Archive | May 27th, 2014

‘Targeted Killing’ Memo Frames Senate Confirmation Fight


As lawyer who authored key legal justifications for drone assassination program faces Senate confirmation, will drone program be his downfall or path to federal judgeship?

– Jon Queally

During his stint as a lawyer at the Department of Justice, David Barron authored memos used to legally justify killing American citizens with drone strikes without trial. His nomination to a federal Court of Appeals has put him at the center of the ongoing controversy over Obama’s ‘targeted assassination’ policy. (File)According to the Associated Press, citing two White House officials speaking on condition of anonymity, the Obama administration will submit to a court order which says it must reveal portions of an internal legal memo it used to justify the extrajudicial killing of Americans overseas.

AP reports:

The decision to release the documents comes as the Senate is to vote Wednesday on advancing President Barack Obama’s nomination of the memo’s author, Harvard professor and former Justice Department official David Barron, to sit on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had vowed to fight Barron’s confirmation, and some Democratic senators were calling for the memo’s public release before a final vote.

The pending release of the document—which will be first be vetted and redacted by the White House—follows a protracted legal battle between the Obama administration, defended by the Justice Department, against a joint lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the New York Times, both of whom filed Freedom of Information Act requests to see the legal arguments under which lethal force was authorized against Anwar al-Awlaki, an American cleric living in Yemen, who was accused but never tried in a court of law of orchestrating terrorist attacks against targets in the U.S.

As part of what has become known as Obama’s “targeted assassination program,” al-Awlaki and another American, Samir Khan, were both killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Days later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed in a separate strike in the country.

“We hope this report signals a broader shift in the administration’s approach to the official secrecy surrounding its targeted killing program,” said ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the FOIA lawsuit before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in response to the news. “The release of this memo will allow the public to better understand the scope of the authority that the government is claiming.”

However, as it remains unclear the level of redaction and what other associated documents fall outside of the disclosure, Jaffer promised that the ACLU “will continue to argue in court for the public release of the other targeted killing memos and related documents.”

According to AP:

Some senators, including those in Obama’s own party, have called for the public release of the memo before the final confirmation vote. The White House agreed under the pressure to show senators unredacted copies of all written legal advice written by Barron regarding the potential use of lethal force against U.S. citizens in counterterrorism operations.

Until now, the administration has fought in court to keep the writings from public view. But administration officials said that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. decided this week not appeal an April 21 ruling requiring disclosure by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York and that Attorney General Eric Holder concurred with his opinion.

Noting that the White House has only agreed to release the memo in the context of Barron’s contentious nomination to the federal court, independent journalist Kevin Gosztola tweeted:

Also skeptical of the developments, Jesselyn Raddack, a national security expert and human rights lawyer, added:

A procedural vote on Barron’s nomination could take place Wednesday with a final vote as early as Thursday. As policy, the ACLU “does not endorse or oppose any judicial nominee,” but it has urged lawmakers to postpone taking up the vote until all of the legal opinions on targeted killing that he wrote while in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel have been released.

“As important as this step is, we continue to believe that all Senators should have access to all targeted killing memos authored or signed by Mr. Barron,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “Senators’ access to memos about this unprecedented program is their constitutional role, and reading those memos is their constitutional obligation.”

Writing against Barron’s nomination at Common Dreams last week, author and activist Medea Benjamin argued:

“How can Barron be a judge if he does not understand the deeply valued laws of our land, laws that include habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial?” —Medea Benjamin, human rights activist

Should someone who has done such immense damage to the rule of law and our moral sensibilities be awarded with a judgeship on the First Circuit Court?

The Attorney General has conceded that four Americans located outside the United States have been killed by drone strikes since 2011. One of those killed was Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was attacked while in a tribal region of Yemen in September 2011. Then Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, also an American citizen, was shamefully killed in a drone strike in rural Yemen two weeks later.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that Americans suspected of committing crimes deserve to have charges brought against them, to have a chance to surrender or be captured, and to be given a fair trial. If they cannot be captured and refuse to surrender, they could be tried in absentia. But Barron helped set a terrible precedent that American citizens have no right to a judicial process—something that human rights advocates around the world have been fighting for since the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago.

