Later On

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Pentagon ethics: Reneging on their payment of enlistment bonuses.

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What would you think of someone who offer to pay you for a job—to plow a field, say. You accept the money, plow the field, and then the person who paid you demands the money back, now that the field’s been plowed? I would say he’s a cheat and a scoundrel and has no sense of honor, but the US military is doing much the same. (The US military talks a lot about honor, but routinely conducts itself in dishonorable ways—perhaps that’s why honor is always in the forefront of its mind). The military made an offer (a re-elistment bonus) in return those who accepted the offer re-enlisted and served another tour of duty at the risk of their lives (and some surely were killed or maimed). Now that the military has gotten what it wanted (troops serving more tours in combat), it wants its money back. It was to have its cake and eat it too.

I don’t understand why this is even a problem: the military made the offer, which was accepted and the transaction completed with the tour of duty. If the offer was bad, that’s the military’s problem: those to whom the offer were made accepted it as a good-faith offer, and so far as I see have zero obligation to return the money, particularly since the military got what it paid for.

Here’s the story. Congress should act. And the military should be ashamed, except the military generally shows little concern for the well-being of its troops.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 October 2016 at 10:07 am

Posted in Military

The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’: Robots That Could Kill on Their Own

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A grim new world awaits us. Matthew Rosenberg and John Markoff report in the NY Times:

The small drone, with its six whirring rotors, swept past the replica of a Middle Eastern village and closed in on a mosque-like structure, its camera scanning for targets.

No humans were remotely piloting the drone, which was nothing more than a machine that could be bought on Amazon. But armed with advanced artificial intelligence software, it had been transformed into a robot that could find and identify the half-dozen men carrying replicas of AK-47s around the village and pretending to be insurgents.

As the drone descended slightly, a purple rectangle flickered on a video feed that was being relayed to engineers monitoring the test. The drone had locked onto a man obscured in the shadows, a display of hunting prowess that offered an eerie preview of how the Pentagon plans to transform warfare.

The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft. It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans.

“If Stanley Kubrick directed ‘Dr. Strangelove’ again, it would be about the issue of autonomous weapons,” said Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.

Defense officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to maintain its military edge over China, Russia and other rivals, who are also pouring money into similar research (as are allies, such as Britain and Israel). The Pentagon’s latest budget outlined $18 billion to be spent over three years on technologies that included those needed for autonomous weapons.

“China and Russia are developing battle networks that are as good as our own. They can see as far as ours can see; they can throw guided munitions as far as we can,” said Robert O. Work, the deputy defense secretary, who has been a driving force for the development of autonomous weapons. “What we want to do is just make sure that we would be able to win as quickly as we have been able to do in the past.”

Just as the Industrial Revolution spurred the creation of powerful and destructive machines like airplanes and tanks that diminished the role of individual soldiers, artificial intelligence technology is enabling the Pentagon to reorder the places of man and machine on the battlefield the same way it is transforming ordinary life with computers that can see, hear and speak and cars that can drive themselves.

The new weapons would offer speed and precision unmatched by any human while reducing the number — and cost — of soldiers and pilots exposed to potential death and dismemberment in battle. The challenge for the Pentagon is to ensure that the weapons are reliable partners for humans and not potential threats to them.

At the core of the strategic shift envisioned by the Pentagon is a concept that officials call centaur warfighting. Named for the half-man and half-horse in Greek mythology, the strategy emphasizes human control and autonomous weapons as ways to augment and magnify the creativity and problem-solving skills of soldiers, pilots and sailors, not replace them.

The weapons, in the Pentagon’s vision, would be less like the Terminator and more like the comic-book superhero Iron Man, Mr. Work said in an interview.

“There’s so much fear out there about killer robots and Skynet,” the murderous artificial intelligence network of the “Terminator” movies, Mr. Work said. “That’s not the way we envision it at all.”

When it comes to decisions over life and death, “there will always be a man in the loop,” he said.

