safe return.

“The only thing I’m going to say is I love my brother,” she said. “I love my brother, God knows, I love him. I’m just praying for him.”

Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, Ashley Parker from Big Stone Gap, Va., and Jane Perlez from Pakistan. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Waqar Gillani from Lahore, Pakistan.






U.S. Secretary of State Clinton Offers $500 million In Aid to Doubtful Pakistanis

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 9:24 am

Oldspeak: “The Pakistanis are hip to the U.S. Game. Throw money at the problem. It’s what the U.S. does best. Nevermind we bomb the shit out of your civilians with drones, take half a billion dollars for your trouble. With the countless billions in “Aid” the U.S. sends to its proxies, satellites and “strategic partners”, on top of billions spent on war and “intelligence” its little wonder the U.S. is the world’s biggest debtor nation. Meanwhile here at home states are going bankrupt, infrastructure is deteriorating, teachers, cops and other civil servants/services are being cut left and right.”

From Jay Solomon @ The Wall Street Journal:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled more than $500 million in development projects for Pakistan, as the Obama administration seeks to use aid to build broader support for the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In television appearances and town halls during a two-day stay here, however, Mrs. Clinton continued to face substantial resistance from a public skeptical that the U.S. is prepared for a long-term commitment to help develop Pakistan.

The verbal sparring between the former first lady and her Pakistani interlocutors wasn’t nearly as sharp as during an October tour. Then, students and journalists roundly chastised Mrs. Clinton for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, while she questioned Pakistan’s commitment to capturing senior al Qaeda leaders.

But on issues ranging from transferring technology to trade, Mrs. Clinton heard charges that the U.S. has a double standard its policies toward the Islamic world, and tilts decisively in favor of Pakistan’s rival, India. She left Pakistan for Afghanistan Monday, saying she was heartened by the improving dialogue, but acknowledging it will take more than financial handouts to shift Pakistan’s population firmly into the American camp.

Mrs. Clinton will attend an international conference on Afghanistan Tuesday before heading to North Asia. She will join U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea on Wednesday, Mr. Gates said during a trip to South Korea.She had dinner Monday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and met the Pentagon’s military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus. Mrs. Clinton told reporters en route that she would focus at the conference on combating corruption and supporting Mr. Karzai’s efforts to reconcile with elements of the Taliban.

In her meetings with Mr. Karzai, Mrs. Clinton discussed a range of issues, including governance and development issues, with an emphasis on delivering services, a State Department official said. Meeting one-on-one, the two discussed the transition to Afghan control, reconciliation with the Taliban and reintegrating the Taliban into Afghan society, as well as regional matters, the official said.

As for her stay in Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton told reporters traveling with her to Kabul that “the range of our discussion was much broader than last October,” which is an improvement. “I could feel the change.”

The Obama administration took office last year vowing to win the hearts of minds of Pakistanis who are standing on the front lines of Washington’s war against Islamic militancy. In October, Congress authorized $7.5 billion in nonmilitary aid for Pakistan, which is being disbursed in tranches over the next five years. This marks a tripling of U.S. civilian support for Pakistan compared with support during the George W. Bush administration.

Mrs. Clinton offered the State Department’s most extensive accounting yet of its plans to invest the money. While attending the second gathering of the Obama administration’s “strategic dialogue” with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s government, Mrs. Clinton said the plans were derived from extensive consultations between the U.S. and Pakistan’s government and civil society. The discussions occurred over the past six months and concerned 13 developmental sectors.

In her meetings with Mr. Karzai, Mrs. Clinton discussed a range of issues, including governance and development issues, with an emphasis on delivering services, a State Department official said. Meeting one-on-one, the two discussed the transition to Afghan control, reconciliation with the Taliban and reintegrating the Taliban into Afghan society, as well as regional matters, the official said.

As for her stay in Pakistan, Mrs. Clinton told reporters traveling with her to Kabul that “the range of our discussion was much broader than last October,” which is an improvement. “I could feel the change.”

The Obama administration took office last year vowing to win the hearts of minds of Pakistanis who are standing on the front lines of Washington’s war against Islamic militancy. In October, Congress authorized $7.5 billion in nonmilitary aid for Pakistan, which is being disbursed in tranches over the next five years. This marks a tripling of U.S. civilian support for Pakistan compared with support during the George W. Bush administration.

