Archive for Salon.com

Salon.com, “Militants”: Media Propaganda

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2012 by loonwatch

 

The uncritical media rarely question or challenge official government assertions that all their drone strikes kill “militants” (h/t: Saladin):

“Militants”: media propaganda

by Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com)

Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.

This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).

This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a “militant.” The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths “did not significantly change” the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a “militant” to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

For the moment, leave the ethical issues to the side that arise from viewing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; that’s nothing less than sociopathic, a term I use advisedly, but I discuss that in the separate, longer piece I’m writing to be published a bit later this morning. For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term “militants” to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By “militant,” the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).

Read the rest…

Salon.com: Likely victory for MeK shills

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

We’ve reported on the MeK terrorist organization and the powerful politicians who have lobbied on their behalf to have them de-listed as a terror group. All these politicians are guilty of “material support” but because they come from the privileged and powerful class the rule of law does not apply to them.

Now it seems likely that due to the lobbying efforts of the said politicians, the MeK will be removed from the list. (h/t: JD)

Likely victory for MeK shills

BY 

Former U.S. officials, paid to advocate for a designated Terror group, are now on the verge of succeeding.

(updated below)

bipartisan band of former Washington officials and politicians has spent the last two years aggressively advocating on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign Terrorist organization.” Most of those former officials have been paid large sums of money to speak at MeK events and meet with its leaders, thus developing far more extensive relations with this Terror group than many marginalized Muslims who have been prosecuted and punished with lengthy prison terms for “materially supporting a Terrorist organization.” These bipartisan MeK advocates have been demanding the group’s removal from the Terror list, advocacy that has continued unabated despite (or, more accurately, because of ) reports that MeK is trained and funded by the Israelis and has been perpetrating acts of violence on Iranian soil aimed at that country’s civilian nuclear scientists and facilities (also known as: Terrorism).

Now, needless to say, the State Department appears likely to accede to the demands of these paid bipartisan shills:

The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. . . . Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

This highlights almost every salient fact about how Washington functions with regard to such matters. First, if you pay a sufficiently large and bipartisan group of officials to lobby on your behalf, you will get your way, even when it comes to vaunted National Security and Terrorism decisions; if you pay the likes of Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge and others like them to peddle their political influence for you, you will be able to bend Washington policy and law to your will. As Andrew Exum put it this morning: “I guess Hizballah and LeT just need to buy off more former administration officials.”

Second, the application of the term “Terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign Terrorist organization.”

Third, this yet again underscores who the actual aggressors are in the tensions with Iran. Imagine if multiple, high-level former Iranian officials received large sums of money from a group of Americans dedicated to violently overthrowing the U.S. government and committing acts of violence on American soil, and the Iranian Government then removed it from its list of Terror groups, thus allowing funding and other means of support to flow freely to that group.

Fourth, the rule of law is not even a purported constraint on the conduct of Washington political elites. Here, the behavior of these paid MeK shills is so blatantly illegal that even the Obama administration felt compelled to commence investigations to determine who was paying them and for what. As a strictly legal matter, removing MeK from the Terror list should have no effect on the criminality of their acts: it’s a felony to provide material support to a designated Terror group — which the Obama DOJ, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued, in a full frontal assault on free speech rights, even includes coordinating advocacy with such a group (ironically, some of this Terror group’s paid advocates, such as former Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, cheered that Supreme Court ruling when they thought it would only restrict the political advocacy of Muslims, not themselves).

The fact that the Terror group is subsequently removed from the list does not render that material support non-criminal. But as a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to envision the Obama DOJ prosecuting any of these elite officials for supporting a group which the Obama administration itself concedes does not belong on the list. The removal of this group — if, as appears highly likely, it happens — will basically have the same effect, by design, as corrupt acts such as retroactive telecom immunity and the shielding of Bush war crimes and Wall Street fraud from any form of investigation: it will once again bolster the prime Washington dictate that D.C. political elites reside above the rule of law even when committing violations of the criminal law for which ordinary citizens are harshly punished.

* * * * *

Speaking of the assault on the free speech rights of Muslim critics of the U.S. under the guise of “material support” prosecutions (an assault which also erodes free speech rights for everyone), Michael May hasa great long article in The American Prospect on the horrendous, free-speech-threatening prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, whose extraordinary sentencing statement I published here.

