Archive | May 9th, 2011

Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens



Pakistani media aired the name of a man they said is the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief, prompting questions about whether the Pakistani government tried to out a CIA operative in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. is looking into the matter. There are no plans at this time to withdraw the station chief. If the government had attempted to publicize the name, that would be the second such outing in the past six months, a sign of how deeply U.S.-Pakistan relations have soured.

The CIA declined to comment. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Tensions, which have been building between the two countries for months, exploded after the bin Laden strike, which sharply embarrassed the Pakistani government. In another source of strain, the U.S. is pressing the Pakistanis for access to bin Laden’s three wives, who are being held in Pakistani custody. The Pakistani government isn’t complying with the request, a U.S. official said.

The Islamabad station chief is one of the CIA’s most critical and sensitive assignments. The position oversees the agency’s covert programs, including the drone campaign that targets al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, as well as fighters who cross the border into Afghanistan.

The purported name of the CIA’s station chief was first reported Friday by ARY, a private Pakistani television channel. The station was reporting on a meeting between the director of Pakistan’s spy service—the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence—and the station chief.

“If we did not mention the man’s name, the credibility of the story would have been reduced,” said ARY’s Islamabad bureau chief, Sabir Shakir.
Supporters of a Pakistani religious party rally in Quetta Sunday to condemn Osama bin Laden’s killing, holding flags that read ‘Holy War.’
.Mr. Shakir wouldn’t discuss who had provided the name, but said he had “one-plus” sources.

The story was picked up by the Nation, a right-wing newspaper that has often accused American diplomats and private citizens in Pakistan of working for the CIA. The Nation’s editor, Salim Bokhari, said he didn’t know how the name became public.

“It has to have been released by some government agency,” said Mr. Bokhari. “Who else would know such information?”

While President Obama has decided not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden taken after the al Qaeda leader was shot to death Sunday by U.S. forces, other photos taken at the compound have been released by Reuters.

U.S. forces found Osama bin Laden at this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles outside Islamabad.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said any outing of agents would be Pakistan’s “own little way of retaliating,” given how “very, very upset and embarrassed” the government remains over the raid and its aftermath.

The chief’s name printed Saturday in the Nation wasn’t accurate. Mr. Shakir, of the ARY television station said, “I believe we have the right name.”

The strain between the CIA and ISI first became public in December when a lawsuit filed in Pakistan blew the cover of the then-station chief and forced the CIA to pull him out of the country.

Some U.S. officials suspected the move was ISI retaliation for the naming of its chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, in a U.S. lawsuit relating to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Since then, Pakistan and the CIA have tussled over a CIA contractor’s shooting of two armed Pakistanis under disputed circumstances.

The U.S. has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid since 2001 and has repeatedly expressed frustration that Pakistanis are sometimes reluctant partners in counterterrorism—going after some militants and not others.

Speaking on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night, President Barack Obama said, “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan.… [T]hat’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”

The Pakistanis, for their part, suggested the U.S. should ease up. “Could the pattern of bullying and then trying to give a lot of honey after having served a lot of vinegar, is that partly the reason why the patient is unwell?” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., on a separate CNN show.

Speaking on ABC News, Mr. Haqqani sidestepped a question about U.S. access to the bin Laden wives. “This is a moment for me to be very diplomatic,” he said. “What we do, Mr. Donilon will know.”

On Saturday, the U.S. government released five never-before-seen video clips of bin Laden seized by Navy SEALs during the raid, providing the first visual evidence of what officials described as the al Qaeda leader’s “active command-and-control center” in Pakistan. The U.S. said the evidence so far shows bin Laden at the center of al Qaeda planning, not the peripheral figure some had assumed he had become.

The videos were part of what a senior U.S. intelligence official called “the single-largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever” obtained by the U.S.

Materials discovered so far by analysts include internal communications between al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan and its far-flung affiliates. Al Qaeda has branches in Yemen and North Africa.

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US Pressures Pakistan for Access After Bin Laden Death


 Relations Between Two Nations Continue to Sour

by Jason Ditz, May 08, 2011

Even though National Security Adviser Tom Donilon confirmed that the US has absolutely no evidence Pakistan new about Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Abbottabad before last weekend’s raid, a number of top administration officials, including Donilon, are adding to the demands made to the Pakistani government.

Among the new demands are that the Pakistani government allow US investigators full access to three of bin Laden’s widows. They are also demanding access to all materials removed by Pakistani forces after the raid on bin Laden’s home.

Pakistan has denied having any information on bin Laden before the raid, and Donilon’s comments suggest that the US, despite a solid week of investigation, has been unable to prove otherwise. The two nations were already at odds over the high-profile detention of a CIA agent, Raymond Davis, over a double murder in Lahore.

But since the bin Laden death the situation seems to be getting much worse, and at an alarming rate. Pakistani media outlets have even named a top CIA official in Islamabad, which officials believe is a Pakistani government attempt to “out” the official. Pakistan has demanded that the US remove large numbers of spies, as well as troops, from the nation.

