There Are No Wars Without War Crimes: Booze And Bombs Don’t Mix In Afghanistan…Or Anywhere Else.
Afghan Alcohol Ban After Nato Staff Were 'Too Hungover' To Give Explanation For Airstrike That Killed 70 Civilians
By MAIL FOREIGN SERVICE
Last updated at 8:00 AM on 09th September 2009
Alcohol has been banned from Nato's headquarters in Afghanistan in the wake of an airstrike that killed up to 70 civilians.
US General Stanley McChrystal, head of the International Forces in Afghanistan (Isaf), decided to bar boozing after launching an investigation into the bombing in northern Afghanistan.
Staff at the Kabul headquarters were 'either drunk or too hungover' to answer his questions.
He slammed forces for 'partying it up' as German Chancellor Angela Merkel also found herself under attack for the strike.
The command to drop two 500lb bombs on two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban came from Germany, while American pilots carried it out.
A preliminary investigation found that the bombs were dropped in breach of Nato guidelines, on intelligence from a single source who claimed all present were members of the Taliban.
Today Merkel has told the German parliament that the government will not accept 'premature judgments' on the airstrike.
'I say this very clearly after what I have experienced in the last few days: I will not tolerate that from whoever it may be, at home as well as abroad.'
She told lawmakers that every death of or injury to an innocent person in Afghanistan is 'one too many', adding that Germany's mission in Afghanistan remains necessary.
She spoke as General McChrystal noted in his daily Commander's Update that too many Nato staff had been 'partying it up' and did not have 'their heads in the right place' following the tanker attack.
The General found he 'couldn't get hold of the people he needed to get hold of and he blamed it on all-night partying', according to The Times.
'General McChrystal is extremely focused on the mission and he feels that the folk who are here at the headquarters level need to be at the top of their game in terms of supporting the folks out in the field,' an Isaf spokesman said.
The Kunduz incident provided an opportunity for him to articulate his concerns in this regard, but it was not the cause of the order nor is there any indication at this point that alcohol consumption was somehow a factor in the incident.'
American forces already ban all alcohol for their troops in Afghanistan, while British troops are only allowed to drink at special functions with explicit permission.
The rest of the 42 nations in Afghanistan, however, have varying rules on drinking.
There are seven bars on half-square mile Isaf compound. One insider told the Times: 'Thursday nights are the big party nights, because Friday’s a ‘low-ops’ day. They even open a bar in the garden at headquarters.
'There’s a ‘two can’ rule but people ignore it and hit it pretty hard.'
The airstrike occurred at 2.30am on Friday morning.
German Deputy Defence Minister Christian Schmidt yesterday defended his country's commander on the ground for calling-in the war planes and demanded critics waited for the outcome of an investigation before apportioning blame.
It had been feared the tankers would be used in suicide bombings against German troops who are stationed in Kunduz province, north of the Afghan capital.
Civilian deaths and intrusive searches have bred resentment among the Afghan population nearly eight years after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban. There are fears the latest incidents will merely fuel the increasingly bitter feelings towards foreign troops.
In addition to criticism over the attack, America is also facing allegations that it stormed a hospital in Afghanistan.
In the latest allegations, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division entered the charity's hospital without permission to look for insurgents in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, last Wednesday.
Anders Fange, country director of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, speaks in Kabul today
Anders Fange, the charity's country director, said soldiers kicked in doors, tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients, and forced patients out of beds during their search.
When they left two hours later, the unit ordered hospital staff to inform coalition forces if any wounded militants were admitted, and the military would decide if they could be treated, Mr Fange said.
The staff refused, he said. 'That would put our staff at risk and make the hospital a target.
'This is simply not acceptable,' Mr Fange added.
The charity said on its website that the troops' actions were not only a violation of humanitarian principles but also went against an agreement between Nato forces and charities working in the area.
'We demand guarantees ... that such violations will not be repeated and that this is made clear to commanders in the field,' a statement said.
U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker confirmed that the hospital was searched last week but had no other details. She said the military was looking into the incident.
'We are investigating and we take allegations like this seriously,' she said. 'Complaints like this are rare.'
Last week's airstrike came despite new rules for foreign forces limiting use of airpower to avoid civilian casualties.
The provincial government said most of the dead were militants, but the Afghan Rights Monitor said interviews with 15 villagers indicate that only a dozen gunmen died and 60-70 villagers were killed. The group called for further investigations.
A United Nations report in July said the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 per cent this year, with bombings by insurgents and airstrikes by international forces the biggest killers.
