Archive | July 13th, 2016

The US-Led Militarization of Southeast Asia


China, Russia, North Korea and Iran Are Targets in Pentagon World War III Scenarios

Hague Court Ruling against China: A ‘Side Show’


Image: Prof Michel Chossudovsky

On Tuesday, the Hague ruled that China has no legal basis for its claims in the South China Sea. Asked to comment, Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Montreal-based Center for Research on Globalization, told Sputnik that the Hague ‘tempest in a teapot’ is much less worrying than Washington’s efforts to militarize the region.

There are two central issues, Professor Chossudovsky explained. “One is the fact that the United States has a project to militarize the Asia Pacific region, specifically threatening China. The other issue are …the [territorial] disputes between China, the Philippines, Vietnam, etc.”

The second issue, according to the analyst, would be much easier to resolve if it weren’t for US involvement, which is using the territorial disputes as part of its so-called ‘pivot to Asia’, “essentially preventing these countries from reaching negotiations, and building a situation of crisis within the Asia-Pacific region.”

South China Sea claims map


originalLeaving aside the details of the ruling itself, Chossudovsky emphasized that when talking about a diplomatic conflict involving the Philippines and China, one has to understand that “we’re not talking about a conflict between one sovereign nation and another sovereign nation. The Philippines is a former colony of Spain and the United States, and today it remains almost a de facto colony of the United States, in terms of its broad alignments, military cooperation agreements, and so on and so forth.”Therefore, the analyst noted, “when the president of the Philippines negotiates with China, he does it in consultation with Washington.”

Asked about the prospects of the diplomatic flare-up provoking a new arms race in the region, Chossudovsky suggested that unfortunately, one has already begun.

“We are already in an arms race situation, triggered by the United States. That arms race, at this particular juncture, is essentially directed against four countries – Russia, China…Iran and North Korea. These are the four countries which are on the drawing board of the Pentagon, and they have been there for many, many years. In all the war games – the World War 3 scenarios that the Pentagon [plays out] on a routine basis – these four countries are the targets…This is ultimately what is at stake.”

The professor reiterated that the militarization of the South China Sea is “there for two purposes:

for threatening China, and [for preventing] the countries of the region – of Southeast Asia and the Far East from entering into cooperation agreements which would be more of a regional type.”

Such agreements, Chossudovsky noted, would serve as a clear threat to Washington’s efforts to enforce the Trans-Pacific Partnership, aimed at putting countries throughout the region “under the geopolitical control of the United States.”

The professor also emphasized that under normal circumstances, the issue of maritime rights would be resolved through bilateral discussions. A Canadian, Chossudovsky recalled that the United States and Canada also have water boundary disputes. But this doesn’t mean that the Chinese Navy butts in and deploys its own ships to these areas.

“In other words, what I think is deplorable here is that a legal dispute under the laws of the sea is [being] used by the United States to threaten China and militarize strategic waterways in the South China Sea,” the analyst noted.

Ultimately, commenting on other recent developments in the region, from the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, to the approval of a naval base on the island of Jeju, the professor noted that it’s extremely important not to get lost in the details of this ruling.

“A legal decision in the Hague is one thing – it’s a trivial issue, and should lead to bilateral discussions. The other more serious issue is the militarization of that entire region, which incidentally is also related to the militarization of Eastern Europe by NATO; it’s the same process, and is directed against China, Russia, Iran and North Korea; those are the four so-called rogue states defined in US foreign policy,” Chossudovsky concluded.

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Michel Chossudovsky’s Book can be ordered directly from Global Research (click image)


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Assad: “The Supporters of those Terrorists Have the Endorsement of Some Western countries Including the U.S” ”Video”

Interview with NBC News
SANA Syrian Arab News Agency
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad © SANA / Reuters

Damascus, SANA, President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to NBC News published Thursday, following is the full text:

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you for having us and allowing NBC News to ask you some important questions.

President Assad: You’re most welcome in Damascus.

Question 1: A few weeks ago, you told lawmakers here that you would retake every inch of Syria. The U.S. State Department called that “delusional.” You’re a long way from winning this war, aren’t you? Never mind retaking every inch of Syria.

President Assad: Actually, the Syrian Army has made a lot of advancement recently, and that is the goal of any army or any government. I don’t think the statement for the United States is relevant. It doesn’t reflect any respect to the international law, to the Charter of the United Nations. It doesn’t reflect respect of the sovereignty of a country that it had the right to take control of its full land.