How can Barron be a judge if he does not understand the deeply valued laws of our land, laws that include habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial? As stated in the Bill of Rights: the Fourth Amendment guarantees that a person cannot be seized by the government unreasonably, and the Fifth Amendment guarantees that the government may not deprive a person of life without due process of law. A judge is supposed to uphold the Constitution, yet Barron has already torn it down.

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In Pakistan Air Strike Blitz, Who Was Killed? ‘Hardcore Terrorists’ or Women and Children?


‘Precision aerial strikes’ pound North Waziristan early Wednesday

Military strikes with the goal of targeting “terrorists” appear to have once again resulted in civilian casualties.

Air strikes conducted early Wednesday by the Pakistani military pounded North Waziristan and were touted as killing scores of people described as militants and terrorists.

“Confirmed militant hide-outs were targeted early morning today in North Waziristan through precision aerial strikes,” the New York Times quotes an anonymous senior security official as saying.

“Sixty hardcore terrorists, including some of the important commanders and foreigners, were also killed in the strikes and around 30 were injured,” according to an official statement from the Pakistani military. “Therefore [there are] minimum chances of civilian casualties,” the statement added.

Yet the strikes likely included “collateral damage.”

One person from the area told CNN that the air strikes killed as many 20 civilians, and theNew York Times reported:

Local residents, however, said the dead also included women and children. […]

[L]ocal tribesmen said that at least 10 civilians were killed in the strikes.

From NBC News:

[T]wo residents of the nearby town of Mir Ali, told NBC News via telephone that women, children and the elderly had died in the assault.

From Agence France-Presse:

Local intelligence officials and residents said civilians were among the wounded.

A spokesperson for a Taliban commander in the area condemned the attack and said the group “cannot remain silent over bombardment on people.”

As the area has been described as a “stronghold” for terrorists, North Waziristan has also been the frequent target of U.S. drone strikes.

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NSA Records Every Cellphone Call in the Bahamas


The National Security Agency records the full audio of every cellphone call in the Bahamas, according to new documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Journalists at The Intercept detail how a program called SOMALGET stores the audio and metadata of every cellphone call on the island for up to one month.

This is the first confirmation of an entire country’s communications being targeted and successfully recorded. Out of security concerns, The Intercept is withholding the name of another country that the NSA surveils in its entirety, but the open-information organization WikiLeaks promises to reveal the information on Thursday. RT’s Ameera David discusses the implications of this latest revelation with journalist and activist Norman Solomon.

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The Guantánamo “Suicides” Revisited: Did CIA Hide Deaths of Tortured Prisoners at Secret Site?


In one of the great mysteries of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, three prisoners, two from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen, died the night of June 9, 2006. Authorities at Guantánamo said the three men — Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, Salah Ahmed al-Salami and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi — had killed themselves.

The commander at Guantánamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, described their deaths as an “act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” But explosive new evidence shows there may have been a cover-up on how the men actually died. Recently discovered pages from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service suggest that the men died not from suicide, but torture. The new evidence includes an eyewitness account of al-Zahrani on the night of his death which indicates he may have died from torture and suffocation during questioning at a secret black site facility at Guantánamo known as Camp No, or Penny Lane. Harper’s Magazine contributing editor Scott Horton first raised questions about what happened on that night in a 2010 investigation that won a National Magazine Award for Reporting. He has just uncovered the new details on the deaths for a new article in Harper’s, “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’ Revisited.” A human rights attorney and lecturer at Columbia Law School, Horton is author of the forthcoming book, “The Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy.”