Mrs. Clinton offered the State Department’s most extensive accounting yet of its plans to invest the money. While attending the second gathering of the Obama administration’s “strategic dialogue” with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s government, Mrs. Clinton said the plans were derived from extensive consultations between the U.S. and Pakistan’s government and civil society. The discussions occurred over the past six months and concerned 13 developmental sectors.

At a town hall held at an Islamabad cultural center, Mrs. Clinton seemed amused when Faisal Malik, artistic director of the Thespians Theater, asked if the U.S. could invest more in his country’s theater programs. Sana Mehmood, a young civil servant, said she hoped the American embassy would continue sponsoring local soccer teams.

Still, Pakistan’s mistrust toward the U.S. showed through on a range of issues far removed from the conflict against the Taliban. Pakistani businessmen grumbled about Washington’s failure to significantly increase quotas for their products almost 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks forced Washington and Islamabad into a new alliance. A Pakistani journalist criticized the U.S. for not directly mediating an end to Islamabad’s water dispute with India over the Indus River.

A special fixation among Mrs. Clinton’s questioners Monday was why the U.S. wasn’t supporting Pakistan’s developments of nuclear power. Many noted that the U.S. completed a civil-nuclear agreement with India last year.

In her sharpest exchange, Mrs. Clinton pointed out to Sameer Cader, an Islamabad businessman, that the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan oversaw the world’s biggest black market in nuclear wares. “Now, I just want to be very candid with you, because that’s the nature of our relationship,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There are certain issues that will have to be addressed. They cannot be overlooked or put under the carpet.”

A headline in Pakistan’s ultra-nationalist English-language paper, “The Nation,” underscored the views of some of the more skeptical Pakistanis towards the secretary of state’s aid drive.

” ‘Bribery’ Not to Alter Anything, Mrs. Clinton,” the headline read.

Pakistani Spy Agency Provides Funding And Sanctuary To Afghan Taliban: Report

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

Oldspeak: The U.S. has nothing but frenemies in Af/Pak, no real allies. Meanwhile after nearly 10 years of this misguided and fruitless “war”, it continues to compound U.S. debt by the billions, Bin Laden has not been captured, and Afghani Taliban controls 80 percent of Afghanistan.  When is Obama start telling the truth about why the U.S is in Afghanistan?! It’s about keeping the MASSIVE untapped oil, natural gas and minerals away from the Chinese/Russians.

From SEBASTIAN ABBOT @ The Associated Press:

Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to arm and train the Taliban and is even represented on the group’s leadership council despite U.S. pressure to sever ties and billions in aid to combat the militants, said a research report released Sunday.

The findings could heighten tension between the two countries and raise further questions about U.S. success in Afghanistan since Pakistani cooperation is seen as key to defeating the Taliban, which seized power in Kabul in the 1990s with Islamabad’s support.

U.S. officials have suggested in the past that current or former members of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, have maintained links to the Taliban despite the government’s decision to denounce the group in 2001 under U.S. pressure.

But the report issued Sunday by the London School of Economics offered one of the strongest cases that assistance to the group is official ISI policy, and even extends to the highest levels of the Pakistani government.

“Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke U.S. countermeasures,” said the report, which was based on interviews with Taliban commanders, former Taliban officials, Western diplomats and many others.

“Without a change in Pakistani behavior it will be difficult, if not impossible, for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency,” said the report, written by Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani army, which controls ISI, rejected the report, calling it “rubbish.”

“In the past, these kinds of baseless and unsubstantiated allegations have surfaced and we have rejected them,” said Abbas.

He pointed out ISI has suffered many casualties fighting militants in the country.

But the Pakistan military’s campaign has been focused on Pakistani Taliban battling the state, not Afghan Taliban waging war against NATO troops in Afghanistan. The army has resisted U.S. pressure to wage offensives in areas of the country the Afghan Taliban use as sanctuaries, despite billions of dollars in American military and civilian aid.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to turn against the Afghan Taliban because the government believes the group could be a key ally in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw, and the best partner for countering the influence of archenemy India in the country.

“Interviews suggest that Pakistan continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies,” said the report.

In addition, “ISI continues to sanction and support military training centers for insurgents and a large number of (Islamic schools) that actively encourage their students to fight in Afghanistan,” it said.