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It’s All About Pakistan



America’s latest villain – and future victim

by Justin Raimondo,

With the assassination of Osama bin Laden, US foreign policy – or, rather, the rationale for it – has a giant hole in its very center: the task of the War Party is to fill it, and quickly.

Without a human face to put on the Terrorist Threat, without an ever-elusive target to lure us even deeper into the Muslim world, domestic political support for our post-9/11 multi-trillion-dollar excursion will quickly dry up. In a sense, the War Party is facing the same prospect they faced when the Soviet Union collapsed: total and complete irrelevance. That is particularly true at this conjuncture, with the US hurtling toward economic catastrophe and Americans getting noticeably restive in the face of cutbacks and severe economic straits.

What’s a warmonger to do?

Simple: come up with a new enemy, a fresh face – or, better yet, an entire nation that can be demonized and made to play the role of stand-in for bin Laden. That nation, as you’ve probably already guessed, is Pakistan.

“I’ve not seen any evidence, at least to date, that the political, military or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan,” said national security adviser Thomas Donilon on the Sunday talk show circuit. Normally, such a statement would absolve the Pakistanis, or seem to: I’ll only note that the “leadership” could be taken to refer to the upper echelons of the Pakistani political and military establishment, clearly leaving open the possibility some in the mid-to-lower levels might have been in on the secret of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Furthermore, Donilon’s words belie the US government’s actions, which were to demand from Pakistan the names of its intelligence operatives – an unusual request, to say the least. Rather than come out and say what they apparently believe, US officials – speaking “on background” – are accusing the Pakistanis of de facto complicity. “It’s hard to believe that [Pakistan’s top military commander Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani and [ISI director-general Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja] Pasha actually knew that Bin Laden was there,” a “senior administration official” told The New York Times. “But, added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, ‘there are degrees of knowing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we find out that someone close to Pasha knew.’”

Pasha is expected to resign shortly, but the effort to target him as a secret terrorist sympathizer dates back to last year, when accusations surfaced that he personally met with the militants of Lashkar e Taiba (LET), and gave them money just before they pulled off the Mumbai attacks. The larger campaign to portray the Pakistanis, and the ISI in particular, as secretly aiding and abetting bin Laden has a longer history, and a very strange one.

The narrative being sold by the American “mainstream” media reads like the script of a very bad made-for-TV movie, or the kind of “thriller” that skips the theaters entirely and only comes out on DVD. This tall tale is intertwined with the murky, film-noir -esque saga of David Headley.

Headley has pleaded guilty to charges of acting as a scout for the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack, as well as having plotted to bomb the offices of a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. He faces a sentence of life in prison, and his story of having collaborated with Pakistani military intelligence, who supposedly directed and financed both plots, is apparently the price he paid for the terms of the deal he made with US prosecutors – life in jail in the US, instead of India, which has demanded his extradition.

While Headley’s complicated tale of international intrigue and transcontinental terrorism is pretty much swallowed whole by the Western media, in India skepticism abounds. This jaundiced view stems from Headley’s rather interesting personal history.

The 48-year-old Headley was born in Washington, D.C., to a Pakistani father, Sayed Salim Gilani, who worked for Voice of America, and Alice Headley, daughter of former football star L. Coleman Headley. Headley’s half-brother, Danyal, was formerly the official spokesman for Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Headley/Gilani is the latest in a growing list of high-profile Western converts to Islamist terrorist organizations: “Azzam the American,” Anwar Awlaki, and a surprising number of others who play prominent roles in Headley’s narrative.

He trained at a military academy in Pakistan before being brought back to America by his mother, who had by that time obtained a divorce. His first drug arrest occurred in 1987, where he made a deal with the DEA in return for a lighter sentence. In 1997 he was arrested on drug charges again, accused of smuggling heroin in from Pakistan. Again, he cooperated with the feds, in exchange for information about his Pakistani contacts, and got off with fifteen months in a resort-style prison for law enforcement’s favorite criminals at Fort Dix. According to the terms of his sentence, this was to be followed by a period of supervised release. However, the US Justice Department cut that short, requesting his immediate discharge: the feds had other plans for Headley, who was sent to Pakistan – the first of several US government-paid trips – to engage in undercover work for the Drug Enforcement Agency. From there it was but a hop, a skip, and a short jump to a Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp.

Oh, and by the way, Headley, never a religious type – he left behind a trail of embittered and apparently quite battered wives – somewhere along the line experienced a miraculous “conversion” to the puritanical strain of Islam embraced by LET. The perfect religion for a former drug pusher, ex-con, and consistent womanizer who just happened to work for the DEA – don’t you think?

Headley’s rap sheet has some other interesting items: in 2005, he was arrested in New York City after battering one of his many wives. She told authorities about his involvement with LET, and his shopping for night goggles on behalf of his terrorist patrons. However, somehow her testimony fell through the cracks – or perhaps she wasn’t telling federal agents anything they didn’t already know.