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Standing Up, One Year Later: President Obama’s Broken Foreign Policy Promises


Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the political activist group Code Pink, was forcibly removed by security after speaking out against President Barack Obama during his counterterrorism speech in May of 2013. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch /UPI)A year ago, on May 23, 2013, I was in the audience at the National Defense University when President Barack Obama gave his major foreign policy address. Having worked for years trying to close the Guantanamo prison and stop US drone attacks, I was crushed to realize that the president’s speech was ending and he had not announced any significant change of course on either policy. My heart was pounding with fear—it’s not an easy thing to interrupt a president, but I decided to speak up.

I tried to channel the anguish of Guantanamo prisoners like Moath al-Alwi, held without trial since 2002 and on his ninth month of a hunger strike. I cringe just thinking about Alwi’s daily force-feeding, where he is strapped to a chair with a tube shoved down his nose, leaving him violently vomiting and in excruciating pain. I thought of the tears of 13-year-old Awda Al-Shubati, a sweet young girl I met in Yemen who sobbed while clutching a worn picture of the father she has never seen because he has been held in Guantanamo—with no chance of a trial–since the time she was born.

I thought of innocent drone strike victims, like 68-year-old Pakistani grandmother Manama al-Bibi, blown to bits by a Hellfire missile while picking okra in her family’s field, or Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American obliterated while eating dinner with his teenage friends in a small Yemini village. My mind raced through the dozens of photos I have seen of children whose lives have been snuffed out, forever, with the press of a button from a remotely controlled Predator drone.

I stood, heart pounding even harder, and shouted “You are the Commander in Chief, you have the power to release the 86 prisoners who have already been cleared for release!” I continued to speak out about closing Guantanamo and ending the drone strikes as the Secret Service and FBI surrounded me, and grabbed at my arms. I told them in a low voice “I’m having a dialogue with the President. You really don’t want to pull me out, because that will be very, very bad for everybody” and that bought me a little more time.

It was clear he was listening, and he responded graciously. “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” he said. “I’m willing to cut [her] some slack because it’s worth being passionate about this. Is this who we are? Is that something our Founders foresaw?”

One year later, though, these profound questions still weigh heavily on our nation. While the President announced that he was appointing new senior envoys to deal with the Guantanamo fiasco, merely 12 prisoners have been released all year, leaving 154 men still locked up. Shamefully, 77 of them were cleared for release years ago—meaning the US government has deemed them innocent or not a threat to Americans—but remain behind bars. Most of the others are still held without trial. The President’s inability to secure fair trials or the release of cleared prisoners continues to exact an unbearable human toll.

Regarding drone attacks, the President pledged in his speech to only target terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people and only when there is “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.” From 2012 to 2013, the number of attacks in Pakistan has indeed decreased by almost 50% (from 50 strikes to 27), which is a positive development. But in Yemen, there has been a spike of new strikes and according to the Yemeni legal group HOOD, most of the militant suspects killed could have been captured and tried instead. And the promise to carefully guard civilian lives proved empty when drone missiles tragically hit a wedding party on December 12, leaving twelve innocent party-goers dead.

President Obama said that the deaths of innocent people from the drone attacks will haunt him as long as he lives. But he is still unwilling to acknowledge those deaths, apologize to the families, or compensate them.

In that May 23 speech, the President talked about the controversial drone strike that killed American-born cleric Anwar Awlaki. He announced that he had authorized “the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue.” On May 20 the administration announced that it would declassify one of the drone memos, complying with an April 21 court order–– but did not say when this would happen. Obama awarded the drone memo author, David Barron, with a federal judgeship.

In another move to crush transparency, the Obama administration has taken the over 6,000-page report on the use of torture during the Bush years, laboriously researched by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and placed it in the hands of the very entity that carried out the torture, the CIA, to redact before making it public. Many believe the torture report will never see the light of day or will be so edited as to make it worthless.

Meanwhile, both Guantanamo and drone attacks have become recruiting tools that have helped  embolden terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and increased anti-American sentiment worldwide. The military hammer the US government has been using against terrorist suspects for over 12 years has not succeeded in eliminating al-Qaeda; it has helped spawn a resurgence of terrorist groups across war-torn Middle East and now into Africa.