UPDATE: In 2003, when the Bush adminstration was advocating an attack on Iraq, one of the prime reasons it cited was “Saddam Hussein’s Support for International Terrorism.” It circulated a document purporting to prove that claim (h/t Hernlem), and one of the first specific accusations listed was this:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

So the group that was pointed to less than a decade ago as proof of Saddam’s Terrorist Evil is now glorified by both political parties in Washington and — now that it’s fighting for the U.S. and Israel rather than for Saddam — is no longer a Terror group.

Salon.com: US attack kills 5 Afghan kids

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by loonwatch

We didn’t hear much about this in the news media. Not only that we don’t even know the names of these children because their lives aren’t as valuable as “Western lives.” Let the “Greater Islamophobia” march on: (h/t: Saladin)

US attack kills 5 Afghan kids

The way in which the U.S. media ignores such events speaks volumes about how we perceive them

BY , Salon.com

(updated below – Update II)

Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.

The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.

This happens over and over and over again, and there are several points worth making here beyond the obvious horror:

(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.

At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.

(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.

Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).

Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).

This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, must surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.

(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.

* * * * *

This point cannot be emphasized enough.

UPDATEFrom the comments:

I was just sitting here thinking “I love reading GG, but I think he is being quite harsh here, it was only 5 kids that died, and that happens in war – its hardly as if it was some really major tragedy”.

And this is despite the fact that I would describe myself as a staunch anti-Imperialist who shuns the MSM – yet still I seem to be getting conditioned that the killing of these 5 kids is “normal”. Scary. Very scary.

We’re all subject to that conditioning, which is why it’s so necessary to pause every now and then to realize what a “really major tragedy” it actually is: one that could be easily avoided with different choices.

UPDATE II: It is now confirmed that the would-be bomber of the civilian jet was, in fact, a double agent working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence. So just as virtually every “domestic Terror plot” is one conceived, directed, funded and controlled by the FBI, this new Al Qaeda plot from Yemen was directed by some combination of the CIA and its Saudi partners. So this wasn’t merely a failed, nascent plot which is causing this fear-mongering media orgy: it was one controlled at all times by the U.S. and Saudi Governments.

Glenn Greenwald: More Federal Judge Abdication

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by loonwatch

More federal judge abdication

The branch designed to be insulated from political pressures has been the most craven of all in the post-9/11 era

BY , Salon.com

The abdication of U.S. federal judges in the post-9/11 era, and their craven subservience to Executive Branch security claims, has been a topic I’ve written about several times over the past couples of weeks. Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ that John Yoo is — needless to say — fully immune from any and all liability for having authorized the torture of Jose Padilla, on the ground that the illegality of Yoo’s conduct was not “beyond debate” at the time he engaged in it. Everything Iwrote a couple of weeks ago about the identical shielding of Donald Rumsfeld by federal courts and the Obama DOJ from similar claims applies to yesterday’s ruling, and The New York Times has a good editorial today condemning this ruling as “misguided and dangerous.”

In sum, this yet again underscores that of all the American institutions that have so profoundly failed in the wake of 9/11 to protect the most basic liberties — Congress, both political parties, the establishment media, the Executive Branch, the DOJ specifically — none has been quite as disgraceful as the federal judiciary, whose life tenure is supposed to insulate them from base political pressures that produce cowardly and corrupted choices. And yet, just consider these two facts:

(1) not a single War on Terror victim — not one — has been permitted to sue for damages in an American court over what was done to them, even when everyone admits they were completely innocent, even when they were subjected to the most brutal torture, and even when the judiciary of other countries permitted their lawsuits to proceed; and,

(2) not a single government official — not one — has been held legally accountable, either criminally or even civilly, for any War on Terror crimes or abuses; perversely, the only government officials to pay any price were the ones who blew the whistle on those crimes.

That is how history will record the behavior of American federal judges in the face of the post-9/11 onslaught of anti-Muslim persecution and relentless erosions of core rights.