Pakistani support is channeled toward both the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban but operates fairly independently, said the report. The Haqqani network is based in the North Waziristan tribal area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s spy agency has considerable control over both groups and even has agents on the Taliban’s leadership council, which is known as the Quetta shura, said the report.

“Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement,” it said.

One of the most surprising allegations in the report is that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a senior ISI official visited some 50 high-ranking Taliban fighters this spring being held at a secret prison in the country and told them they were only arrested because of U.S. pressure.

Zardari reportedly told them they would be released and that Pakistan would help support their operations, according to a Taliban member who was one of about a dozen insurgents set free just three days after the president’s visit.

Presidential spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani denied the allegations in the report, saying “if Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report.”

Waldman concluded in the report, “it is hard to see how the international coalition can continue to treat Pakistan as an ally and ‘effective partner.'”

“However, an aggressive American response to Pakistan’s conduct is only likely to generate further instability, especially given the army’s ongoing battle against Pakistani militant groups and widespread anti-American sentiment among the population,” he said.

U.S. Drone Strategy In Pakistan Under Scrutiny

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2010 at 10:09 am

Pakistani protesters burn an image of President Obama on May 15 during an anti-U.S. demonstration over drone attacks. More than 900 people have been killed in nearly 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, fueling anti-U.S. sentiment in the country.

Oldspeak: “Doublethink par excellence”

From Dina Temple-Raston @ NPR:

Two events this week framed the argument over the use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al-Qaida confirmed that one of its founding members — a man named Mustafa Abu al-Yazid — was killed by a drone attack inside Pakistan. U.S. officials called his death a major setback for al-Qaida. The second event was the U.S. military’s investigation into the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians in February. It concluded that a team operating a surveillance drone made a mistake and identified a convoy of vehicles full of women and children as an insurgent target.

The two episodes bring into stark relief the most basic question for U.S. policymakers: Do drone attacks work?

No one will argue that the technology is seductive. Drones circle silently overhead and can watch a target for hours at a time without being detected. Then, they can strike without warning. The CIA and the U.S. military both have drone programs.

“On the one hand, they are powerfully effective at eradicating our enemies,” said Samuel J. Rascoff, a law professor at New York University and former intelligence chief at the New York Police Department.

The problem, he notes, is that the killings can alienate the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“On the other hand, they might simultaneously be powerful tools at motivating our enemies,” Rascoff said. “So from a counterterrorism standpoint, they are very effective; from a counterinsurgency standpoint, they raise lots of questions.”

Concerns Over Ethics

The U.S. is trying to do both. Rascoff says the drone sharply contrasts the conflict and tension between those two strategic objectives. That’s the argument counterinsurgency experts have been making for months. They say the drone attacks increase the number of Pakistanis who support extremism, and that for every enemy killed, more are created.

“We hear reports … including from homegrown terrorists, that drone attacks against villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan are part of what is motivating them to engage in violence,” Rascoff said.

So, that’s the practical question.

There’s another debate over whether the drone attacks are legal and moral. These attacks are often called “targeted killings” — of suspected terrorists, for example. The official U.S. position is that the strikes are permitted: The U.S. is at war with al-Qaida and has the right to defend itself.

A new U.N. report questioned that legal logic. Others have raised questions, too.

“The next step in that argument — and where it becomes more controversial — is not only are we in a war with al-Qaida, but this is a war that extends geographically across territorial bounds,” said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School and former Pentagon official.

In other words, if drone strikes are permitted in Pakistan, why not elsewhere? The U.S. drones have already struck in Yemen. Where are the boundaries?

The U.N. report also said that drones fired by the CIA are less acceptable than drones fired by the military. Its reasoning: The CIA is less accountable. Consider the latest CIA drone attack that killed al-Qaida’s No. 3 man, Abu Yazid, thought to have been the mastermind of an attack that killed CIA agents in Khost, Afghanistan, last year. The concern is that the CIA drone attack was motivated by revenge, rather than the legitimate right to self-defense.

Holding To A Standard

In addition to the legal concerns, there’s one more worry: What to expect of the person who pulls the trigger? Clearly it makes a difference whether you’re a drone operator thousands of miles away, or a Marine on the ground.