Question 2: But how long do you think this will take you to win this war?

President Assad: You’re talking about something that is related to many factors. The most important factor is how long are the supporters of those terrorists are going to keep supporting them, especially Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with the endorsement of some Western countries including the United States. If you don’t have that support, it won’t take more than a few months.


Question 3: More than a few months. You see, I’ve been here ten times, and I’ve heard your governors say “it will take a month to retake Homs, it will take six months to retake somewhere else.” It always takes longer than that. So, realistically, this will take years, won’t it?

President Assad: That’s why I said that depends on how much support the terrorists are going to have, how much recruitment are you going to have in Turkey with the Saudi money, to have more terrorists coming to Syria. Their aim is to prolong the war, so they can prolong it if they want, and they’ve already succeeded in that. So, that depends on the question. If you’re talking about how much it’s going to take as only a Syrian conflict, an isolated conflict, this is where it won’t take more than a few months. But if it’s not isolated, as is the case today with the interference of many regional and international powers, it will be going to take a long time, and no-one has the answer to the question you have posed. Nobody knows how the war is going to develop.

Question 4: A year ago, the war was going quite differently. You made a speech in which you said you were short of troops, you had to give up some areas reluctantly. What changed after that? Was it that Russia entered the war? That’s the real reason this war is turning, isn’t it? That Russia is on your side.

President Assad: Definitely, the Russian support of the Syrian Army has tipped the scales against the terrorists.


Question 5: It’s the crucial factor?

President Assad: It is, it is, definitely. At the same time, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have sent more troops since that Russian legal intervention started, but in spite of that, it was the crucial factor, as you just mentioned.

Question 6: So, you owe President Putin a lot.

President Assad: Everyone who stood beside us; Russians, Iranians, and even the Chinese stood, but each one in its own way, whether political, military, or economic, because it’s not one factor; you cannot only talk about the firepower or the human resources. It’s a multi-factor issue. All those countries supported Syria, beside other countries who supported to a lesser degree.

Question 7: Has President Putin demanded anything of you? What’s the deal?

President Assad: When he wanted to intervene? He didn’t ask for anything.

Question 8: Nothing?

President Assad: For a simple reason: first of all, their politics are built on values. This is very important. The second thing, their interest is common interest with us now, because they are fighting the same terrorists that they should fight in Russia. We are fighting the terrorists that could be fighting in Europe, in the United States, anywhere else in the world. But the difference between President Putin and the other Western officials is that he could see that clearly while the other officials in Europe or in the West in general couldn’t see that. That’s why his intervention is based on values, and at the same time based on the interest of the Russian people.

Question 9: Do you speak much with him?

President Assad: When there’s something to speak about, of course we speak, or through officials.

Question 10: How often, for example, this year, have you spoken with him?

President Assad: I didn’t count them, but many times. We spoke many times.

Question 11: And how would you describe your relationship with him?

President Assad: Very frank, very honest, mutual respect.

Question 12: But he has demanded nothing of you, is that the case?

President Assad: Nothing at all, nothing at all.

Question 13: Because the suspicion is that Russia may be working in concert with the United States, and Secretary of State Kerry is meeting Vladimir Putin Thursday in Moscow. The suspicion is that they are coming to some sort of deal that might be bad news for you.

President Assad: First of all, regarding the first part, if he wanted to ask for something, he would ask me to fight the terrorists, because this is where his interest as a president and as a country – I mean Russia – lies. Second, regarding that allegation from time to time, that the Russians met with the Americans and they discussed something about the Syrian issue, like, in order to give the impression that they are deciding what is going to happen in Syria. Many times, the Russian officials many times said clearly that the Syrian issue is related to the Syrian people, and yesterday Minister Lavrov said that clearly; said we cannot sit with the Americans to define what the Syrians want to do. This is a Syrian issue, only the Syrian people can define the future of their country and how to solve their problem. The role of Russia and the United States is to offer the international atmosphere, to protect the Syrians from any intervention. The problem in that regard is that the Russians are honest, the Americans didn’t deliver anything in that regard. But, this is not to take the decision about what we have to do as Syrians.

Question 14: So just to be clear: neither Foreign Secretary Lavrov nor President Putin has ever talked to you about political transition, about a day when you would leave power? That’s never come up?

President Assad: Never, because as I said, this is related to the Syrian people. Only the Syrian people define who’s going to be the president, when to come, and when to go. They never said a single word regarding this.