Even worse, if you’re a Muslim accused of any Terror-related crime, your conviction in a federal court is virtually guaranteed, as federal judges will bend the law and issue pro-government rulings that they would never make with a non-Muslim defendant; conversely, if you’re a government official who abused or otherwise violated the rights of Muslims, your full-scale immunity is virtually guaranteed. Those are the indisputable rules of American justice. So slavish and subservient are federal judges when it comes to Muslim defendants that if you’re a Muslim accused of any Terror-related crime, you’re probably more likely at this point to get something approximating a fair trial before a Guantanamo military tribunal than in a federal court; that is how supine federal judges have been when the U.S. Government utters the word “terrorism” in the direction of a Muslim or any claims of “national security” relating to 9/11.

Just to underscore the point a bit further: the Justice Department fileda report this week setting forth its 2011 eavesdropping activities under FISA. Here’s the summary (h/t EPIC):

# of DOJ requests to the FISA court to eavesdrop on and/or physically search Americans/legal residents: 1,745

# of FISA court denials:  0

The DOJ filed close to 1,800 requests for FISA court permission to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of Americans or legal residents or to physically search their property (the vast majority, more than 90%, were for eavesdropping), and the FISA court did not deny a single request, though they did “modify” 30. This is a perfect expression of how the federal judiciary, in general, behaves in the face of claims of National Security from the Executive Branch: as an impotent, eager rubber-stamping servant.

* * * * *

Just by the way: the 1978 FISA law that required court approval before the U.S. Government could eavesdrop on Americans has produced this sort of blindly accepting rubber-stamping from the FISA court since its inception. Nonetheless, it was this FISA process that the Bush administration claimed was too significant of an obstacle to its eavesdropping powers when it decided to violate the law by eavesdropping without asking for FISA court permission, and it’s the same claim which the Democratic-led Congress and then-Sen. Obama made in 2008 when they enacted a new FISA law that dramatically expanded the U.S. Government’s warrantless eavesdropping powers. A 100% victory rate in court is apparently too low for those who see presidential powers as monarchical, and our nation’s federal judges seem all the time to be eagerly attempting to increase that rate.

Glenn Greenwald: The Grave Threat of “Homegrown Terrorism”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by loonwatch

Glenn Greenwald on the overblown and exaggerated threat of “homegrown terrorism”:

The Grave Threat of “Homegrown Terrorism”

by Glenn Greenwald

U.S. government officials and their cheerleaders in the community of so-called “Terrorism experts” have spent the last two years justifying Endless War and ever-increasing surveillance, detention and militarism authorities with a steady drumbeat of shrill warnings that the nation faces a new, grave menace: the threat of “Homegrown Terrorism” from radicalized American Muslims:

Fox News, September 10, 2010:

The government has failed to anticipate the danger from homegrown terrorists, some of whom immigrated to the United States, and now faces the most complex set of threats since the Sept. 11 attacks, analysts on an organization headed by the two 9/11 Commission co-chairmen warned Friday. . . .

“The United States has failed to fundamentally understand and prepare for these threats,” group member Bruce Hoffman said. “Terrorists may have found our Achilles’ heel. We have no strategy to deal with this growing problem and emerging threat.”

NPR, September 10, 2010:

Homegrown Terrorists Pose Biggest Threat, Report Says

A new report to be released later Friday says that in the nine years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the terrorist threat against the United States has fundamentally changed. The biggest threat is no longer coming from the dusty landscape of Afghanistan or the mountains of Pakistan border regions. Instead, experts say, the threat now comes from within our own borders, in the form of homegrown terrorists.

“A key shift in the past couple of years is the increasingly prominent role in planning and operations that U.S. citizens and residents have played in the leadership of al-Qaida and aligned groups, and the higher numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups,” a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group says.

ABC News, December 21, 2010:

In a rare and wide-ranging interview, the attorney general [Eric Holder] disclosed chilling, new details about the evolving threat of homegrown terror . . . .  What was uppermost on his mind, however, is the alarming rise in the number of Americans who are more than willing to attack and kill their fellow citizens.  . . .

“The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born,” he said. . . .

The Hill, February 9, 2011:

Homeland security and counter-terrorism officials warned lawmakers Wednesday that the nation is increasingly threatened by foreign terrorists who seek to recruit U.S. citizens.

The largest threat to the U.S. is no longer Osama Bin Laden, according to the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCIC), Michael Leiter, but is now Anwar Al-Awlaki, the head of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group based out of Yemen.