“The Marine who is on the ground in Afghanistan does not have time,” said John Radson, a professor of law at William Mitchell College and former CIA assistant general counsel. “As one Marine said in an e-mail message to one of my research assistants: ‘When in doubt, empty the magazine.’ ”

He says that unlike the Marine, a drone pilot’s life isn’t in danger. He can have a drone follow a target for hours — gathering intelligence, making sure the right person is in the cross hairs.

“Based on the different facts, there is going to be a different application of the laws of war,” Radson says. “We hold the drone operator to a higher standard.”

Critics want the U.S. drone program held to a higher standard, too.

Pakistani Investigators Can’t Find Evidence Linking Times Square Bombing Suspect To Extremist Groups

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Oldspeak: Hmm… Interesting details are emerging on this story. No substantiated evidence he trained for bomb-making in Pakistan, or of his connections to the Taliban. Makes sense since he made a bomb that didn’t work. I wonder why the Obama administration is so hot to link this guy to terrorists groups? I guess him just being a guy who witnessed Predator Drone attacks on his people in his country is not sexy enough copy.

From McClatchy Newspapers:

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani investigators have been unable to find evidence linking Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, with the Pakistani Taliban or other extremist groups, Pakistani security officials said Tuesday. Investigators also have been unable to substantiate Shahzad’s reported confession that he received bomb-making training in the country’s wild Waziristan region, officials said.

The lack of evidence found by investigators stands in contrast to forceful statements by top Obama administration officials linking Shahzad to extremist Pakistani groups.

The prime Pakistani suspect, Muhammad Rehan, was detained early last week outside a radical mosque in Karachi after Shahzad was arrested in New York. A member of the banned extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, Rehan was the only concrete link found so far between the 30-year-old Shahzad and the militant underworld in Pakistan.

However, the interrogation of Rehan didn’t provide any link to the Pakistani Taliban or another militant group, officials said.

“We have not found any involvement of Rehan (in the New York attempted bombing). He didn’t introduce Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban,” said a security official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue with journalists. “No Taliban link has come to the fore.”

An FBI team that flew into Pakistan after Shahzad was arrested also was allowed to question Rehan on Sunday. More than a dozen other suspects taken into custody in Karachi have been released. The Pakistani investigation continues, and new leads yet could emerge.

In Washington, a U.S. official told McClatchy there is “information that links Shahzad to the TTP, and not all of it is coming from him.” The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, cautioned that it still wasn’t clear how close a relationship Shahzad had to the Pakistani Taliban, who go by the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

The government in Islamabad is perplexed and angry at Washington’s statements and threats about Shahzad links with the Pakistani Taliban, officials said. Officials said they suspected that the Obama administration was exploiting the issue to apply pressure for a new military offensive in Pakistan’s tribal border area with Afghanistan, in the North Waziristan region, where Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as al Qaida, are holed up.

“There are no roots to the case, so how can we trace something back?” the security official asked.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said over the weekend that the Pakistani Taliban were “intimately involved” in the attempted blast. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Pakistan of “dire consequences” if a plot that originated in Pakistan succeeded in the U.S.

Holder stuck to his words Tuesday. “We stand by the statement of the attorney general and John Brennan,” the White House counter-terrorism adviser, spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Some days earlier, Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said Shahzad was a “lone wolf” who was “inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn’t have direct contact with them.”

McClatchy reported last week that six U.S. officials had said there was no credible evidence that Shahzad received serious terrorist training from the Pakistani Taliban or another radical Islamic group.

“There is a disconnect between the Pentagon and the (Obama) administration,” said a senior Pakistani government official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The Pentagon gets it that more open pressure on Pakistan is not helpful.”

The case of the botched May 1 Times Square attack again put the spotlight on Pakistan as a magnet for jihadists from all over the world, and the allegations about the Pakistani Taliban have called attention to the Taliban’s close relationship with al Qaida.

The international news media seized on the dramatic arrest of Rehan as he emerged from praying in the Batkha mosque in north Karachi as evidence of Shahzad’s involvement with Pakistani militant groups. Investigators learned that Rehan and Shahzad had taken a 1,000-mile road trip together last year from Karachi to Peshawar, on the edge of Pakistan’s extremist-plagued tribal area, raising further suspicions.

Pakistani investigators now think that the trip to Peshawar, during Shahzad’s visit to Pakistan last year, wasn’t suspicious.

