Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #119 - Part 4

Outrage of the Week: List of al-Qaeda's "associated forces" is classified

Okay, now for the Outrage of the Week.

In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said repeatedly that the US is at war with "Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces."

Well, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee nin May, Sen. Carl Levin asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of al-Qaeda affiliates.

Levin’s office later said that the Pentagon’s "answer included the information requested" but they were not allowed to discuss it because, a Pentagon representative later said, revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security” because it would enable those groups to "build credibility" by being on such a list. In the words of DOD PR flack Lt. Col. Jim Gregory, “We cannot afford to inflate these organizations.”

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law, said the Pentagon’s reasoning seems, to put it kindly, weak. "If the organizations are ‘inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force," he said - which they are, with dozens of drone strikes against so-called "associated forces" in Yemen and Somalia - if they're "inflated" enough to be targeted, "why," he asked, "can't they be mentioned publicly?"

One reason might be a desire by government officials to avoid embarrassing themselves: At that May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, described terrorist groups as “murky” and “shifting,” which is another way of saying "we actually don't know who they are and we just shoot at whoever happens to raise their head because we don't really know what we're doing."

But here's the more likely reason: They just don't want to tell us. They just want us to continue to live in a vague, unfocused fear, a fear of dark forces, undefined, but out there just waiting, trying, striving, to get us, to destroy our way of life, to murder us in our beds, oh please protect us, oh please oh please we'll be good oh please!

The bottom line here is that, in what Jack Goldsmith accurately calls "a remarkable testament to this unusual war," we are, according to our misleaders, "at war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces" - but who those "associated forces" are, where they are, how we are fighting them, where and when we are fighting them, is all classified, a military secret which we the people are not entitled to know. We are not entitled to know the names of those with who we are at war. Hell, even Winston Smith got to blame Eurasia. Or sometimes Eastasia. But at least he got a name. We're not even entitled to that.

And if you do not find that an outrage, if you do not find yourself sickened by the concept of secret wars against secret enemies, maybe you'd better just check your citizenship at the door on your way out.

Footnote: Here's another reason why they might not want to tell us: The US's clandestine war in Somalia against Al-Shabab, touted as year as an unqualified success, which is probably why they were willing to identify Al-Shabab as an "associated force," but that "unqualified success" may be in danger of unraveling. According to recent analysis, al-Shabab remains intact and has preserved the core of its 5,000-strong fighting force and resources.


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