The report said 1,013 civilians were killed in the first half of 2009, 59 per cent in insurgent attacks and 30.5 perc ent by foreign and Afghan government forces. The rest were undetermined.
by Robert Weiner and Jordan Osserman
Tuesday September 08, 2009, 5:00 AM
On May 28, President Obama mandated a 90-day review of classification policy, with the goal of creating an "unprecedented level of openness" in government. He'll soon let us know how many fewer government secrets we'll have. He has a lot to do.
Attorney General Eric Holder has just appointed a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogation abuses in the War on Terror, including secret waterboarding, which had until recently been prosecuted in U.S. courts as a war crime. He also will track the truth of the possibly 100 prisoners tortured to death in Abu Ghraib. Often, to hide accountability, it was not the CIA but its contractors who did the interrogations -- they were able to go over the top with a wink and a nod from their agency overseers.
On Aug. 20, Bush's former CIA Director Michael Hayden told the National Press Club that contractors were necessary to "fill a need" as the "best talent" and "not to deflect responsibility." As Shakespeare wrote, "The lady doth protest too much methinks."
The House Intelligence Committee has launched an investigation into whether the CIA's secret program to assassinate al-Qaida leaders broke the law because it was hidden from Congress at Vice President Dick Cheney's request. The Abu Ghraib deaths by torture were related.
The administration's decision to address the excess of government secrecy couldn't come at a better time. However, human rights and civil liberties groups including the ACLU and Amnesty International are concerned. Rather than focusing on a comprehensive review of the Bush administration's torture program, the investigation may only look into individual abuses conducted by low-ranking officials. Obama's team must ensure that a full investigation occurs into the actions of the "deciders." It's not a matter of politics -- it's the law.
On Aug. 30, while claiming his pending book will be "terrific" and people will "have to read it," Cheney stated that the probe is "political." When was the last time that lawmakers-turned-lawbreakers did not assert that any investigations into their actions were "political"? What a surprise that Cheney does not like that the investigation may lead to his guidance and instruction for incorrectly defining the law in meetings with White House, Justice and CIA staffers. If that proves true, the other laws that say you cannot ignore them must also be upheld.
Cheney also claims that investigating the Bush administration's torture program "is a loss of focus on national security." His assertion is a thinly veiled attempt to escape accountability and hide his leadership in misdoings. As even Admiral Stansfield Turner, CIA's director from 1977 to 1981, said, Dick Cheney was "vice president for torture." We want to know, did Cheney urge White House and DOJ staff to change the legal definition of torture before any court agreed, and then get CIA and its contractors to carry it out? Cheney told Chris Wallace, "What I miss most is having the CIA show up on my doorstep six days a week."
Congressman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said, "Investigations are not a matter of payback or political revenge -- it is our responsibility to examine what has occurred and to set an appropriate baseline of conduct for future administrations." Time and time again, the CIA and others have invoked secrecy not for national security but to prevent agency embarrassment.
Declassified documents reveal that the highest echelons of the Bush administration approved the use of torture on hundreds of prisoners in the custody of the CIA and the Department of Defense, starting with Alberto Gonzalez's 2002 memo to President Bush, where he asserted that the Geneva Conventions were "quaint" and "obsolete." From testimony of prisoners released years later, it turned out many detainees were imprisoned because corrupt informers were paid to implicate them regardless of the merits -- no wonder CIA and DOD don't want true trials.
Four memos released in April 2009, written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, authorized interrogators to use sensory deprivation, sexual humiliation and waterboarding. Actual methods used won't be described in this family-friendly newspaper.
The CIA acknowledges that it destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes that showed use of "enhanced interrogation methods." Is the CIA really protecting the American people or just its own skin when it hides photographic evidence of its own egregious misdeeds?
The CIA maintains such a tight clamp on information that it requires former employees to submit their writing to agency counsel or a Publications Review Board whenever they want to publish anything -- even columns advocating new policies on current events after they served at the CIA, and even if the subject matter is public knowledge. That's not security, that's restriction of First Amendment rights. Congress should condemn the agency's censorship and change the law.
In the uninhibited mind-set of baby boomers' college days, there was a kind of paranoia about the CIA conducting dark and conspiratorial activities. The government said the allegations were myths. At least in the last administration, the "dark side" became reality. President Obama, Congress and Attorney General Holder should seize the opportunity to open the full truth to scrutiny. The legal duty includes reaching as high as the facts show. As Holder himself said, it's a "duty to examine the facts and follow the law."
