Sunday, May 06, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #55 - Part 5

Afghanistan and the advance of the national security state

This past week saw the first anniversary of the execution of Osama bin Laden, an event the Obama crowd has been more that willing to exploit for its own political gain. As Glenn Greenwald recently noted, in the wake of bin Laden's death, there were those who thought that the War on Terror(reg.)(c)(pat.pend.) might wind down some. After all, International Enemy #1 was dead and the minions of the national security state kept going on about how badly al-Qaeda had been damaged, so it would seem logical that we might step back a bit.

As you obviously know, it hasn't worked out that way. In fact, Greenwald came up with a list of things that have happened since the killing of Osama bin Laden:

- Congress renewed, and PHC* signed, the Patriot Act without a single reform. During Senate debate, Harry Reid claimed that anyone seeking reforms was putting the country at risk of a terrorist attack. (Remember when the Patriot Act was controversial?)

- A US citizen was murdered by the CIA on orders from the President. It was done far from any battlefield without a shred of due process or presentation of any evidence. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old American son was also killed by the US government.

- The Attorney General gave a speech claiming the President has the legal authority to order US citizens be killed by government agents, with no oversights or checks on that power, based solely on unproven, secret accusations of connections to terrorism.

- With large bipartisan majorities, Congress enacted, and PHC* signed, the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains provisions codifying into law the power of a president to order the indefinite detention without trial or charge of any "suspected terrorist" anywhere in the world, including potentially within the US. The bill also contained an expanded statutory definition of the War on Terror(reg.)(c)(pat.pend.).

- In Utah, construction neared completion for a sprawling new site to enable the National Security Agency to engage is massive domestic surveillance and to achieve what Greenwald accurately called “the realization of the ‘total information awareness’ program created during the first term of the Bush administration.”

- PHC* authorized the use of “signature” drone strikes in Yemen, under which the CIA can target people for death “even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known.”

- The US expanded its use of drone attacks in Somalia, even reopening a base in the Seychelles to make it easier.

- The FBI increased aggressive attempts to recruit young Muslim-American males into phony terrorism plots which the FBI concocts, funds, encourages, directs, and enables, and then uses as a pretext to prosecute those it manages to lure in. Meanwhile, more and more American Muslims are being prosecuted for crimes that are about their political views rather than their actions.

- NATO airstrikes have continued to kill Afghan civilians.

Even at that, Greenwald's list is incomplete: It leaves out the continued refusal to prosecute self-admitted war criminals, including those who have publicly acknowledged their crimes during this past year. It leaves out his ignoring of the War Powers Act in Libya and his essentially declaring unilateral control over all war and peace decisions, denying Congress any role at all. It leaves out the continued attacks on whistleblowers. It leaves out the persecution of Bradley Manning. The list could go on for some time.

But that last item on Greenwald's list brings up the recent news from Afghanistan.

So the Great Mr. O zipped into Afghanistan, where we have achieved so much in 12 years of blood, death, and treasure that he had to go in secret into a fortified compound and give his speech to we serfs flanked by armored vehicles.

No matter, he earlier told the assembled troops, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! No, wait, that's not right. A light at the end of the tun- sorry - "there is a light on the horizon." We will withdraw from Afghanistan, he declared, but we must do it "responsibly." "Peace with honor," as we used to call it.

But wait - withdraw? Are we? It now seems we're going to have some as yet unknown number of military "advisors" and "trainers" in Afghanistan for another 12 years - until the end of 2024.

There are 88,000 US troops in country now, a number that is supposed to be down to 68,000 by September. But there are no indications, no announcements, of any more withdrawals after that. Now, all "combat" troops are supposed to be out by the end of 2014 - but "combat troops" has no particular meaning, it's however the military and the White House choose to define the term. There is already talk of some 20,000-25,000 troops (and maybe more) staying after 2014, troops that will "train" Afghan soldiers "and fight alongside them where necessary."

So I hope you enjoy a pleasant little war - because it seems were going to have one for a long time to come.

Enjoy your Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President.


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