Question 15: And you’re not worried in the least about Secretary Kerry meeting Vladimir Putin and coming to an understanding in which you may have to leave power?

President Assad: No, for one reason: because their politics, I mean the Russian politics, is not based on making deals; it’s based on values. And that’s why you don’t see any achievement between them and the Americans because of different principles. The American politics are based on making deals, regardless of the values, which is not the case for the Russians.

Question 16: But of course it’s not just Russia that’s bombing your enemies; it’s the United States. Do you welcome American airstrikes against ISIS?

President Assad: No, because it’s not legal. First of all, it’s not legal.

Question 17: It’s not legal for Russia to do it, is it?

President Assad: No, they are invited legally and formally by the Syrian government. It’s the right of any government to invite any other country to help in any issue. So, they are legal in Syria, while the Americans are not legal, with their allies, of course all of them are not legal. This is first. Second, since the Russian intervention, terrorism has been, let’s say, regressing, while before that, and during the American illegal intervention with their allies ISIS was expanding and terrorism was expanding and taking over new areas in Syria. They’re not serious. So, I cannot say I welcome the un-seriousness and to be in Syria illegally.

Question 18: Thousands of missions, hundreds of airstrikes… the United States is not being serious in Syria?

President Assad: The question is not how many strikes. What is the achievement? That’s the question. The reality is telling, the reality is telling that since the beginning of the American airstrikes, terrorism has been expanding and prevailing, not vice versa. It only shrank when the Russians intervened. So, this is reality. We have to talk about facts, it’s not only about the pro forma action that they’ve been taking.

Question 19: So, American airstrikes are ineffective and counterproductive?

President Assad: Yes, it is counterproductive somehow. When terrorism is growing, it is counterproductive. That’s correct.

Question 20: Whose fault is that? Is that a military fault, or is President Obama simply not being, let’s say, ruthless enough?

President Assad: No, first of all it’s not about being ruthless; it’s about being genuine. It’s about the real intentions, it’s about being serious, it’s about having the will. The United States doesn’t have the will to defeat the terrorists; it had the will to control them and to use them as a card like they did in Afghanistan. That will reflected on the military aspect of the issue. If you want to compare, more than a hundred and twenty or thirty Russian airstrikes in a few areas in Syria, compared to ten or twelve American allies’ airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, it means militarily nothing. But that military ineffectiveness is a reflection of the political will.

Question 21: There was a political will, as you put it, to remove you from power. That was the will of Washington. That seems to have changed. Have you any idea why the United States has changed its mind apparently about your future?

President al-Assad9President Assad: No, because the problem with the American officials is that they say something and they mask their intentions, they go in a different way. They say something, they say the opposite. They say something, they do something different. So, you cannot tell what are their real intentions. What I’m sure about is that they don’t have good intentions towards Syria. Maybe they are making tactics, maneuvers, but they haven’t changed their intentions, as I believe.

Question 22: President Obama wanted you out. He’s leaving office soon, and you’re staying. Did you win?

President Assad: No, it’s not between me and him. It’s between me and whoever wants to destroy this country, and mainly the terrorists within Syria now. This is where we can win as Syrians; if we can get rid of those terrorists, if we can restore the stability in Syria, this is where we win. Otherwise, we cannot talk about winning. That’s true, they didn’t succeed, but if they don’t succeed in their plans, if it went into a fiasco, it doesn’t mean we win the war. So I have to be realistic and precise about choosing the terms in that regard.

Question 23: But one of the president’s key aims, which was to remove you from power, has clearly failed, or do you believe it’s failed?

President Assad: Yeah, I said he’s failed, but that doesn’t mean I win, because for him the war is to remove me, for me the war is not to stay in my position; for me the war is to restore Syria. So, you’re talking about two different wars; for me I’m not fighting my war, I’m not fighting the war that the president should stay. My war is to protect Syria. I don’t care about if I stay or not as long as the Syrians don’t want me to be in my position. For me, I don’t care about what the other presidents want; I care about what the Syrians want. If they want me to stay, I’m going to stay, if they want me to leave, I’m going to leave. So, it’s different, a completely different thing.

Question 24: Do you feel the United States has fundamentally misunderstood your war with ISIS, with what you might call a common enemy?