Beyond the Pentagon, though, there is deep skepticism that such limits will remain in place once the technologies to create thinking weapons are perfected. Hundreds of scientists and experts warned in an open letter last year that developing even the dumbest of intelligent weapons risked setting off a global arms race. The result, the letter warned, would be fully independent robots that can kill, and are cheap and as readily available to rogue states and violent extremists as they are to great powers.

“Autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” the letter said.

The Terminator Conundrum

The debate within the military is no longer about whether to build autonomous weapons but how much independence to give them. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 October 2016 at 9:46 am

Posted in Military, Technology

U.S. and U.K. Continue to Actively Participate in Saudi War Crimes, Targeting of Yemeni Civilians

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Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

From the start of the hideous Saudi bombing campaign against Yemen 18 months ago, two countries have played active, vital roles in enabling the carnage: the U.S. and UK. The atrocities committed by the Saudis would have been impossible without their steadfast, aggressive support.

The Obama administration “has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US administration,” as the Guardian reported this week, and also provides extensive surveillance technology. As The Intercept documented in April, “in his first five years as president, Obama sold $30 billion more in weapons than President Bush did during his entire eight years as commander in chief.”

Most important, according to the Saudi Foreign Minister, although it is the Saudis that have ultimate authority to choose targets, “British and American military officials are in the command and control centre for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen” and “have access to lists of targets.” In sum, while this bombing campaign is invariably described in western media outlets as “Saudi-led,” the U.S. and U.K. are both central, indispensable participants. As The New York Times Editorial Page put it in August: “The United States is complicit in this carnage,” while the Guardian editorialized that “Britain bears much responsibility for this suffering.”

From the start, the U.S.-and-U.K-backed Saudis have indiscriminately and at times deliberately bombed civilians, killing thousands of innocent people. From Yemen, Iona Craig and Alex Potter have extensively reported for The Intercept on the widespread civilian deaths caused by this bombing campaign. As the Saudis continued to recklessly and intentionally bomb civilians, the American and British weapons kept pouring into Riyahd, ensuring that the civilian massacres continued. Every once and awhile, when a particularly gruesome mass killing made its way into the news, Obama and various British officials would issue cursory, obligatory statements expressing “concern,” then go right back to fueling the attacks.

This weekend, as American attention was devoted almost exclusively to Donald Trump, one of the most revolting massacres took place. On Saturday,warplanes attacked a funeral gathering in Sana, repeatedly bombing the hall where it took place, killing over 100 people and wounding more than 500 (see photo above). Video shows just some the destruction and carnage:

Saudi officials first lied by trying to blame “other causes,” but have since walked that back. The next time someone who identifies with the Muslim world attacks American or British citizens, and those countries’ leading political voices answer the question “why, oh why, do they hate us?” by assuring everyone that “they hate us for our freedoms,” it would be instructive to watch that video.

The Obama White House, through its spokesman Ned Price, condemnedwhat it called “the troubling series of attacks striking Yemeni civilians” – ones, it did not note, it has repeatedly supported – and lamely warned that “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check.” That is exactly what it is. The 18 months of bombing supported by the U.S. and U.K. has, as the NYT put it this morning, “largely failed, while reports of civilian deaths have grown common, and much of the country is on the brink of famine.”

It has been known from the start that the Saudi bombing campaign has been indiscriminate and reckless, and yet Obama and the U.K. Government continued to play central roles. A UN report obtained in January by the Guardian “uncovered ‘widespread and systematic’ attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law”; the report found that “the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure.”

But what was not known, until an excellent Reuters report by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay this morning, is that Obama was explicitly warned not only that the Saudis were committing war crimes, but that the U.S. itself could be legally regarded as complicit in them:

The Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings from some officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians, according to government documents and the accounts of current and former officials.

State Department officials also were privately skeptical of the Saudi military’s ability to target Houthi militants without killing civilians and destroying “critical infrastructure” needed for Yemen to recover, according to the emails and other records obtained by Reuters and interviews with nearly a dozen officials with knowledge of those discussions. . .

Continue reading.