Robert Weiner, an Oberlin College graduate, is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and U.S. House Government Operations Committee. Jordan Osserman is a policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.
by: Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com
By Jeff Stein | September 8, 2009 3:10 PM | Permalink |
What Do President Obama And The Queen Of England Have In Common?
Why, Lyndon Larouche, Of Course.
Laughed off as a wing nut for his longtime campaign to lay the global narcotics trade at the feet of England's monarch, LaRouche rarely merits more than a passing mention in serious political coverage.
But what seems to have escaped the notice of all but a few astute reporters is that those incendiary, TV-worthy posters of Obama-as-Hitler originated not with outraged populists or conservative Republicans but LaRouche.
You would have had to dug deep to discover that the woman who prompted the instantly famous retort of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., that "trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table," was a LaRouche follower.
The Washington Post's Aug. 20 Capitol Briefing blog eventually got around to noting in its story on Frank that "LaRouche PAC has been waging an intensifying campaign against the Obama and congressional health reform proposals since the president's nationally televised news conference of July 22, when he called for an 'an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare.'
"The group has interpreted that statement as ordering euthanasia," Garance Franke-Ruta and Sarah Lovenheim wrote on Aug. 20, with no discernable effect on the rest of the paper's coverage.
Another five days passed before The New York Times took serious notice, albeit in a blog as well.
"No one is more put out by the fact that Mr. LaRouche has received no credit for introducing Nazis into the health care debate than Mr. LaRouche himself," Robert Mackey wrote in The Lede.
"In a news release this month, his political action committee wrote, 'Lyndon LaRouche and the LaRouchePAC are the source of the campaign to expose the Obama "health care" policy as modeled on that of Hitler in 1939.'"
Mackey also quoted from a recent report on LaRouche from the Antidefamation League.
"Since May 2009," the ADL said, "LaRouche and his network of supporters, many of which are part of the LaRouche Political Action Committee (LPAC), have focused on health care reform, producing signs, banners, pamphlets and other items that employ Nazi imagery, including the Hitler comparisons."
You'd never know this from the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, who are content to blame Republicans for whipping up what looks like mass hysteria from ordinary folks.
While the onetime Marxist may indeed be a wing nut, moreover, LaRouche has a 40-year history of covert operations aimed at keeping leftwing activists and mainstream Democrats alike off balance, traceable with a few clicks of your mouse.
But where is all the energy (read: money) for such an ambitious, if wacky, campaign coming from?
According to the entry on Neo-Nazism in the Encyclopedia Judaica, LaRouche is a "notorious antisemite" whose "international organization" is today a "major source of ... masked antisemitic theories globally."
Chip Berlet, who assembled the Judaica entry and has been following LaRouche & co. for decades, says the group has a variety of sources, including "liquidating trust funds of members, and soliciting their families."
In 1988, LaRouche was sentenced to prison for 15 years on charges related to his handling of funds.
Berlet, senior analyst for the left-wing Political Research Associatesin Cambridge, Mass., also cited these sources:
*Payments from companies using Wang computers for programming through Computron, set up by the LaRouchites (but no longer connected).
*Conversion of publication sales and other income into federal matching funds during LaRouche's presidential bids.
*Solicitation of "loans" for various publishing and political projects that were never paid back (got Lyndon sent to jail)
*Income from the printing business run by long-time member Ken Kronberg (subsidized printing of LaRouche literature). Kronberg, vilified by LaRouche, recently committed suicide,
*An industrious "Boiler Room" fundraising operation run out of Leesburg. VA.
"There are other sources, but based on interviews with ex members, these are probably the most significant," Berlet told me.
I would have called LaRouche for a comment, but in my past attempts at eliciting facts over the years, I usually ended up getting a lecture on the British Crown's role in the drug trade.
A free people will not permit torture. Throughout history, torture has always been an instrument of tyranny. The very purpose of the Grand Inquisitor was to compel absolute obedience to authority. Torture was the weapon he used in the struggle to force freedom to submit to authority.
Fear is the principal element in both public acceptance of torture and individual submission to it. The frightened public is persuaded that only torture can force confessions essential to prevent catastrophic acts—terrorism in the present context. The frightened victim is persuaded torture will be unbearable, or be his death.
Franklin Roosevelt spoke truth when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Justice Black warned wisely, "We must not be afraid to be free," dissenting in In re Anastaplo. Anastaplo was a law school classmate of mine who refused to take a non-Communist oath, a requirement for admission to the Illinois bar at the time. We have failed to follow this wisdom, a failure of faith urged by Lincoln at the then Cooper Institute: "Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
At stake is our cultural insistence that America has faith in freedom, that America is, or aspires to be, the land of the free and the home of the brave. At risk is the image of America, which might become Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and rendition to torture chambers in client States.