President Assad: Again, it’s not a common enemy, because for us we are genuine in fighting not only ISIS but al-Nusra and every affiliated to Al Qaeda organization within Syria. All of them are terrorists. So, if you want to talk not about ISIS, about the terrorist groups, we wanted to get rid of the terrorists, we wanted to defeat those terrorists, while the United States wanted to manage those groups in order to topple the government in Syria. So, you cannot talk about common interest unless they really want to fight those terrorists and to defeat them, and they didn’t do that. They’ve been in Iraq in 2006, they didn’t try to defeat them.

Question 25: But America is very genuine about fighting ISIS. ISIS is a threat to the American homeland. How can you say America is not serious about fighting ISIS?

President Assad: Because ISIS has been set up in Iraq in 2006 while the United States was in Iraq, not Syria was in Iraq, so it was growing under the supervision of the American authority in Iraq, and they didn’t do anything to fight ISIS at that time. So why to fight it now? And they don’t fight it now. It’s been expanding under the supervision of the American airplanes, and they could have seen ISIS using the oil fields and exporting oil to Turkey, and they didn’t try to attack any convoy of ISIS. How could they be against ISIS? They cannot see, they don’t see? How the Russians could have seen it from the first day and started attacking those convoys? Actually, the Russian intervention unmasked the American intentions regarding ISIS, and the other terrorist groups, of course.

Question 26: Three years ago, President Obama made a threat against you. He drew a red line, and then withdrew from that and did not attack you. What do you feel about that? Is that the sign of a weak president?

President Assad: That’s the problem with the United States. They’ve been promoting for years now that the only good president is ruthless or tough and who should go to war. This is the definition. Otherwise, he’s going to be a weak president, which is not true. Actually, for the American administrations since the second World War, they have shared in stoking the fire in conflicts in every part of this world. And as the time goes by, those administrations are becoming more and more pyromaniac. The difference now between those administrations is only about the means, not about the goal. One of them sends his own troops, like Bush, the other one is using surrogate mercenaries, the third one using proxies, and so on, but the core is the same, nothing has changed.

Question 27: But to go back to that moment three years ago, was that the sign of a weak United States and a weak president?

President Assad: No, because if you want to talk about the core, which is the war attacking Syria, they’ve been attacking Syria through proxies. They didn’t fight ISIS, they didn’t make any pressure on Turkey or Saudi Arabia in order to tell them “stop sending money and personnel and every logistic support to those terrorists.” They could have done so, they didn’t. So, actually they are waging war, but in a different way. They didn’t send their troops, they didn’t attack with missiles, but they send mercenaries. That’s what I meant. I mean, it’s the same.

Question 28: Did it surprise you that they didn’t attack?

President Assad: No, no. It wasn’t a surprise, but I think what they are doing now had the same effect. So, between mercenaries and between missiles, this one could be more effective for them. So, no, I couldn’t say that I was surprised.

Question 29: You’re a leader. By drawing a red line and not following through, has that damaged America’s credibility, not just in the Middle East, but in the world?

President Assad: But this credibility hasn’t ever existed for us, at least since the early 70s, to be frank with you, since we restored our relations with the United States in 1974 we never saw any administration that has real credibility in every issue we dealt with. They never had it. So, I cannot say that it is harmed. Many of their allies don’t believe them. I think the American credibility, not because of what you mentioned, because of their politics in general, their mainstream politics, are at an all-time low. That’s how we see it.

Question 30: An all-time low in terms of its credibility in the world?

President Assad: Generally, yeah. Regarding the politics in general, not regarding Syria. Yeah.

Question 31: Do you welcome the end of President Obama’s term of office?

President Assad: It means nothing for us, because if you change administration but you don’t change politics, it means nothing. So, it’s about the politics, and in Syria we never bet on any president coming or any president going. We never bet. Because what they say in their campaign is different from what they practice after they are elected.

Question 32: You’ve talked about presidents being the same, never changing their policy, but there will be a new president in the United States next year. Do you hope for a new relationship? Do you believe anything like that is possible?

President Assad: Yeah, of course. We always hope that the next president will be much wiser than the previous one, less pyromaniac as I said, less militaristic, adventurist president. That’s what we hope, but we never saw. I mean the difference is very marginal. So, we keep hoping, but we don’t bet on that hope.

Question 33: So, there will be a new president. There are two main choices: one of them is Donald Trump. What do you know of Mr. Trump?

President Assad: Nothing. Just what I heard in the media, and during the campaign. That’s what I say, we don’t have to waste our time hearing what they say in their campaign; they’re going to change after they are elected, and this is where we have to start evaluating the president, after the campaign, not during the campaign.