The President’s speech included a profound assertion that “from our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation and world that we leave to our children.” So far, that legacy is full of tears, war debt, and broken promises.

Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the great Reverend King, recently spoke to a congregation in Oakland, California about drones. “I am saddened that enough of us have not raised up our voices and constructively said something about what President Obama is doing with these drones,” he preached. “The generals are telling him we’ve got to do this. But the community has to rise up and say that’s not who we as Americans are. That doesn’t mean that you denigrate and criticize the President in a negative way, but we certainly have to challenge. That is what Martin Luther King Jr. would be doing. He would be challenging the nation to become a better nation.”

That, indeed, is the lesson we should learn on the anniversary of the President’s address. There are many ways to be heard–not all of us have the chance to interrupt the President, but we all have the power to stand up and speak out. Write a letter to the White House or the editor of your local paper; visit your congressperson or get out on a street corner with a sign.Get involved with peace groups like CODEPINK. Find your own way to rise up and challenge our nation to become a better nation.

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US Government Complicit in I$raHell’s Videotaped Murder of Palestinian Boys


A United States government call on Israel to investigate the cold-blooded videotaped killing of two Palestinian boys falls far short of a real demand for accountability and amounts to complicity in covering up the crime.

The boys, 17-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara and 16-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu al-Thahir, were killed at a Nakba Day protest near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia on 15 May.

The video evidence indicates that Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon was simply lying when he claimed that “it was a life-threatening situation, so the officers acted accordingly.”

The videos confirm that the boys were shot dead at long distance like hunted animals and were not engaged in any activity that could plausibly be described as threatening to anyone. Muhammad was shot while he had his back to the source of the gunfire that fatally wounded him.

The first of the videos, taken by security cameras on a nearby store, were released byDefence for Children International – Palestine Section on 19 May.

Additional footage taken from another angle was released by Israeli rights group B’Tselemyesterday.

A third boy, Muhammad Abdullah Hussein al-Azzeh, 15, not seen in the videos, sustained a gunshot wound in the back and left lung during the same demonstration. The fourth victim, a 23-year-old who B’Tselem said wished to remain unnamed, was lightly injured.

Israel told to investigate itself

“We are closely following this incident in the video,” US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki told journalists at the daily briefing on 20 May.

“We look to the Government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators. We express, of course, our condolences to the families of those deceased and urge all parties to exercise restraint.”

Asked if based on the video the State Department thought the Israeli “response proportional to the threat,” Psaki replied, “We’re not going to make an evaluation on that from here. We are encouraging the government of Israel to conduct their own investigation.”


Given Israel’s total failure to properly investigate virtually any killings of Palestinians and thesystematic impunity afforded to killers, the US call for Israel to investigate itself is tantamount to complicity in covering up the killings.

Since 2000, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,400 children.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which Israeli soldiers hiding near schools had deliberately killed Palestinian children.

According to Amnesty International, “trigger-happy” Israeli occupation forces have engaged in a pattern of “war crimes” against Palestinians. Yet, according to Israeli legal advocacy groupYesh Din, “Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished – but often are completely ignored by the authorities.”

Yesh Din says that 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by Israeli occupation authorities against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments.

In December 2012, an Israeli occupation soldier shot dead Palestinian teenager Muhammad al-Salaymeh on his seventeenth birthday in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Video of the incident totally contradicted the version of events given to Israeli media by Nofar Mizrahi, the occupation soldier who killed him. Yet once again, despite the evidence, Mizrahi has enjoyed complete impunity.

Amnesty International confirms that Israeli soldiers and officers, if investigated at all, generally go unpunished for killing or injuring Palestinian civilians, even when they do so in violation of Israel’s own legal system.

The failure of the US to demand any real accountability is hardly surprising: one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements was helping Israel bury the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 massacre in Gaza.