As Headley tells it, he “trained” a total of five times at a LET camp in Pakistan, and his testimony is backed up by that of yet another Western convert to radical Islam, Willie Brigitte – another “character,” similar in many ways to Headley, whose personal history seems like something out of a novel – not a very good novel, one might add. Born in Guadeloupe, a sunlit isle in the Caribbean, he moved to Paris to study, but joined the French navy instead, deserting twice in three years. In time, having gone through several careers and two wives, he suddenly saw the light and decided to become an Islamic militant. He trained in the French countryside with suspected members of al-Qaeda’s Algerian franchise, and before long wound up in – you guessed it – the very same LET training camp where Headley had taken up residence.

Also at this training camp: the handler of the Mumbai operation, one Sajid Mir – one of his classmates at the Pakistani military school. That’s too much synchronicity for a good novel, but what do you expect from amateurs?

Having been recruited into LET’s terrorist network, Brigitte was spirited off to Australia, where his handlers arranged for him to marry yet another Western convert to radical Islam, one Melanie Brown, who is described in news accounts as a former member of the Australian army, having served in military operations in East Timor, an officer with access to classified information. An interesting choice of spouse for a terrorist, to say the least.

Something about this wild and murky tale is just not right, and the Indians – especially the Indian opposition parties – have picked up on it big time. Major Indian media routinely depict Headley as a CIA agent who knew about the Mumbai attacks in advance while his bosses in Washington kept this information close to their vests.

Which reminds me: a month after 9/11, Fox News reported that Israeli agents operating in the US had advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks and failed to inform us. As Carl Cameron put it:

“Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States. There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are “tie-ins.” But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, “evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’”

When one examines the breadth of material unearthed by Fox News in that chilly winter of 2001, and absorbs Cameron’s analysis over the course of a lengthy four-part series, and then compares this carefully researched reporting to Headley’s cock-and-bull story, the imbalance is all too evident. Yet Cameron’s story fell like a stone into the journalistic ether, while Headley’s fanciful malarkey garners serious attention.

Go figure.

The campaign to nominate Pakistan as the villain of the moment conveniently comes at a time when the Obama administration has stepped up its military operations in that country – and shows every sign of wanting to go further. This is the perfect excuse to intervene more openly.

Faced with the irrefutable arguments of war opponents that the ten-year occupation of Afghanistan has achieved nothing and no longer has much point (if it ever did), the defenders of US policy among our national security theoreticians have fallen back on the contention that the real value of our military presence is the supposedly stabilizing effect it has on Pakistan, which would otherwise fall to the terrorists, or terrorist-sympathizers at the very least. It’s all about Pakistan, they aver, ominously noting the country’s status as a member of the nuclear club.

Pakistan, like Libya, is yet another Western fiction, created by the British in the course of their imperial self-dissolution – an inherently unstable combination of affluence and shocking poverty, modernity and medievalism, perpetually teetering on the brink of disorder. US officials are no doubt all too aware of this fragility, and it’s hard to believe anyone with an ounce of responsibility would deliberately act to upset that delicate balance. In public, the White House lauds the Pakistanis – who have, after all, actually apprehended far more top-level terrorists than we have. In his announcement of the raid, the President went out of his way to mention how instrumental Pakistan’s cooperation had been to bin Laden’s undoing. Yet he also went out of his way to mention that we didn’t tell anyone in advance – including the Pakistanis, presumably – about “Operation Geronimo.”

This administration is playing a truly dishonorable game, making friendly noises at Islamabad in public, while anonymous officials accuse Pakistan of treachery. Donilon’s remark that he saw no evidence of Pakistan’s guilt “at least to date” is similarly ambiguous. If the serpent-tongued minions of this administration don’t have the courage to come out and say what they mean, then I expect some Republicans will.

Don’t forget that election season is upon us – not for all you normal people, but for the professionals, those whose lives revolve around Washington and its power plays. If you think 9/11 is going to fade away as a living issue because we’ve reached “closure” with bin Laden’s summary execution, then you don’t know politicians, and you don’t know the War Party: as far as they’re concerned, we’re never going to reach closure. If we’ve gotten bin Laden, then let’s go after his alleged collaborators and purported enablers – heck, let’s go after his wives!

A program of perpetual war requires a constant supply of fresh enemies: bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic – and, hey, whatever happened to Manuel Noriega, anyway? Bin Laden was good for the War Party as long as he lasted, and they’ll no doubt wring as much advantage out of his ghost before it fades into history. Yet one can be sure a suitable, and even more dramatically satisfying replacement will soon be found. After all, we must have a justification for spending trillions [.pdf] overseas while our citizens are thrown out of their homes by the millions and forced to stand in line for food stamps.