Remember when President Obama got the Novel Peace Prize? We’ve come a long way, what with drone warfare plus our continuing support for both Netanyahu and the Saudis.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2016 at 6:46 pm

Some small helpful “life hacks” from a former Marine

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Though of course it is well known that you may be able to take a man out of the Corps, but you can’t take the Corps out of a man. Semper fi.

At any rate, some of these tips are quite interesting, even if simple. I like knifehand already and can’t wait to use it.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2016 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

How U.S. Torture Left Legacy of Damaged Minds

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In the NY Times Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink, and James Risen report on the effects of US government torture of prisoners, some of whom had no connection to terrorism or attacks on the US.

Before the United States permitted a terrifying way of interrogating prisoners, government lawyers and intelligence officials assured themselves of one crucial outcome. They knew that the methods inflicted on terrorism suspects would be painful, shocking and far beyond what the country had ever accepted. But none of it, they concluded, would cause long lasting psychological harm.

Fifteen years later, it is clear they were wrong.

Today in Slovakia, Hussein al-Marfadi describes permanent headaches and disturbed sleep, plagued by memories of dogs inside a blackened jail. In Kazakhstan, Lutfi bin Ali is haunted by nightmares of suffocating at the bottom of a well. In Libya, the radio from a passing car spurs rage in Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, reminding him of the C.I.A. prison where earsplitting music was just one assault to his senses.

And then there is the despair of men who say they are no longer themselves. “I am living this kind of depression,” said Younous Chekkouri, a Moroccan, who fears going outside because he sees faces in crowds as Guantánamo Bay guards. “I’m not normal anymore.”

Those subjected to the tactics included victims of mistaken identity or flimsy evidence that the United States later disavowed. Others were foot soldiers for the Taliban or Al Qaeda who were later deemed to pose little threat. Some were hardened terrorists, including those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks or the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole. In several cases, their mental status has complicated the nation’s long effort to bring them to justice.

Americans have long debated the legacy of post-Sept. 11 interrogation methods, asking whether they amounted to torture or succeeded in extracting intelligence. But even as President Obama continues transferring people from Guantánamo and Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, promises to bring back techniques, now banned, such as waterboarding, the human toll has gone largely uncalculated.

At least half of the 39 people who went through the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation” program, which included depriving them of sleep, dousing them with ice water, slamming them into walls and locking them in coffin-like boxes, have since shown psychiatric problems, The New York Times found. Some have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, depression or psychosis.

Hundreds more detainees moved through C.I.A. “black sites” or Guantánamo, where the military inflicted sensory deprivation, isolation, menacing with dogs and other tactics on men who now show serious damage. Nearly all have been released.

“There is no question that these tactics were entirely inconsistent with our values as Americans, and their consequences present lasting challenges for us as a country and for the individuals involved,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

The United States government has never studied the long-term psychological effects of the extraordinary interrogation practices it embraced. A Defense Department spokeswoman, asked about long-term mental harm, responded that prisoners were treated humanely and had access to excellent care. A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.

This article is based on a broad sampling of cases and an examination of hundreds of documents, including court records, military commission transcripts and medical assessments. The Times interviewed more than 100 people, including former detainees in a dozen countries. A full accounting is all but impossible because many former prisoners never had access to outside doctors or lawyers, and any records about their interrogation treatment and health status remain classified.

Researchers caution that it can be difficult to determine cause and effect with mental illness. Some prisoners of the C.I.A. and the military had underlying psychological problems that may have made them more susceptible to long-term difficulties; others appeared to have been remarkably resilient. Incarceration, particularly the indefinite detention without charges that the United States devised, is inherently stressful. Still, outside medical consultants and former government officials said they saw a pattern connecting the harsh practices to psychiatric issues.

Those treating prisoners at Guantánamo for mental health issues typically did not ask their patients what had happened during their questioning. Some physicians, though, saw evidence of mental harm almost immediately.

“My staff was dealing with the consequences of the interrogations without knowing what was going on,” said Albert J. Shimkus, a retired Navy captain who served as the commanding officer of the Guantánamo hospital in the prison’s early years. Back then, still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, the government was desperate to stave off more.