The US has also tenaciously assisted Israel to avoid accountability over its killings of nine people, including the American youth Furkan Dogan, aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

Continuing this unbroken pattern of cover up and complicity, the US was alone out of 47 countries in voting against several resolutions condemning Israeli abuses at the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Under Obama, US military aid to Israel has reached record levels.

Live ammunition

In addition to the transparent lies about the killings of Nadim and Muhammad from the Israeli defense minister, Israeli occupation forces spokesperson Peter Lerner claimed that preliminary findings show that occupation forces fired only rubber-coated steel bullets and did not use live fire.

However, B’Tselem said it had “obtained medical opinions regarding the entry and exit wounds found in the bodies of all four victims, which are completely consistent with injuries caused by live fire and could not have been caused by rubber-coated metal bullets – especially not when fired at a relatively long range, as was the case here. Also, eyewitness accounts described the sound of live gunfire, which sounds different from rubber-coated bullet fire.”

The evidence, B’Tselem said, raised “grave suspicion” that occupation forces “willfully killed two Palestinians” and “injured two others” and demanded investigation by Israel’s Military Police Investigations Unit “into the military’s highly incorrect version of the incident conveyed to the media.”

B’Tselem surely knows, as does the US government, that the chances for impartial justice for Muhammad, Nadim and the other victims from the same occupation authorities that sent soldiers out armed to occupy and kill are precisely zero.

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Judge Orders US Government to Release Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videotapes to Prisoner’s Lawyers



A federal court judge today ordered the US government to produce 34 videotapes showing Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Diab being forcibly dragged from his cell, and then being force-fed.

Judge Gladys Kessler did not require the government to hand over all 136 videos of Mr. Dhiab being subjected to the ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ process – which has been done to him on average three times a week for a full year.

The court also ordered the government to produce Mr. Dhiab’s medical records – noting that they are, after all, his own records. These records should allow the court to make a proper assessment of the traumatic impact of force-feeding on Mr Dhiab’s declining health. For the time being, the existing injunction remains in place.

Today’s hearing marked the first time the US government has been ordered to give detainees’ lawyers videotapes of force-feedings.

Cori Crider, strategic director of Reprieve, said: “Mr. Dhiab has been cleared for transfer from Guantanamo Bay for several years now, and yet promises of his imminent release have come to nothing, so it is not surprising that he has gone on a peaceful hunger strike in desperation. It is very encouraging that the rule of law is finally coming to Guantanamo, so that perhaps Mr. Dhiab’s situation can be resolved. While the photographic evidence of his abuse is secret, it will at least allow the judge to see what is happening to him.”

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Groups Ask Treasury Dep. to Ease Restrictions on Money Transfers to Somalia


Thousands of families across Somalia are under threat due to the recently announced closures of money transfer companies’ bank accounts, international agencies Adeso and Oxfam warned today. The organizations called on the US Department of the Treasury and its regulatory agencies, whose regulations are responsible for the bank account closures, to ensure that Somali-Americans are able to send life sustaining money to their loved ones.

“Somalia is hanging once again on the precipice of a full-blown catastrophe,” said Degan Ali, Executive Director of Adeso. ”Even a minor disruption to the link between Somali communities and their friends and family abroad could push them over the edge into crisis. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and let this happen, and neither can the Obama administration.”

According to research published in 2013 by Adeso, Oxfam and the Inter-American Dialogue, Somalia receives $1.3 billion per year in remittances, which is more than all foreign aid and investment in Somalia combined. Approximately 40 percent of Somali families depend on remittances to meet their most basic needs, including food, health care and education, and 80 percent of the capital for start-up businesses comes from the diaspora.

“Treasury Department rules and pressure created this crisis. Now the Treasury Department and the Obama administration have to fix it and time is running out,” said Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “It would be an incredible mistake to allow the only regulated channels for sending money back to Somalia to absorb such a crippling blow. Unless emergency measures are taken, many families will be cut off from their only source of income at a time when conditions in Somalia are getting worse.”