The increased threat that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses revolves heavily around its ability to attract and reach U.S.-natives who want to be trained in terrorism techniques, and who could fall beneath the radar of intelligence circles more easily.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told members at the hearing that domestic terrorism and homegrown radicalization is a very large focus of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2011:

The proliferation of radicalized followers of al Qaeda within the U.S. has put the nation at a heightened risk of terrorist attacks, though on a smaller scale than the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes, security officials told Congress Wednesday. . . . ”In some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since” 9/11, [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano told the House Committee on Homeland Security . . . U.S. counterterrorism officials, led by White House terrorism adviser John Brennan, are turning their sights on the threat posed by homegrown extremists . . . . The rise of homegrown threats has occurred despite U.S. successes fighting al Qaeda’s central command, according to a report released this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

CNN, May 11, 2010:

Several top U.S. counterterrorism officials had the same message: Americans radicalized at home and trained in Pakistan represent a new and disturbing threat to the American homeland.

Council on Foreign Relations, September 30, 2011:

Threat of Homegrown Islamist Terrorism

The number of terror incidents involving Islamic radicals who are U.S. citizens has seen an uptick in recent years. . . . As the list has grown, the question increasingly arises of how to combat Islamist terrorism at home.

ABC News, December 7, 2011:

Homegrown Islamic terrorists — possibly including radicalized American soldiers — who target U.S. military communities in the homeland are a “severe and emerging threat,” according to a new Congressional report.

The report, released by the staff of Rep. Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says there have been at least 33 “threats, plots and strikes” against U.S. military communities since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the likelihood of another deadly attack by “militant Islamists” is a “severe threat.”

But like virtually every War on Terror threat hyped by government officials, these claims are wildly exaggerated to the point of pure fabrication; from The New York Times today:

A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.

The study, to be released on Wednesday, found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a spike of 47 in 2009.

Charles Kurzman, the author of the report for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, called terrorism by Muslim Americans “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.

Just consider what the constant hyping of this “miniscule threat” has enabled. The once-controversial Patriot Act was extended for another four years with no reforms whatsoever based on these fears (Christian Science Monitor: “National Intelligence Director James Clapper warned the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that failure to renew the [Patriot Act] provisions could stymie important intelligence-gathering operations both domestically and abroad”; ”‘When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. In unusually personal criticism of a fellow senator, he warned that [Rand] Paul, by blocking swift passage of the bill, ‘is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them’”).

Read the rest here

Glenn Greenwald: The real definition of Terrorism

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:

By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).

In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:

Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes:they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?

Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).

It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).

Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

(Continues here).

Salon’s Justin Elliott Rattles the Cage, Poking the Anti-Muslim Beast Inside the Republican Circus Tent

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch

GOP presidential hopefuls have been falling all over themselves to please anti-Muslim elements within the party, each trying to outdo the other in this regard.  From Herman Cain of “Muslims must take a special loyalty oath” fame to Michele Bachmann who signed an “anti-Sharia pledge,” it’s a close call who’s truly in the lead.

To gain his street cred on Anti-Muslim Street, Texas Governor Rick Perry started “palling around” with anti-Muslim influentials.  All was going as planned, until Salon’s Justin Elliott entered the scene.  For those of you who haven’t been following Elliott’s excellent work, he’s become a very quiet yet forceful and consistent voice against anti-Muslim hatred.

Elliott decided to throw a wrench into the Perry presidential machine after he dug up an interesting tidbit about the governor: Perry has had very cordial relations with the Aga Khan, an influential Muslim spiritual leader.  Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing who the Aga Khan is.   To make a long story short, the Aga Khan refers to Karim al-Husseini, who is the 49th Imam (leader) of the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam.

Lest you begin to imagine a bearded mullah or angry ayatollah, be advised: the Aga Khan would fit in more with Donald Trump than Ayatollah Khomeini.  I’ve reproduced his picture above: notice the expensive suit and tie; the guy is as GQ Muslim as you can get.  The Aga Khan is a billionaire, lives in Europe, and jet-sets around the world.  He married a British fashion model, and in spite of the Islamic prohibition on gambling, owns some of the finest thoroughbred race horses in the world.

