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Libya and Somalia raids — more rendition, more wars in Africa


U.S. Navy SEAL fires an MK11 sniper rifle from an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 and deployed with the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during a training flight in the Arabian Sea. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)

U.S. Navy SEAL fires MK11 sniper rifle from an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter during a training flight in the Arabian Sea. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)

The twin U.S. raids in Libya and Somalia occurred almost a month ago but they’re still worth discussing, especially in light of the movie “Captain Phillips”, which stars Tom Hanks and is based on the 2009 hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The movie was released October 11. Also, I haven’t been able to lay out my thoughts on the raids until now. Overall, they signify a continuation of rendition and the expansion of U.S. militarism into Africa.

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Guantanamo lawyers’ letter urges Obama to declassify CIA torture program details


Camp Justice, GTMO (Photo Credit: mine)

Camp Justice, GTMO (Photo Credit: mine)

All 5 defense lawyers in 9/11 case have sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging the executive branch to declassify information relating to the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program as it applies to the accused. Under this program, people suspected of terrorist ties were snatched by the U.S. government and sent to CIA “black sites” — secret prisons — or third-party countries to be interrogated and tortured. The defendants in question — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi  – were all sent to CIA black sites before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. They are accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.S. Navy Commander Walter Ruiz, defense counsel to Mr. al-Baluchi and one of the signatories, commented on the letter, “Today uniformed officers and our civilian colleagues join in asking our president president to uphold our obligations under the convention against torture, and remove improper classification restrictions which are preventing the pursuit of truth and meaningful justice,” according to a press release.

The press release also states: “Evidence of war crimes must not be classified. For decades now, the United States, by Executive Order, has banned the use of classification rules to conceal violations of law. President Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988, and the United States Senate ratified the Convention in 1994. As such, according to the U.S. Constitution, it is part of United States law.”

The five men are being tried in a military commission at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There is a protective order that places severe restrictions on lawyers from disclosing details of how their clients were treated by CIA black sites to the accused and to outside press or human rights organizations. In essence, it conceals many details of torture and undermines the ability of the lawyers to provide adequate defense.

A copy of the letter is linked below.

US v KSM et al LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

 

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Privileged white people are not the only ones concerned about war


Antiwar, anti-drone protest on April 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Antiwar, anti-drone protest on April 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One argument that’s prevalent in certain circles is that mostly white people, particularly males, care about drones. This argument has become pretty prominent in the age of Obama. It’s typically made by Obama supporters to shut down critics of his counterterrorism policies, such as drone strikes. It’s an asinine argument that marginalizes nonwhite antiwar voices and provides a multicultural veneer to empire. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Reporting from Guantanamo (June 10 — June 22)


Guantanamo Camp X-Ray, taken June 15, 2013. Photo Credit: mine

Guantanamo Camp X-Ray, taken June 15, 2013. Photo Credit: mine

From June 10 to June 22, 2013, I was in Guantanamo Bay Naval Station reporting for Truthout. I covered the military commissions of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To make it easy, I decided to create a blog post with all six of my articles. You can also see them in the “Published Works” section of my site. All of my pieces are below:

  • “The Imperialist and Racist Origins of the Guantánamo Penal Colony”, Truthout, June 12, 2013. Read here.
  • “US Cold War Ally in the Docks at Guantanamo for USS Cole Bombing”, Truthout, June 17, 2013. Read here.
  • “Contention and Confusion in Guantanamo Pre-Trial Hearings for Al-Nashiri Military Commissions”, Truthout, June 18, 2013. Read here.
  • “Pretrial Hearings of 5 Suspects in 9/11 Face Challenge of Torture-Obtained Evidence”, Truthout, June 21, 2013. Read here.
  • “Military Commission Pre-Trial Hearings for Alleged 9/11 ‘Plotters’ Focus on Gitmo Conditions”, Truthout, June 28, 2013. Read here.
  • “Guantanamo and Permanent War: The View From Camp X-Ray”, Truthout, July 3, 2013. Read here.

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Obama’s speech on drones and Gitmo is a repackaging of permanent war


MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission.  (Photo by Paul Ridgeway; attained from Wikipedia)

MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission. (Photo by Paul Ridgeway; attained from Wikipedia)

Recently, President Barack Obama gave a speech about his counterterrorism strategy at National Defense University. In it, he justified his targeted killing policy and drone strikes of suspected terrorists around the world. He also announced his plan to finally shut down Guantanamo Bay prison.

The speech is lauded by many as a signal that President Obama wants to end the War on Terror. But the speech was full of clever sophistry and Orwellian doublespeak that made it seem like the perpetual war was ending just as it’s being institutionalized and normalized. In essence, it was a repackaging of America’s targeted killing program and system of permanent war. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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In Era of Unconventional Warfare, Popular Video Games Get the Military Touch


Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Soldier in Yemen. (Photo Credit: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Wikia)

“Call of Duty: Black Ops II” image. Soldier in Yemen. (Photo Credit: “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” Wikia)

David Petraeus may be out of the military and Central Intelligence Agency but he’s found a new role elsewhere — in the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” Well, his likeness, that is. Set in the year 2025, the first-person shooter features Petraeus as the Secretary of Defense serving under a female President resembling Hillary Clinton. Gamers first see Petraeus on board an aircraft carrier named the “USS Barack Obama” greeting an apprehended terrorist in an orange jumpsuit. While Petraeus was uninvolved in the game’s production, his “Call of Duty” cameo reveals the symbiotic relationship between video games and U.S. militarism.

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The Iraq war was not a mistake — it was a crime


U.S. Marine tank in Baghdad, April 14, 2003. Photo source: Wikipedia

U.S. Marine tank in Baghdad, April 14, 2003.
Photo source: Wikipedia

As American combat troops left Iraq in December 2011, at that point, the war was largely forgotten by the American public. What remains in public memory are retrospectives of the war, especially on its ten-year anniversary. The dominant narrative is that the Iraq war was a mistake because of the lies or “faulty intelligence” that were used to justify it, costs to the United States, and the strategic folly of invading the country in the first place. However, the war was more than a mistake — it was a crime. Portraying the war as a mistake does three pernicious things: downplay the gravity of the crime, does not question the premises of militarism and permanent war, and perpetuates the myth of American benevolence. Cumulatively, these retrospectives amount to a gross revision of history. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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