This is the sort of behavior one expects from politicians, for whom the road to war is the road to power. The real crime is that our “news” media, which is supposed to stand guard against the routine deceptions of our public officials, instead functions as a mere court stenographer, transcribing the official version of events no matter how far-fetched, as in Headley’s case. As US government prosecutors take Headley’s “testimony” as holy writ and use it as a basis for further prosecutions, the accusation that the Pakistani military and intelligence authorities are really just a front for al-Qaeda – or is that vice-versa? – will gain momentum, not to mention the imprimatur of the US Justice Department. The groundwork for an outright invasion of Pakistan will be laid, paving the way for yet another war – this time against a nation armed with nukes.

Even John McCain, you’ll recall, balked at Obama’s declared intention of going into Pakistan. Now that we’ve done it in such a spectacular manner, one can only wonder if, next time, our visit isn’t quite so brief.

The case against Pakistan rests on the “suspicion” that they must have known about bin Laden’s headquarters in Abbottabad because, after all, the Pakistani equivalent of West Point is within walking distance, and Abbottabad is a “garrison city,” as the news accounts put it. Yet what, exactly, is it about a “garrison city” that would make it impregnable to a determined infiltrator – especially in Pakistan, where the poverty rate makes corruption a way of life? If al-Qaeda had the wherewithal to successfully infiltrate the US, and train for their deadly mission right under our noses for a period of years, penetrating Abbottabad shouldn’t have proved impossible, as indeed it was not. Once in, bin Laden and his household could hide in plain sight, an ingenious and – for six years – very successful plan that required nothing but boldness, which bin Laden, whatever his other characteristics, surely possessed in abundance.

The mainstream media disdains “conspiracy theories” – unless they are being pushed by powerful people and talked about in Washington. Then these theories become “facts,” and are reported as such.

We’ve seen this time and again, most vividly in the run-up to the Iraq war – indeed, in the run up to practically every war we’ve ever had. It used to be, however, that we only found out later how we were lied to, and what the true facts are – years later. Today, with the rise of the internet and the technology of instant communication, the lies of the War Party are no sooner uttered than they’re debunked.

And that’s why we here at have kept chugging along, for all these years – because, after all, somebody has to do it.

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U.S. tries to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki



By Glenn Greenwald


That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it (watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum — Richard Perle’s co-author for the supreme 2004 neocon treatise — waxes admiringly about Obama’s Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its “continuity” with Bush/Cheney).  But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process.  As The New York Times put it last April:

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.  A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .

That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post’s Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list.

Yesterday, riding a wave of adulation and military-reverence, the Obama administration tried to end the life of this American citizen — never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime — with a drone strike in Yemen, but missed and killed two other people instead:

A missile strike from an American military drone in a remote region of Yemen on Thursday was aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric believed to be hiding in the country, American officials said Friday.

The attack does not appear to have killed Mr. Awlaki, the officials said, but may have killed operatives of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.

The other people killed “may have” been Al Qaeda operatives.  Or they “may not have” been.  Who cares?  They’re mere collateral damage on the glorious road to ending the life of this American citizen without due process (and pointing out that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly guarantees that “no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law” — and provides no exception for war — is the sort of tedious legalism that shouldn’t interfere with the excitement of drone strikes).

There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance.  But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process — far from any battlefield, not during combat — is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that it’s hard to convey in words or treat with civility.

How do you even engage someone in rational discussion who is willing to assume that their fellow citizen is guilty of being a Terrorist without seeing evidence for it, without having that evidence tested, without giving that citizen a chance to defend himself — all because the President declares it to be so?  “I know Awlaki, my fellow citizen, is a Terrorist and he deserves to die.  Why?  Because the President decreed that, and that’s good enough for me.  Trials are so pre-9/11.”  If someone is willing to dutifully click their heels and spout definitively authoritarian anthems like that, imagine how impervious to reason they are on these issues.

And if someone is willing to vest in the President the power to assassinate American citizens without a trial far from any battlefield — if someone believes that the President has that power:  the power of unilaterally imposing the death penalty and literally acting as judge, jury and executioner — what possible limits would they ever impose on the President’s power?  There cannot be any.  Or if someone is willing to declare a citizen to be a “traitor” and demand they be treated as such — even though the Constitution expressly assigns the power to declare treason to the Judicial Branch and requires what we call “a trial” with stringent evidence requirements before someone is guilty of treason — how can any appeals to law or the Constitution be made to a person who obviously believes in neither?

What’s most striking about this is how it relates to the controversies during the Bush years.  One of the most strident attacks from the Democrats on Bush was that he wanted to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants.  One of the first signs of Bush/Cheney radicalism was what they did to Jose Padilla:  assert the power to imprison this American citizen without charges.  Yet here you have Barack Obama asserting the power not to eavesdrop on Americans or detain them without charges — but to target them for killing without charges — and that, to many of his followers, is perfectly acceptable.  It’s a “horrific shredding of the Constitution” and an act of grave lawlessness for Bush to eavesdrop on or detain Americans without any due process; but it’s an act of great nobility when Barack Obama ends their lives without any due process.