But Captain Shimkus now regrets not making more inquiries. “There was a conflict,” he said, “between our medical duty to our patients and our duty to the mission, as soldiers.”

After prisoners were released from American custody, some found neither help nor relief. Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al-Asad, a businessman in Tanzania, and others were snatched, interrogated and imprisoned, then sent home without explanation. They returned to their families deeply scarred from interrogations, isolation and the shame of sexual taunts, forced nudity, aggressive body cavity searches and being kept in diapers.

Mr. Asad, who died in May, was held for more than a year in several secret C.I.A. prisons. “Sometimes, between husband and wife, he would admit to how awful he felt,” his widow, Zahra Mohamed, wrote in a statement prepared for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. “He was humiliated, and that feeling never went away.”

‘A Human Mop’

In a cold room once used for interrogations at Guantánamo, Stephen N. Xenakis, a former military psychiatrist, faced a onetime Qaeda child soldier, Omar Khadr. It was December 2008, and this evaluation had been two years in the making.

The doctor, a retired brigadier general who had overseen several military hospitals, had not sought the assignment. The son of an Air Force combat veteran, he debated even accepting it. “I’m still a soldier,” General Xenakis recalls thinking. Was this good for the country? When he finally agreed, he told Mr. Khadr’s lawyers that they were paying for an independent medical opinion, not a hired gun.

Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, had been wounded and captured in a firefight at age 15 at a suspected terrorist compound in Afghanistan, where he said he had been sent to translate for foreign fighters by his father, a Qaeda member. Years later, he would plead guilty to war crimes, including throwing a grenade that killed an Army medic. At the time, though, he was the youngest prisoner at Guantánamo.

He told his lawyers that the American soldiers had kept him from sleeping, spit in his face and threatened him with rape. In one meeting with the psychiatrist, Mr. Khadr, then 22, began to sweat and fan himself, despite the air-conditioned chill. He tugged his shirt off, and General Xenakis realized that he was witnessing an anxiety attack.

When it happened again, Mr. Khadr explained that he had once urinated during an interrogation and soldiers had dragged him through the mess. “This is the room where they used me as a human mop,” he said.

General Xenakis had seen such anxiety before, decades earlier, as a young psychiatrist at Letterman Army Medical Center in California. It was often the first stop for American prisoners of war after they left Vietnam. The doctor recalled the men, who had endured horrific abuses, suffering panic attacks, headaches and psychotic episodes.

That session with Mr. Khadr was the beginning of General Xenakis’s immersion into the treatment of detainees. He has reviewed medical and interrogation records of about 50 current and former prisoners and examined about 15 of the detainees, more than any other outside psychiatrist, colleagues say.

General Xenakis found that Mr. Khadr had post-traumatic stress disorder, a conclusion the military contested. Many of General Xenakis’s diagnoses in other cases remain classified or sealed by court order, but he said he consistently found links between harsh American interrogation methods and psychiatric disorders.

Back home in Virginia, General Xenakis delved into research on the effects of abusive practices. He found decades of papers on the issue — science that had not been considered when the government began crafting new interrogation policies after Sept. 11.

At the end of the Vietnam War, military doctors noticed that former prisoners of war developed psychiatric disorders far more often than other soldiers, an observation also made of former P.O.W.s from World War II and the Korean War. The data could not be explained by imprisonment alone, researchers found. Former soldiers who suffered torture or mistreatment were more likely than others to develop long-term problems.

By the mid-1980s, the Veterans Administration had linked such treatment to memory loss, an exaggerated startle reflex, horrific nightmares, headaches and an inability to concentrate. Studies noted similar symptoms among torture survivors in South Africa, Turkey and Chile. Such research helped lay the groundwork for how American doctors now treat combat veterans.

“In hindsight, that should have come to the fore” in the post-Sept. 11 interrogation debate, said John Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s top lawyer at the time. “I don’t think the long-term effects were ever explored in any real depth.”