Now we are confronted by the brutish and brazen mentality of Dick Cheney, only one of George W. Bush’s many vices. Having concealed truth by refusing to release records and after the destruction of evidence, Cheney proclaims, "I am very proud of what we did"—a war of aggression that has devastated and fragmented Iraq and Afghanistan, and created a danger to peace inPakistan and beyond. The same wars that have left 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead and maybe 30,000 with impaired lives, spread corruption within the Bush administration, politics in prosecutors offices, the worst recession in 70 years caused by the failure to police his greedy friends and supporters, boasting of torture by any other name.
Cheney wants us to believe "enhanced interrogation techniques," the phrase he prefers to torture, "were absolutely essential" in successfully stopping another terrorist attack on the U.S. after 9/11. This is utterly false, a matter of indifference to Cheney who may be getting desperate. These "enhanced interrogation techniques" were, however, torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture of 1984, an international treaty ratified by 184 nations, including the United States a decade late in 1994. The Convention, which is part of the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution, recognizes "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," and "that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person."
Thus, the U.S. is treaty bound to prosecute all persons, high and low, who have authorized, condoned or committed torture if our word in the international community is to mean anything.
The Convention requires each signatory to ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. It requires prosecution, or under specific conditions, extradition to another nation for prosecution of alleged torturers.
Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan is only one of the key U.S. intelligence and investigative officials directly involved in the key interrogations who have publicly condemned the "enhanced interrogation techniques." He has explained how the practice not only failed to obtain reliable or new information, but was also harmful. He concluded an op-ed article in the New York Times on Sept. 6, which stated that "the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program, one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation is finished."
The struggle to prosecute torture by U.S. agents is related to the struggle over health care legislation and troop increases in Afghanistan. Real health care reform would end the theft of major national resources by the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and the wealth seeking medical profession at the expense of the lives and health of the poor and middle class.
We should remember that a decade before he gave us "What is good for General Motors is good tor the nation," Charles E. Wilson, once President of General Motors, and later Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower, wrote in the Army Ordinance Journal in 1944: "War has been inevitable in our human affairs as an evolutionary force ... Let us make the three-way partnership (industry, government, army) permanent." Notice what comes first for Wilson, whose credo was "Let us have faith that might makes right."
President Obama faces all three of these challenges, torture in our name, health care and Afghanistan at once. If he fails to insist on full investigation of torture and prosecution of all persons found to have authorized, directed or committed it, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, he will lose all three, because his adversaries in each are the same.
We want to thank every member of the IndictBushNow movement for their work. The announcement that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the crimes committed during the Bush administration is a critical step. It was the action taken by you and people all around the country that made this possible. Now we will build on this momentum. The voice of the people must and will be heard.
Address to Mut zur Ethik Conference, "Sovereignty or Imperialism," Feldkirch, Austria, September 5, 2009
There is a widespread supposition that Obama, being black and a member of an oppressed race, will imbue US foreign policy with a higher morality than the world experienced from Bush and Clinton. This is a delusion.
Obama represents the same ideology of American "exceptionalism" as other recent presidents. This ideology designates the United States as The Virtuous Nation and supplies the basis for the belief that America has the right, indeed the responsibility, to impose its hegemony upon the world by bribery or by force. The claim of American exceptionalism produces a form of patriotism that blinds the US population to the immorality of America’s wars of aggression.
Nothing is any different under Obama. Obama has escalated war in Afghanistan; started a new war in Pakistan; tolerated or supported a military coup that overthrew the elected president of Honduras; is constructing 7 new US military bases in Colombia, South America; is going forward with various military projects designed to secure US global military hegemony, such as the Prompt Global Strike initiative that intends to provide the US with the capability to strike anywhere on earth within 60 minutes; is working to destabilize the government in Iran, with military attack still on the table as an option; supports America’s new military African Command; intends to encircle Russia with US bases in former constituent parts of the Soviet Union; has suborned NATO troops as mercenaries in US wars of aggression.
How should Europe react? Europe should disassociate from the United States and go into active opposition to US foreign policy. Europeans should demand that their governments withdraw from NATO as it serves no European interest. The two aggressive militarist powers, the US and Israel, should be sanctioned by the UN and embargoed. Instead, Europe is complicit in US and Israeli war crimes.
Because of the cold war, Europe is accustomed to following US leadership. The financial convenience of the shelter provided by US military power negated independent European foreign policies. In effect, Western European countries became US puppet states.