Question 34: And you’re here in Damascus, what are you hearing in the media about Mr. Trump?

President Assad: The conflict between the Americans, but we don’t pay much attention to it. I mean, even this rhetoric between the different, let’s say, nominees, is changing during the campaign. So, what you hear today is not relevant tomorrow. So, we cannot build our politics on day-to-day politics.

Question 35: But you’re following this election?

President Assad: Not really, not really. Because as I said, you don’t follow anything that you cannot consider as connected to the reality yet. It’s only connected to the reality when they are in office. So far, it’s only rhetoric. We don’t have to waste our time with rhetoric.

Question 36: Simply rhetoric. So, for example, talking about Mr. Trump; anything Mr. Trump says, you wouldn’t necessarily believe that would be the policy of a President Trump?

President Assad: No, we cannot. Whether Trump or Clinton or anyone. I’m talking in general, it’s not about the names. It’s a principle for every American president in every campaign.

Question 37: He’s made very few comments about Syria or the Middle East, but he’s described you as a “bad guy.” Does that worry you?

President Assad: That’s his opinion. No, it’s a personal opinion. He doesn’t have to see me as a good guy. The question for me: do the Syrians see me as a good guy or a bad guy, not an American person or president or nominee. I don’t care about it. It’s not part of my political map, let’s say.

Question 38: One of the things he’s said and been very clear about is that he would be much tougher on ISIS. You would welcome that, wouldn’t you? Because you just said President Obama isn’t serious.

President Assad: You don’t have to be tougher. This word doesn’t have any meaning in reality, in real life, in this region. You have to fight ISIS in different ways. ISIS is not only fighters you have to attack with the strongest bomb or missile. It’s not like this. The issue of terrorism is very complicated, it’s related to the ideology. How can you be tough against the ideology of ISIS? That’s the question. How can you be tough regarding their economy, how they offer money and donations? How can you deal with that?

Question 39: I think Mr. Trump is talking about military toughness. He wants to-

President Assad: It’s not enough, it’s not enough. You have to be smart. It’s not enough to be tough. First of all, you have to have the will, you have to be genuine, then you have to be smart, then you can be tough, and being tough and being militarily active, this is important, but this is the last option when you fulfill the first criteria.

Question 40: From what you know of Mr. Trump, is he smart enough?

President Assad: I don’t know him. When I sit with him face-to-face, I can judge him, but I only look at the person on the TV, and you know on the TV you can manipulate everything, you can make, how to say, you can rehearse, you can prepare yourself, so that’s not the issue.

Question 41: Do you like what you see on TV of Mr. Trump?

President Assad: I don’t follow the American elections as I said, because we don’t bet on it. We don’t follow it.

Question 42: He seems to respect President Putin. Does that give you hope that maybe he’s a man you could do business with?

President Assad: If he’s genuine, I think he’s saying the right thing, because every person on Earth, whether they agree or disagree with President Putin, should respect him, because he’s respectable. He respects himself, and he respects the other, he respects his values, respects the interests of his own people, and he’s honest and genuine. So, how can’t you respect someone with those descriptions? If he’s genuine, I think he’s correct. That’s what I can say.

Question 43: Mr. Trump has also made comments about Muslims, and not allowing Muslims into the United States. Did that anger you, upset you?

President Assad: Yeah, especially in Syria as a melting pot country made of many, many religions and sects and ethnicities, we think this diversity is richness, not the opposite. It’s the way the government and the way the influential forces in the society that made it a problem or a conflict. If you can have all those people living in one society with real integration, with harmony, this is richness, this is for the interest of any society, including the United States.

Question 44: So, Mr. Trump should not have made those comments about Muslims?

President Assad: Anyone shouldn’t make any discriminative rhetoric in any country. I don’t believe in this kind of rhetoric, of course.

Question 45: Mr. Trump has no experience in foreign policy. Does that worry you?

President Assad: Who had this experience before? Obama or George Bush or Clinton before? No-one of them had any experience. This is the problem with the United States. You have to look for a statesman who has real experience in politics for years, not because of having a position in Congress for a few years or being minister of foreign affairs for example. That doesn’t mean you have the experience. The experience in states should be much much longer. So we don’t think that most of the presidents of the United States were well-versed in politics.

Question 46: So, a man with no experience in foreign policy in the White House is not necessarily dangerous in your view?