Instead, the government relied on data from a training program to resist enemy interrogators, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. The military concluded there was little evidence that disrupted sleep, near-starvation, nudity and extreme temperatures harmed military trainees in controlled scenarios.

Two veteran SERE psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, worked with the C.I.A. and the Pentagon to help develop interrogation tactics. They based their strategies in part on the theory of “learned helplessness,” a phrase coined by the American psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in the late 1960s. He gave electric shocks to dogs and discovered that they stopped resisting once they learned they could not stop the shocks. If the United States could make men helpless, the thinking went, they would give up their secrets.

In the end, Justice Department lawyers concluded that the methods did not constitute torture, which is illegal under American and international law. In a series of memos, they wrote that no evidence existed that “significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years” would result.

With fear of another terrorist attack, there was little incentive or time to find contrary evidence, Mr. Rizzo said. “The government wanted a solution,” he recalled. “It wanted a path to get these guys to talk.”

The question of what ultimately happened to Dr. Seligman’s dogs never arose in the legal debate. They were strays, and once the studies were over, they were euthanized. . .

Continue reading.

I doubt that the US will ever apologize for its actions, not even against those who quite clearly had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism (such as Khalid El-Masri).

Even now, the US is expressing anger and outrage that another nation (Russia, in this case) is attempting to influence the outcome of US elections, an anger and outrage that contrast with the US’s own record of overthrowing democratically elected governments (Chile, Iran) and supporting terrorist (death squads) who work against democratically elected governments (El Salvador, Honduras, and others).

Regarding the fate of those who ordered torture and those who tortured, the US has taken a benign view and has held no one accountable. This decision, to hold no one accountable, was made by President Obama. (“Look forward, not back,” and let the torturers go.)

UPDATE: See also The ‘guinea pig’ for U.S. torture is languishing at Guantanamo, by Amanda Jacobsen and Joseph Margulies. It begins:

The poster child of the American torture program sits in a Guantanamo Bay prison cell, where many U.S. officials hope he will simply be forgotten. But blood always leaves a stain, and the mark on our conscience and law will remain until we reckon with the case of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, known to the world as Abu Zubaydah.

Zubaydah was the “guinea pig” of the CIA torture program. He was the first prisoner sent to a secret CIA “black site,” the first to have hisinterrogation “enhanced ” and the only prisoner subjected to all of the CIA’s approved techniques, as well as many that were not authorized. He is the man for whom the George W. Bush administration wrote the infamous torture memo in the summer of 2002.

The United States pressed Zubaydah into this indecent role because the Bush administration believed he was a senior member of al-Qaeda. Senior officials thought he had been personally involved in every major al-Qaeda operation, including 9/11. Today, the United States acknowledges that assessment was, to put it graciously, overblown. As much to the point, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, his extended torture provided no actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda’s plans.

The chasm between myth and reality explains much about what has happened since his arrest in March 2002. The United States has cast him into limbo. He has never been charged with a violation of U.S. law, military or civilian, and apparently never will be formally charged. Instead, he languishes at Guantanamo. After years in secret prisons around the world, he remains incommunicado, with no prospect of trial.

We have been representing Zubaydah for nine years and have gotten to know him through numerous face-to-face meetings. Recently, the public got a brief glimpse of Zubaydah. For the first time since his arrest, he appeared for a few minutes on a video broadcast from Guantanamo. A dozen journalists and human rights advocates huddled in the District to watch as he appeared silently on the screen; no recording devices were permitted. The ostensible purpose of the appearance was a “hearing” to consider whether Zubaydah might finally be released. But this proceeding was mere political theater.

To begin with, Zubaydah had no counsel at the hearing. Although he has a team of lawyers who have volunteered to represent him, for free, the United States authorized only one of his counsel, Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux, to appear on his behalf. Just before the hearing, Denbeaux had to cancel his flight, when he was informed that his wife of 51 years, Marcia, needed emergency surgery. No other attorney could substitute because Denbeaux alone had been authorized by the government to fly to the base.