Since Somalia does not have a formal banking system and large foreign money transmitters are not a viable option, Somali-American money transfer companies remain the only secure and transparent mechanism to send money from the U.S. to Somalia. Without bank accounts, these companies will be unable to wire money internationally, which threatens their ability to keep their doors open.

Despite the companies’ investments in due diligence and anti-money laundering systems, Treasury Department regulations have forced banks to close Somali-American money transfer company accounts at an alarming rate. The latest bank to announce account closures, Merchants Bank of California, has extensive expertise serving money transmitters. Unfortunately, that did not spare it from pressure by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), an independent agency in the Treasury Department, to limit its relationships with money service businesses.

If the Merchants Bank account closures proceed as scheduled, on June 20 between 60-80 percent of US remittances to Somalia will be affected, and some companies will be forced out of business immediately. Some of the companies have arrangements with other banks, but those banks lack Merchants Bank’s expertise in dealing with money service businesses and are even less likely to maintain the companies’ accounts under pressure from the Treasury Department and its regulatory agencies.

While the closure of formal remittance channels would hurt Somali communities, it would benefit criminal networks that prey on informal money transfer systems that are invisible to regulators and law enforcement officials.

The Treasury Department, State Department and USAID have drawn up plans to strengthen the remittance system and the Somali banking sector, but these are long-term interventions. Emergency measures are needed.

In order to maintain the Somali remittance system in the short-term, Adeso and Oxfam call on the US government to spell out for banks the specific due diligence measures on Somali-American money transfer company accounts that they can take to satisfy their legal obligations. This would ensure that the companies can continue to operate until longer-term solutions are realized.

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Are Human Rights activists today’s warmongers?


Boston Globe

Almost everyone likes the idea of human rights. The phrase itself is freighted with goodness. Supporting human rights is like supporting world peace.

The modern human rights movement began as a band of outsiders, fighting governments on behalf of the faceless and voiceless. President Jimmy Carter brought it into the American foreign policy establishment by naming an outspoken assistant secretary of state for human rights. This meant that concern for the poor, the brutalized, and the imprisoned would be heard in the highest councils of government.

Now, several decades after the human rights movement traded its outsider status for influence in Washington, it is clear that this has produced negative as well as positive results. The movement has become a global behemoth. Sometimes it functions as a handmaiden to the power it was once dedicated to combating.

The most appalling result of this process in the United States is that some human rights activists now regularly call for using force to resolve the world’s problems. At one time, “human rights” implied opposition to war. Now some of the most outspoken warmongers in Washington are self-proclaimed human rights advocates.

They were among the loudest promoters of war to depose the Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. That war cast Libya into chaos and set off a chain of events that has brought radical jihadist rule to large parts of Mali.

In recent months, President Obama’s “human rights” team has pushed for escalated intervention in Syria and the dispatch of more troops to Afghanistan. Human rights activists — sometimes supported by well-meaning but pitifully ignorant celebrities — have urged that American military power be used to capture a warlord in Uganda, impose order in the Ivory Coast, crush rebels in South Sudan, and locate kidnap victims in Nigeria.

This is a radical development in the history of the human rights movement. Once it was generals, defense contractors, and chest-thumping politicians who saw war as the best solution to global problems. Now human rights activists play that role. Some seem to have given up on diplomacy and statecraft. Instead they promote the steady militarization of American foreign policy.

These trigger-happy human rights activists rotate in and out of government jobs. This month more than 100 scholars, activists, and Nobel Peace Prize winners protested against this revolving door in an open letter to Human Rights Watch, which, thanks to an astonishing $100 million gift from the financier George Soros, has become king of the human rights hill.

Their letter says that, although Human Rights Watch claims to defend and protect human rights, its ties to the American military and security establishments “call into question its independence.” It names prominent Human Rights Watch figures who have served in the State Department and CIA; condemns the group for supporting “the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet”; and asserts that it produces biased reports exaggerating human rights abuses in countries the United States dislikes, like Venezuela, while being gentler to American allies like Honduras.