Not even Antonin Scalia was willing to approve of George Bush’s mere attempt to detain (let alone kill) an American citizen accused of Terrorism without a trial.  In a dissenting opinion joined by the court’s most liberal member, John Paul Stevens, Scalia explained that not even the War on Terror allows the due process clause to be ignored when the President acts against those he claims have joined the Enemy — and this was for a citizen found on an actual active battlefield in a war zone (Afghanistan) (emphasis added):

The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.  Blackstone stated this principle clearly:  “Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty:  for if once it were left in the power of any, the highest, magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper … there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. … To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom.” . . . .

Subjects accused of levying war against the King were routinely prosecuted for treason. . . . The Founders inherited the understanding that a citizen’s levying war against the Government was to be punished criminally. The Constitution provides: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort”; and establishes a heightened proof requirement (two witnesses) in order to “convic[t]” of that offense. Art. III, §3, cl. 1.

There simply is no more basic liberty than the right to be free from Presidential executions without being charged with — and then convicted of — a crime:  whether it be treason, Terrorism, or anything else.  How can someone who objected to Bush’s attempt to eavesdrop on or detain citizens without judicial oversight cheer for Obama’s attempt to kill them without judicial oversight? Can someone please reconcile those positions?

One cannot be certain that this attempted killing of Awlaki relates to the bin Laden killing, but it certainly seems likely, and in any event, highlights the dangers I wrote about this week.  From the start, it was inconceivable to me that — as some predicted — the bin Laden killing would bring about a ratcheting down of America’s war posture.  The opposite seemed far more likely to me for the reason I wrote on Monday:

Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden — and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders — can easily rejuvenate that war love. . . . We’re feeling good and strong about ourselves again — and righteous — and that’s often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.

The killing of bin Laden got the testosterone pumping, the righteousness pulsating, and faith in the American military and its Commander-in-Chief skyrocketing to all-time highs.  It made America feel good about itself in a way that no other event has since at least Obama’s inauguration; we got to forget about rampant unemployment, home foreclosures by the millions, a decade’s worth of militaristic futility and slaughter, and ever-growing Third-World levels of wealth inequality.  This was a week for flag-waving, fist-pumping, and nationalistic chanting:  even — especially — among liberals, who were able to take the lead and show the world (and themselves) that they are no wilting, delicate wimps; it’s not merely swaggering right-wing Texans, but they, too, who can put bullets in people’s heads and dump corpses into the ocean and then joke and cheer about it afterwards.  It’s inconceivable that this wave of collective pride, boosted self-esteem, vicarious strength, and renewed purpose won’t produce a desire to replicate itself.  Four days after bin Laden is killed, a missile rains down from the sky to try to execute Awlaki without due process, and that’ll be far from the last such episode (indeed, also yesterday, the U.S. launched a drone attack in Pakistan, ending the lives of 15 more people:  yawn).

Last night, in a post entitled “Reigniting the GWOT [Global War on Terrorism]” — Digby wrote about why the reaction to the killing of bin Laden is almost certain to spur greater aggression in the “War on Terror,” and specifically observed:  “They’re breathlessly going on about Al Qaeda in Yemen ‘targeting the homeland’ right now on CNN. Looks like we’re back in business.”  The killing of bin Laden isn’t going to result in a reduction of America’s military adventurism because that’s not how the country works: when we eradicate one Enemy, we just quickly and seamlessly find a new one to replace him with — look over there:  Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the True Threat!!!! — and the blood-spilling continues unabated (without my endorsing it all, read this excellent Chris Floyd post for the non-euphemistic reality of what we’ve really been doing in the world over the last couple years under the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner).

A civil liberties lawyer observed by email to me last night that now that Obama has massive political capital and invulnerable Tough-on-Terror credentials firmly in place, there are no more political excuses for what he does (i.e., he didn’t really want to do that, but he had to in order not to be vulnerable to GOP political attacks that he’s Weak).  In the wake of the bin Laden killing, he’s able to do whatever he wants now — ratchet down the aggression or accelerate it — and his real face will be revealed by his choices (for those with doubts about what that real face is).  Yesterday’s attempt to exterminate an American citizen who has long been on his hit list — far from any battlefield, not during combat, and without even a pretense of due process — is likely to be but a first step in that direction.

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‘Italy to arm Libyan revolutionaries’




Libyan revolutionary fighters gather on the outskirts of Misratah, May 1, 2011.

Libya’s National Transitional Council says Italy has agreed to supply the revolutionaries with weapons in their fight against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Asked whether he could confirm the reports, Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the revolutionaries’ Transitional National Council, said, “Yes, the military officers have confirmed that they have an agreement with the Italians.”

“They will supply us with weapons. They’ve already been there (to Rome) twice, and we will receive them very soon,” he told a news conference in opposition-held town of Benghazi on Saturday.

Ghoga said the weapons would be provided to the revolutionaries soon but did not specify the types of arms that are to be delivered, Reuters reported.