Although Denbeaux made clear to the government that his wife was on her deathbed, the government refused to delay the proceeding, even for a few days. After imprisoning Zubaydah for years with no legal process, it was suddenly imperative that the hearing take place without delay, and therefore without counsel. Marcia Denbeaux died four days after the hearing.

Unable to appear on his behalf, his legal team asked the Periodic Review Board, composed of a cross-section of national security officials, to consider a summary of the report on the torture program prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee. That summary, based on a review of more than 6 million pages from inside the CIA, provides the most detailed account of Zubaydah’s torture and the mistakes and misrepresentations made about him. The Review Board refused to read it. They said it was too long.

At the public portion of this hearing, Zubaydah was not merely silent, but silenced. The public did not hear Zubaydah speak because the government would not allow him to respond publicly to the allegations against him. Instead, Zubaydah was permitted to speak only in the closed session, and a government representative, who had met him only briefly a few weeks before the hearing, was assigned to read a half-page statement, which was prepared for Zubaydah and pre-approved by the government for the public session. . .

Continue reading.



Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2016 at 7:26 pm

Tim Kaine, John Negroponte and the Priest Who Was Thrown From a Helicopter

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Jeremy Scahill reports in The Intercept:

A STORY PUBLISHED this week by the Daily Beast about the nine months Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine spent working as a volunteer in a Jesuit community in Honduras in 1980-1981 has been making the conservative rounds. The Beast’s tabloid headline is a cheap exercise in red-baiting: “Tim Kaine’s Time with a Marxist Priest.”

That priest, Fr. James Carney, was indeed a revolutionary and, as a practitioner of liberation theology in Latin America during a period marked by populist movements fighting against death squads and murderous regimes backed by the U.S., an avid student of Marxist theory.

After years spent among the poor and oppressed in Latin America, Carney renounced his U.S. citizenship and joined the armed guerrilla struggle against U.S.-backed death squads and governments. He also left the Jesuits because, he explained, the order would not condone his involvement in an armed struggle. Whatever one thinks of that decision, Carney sacrificed his privilege and status to join the people he was ministering to as a priest. In the eyes of the Reagan administration, that made him a terrorist. In the eyes of the peasants and revolutionaries Carney joined in struggle, he was a hero. (For a look at the roots of Jesuits joining indigenous struggle in Latin America, check out the film, The Mission.)

The scandal that the Beast claims “may cause trouble” for Kaine is that he once met Fr. Carney, 35 years ago. The right wing group, Catholic Vote, has done its best Joe McCarthy imitation on the issue. “That Kaine made the effort to seek out and spend time with Carney is troubling,” according to a memo published by the group with the headline, “Tim Kaine’s Radical Roots in Honduras.” It claimed that “the Soviets created liberation theology to undermine the Church and advance the Soviet cause against the United States. In Honduras, the phony Marxist-tinged theology was planted to manipulate poor Catholics, instigate terrorism, and stir up a violent revolution in Honduras — then the key ally of the United States opposing Communism in the region.”

“There’s some serious questions here,” Catholic Vote’s spokesman told The Beast, speaking about the one meeting Kaine had with Carney 35 years ago. “What was your relationship to this guy when you were down there? What did he teach you?”

What is entirely absent from Catholic Vote’s “history” is the context of what was happening in Latin America during the 1980s — particularly to Catholics. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas as he performed mass. Catholic nuns and laywomen, including four from the U.S., were raped and murdered. Jesuit priests were executed by death squads. The U.S.-backed Honduran Army’s secret police unit, Battalion 316, committed systematic massacres — all while John Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. Negroponte was very close to 316’s commander, Gen. Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, and met with him frequently.

Declassified cables from Negroponte’s time in Honduras reveal no evidence Negroponte ever expressed even a mild objection to Battalion 316’s systematic murders and human rights abuses. According to the National Security Archives: “The Honduran human rights ombudsman later found that more than 50 people disappeared at the hands of the military during those years. But Negroponte’s cables reflect no protest, or even discussion of these issues during his many meetings with Gen. Álvarez, his deputies and Honduran President Robert Suazo. Nor do the released cables contain any reporting to Washington on the human rights abuses that were taking place.”