“HRW’s close relationships with the US government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the letter says.

Also this month, news came that a French publisher will issue a book version of a devastating essay by a former American diplomat, Richard Johnson, called “The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda,” that has been circulating on the Internet for the last year. It is a detailed indictment of the policies Human Rights Watch wants Rwanda to adopt. They include demands that the Rwandan government end restrictions on hate speech and invite the former genocide army back from its bases in the Congo so it can compete for power.

In his paper, Johnson accuses Human Rights Watch of waging a “viscerally hostile” campaign against Rwanda from behind an “aura of sanctity.” He asserts that this campaign “is a threat to that country’s peace and stability.”

“The mendacity and bias of HRW’s political campaign against the post-genocide Rwandan government undermines the overall credibility of Western human rights advocacy,” he concludes.

The world needs fearless truth-tellers. Some human rights advocates are. Others have succumbed to the temptations of power. Their movement is in danger of losing its way.


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AFRICOM Prepares for more Conflicts in Mali, Nigeria and Somalia


Timothy Alexander Guzman

Silent Crow News 

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Northern Mali is a direct threat to US national security interests according to Major General Carter F. Ham during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on March 15th, 2013.  Ham said that although there have been progress in AFRICOM’s mission; new threats have emerged this year that is a strategic importance to the United States and its allies.  According to American Forces Press Service of the U.S. Department of Defense: “The general said three violent extremist organizations are of particular concern in Africa: al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, active in northern and western Africa; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.”  Ham’s main concern however was in Northern Mali because it threatens U.S. national security interests directly.  With France’s invasion back in January 2013 to stop al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has not been a military success obviously since AFRICOM’s leadership is concerned.  AQIM is tied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) the same group France intervened with in Libya during NATO’s invasion of Libya that provided weapons, aircraft and Special Forces to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s government.  Now AFRICOM who supported NATO’s intervention in Libya is now fighting AQIM in Mali.  A convenient excuse for AFRICOM to expand its military operations in Africa to fight terrorists:

“The growing collaboration of these organizations heightens the danger they collectively represent,” he said. “Of the three organizations, AQIM, which exploited the instability that followed the coup d’état in Mali and seeks to establish an Islamic state in northern Mali, is currently the most likely to directly threaten U.S. national security interests in the near- term.”

Ham admitted that AFRICOM is aiding the French and African military against AQIM and other affiliated terrorist organizations in northern Mali with drone operations operating in Niger.

“We are supporting French efforts with information, airlift, and refueling, and are working with the Department of State to support the deployment of West African forces to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali,” he said. “Recently, we began unarmed, remotely piloted aircraft operations from Niger in support of intelligence gathering efforts in the region.”

Ham said that AQIM is spread across the Sahel region of north-central Africa south of the Sahara Desert and that it requires a regional effort to challenge the threat with AFRICOM, the State Department and USAID under the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership.  Ham said that “The partnership involves 10 northern and western African nations and the United States, he said, and aims to develop partner militaries’ counter-terrorism capabilities and build regional cooperation against AQIM and related extremist groups.” Expect AFRICOM to expand its footprint throughout Africa since terrorist groups are still considered a formidable threat.

However, the real threat to “US national security interests” in Africa is not AQIM, Boko Haram or al-Shabaab, it is China’s demand for natural resources for their growing economy. The US and France plan to counter the threat along with Africa’s puppet government’s that will pose a challenge to China’s economic and diplomatic influence in the region.  The new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will have to confront this reality in the near future.  The US and French governments want to assure themselves that the new Chinese leadership will not continue its beneficial relationships with resource-rich African nations that have been a success in the past.  Therefore, the ‘War on Terror’ will create instability and will disrupt China’s economic growth.  AFRICOM mission is to create war in the name of fighting terrorism and that is what “US national security interests” in Africa is really about.


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