The report comes as a government source in Rome has said Italy will only offer revolutionaries self-defense material.

France, Britain and Italy have reportedly dispatched military advisors to Benghazi to assist the revolutionaries.

Meanwhile, aircraft operated by pro-Gaddafi forces dropped bombs on oil storage tanks on Saturday and damaged four more containers near the besieged city of Misratah.

Revolutionary forces say they had warned NATO about the planes before the airstrike, but received no response.

Pro-Gaddafi forces used small planes in their overnight attack in Qasr Ahmed, close to Misratah.

“Four tanks were totally destroyed and huge fire erupted which spread now to the other four. We cannot extinguish it because we do not have the right tools,” opposition spokesman Ahmed Hassan said.

Earlier, revolutionaries criticized NATO for its failure to stop an assault on oil storage containers despite prior warnings about the possible bombardment.

Government forces have bombarded Misratah over the past several weeks, attempting to prevent supplies from reaching the port.

Meanwhile, at least nine people have been killed and scores of others injured in clashes near the western town of Zintan.

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Prelude to more war–US warns Syria over protest killings



The US has pledged a “strong international response” against Syria’s government if Damascus does not end a brutal crackdown against protesters.

At least 21 people were killed in Homs, Hama and other cities, reports said, as Friday saw another day of violence.

The US called the violence “deplorable” and said it would take “additional steps” if President Bashar al-Assad did not take steps to end the bloodshed.

More than 500 people are thought to have been killed since mid-March.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has said it is taking decisive action against terrorists and criminals.

In Friday’s violence, human rights activists said at least 15 people died in the central city of Homs, with six others killed in Hama.

Ten members of the Syrian security forces were also killed, the government said, blaming “terrorists”.

“We again salute the courage of Syrian protesters for insisting on their right to express themselves and we regret the loss of life on all sides,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The US backed European Union plans to impose travel bans and asset freezes on at least 13 senior Syrian figures for their part in the violent crackdown, which has also seen at least 2,500 people arrested.

The sanctions will come into force later this month after being formally adopted by heads of government.

But the White House spokesman said Damascus still needed to make “significant changes” to its approach to the unrest or risk further, unspecified, action from by Washington.

The situation required “an end to the government’s killing of protesters and to the arrest and harassment campaigns of protesters and activists, coupled with a genuine political reform process responsive to the demands of the Syrian people,” Mr Carney said.

Meanwhile, the UN said Syria had agreed to allow its humanitarian teams into the country.

Troops and tanks have withdrawn from the southern city of Deraa, where a human rights group says troops carried out a 10-day “massacre”.

Stones and bullets

Protesters had vowed to make Friday a “day of defiance”, and thousands clashed with security forces outside a mosque in central Damascus after Friday prayers.

There are different estimates of how many protesters were shot dead by security forces. But all the accounts put them much lower than the previous Friday, when more than 50 were reported killed, while the figure two weeks ago was well over 100.

This could indicate that the turnout was lower, with people being deterred by the security clampdown of the past few days.

Or it could mean that security forces were acting with more restraint than they have done in the past.

Whatever the case, if it turns out that the protests are starting to lose momentum, activists will be faced with the dilemma of how to inject more vigour into their movement without provoking more bloodshed.

Reliable sources also told the BBC there were protests in Darbasiya, Amouda and Zabadani, as well as in towns near Deraa, a city not far from the border with Jordan which has been a focus of the unrest.

Demonstrations were also reported in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, the town of Tal, north of the capital, and the coastal town of Baniyas.

In Tal, witnesses told Reuters news agency that security forces had fired at protesters.

“Five bodies were picked up in the Bab al-Sibaa area [of Homs]. There are scores of injured protesters,” one told the Reuters news agency.

Ten Syrian soldiers and policemen were killed in Homs by “terrorist” groups, said a military spokesman quoted by the state news agency, Sana.

None of these reports can be verified independently, as foreign journalists are not allowed into Syria.

Prominent dissident Riyad Sayf – who has spent years in prison since President Bashar al-Assad came to power – was also arrested, activists said.

Earlier, troops – including tanks – were deployed in a number of cities and towns in anticipation of renewed protests.

Numerous checkpoints were set up in Damascus and elsewhere, witnesses say. A heavy troop presence was reported in Homs, nearby Rastan, and Baniyas.

Hundreds of families were said to be fleeing Baniyas, fearing the city – like Deraa – could come under siege.

“It looks like they are preparing to attack the town, like they did in Deraa,” one activist told the AFP news agency by telephone from the town.

Across Syria, protesters have been calling for greater political rights and personal freedoms. Some are calling for the downfall of the regime.

The unrest in Syria poses the most serious challenge to Mr Assad since he succeeded his father, Hafez, in 2000.

Foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the country, so it is difficult to verify the reports of deaths.

But one doctor, who planned to join those demonstrating, said the “indiscriminate killings and inhumane arrests have generated total disgust among the average Syrian”.