And what became of Father Carney?

He was thrown from a helicopter in 1983. A whistleblower who deserted Battalion 316 reported that Carney “was executed by order of the battalion’s commander, Gen. Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, who along with several other members of 316 had received training in counterintelligence from U.S. forces at the School of the Americas.” The deserter also asserted that “Álvarez Martínez gave the order for Carney’s execution in the presence of a CIA officer, known as ‘Mister Mike.’” The Los Angeles Times reported that Negroponte failed to report a “U.S.-backed operation that resulted in the execution of nine prisoners and the disappearance of an American priest.” The year Carney was murdered, Negroponte praised Gen. Álvarez Martínez’s “dedication to democracy.”

Catholic Vote’s justification for Fr. Carney’s death: “Carney died during an invasion of Honduras with a group of approximately 100 fellow communist insurgents, trained by communists in Nicaragua and Cuba.” That is how Ronald Reagan and Negroponte preferred for these events to be publicly explained. That propaganda is necessary for Kaine’s meeting with Fr. Carney 35 years ago to be manufactured into a controversy.

John Negroponte, who went on to become George W. Bush’s Director of National Intelligence, has endorsed Kaine’s running mate, Hillary Clinton — a fact the campaign has proudly promoted. Perhaps that should be the focus of any scandal involving Fr. Carney and the Clinton campaign — and not some meeting Tim Kaine had as a law student three decades ago. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2016 at 10:01 am

Obama Worries Future Presidents Will Wage Perpetual, Covert Drone War

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Ryan Devereaux and Alex Emmons report in The Intercept:

President Obama warns in a new interview of a future in which a U.S. president could engage in perpetual covert wars “all over the world.” But he claims that the accountability and transparency measures he is instituting will make that less likely.

In the interview, with New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, Obama expressed agreement with one of the most salient critiques of his drone war, that it risks creating “institutional comfort and inertia with what looks like a pretty antiseptic way of disposing of enemies.”

Obama explained that he had looked at “the way in which the number of drone strikes was going up and the routineness with which, early in my presidency, you were seeing both DOD and CIA and our intelligence teams think about this.”

He continued: “And it troubled me, because I think you could see, over the horizon, a situation in which, without Congress showing much interest in restraining actions with authorizations that were written really broadly, you end up with a president who can carry on perpetual wars all over the world, and a lot of them covert, without any accountability or democratic debate.”

[See update below, in which the White House press secretary says Obama was actually talking about how he felt before he instituted his reforms.]

The president expressed a sense of urgency to rein in these powers that seems particularly appropriate given that both candidates for the White House have indicated receptiveness to intensifying the use of military force abroad, with Donald Trump going so far as expressing openness to killing the families of suspected terrorists.

“By the time I leave here, the American people are going to have a better sense of what their president is doing,” Obama said. “Their president is going to have to be more accountable than he or she otherwise would have been. The world, I think, will have a better sense of what we’re trying to do and what we stand for. And I think all of that will serve the American people well in the future.”

But the one existing transparency measure Obama touts as an example in the interview — the administration’s release of its tally on civilian casualties from drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia — was viewed by many in the human rights community as a farce, largely because it pointed to a death toll far lower than outside observer tallies.

The release, made public on the Friday afternoon of Fourth of July weekend, reported that between 64 and 116 civilians were killed during Obama’s two terms. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, by comparison, has estimated that between 492 and 1,077 civilians have been killed by drone strikes during the eight years of Obama’s presidency.

And critical questions about those operations remain unanswered, such as the circumstances that led to the death of Momina Bibi, a 68-year-old Pakistani grandmother killed in an October 2012 airstrike; or the reason for the attack that took the life of Salim bin Ahmed Ali Jaber, an anti-al Qaeda imam in Yemen a month earlier; or the full story of how American forces came to target a wedding convoy, also in Yemen, a year later, killing 12 people.

Those questions remain unanswered, in part because . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2016 at 4:55 pm

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