How does Europe escape from a subservient relationship of many decades? Not easily. The US is accustomed to calling the shots and reacts harshly when it meets opposition. For example, French opposition to Bush’s invasion of Iraq brought about instant demonization of France by the US media and members of Congress.
The US government uses financial sanctions and threatened leaks of sensitive personal information gathered by its worldwide spy networks to discipline any independent-minded European leader.
Europe is essentially captive and forced to put US interests ahead of its own. Consequently, unless Europeans find their courage and discard their servile status, Europe will be badgered into more wars and eventually led into a devastating war with Russia. One European country can do little, but concerted action would be effective. For example, why do not Europeans protest that the war criminal Tony Blair was given a post in the EU?
The Obama administration’s attitude towards self-determination and the sovereignty of the people is that these grand-sounding concepts are useful platitudes with which to mask the hegemonic interests of the US government. US money and propaganda foment "velvet" or "color" revolutions that turn more countries into American puppet states.
The platitudes are useful also to disguise the overthrow of US civil liberties, such as habeas corpus, due process, and prohibitions against torture and preemptive arrest.
During the cold war era, one of the mainstays of US propaganda against the Soviet Union was the inability of Soviet citizens to travel within their country without the government’s permission. This indignity has now been inflicted upon US citizens. As of September, 2009, US citizens can no longer travel within their country by air without the permission of the Transport Security Administration.
The Obama administration has adopted the Bush administration’s search procedures. Under these rules travelers’ computers, cell phones, and other devices can be seized for searches that can take up to 30 days. If you are on your way to a meeting and your presentation is on your computer and your contacts’ numbers are on your cell phone, you are out of luck.
"Terrorist threat" is the excuse for these Gestapo practices. However, there have been no domestic acts of terrorism in 8 years. The few "plots" that led to arrests were all instigated by FBI agents in order to keep the nonexistent threat alive in the public’s mind. Yet, despite the lack of any real terrorist threat the police state continues to gain ground. Considering the extent of America’s oppression of peoples abroad, one would expect much more blowback than has occurred, assuming that 9/11 was not itself an inside job designed to provide an excuse for America’s wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
Europe must look beyond the empty American political rhetoric about "freedom and democracy" and recognize the emerging Brownshirt American State. Democracy is slipping away from America. Its place is being taken by an oligarchy of powerful interest groups, such as the financial sector, the military/security complex about which President Eisenhower warned, and AIPAC. Political campaign contributions from interest groups determine the content of US domestic and foreign policy. A country in which political elites are above the law and can violate with impunity both laws against torture and constitutional protections of civil liberties is not a free country.
American political leaders and the American people need Europe’s help in order to avoid the degeneration of the American political entity. American freedom, as well as sovereign independence elsewhere in the world, require criticisms of US foreign and domestic policies. The US media, which was concentrated into a few hands during the Clinton administration, functions as a Ministry of Propaganda for the government. It was the New York Times that gave credibility to the neoconservative propaganda and forged documents that were used to sell the invasion of Iraq to the public. It was the New York Timesthat sat for one year on the evidence that the Bush administration was committing felonies by violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It was not until after Bush was re-elected that the reporter was able to force his story through editorial opposition. Americans need criticism from Europe to compensate for the absence of an independent American media. Americans need outside help in order to reach an understanding of the immorality of their government’s policies, because they receive no such help from their own media. Without Europe’s help, Americans cannot regain the spirit of liberty and tolerance bequeathed to them by their Founding Fathers. America herself is a victim of the neoconservative and liberal internationalist pursuit of US hegemony.
We in America need to hear many voices telling us that it is self-defeating to become like an enemy in order to defeat an enemy. As Germans learned under Hitler and Russians learned under Stalin, it is the internal enemy – the unaccountable elite that controls a country’s government – that is the worst and most dangerous enemy.
If America has enemies who are against "freedom and democracy," then America herself must make certain not to sacrifice her own civil liberties, and the sovereignty of other peoples, to a "war on terror." Acts of terror are a small cost compared to the cost of the erosion of civil liberties that took centuries to achieve. Far more people died to achieve liberty than have died in terrorist attacks.
The United States cannot pretend to be a guarantor of liberty when the US government takes away liberty from its own citizens.
The United States cannot pretend to be a guarantor of peace and democracy when the US government uses deception to attack other lands on false pretenses.
Europe, whose culture was wrecked by 20th-century wars, Europe, which has experienced tyranny from the left-wing and from the right-wing, has a right to its own voice.
America needs to hear this voice.