If you’ve been disabused of the notion that the Aga Khan is some Islamic fundamentalist, be rest assured too that he’s quite a pacifist as well.  The Evangelical Academy of Tutzing in Germany awarded him the Tolerance Prize, just one of the many awards he’s been given.  The Aga Khan heads notable humanitarian efforts throughout the world.

From a theological perspective, you should know that the Shia Ismailis (the sect to which the Aga Khan belongs to) are considered by many elements within the Islamic orthodoxy to be heterodox (even “heretical” by some).  They are to Islam what Mormons are to Christianity.  They don’t pray five times a day, they don’t fast during Ramadan, etc.  Far from calling to jihad and the imposition of “dhimmitude,” the Shia Ismailis are usually on the receiving end of religious discrimination and sometimes even persecution.  So if there were Muslims who “counter-jihadists” could tolerate these would be it!

But Justin Elliott predicted that the Islamophobes wouldn’t care: any Muslim is unacceptable.  You know how there was a saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian (or, alternatively, the only good nigger is a dead nigger)?  Well, Islamophobes adhere to the following axiom: the only moderate”Muslim” is an ex-Muslim. So to them, the Aga Khan is not acceptable: the Aga Khan hasn’t publicly repudiated and renounced Islam.  He certainly hasn’t written a book about what’s wrong with Islam, so he must be a stealth-jihadist!

Less than a week ago, Elliott posted an article entitled “Rick Perry: the pro-Sharia Candidate.” It was certainly tongue-in-cheek, almost spoofing right-wing nut jobs.  Bellowed Elliott:

Rick Perry has made a name for himself in the last few weeks by palling around with some radical evangelical Christian figures who are openly hostile to Islam, and have even, in one notable case, called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. Perry also raised eyebrows in his decidedly unecumenical exhortation for all Americans to pray to Jesus Christ.

But it turns out that the Texas governor has had surprisingly warm, constructive relations with at least one group of Muslims over the years.

Perry is a friend of the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shia Islam…

Elliott also dug up the fact that Perry cooperated with the Aga Khan in a couple educational projects.  In high school world history, for example, students learn about various world cultures, including Islamic civilizations.  Perry and the Aga Khan worked together improving the standard of teaching in this regard, and Perry himself said: “I have supported this program from the very beginning, because we must bridge the gap of understanding between East and West if we ever hope to experience a future of peace and prosperity.”

Here’s where Justin Elliott decided to rattle the cage (to make a political point but also for sh**s and giggles) and poke the anti-Muslim beast in the Republican circus tent.  Elliott quipped:

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that right-wing bomb-throwers will use this as a line of attack against Perry.

Elliott predicted that his article would create a political maelstrom for Perry.  And he was right. As if on cue, the mindless drones and brainless sharia-zapping zombies of the Islamophobic cyber-world marched in lockstep, honing their taqiyya-radars on Rick Perry and setting their jihad-phazers to kill mode.

Just a few short days after his piece, Elliott published a follow-up article, documenting the hyper-exaggerated response from the anti-Muslim right-wing.  Humorously, one prominent “anti-Sharia” figure quoted in Elliott’s article defiantly said (emphasis added):

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

What’s humorous is that in fact Elliott’s “poking the cage” worked “like clockwork.”  Elliott effectively became a puppet-master, adequately demonstrating to us how easy it is to stir up a fake anti-Muslim controversy.  Just yell any variation of Muslim, Sharia, and stealth jihad loud enough, link them to your opponent, and voila!, the anti-Muslim cyber-world will inject into the issue a life of its own, amplifying it a hundred-fold.

Justin Elliott has successfully made fools out of the right-wing anti-Muslim nutters, who took the bait.  I want to laugh, but perhaps I’m too scared to.  This is a well-oiled machine, an echo chamber of anti-Muslim madness, a Frankenstein that even the creators cannot contain.

Here is Elliott’s article:

Shariah foes seize on Perry’s ties to Muslims

By: Justin Elliott

It looks like my story last week about Rick Perry’s cordial relations with a group of Muslims has, as expected, generated alarm within the anti-Shariah wing of the Republican Party.