“Soldiers with rifles no longer deter people. The propaganda that this regime is the only guarantor of stability no longer washes,” he was quoted as telling the Reuters news agency.

A Red Cross team has arrived in Deraa carrying medical supplies and humanitarian aid.

The head of the Damascus office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Deraa “is a priority for us, because it is the city that has been hardest hit by the ongoing violence”.

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Iran resolute on restoring ties with Egypt



Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Iranian foreign minister has reiterated the resolve of Iran and Egypt to re-establish their bilateral relations following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

“The two countries have expressed their explicit willingness and interest to resume ties,” Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday.

Salehi added that Iranian and Egyptian officials are holding talks to open a new page in their bilateral relations, IRNA reported.

“I will meet Egypt’s Foreign Minister [Nabil al-Arabi] during my visit to Indonesia to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit,” the Iranian foreign minister said.

The NAM foreign ministers are expected to hold a meeting on the island of Bali later in May.

Salehi said he planned to visit Cairo in the near future, adding that “both countries have an important position in the region and their cooperation will benefit the region and the Islamic world.”

On April 27, al-Arabi said the NAM meeting provided Tehran and Cairo with a good opportunity to discuss the normalization and expansion of bilateral ties.

The Egyptian minister added that the establishment of friendly relations between the two countries would pose no threat to the interests of Arab nations.

Tehran severed ties with Egypt after Cairo signed the 1978 Camp David Accords with the Israeli regime and offered asylum to Iran’s deposed monarch Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi.


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Osama bin Laden killing ‘should serve as warning to Gaddafi’ says head of UK Armed Forces



The killing of Osama bin Laden should serve as a warning to Libya’s Muammar al Gaddafi, the head of the Armed Forces has said.

Gen Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said the death of the al-Qaeda leader should have a “psychological impact” on the Libyan dictator and others because “one day their deeds will catch up with them”.

The general’s warning came as British officials disclosed that weeks of allied attacks had cost Col Gaddafi almost three quarters of his military forces.

Sir David described the killing of bin Laden as “definitely a positive” in the context of political change in the Middle East.

“It will remind like-minded people wherever they are that one day their deeds will catch up with them,” he said.

“That is psychologically very important in the context of Libya and other crises in the Middle East, so I think it is a psychological impact rather than a short-term impact.”

Nato denies that it is targeting Col Gaddafi personally, but Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said last month that the alliance was launching attacks on Tripoli “to increase the psychological pressure on Gaddafi”. A Nato air strike last weekend destroyed a house occupied by one of his sons. A spokesman for the regime said the Libyan leader was in the compound at the time and claimed it was an assassination attempt.

Britain and France began air strikes on Libyan targets in March, but rebels fighting to oust the dictator have made little progress against his forces.

British officials yesterday insisted that “time is against Gaddafi”, claiming that military and diplomatic pressure on his regime was starting to tell.

Military analysts estimate that Col Gaddafi began the conflict with about 50,000 ground troops, of whom half were unreliable conscripts and no more than 12,000 were reliable professional soldiers. “We estimate that he has around 30 per cent of his ground forces capability remaining,” said a British official.

RAF missions have struck about 250 targets in Libya since operations began, officials said, accounting for about a third of Col Gaddafi’s pre-conflict military capabilities.

Increasing Col Gaddafi’s diplomatic isolation, France yesterday announced it was expelling 14 Libyan diplomats.

Amnesty International, the human rights group, also accused the Gaddafi regime of war crimes against Libyan civilians.

Loyalist forces have been attacking the rebel-held town of Misurata using snipers, cluster bombs, artillery and mines.

“The scale of the relentless attacks that we have seen by Gaddafi forces to intimidate the residents of Misurata for more than two months is truly horrifying,” Amnesty International said. “It shows a total disregard for the lives of ordinary people and is in clear breach of inter-national humanitarian law.”

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US warns Turkey against trade with Iran




US Treasury’s Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen

Washington is pressuring Turkey to limit its trade transactions with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a senior official in the US Treasury has said.

“I have urged the Turkish government to assist Turkish banks in protecting themselves from Iran’s attempts to abuse its existing trade and financial relations with Turkey,” US Treasury’s Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said on Thursday.

Cohen recently visited Turkey to discuss implementing the US-engineered sanctions imposed against Iran and Libya.

The UN Security Council adopted a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran in June 2010, under intense pressure from the US, which claims Iran’s nuclear program may have potential military applications.

Shortly after the UN sanctions, the United States imposed fresh unilateral sanctions on Iran’s financial and energy sectors and persuaded Europe to follow suit. Washington also urged other countries to abandon investment in the Iranian market.

Iran maintains that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a right to peaceful nuclear energy and the technology required for electricity generation and medical research.

The US attempts to mar Tehran-Istanbul ties continue while trade volume between Iran and Turkey has reportedly increased by more than 70 percent, surpassing USD 2.1 billion in the first two months of 2011.