The Pakistani probe found that Rehan wasn’t a very active member of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a violent group that’s organized attacks on India and has no history of global activities. Rehan knew Shahzad because he’s related to Shahzad’s wife.

Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani origin, reportedly has told U.S. interrogators that he trained in Waziristan, according to U.S. charges against him.

The Pakistani Taliban also released a video in which Qari Hussain seemed to claim responsibility for the U.S. bombing attempt.

The video said nothing specifically about New York, Shahzad or a car bomb, however. The Pakistani Taliban’s official spokesman, Azam Tariq, has denied that his group was involved with Shahzad.

The inept construction of the failed bomb also raised doubts over whether the Pakistani Taliban could have trained Shahzad. They have expertise in explosives and were connected to the devastating strike on a CIA base in Afghanistan at the end of last year.

The Pakistani Taliban also favor suicide attacks. Without a track record as a militant, Shahzad would be viewed as a likely spy by the Pakistani Taliban, which are under attack by U.S. and Pakistani forces. Shahzad had left Pakistan when he was 19.

“The lack of tradecraft in Shahzad’s device is compelling evidence that whatever ‘contacts’ or ‘training’ he might have received in northern Pakistan was largely confined to physical training and weapons handling, not the far more sophisticated skill set of fashioning improvised explosive devices,” said a report Tuesday from Stratfor, a private U.S. intelligence firm.

The U.S. focus on Pakistan’s tribal area continued Tuesday with another missile strike from an American drone aircraft, the third such attack since the failed Times Square bombing.

The strike, in North Waziristan, reportedly killed at least 14 suspected militants. The Obama administration has unleashed an intensive campaign of drone attacks in Pakistan, targeting extremist hideouts in the tribal area.

Obama’s Predator joke—no laughing matter: Faisal Shahzad witnessed drone strikes in Pakistan

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

Oldspeak: The president doesn’t seem to understand.  This misguided and grossly inaccurate tactic makes the U.S. less safe. It’s not a game bruh. Pakistani officials estimate some 700 Pakistani civilians, the majority of them women and children, were killed by Hellfire missiles fired by drones in attacks ordered by the White House during Obama’s first year in office. The officials indicated that for every alleged Al Qaeda or Taliban figure killed in these remote-controlled assassinations, 147 civilians have died.

By Bill Van Auken
6 May 2010

To the guffaws of assembled media celebrities, President Barack Obama used his monologue Saturday night before the Washington Correspondents Association dinner to joke about using Predator drones, a weapon that has killed hundreds of civilians on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and enraged millions throughout the region.

Obama’s joke was ostensibly aimed at the pop group Jonas Brothers, who were among the large number of show business types invited to the annual affair. The President began by noting that his two pre-teen daughters were fans of the boy band and went on to warn: “…but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

Like virtually all of the supposed humor employed at such affairs, Obama’s joke was directed to Washington “insiders,” government officials, politicians of both parties and members of the media elite itself, all of whom would know what he was talking about and could generally be expected to find nothing amiss in his remarks.

The Predator drone has become a hallmark of the Obama administration’s bloody escalation of the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan and its expansion across the border into Pakistan.

According to one recent estimate by Pakistani officials, some 700 Pakistani civilians, the majority of them women and children, were killed by Hellfire missiles fired by drones in attacks ordered by the White House during Obama’s first year in office. The officials indicated that for every alleged Al Qaeda or Taliban figure killed in these remote-controlled assassinations, 147 civilians have died.

A running tally of reported casualties kept by the web sitepakistanbodycount.org puts the total number of civilians killed since the first known US drone attack on Pakistan in May 2004 at 1,226.

So the butt of Obama’s joke was, in the first instance, the people of Pakistan, whose rage against the drone strikes has fed a wave of anti-American sentiment.

But the joke was not on the Pakistanis alone. Not so coincidentally, the same night that Obama was delivering his monologue, New York City’s Time Square was paralyzed by an attempted car bombing that could have claimed hundreds of lives. According to police investigators, Faisal Shahzad, the suspect arrested in connection with the attempted terrorist act, said he was driven to the action after seeing the bloody effects of the drone attacks during a recent visit to his native Pakistan.

And the joke doesn’t end there. Last month, Obama made history by officially ordering the assassination of a US citizen—the American-born Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki—on foreign soil, presumably also to be executed by means of a Predator missile strike.