My piece explored Perry’s long-standing friendship with the Aga Khan, the wealthy, globe-trotting leader of the Ismaili Muslim sect, which has a small but significant population in Texas. Perry and the Aga Khan have launched two joint projects, including a program to educate Texas schoolchildren about Islamic culture and history. I noted that this relationship set Perry apart from those members of the GOP field who consistently demonize Islam, and that some anti-Shariah/anti-Muslim activists might be skeptical of his ties to the Aga Khan.

Like clockwork, two anti-Shariah figures have now penned columns attacking Perry on exactly these grounds. But one anti-Shariah group, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, has dissented and says it has no problem with Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis. The group’s spokesman, Dave Reaboi, emailed Commentary’s Alana Goodman:

Politico’s Ben Smith amplified a Salon report about Perry’s relationship with Aga Khan of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam. As Salon’s in-house apologist for Islamism and crusader against conservatives, Justin Elliott clearly believed such a story, breathlessly told, would cause a great deal of friction between the Texas governor and the GOP base—who are rightfully concerned about the anti-Constitutional aspects of Shariah law in our own country, and are watching as Shariah is the rallying-cry of jihadists around the globe. That said, Perry’s relationship to Khan and the Ismaili’s, I predict, will not cause much of a stir. The Islamailis are a persecuted Shia minority in Saudia Arabia; indeed, Perry’s meeting with Khan could not have won him many friends there. Rather than reaching out– as both presidents Bush and Obama mistakenly did—to problematic organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood’s expressly political agenda, Perry’s choice to engage with a more ‘progressive’ group is a good sign.

And:

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As it turns out, Reaboi’s predictions — that Perry’s associations “will not cause much of a stir” and that anti-Shariah activists are too sophisticated to demonize the Ismailis — have already been proven wrong.

The blogger and activist Pamela Geller wrote a column for the American Thinker today declaring that “Rick Perry must not be President. Have we not had enough of this systemic sedition?”

But Perry has been sucked into the propaganda vortex, and is now wielding his enormous power to influence changes in the schoolrooms and in the curricula to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam.  He is a friend of the Aga Khan, the multimillionaire head of the Ismailis, a Shi’ite sect of Islam that today proclaims its nonviolence but in ages past was the sect that gave rise to the Assassins.

Commentary’s Goodman suggests that, compared to Gaffney’s think tank, Geller is a fringe figure in the anti-Shariah movement. In fact, Geller is one of the primary ideological and organizational leaders of the movement: she devotes numerous posts to the issue on her influential blog; she regularly gives speeches on Shariah and discusses it on TV; and she founded a group, Stop Islamization of America, that names stopping Shariah as one of its primary goals.

And it gets better: Both Geller and Gaffney are apparently on the eight-member steering committee of a coalition called the “Sharia Awareness Action Network.”

Another sponsor of that coalition is WorldNetDaily, which yesterday published an attack on Perry by Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth About the Real Nature of the Beast” (WND Books). He argues that Perry has been fooled by the Aga Khan, who is part of the relentless Islamic quest to conquer “the West”:

It should also be mentioned that one of the doctrines espoused by Ismaili Muslims is the doctrine of Taqiyya. In simple terms, the doctrine of Taqiyya allows Muslims to purposefully hide or lie about their true religious beliefs to “unbelievers” or even Muslims of different sects. Of course, it is doubtful that the children of Texas will learn anything of Taqiyya in their Perry-sponsored education concerning Islam.

Of course, while lying in the name of religion may seem like a foreign concept to most, it is the principle of “the ends justify the means” that underscores many aspects of the Islamic approach to win the West.

One can only hope that such is not the principle driving Gov. Perry’s campaign for the presidency.

None of this is particularly surprising. As I noted in my original piece, the Muslim education program previously generated a bit of controversy in a state board of education campaign in Texas. (“I think Islamic curriculum is about the furthest thing that we need to be introducing into Texas classrooms,” said the Republican candidate in that race.)

To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with the Aga Khan-Perry partnership, and the effort to educate Texas schoolchildren about Muslim culture and history is to all appearances a positive and constructive thing. I think Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis in Texas makes for an interesting and relevant contrast to the Santorums and Cains of the GOP field.

But here’s the bottom line: My prediction that anti-Shariah activists would be troubled by Perry’s associations was borne out in the space of just a few days.