According to a report released by the Turkish Statistical Institute, the volume of trade between the two neighboring states hit USD 963.5 million in February, showing a 43.65 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

In mid-February, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underlined the Islamic Republic’s firm determination to increase the value of annual trade ties with Turkey to USD 30 billion.

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Pakistan lawmakers demand president step down



Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of West Midland Palestine Solidarity Campaign


Fallout of U.S. raid on bin Laden hideout includes pressure on Zardari, other officials to resign

(AP)  ISLAMABAD — Prominent Pakistani lawmakers called for President Asif Ali Zardari and other senior government officials to resign Saturday after the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden and embarrassed the nation.

The demands followed a week in which countless questions swirled about how much the Pakistani government knew about bin Laden’s hiding place and why the military was powerless to prevent U.S. commandos from helicoptering into the country to kill the al Qaeda chief.

Pakistani officials have said they were totally in the dark, a hard thing for many Pakistanis to believe since bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad, an army town only two and a half hours’ drive from the capital, Islamabad.

Former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is now a lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, fixed the blame squarely on Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani — likely motivated in part by past conflict with the two men.

“This is a great violation of our sovereignty, but it is for the president and prime minister to resign and no one else,” Qureshi told reporters in the central Pakistani city of Lahore.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the main opposition leader in parliament, said the country’s powerful army and intelligence chiefs should also step down. They are believed to control the real levers of power in Pakistan.

“All from top to bottom who are responsible should take responsibility, and I believe that after such a big tragedy, they should resign,” Khan told reporters in Lahore. “This is a call coming from every street of Pakistan.”

But it is unclear whether anyone will be forced to step down. The Pakistani government is viewed by many in the country as totally unresponsive to the many woes plaguing the nation, from a struggling economy to frequent terrorist attacks.

“It is not time to sprinkle salt on wounds,” said Pakistan’s Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan when asked about the calls for senior officials to resign. “It is time to apply ointment on the nation’s wounds.”

The Pakistani military on Saturday denied reports that Pakistan’s spy chief, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, planned to resign in the wake of the U.S. raid on Monday that killed bin Laden.

Pasha is the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which says it was unaware bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad for up to six years and has been criticized.

The head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, met with Zardari, Gilani and other senior officials in Islamabad on Saturday to discuss the raid, said the prime minister’s office. Gilani plans to brief parliament about the bin Laden raid on Monday.

It is unclear where bin Laden was located before he moved to Abbottabad. Residents of Chak Shah Mohammad, a sparsely populated village close to Abbottabad, denied reports Saturday that bin Laden had lived there for two and a half years with his family before moving to Abbottabad.

“I don’t think the kind of people you and the intelligence agencies are looking for are here or have ever lived here,” said Mohammad Shazad Awan, a former army soldier who has driven a public minibus in the area for the last 12 years.

But residents of Abbottabad were also not aware that bin Laden had been living there for such a long time.

Awan, who said he works on the side as an informant for the government, said many Pakistani intelligence operatives were in Chak Shah Mohammad on Friday asking whether bin Laden had lived there.

The New York Times reported that bin Laden and his family lived in Chak Shah Mohammad. The paper quoted unidentified Pakistani officials as saying the information came from one of bin Laden’s three wives who was picked up from his compound after the raid.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said he could neither confirm nor deny the report. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the agency’s policy.

Qureshi, the former foreign minister, said Pakistan’s parliament should conduct an inquiry into the raid in Abbottabad. Qureshi is now a lawmaker for the governing party but has clashed with party leaders ever since he was pushed out as foreign minister in February.

Qureshi has said he was forced to resign because of his comments on the case of Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis in January in Lahore, apparently in self-defense. Qureshi insisted Davis did not have blanket diplomatic immunity, but he was ultimately released after the families of the victims were compensated.

Political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said Qureshi likely called for Zardari and Gilani to resign because he was angry with the leadership of the ruling party and wanted to score political points.

Rizvi called Qureshi’s comments “unfortunate” in an interview with Express 24/7 TV because they came at a time when national unity is needed in the face of mounting problems over the killing of bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

But many Pakistanis are also outraged over the raid and demand government officials be held accountable.

“Zardari must admit that he is no longer capable of running the country,” said Rasheed Ahmad, a 42-year-old college professor in the central city of Multan. “Our armed forces leaders are equally responsible for this crime.”

Rizvi, the analyst, said the government has handled the situation poorly.

Both the U.S. and Pakistan need to stop issuing hard-hitting public statements about the raid because continued fights over the events surrounding bin Laden’s death will undermine vital counterterrorism cooperation, he said.

U.S. officials have questioned how bin Laden could have stayed hidden in Abbottabad without Pakistan’s knowledge. The Pakistani army, in turn, has blasted the U.S. for violating the country’s sovereignty and has warned that any similar raids will prompt Islamabad to reevaluate its relationship with Washington.

The U.S. relies on Pakistan as a key ally in the Afghan war, although American officials have repeatedly criticized the country for failing to target Taliban militants who use its territory to launch cross-border attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.

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