The Democratic administration has carried one step further the logic of the Bush White House’s assertion of the right to proclaim American citizens “enemy combatants” and thereby imprison them on executive order, without charges or trial. The Obama administration has arrogated to itself the right to serve as judge, jury and executioner, assassinating US citizens on the president’s sole say-so that they are enemies of the state.

This, presumably, was what Obama’s joke writers saw as “edgy.” Here one is dealing with an American president who has self-proclaimed and—at least within the ruling establishment—universally accepted police-state powers to assassinate innocent civilians as well as US citizens branded as his enemies. To threaten to utilize these real powers against Disney-promoted pre-teen idols was no doubt seen as hilarious.

Involved here is not merely a wildly inappropriate joke, but rather one of those moments that provide an unintentionally revealing look into the real state of political life and culture within Washington’s ruling establishment. From the state apparatus, to a corporate media that acts as its propaganda arm, to the current inhabitant of the White House himself, it is dominated by an atmosphere of brutality and dehumanization in which every crime committed to further the interests of America’s ruling financial elite is justified.

Indeed, just days before Obama delivered his “joke,” legal experts testified on Capitol Hill to the effect that the drone assassinations in Pakistan constitute violations of international law, and that those who order them as well as the CIA operatives, military personnel and private contractors who execute them from air-conditioned cubicles thousands of miles away in the US can be prosecuted as war criminals.

The link between this prevailing political outlook and the brutal 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad exposed in the videotape recently released by WikiLeaks becomes clear, as does the near universal indifference if not outright hostility of the corporate-controlled media to this exposure.

While the most repugnant, the Predator drone remark was not the only revealing element in Obama’s monologue. He allowed that he was disappointed at not having received the Nobel prize for physics—a cynical acknowledgement of the absurdity of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an American president who not only is waging two wars of aggression, but who used his acceptance speech to proclaim Washington’s “right” to launch new wars wherever it sees fit.

And he quipped that “all of the jokes here tonight are brought to you by our friends at Goldman Sachs. So you don’t have to worry—they make money whether you laugh or not.” Again, the supposed humor stemmed from the cynical acknowledgment of what is. The recently indicted Wall Street firm was Obama’s biggest campaign donor in the 2008 election, and his administration, stacked with former Goldman Sachs executives, from his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, to his chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summer, has diverted trillions of dollars in public funds to bail out the Wall Street finance houses.

The laughter from the media talking heads and celebrities had an unmistakable significance. They all know that Obama’s posturing as an opponent of war and Wall Street corruption is nothing more than a cover for an administration that is pursuing militarist aggression abroad and the defense of big money interests at the expense of the masses of working people at home.

Obama’s remarks provoked relatively little outcry, particularly from the ostensibly liberal and “left” voices in the media. The response was notably muted even compared to the reaction to George W. Bush’s equally repellent “joke” delivered to a similar 2004 dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents, in which he provided “humorous” captions to pictures showing himself searching high and low in the White House. “No weapons of mass destruction here,” read one.

The reference was to the exposure of the principal pretext for the US war against Iraq—supposed “weapons of mass destruction” in the hands of the Baghdad government—as a lie. Then, as now, it was a real insiders’ joke, in that the media itself played an indispensable role in foisting this lie onto the American people and justifying a war of aggression that has claimed the lives of more than a million Iraqis and nearly 4,400 US troops.

Nonetheless, sections of the media—as well as leading figures in the Democratic Party—voiced outrage, however hypocritical, at Bush making light of a war that was already proving so costly, as well as unpopular.

Had Bush been in power and made a joke similar to Obama’s, there no doubt would have been similar indignant (albeit phony) statements from the “life-style” left. But when Obama jokes about killing people with Predator drones—after a year in which he has ordered attacks that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Pakistani women and children and left hundreds more maimed for life—they just shrug it off.

What does this event reveal? The political establishment as a whole, both major political parties and the lapdogs of the Washington media, are utterly indifferent to the sentiments of average working people.

Moreover, no section of this establishment holds any genuine commitment to democratic rights or the principle of social equality. In order to defend the interests of a wealthy oligarchy, all of them are prepared to pursue and to justify criminal policies that are leading the broad mass of the American people into a deepening catastrophe.