President Assad: Anyone who doesn’t have experience in any position, in the White House or in the Presidential Palace in Syria or any other country, is of course dangerous for the country, generally. Of course, the United States as a great power, could have more impacts on the rest of the world. But it’s not only about the experience. At the end, when you have institutions, they can help. It’s about the intention. Is he going to be with good experience but with militaristic intentions? Destructive intentions and so on? So, you have to talk about many factors. It’s not enough to talk only about the experience.

Question 47: Someone with more experience in foreign affairs is Hillary Clinton. She is known to you, in one sense. What would the consequences be if Hillary Clinton wins the election?

President Assad: Again, the same, I have to repeat the same answer. It depends on her politics. What politics is she going to adopt? Is she going to prove that she’s tough and take the United States to another war or to make escalations? This is where it’s going to be bad for everyone, including the United States. If she’s going to go in another direction, that will be good. And again, we focus more about the intentions before talking about the experience. The experience is very important, but the intention is the most crucial thing for any president. So, can you ask them the question: can they tell genuinely the American people and the rest of the world what their real intentions about their politics are? Are they going to make escalation or we’re going to see more entente around the world?

President al-Assad8Question 48: Well, one difference between them clearly is that Mrs. Clinton is determined, it seems still, to get rid of you. At least that’s her stated position. Mr. Trump says he’s focusing on ISIS, leave you alone. That’s a clear difference between the two. Hillary Clinton, well, I’ll ask you the question: does Hillary Clinton represent more of a threat to you than Donald Trump?

President Assad: No, because since the beginning of this crisis we heard the same motto “Assad must go” many times from nearly every Western official in different levels, whether leader or foreign official or any other official. We never cared about it. So you cannot talk about this as a threat; this is interfering in our internal issues we’re not going to respond to. As long as I have the support of the Syrian people, I don’t care about whoever talks, including the president of the United States himself. Anyone. So it’s the same for us. That’s why I say Clinton and Trump and what Obama said, for me, nothing. We don’t put it on the political map, we don’t waste our time with those rhetoric, or even demands.

Question 49: But if Hillary Clinton as president establishes a no-fly zone over your territory, over northern Syrian for example, that makes a huge difference.

President Assad: Of course. This is where you can talk about threat, that’s why I said the policy is the crucial thing for us. When they started supporting the terrorists with such projects or plan or step, this is where you can have more chaos in the world. That’s another question: does the United States have an interest in having more chaos around the world, or the United States have more interest in having stability around the world? That’s another question. Of course, the United States can create chaos. They’ve been creating chaos for the last 50-60 years around the world. It’s not something new. Are they going to make it worse, more prevailing? That’s another question. But it’s not about me. It’s not about the president. It’s about the whole situation in the world, because you cannot separate the situation in Syria from the situation in the Middle East, and when the Middle East is not stable, the world cannot be stable.

Question 50: Let me just probe you about how far you might want a new relationship with the United States. ISIS is headquartered in your country in Raqqa. If you knew that ISIS was about to attack the United States, would you warn America?

President Assad: As a principle, yes, because they may attack civilians, and I cannot blame the innocents in the United States for the bad intentions of their officials. This is not correct. And as I said many times, I don’t consider the United States as a direct enemy as they don’t occupy my land. But at the same time, this is, let’s say, not realistic, for one reason; because there’s no relation between us and the United States. This kind of information or cooperation needs security cooperation based on political cooperation. We have neither. So you cannot have it anyway.

Question 51: I’ve spoken to your [Deputy] Foreign Minister Dr. Fayssal Mikdad many times, and he’s described to me the danger of Syria and its crisis exploding, not just across the Middle East, but across the world, and that has clearly happened. Is, as ISIS is driven back or broken, is there a danger that their fighters scatter?
Is there a danger that as you defeat ISIS, the United States becomes more vulnerable to terrorism?

President Assad: No. If we defeat ISIS we are helping the rest of the world, because those terrorists coming from more than a hundred countries around the world, including the Western countries, if they aren’t defeated they will go back with more experience, more fanaticism, and more extremism, and they’re going to attack in those countries. So, if we defeat them here, we are helping every other country, including the United States.

Question 52: But ISIS fighters may leave Raqqa, and as we’ve seen with terrorist attacks in Europe, they come to France, they come to Belgium. They could come to the United States as well and attack. That is a real risk, isn’t it?

President Assad: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. I said if we defeat them here, if we defeat terrorism in the meaning they cannot go back, we are helping then. If they leave, if they escape, if you keep having this terrorism, this is where you can start exporting those terrorists to Europe, as what happened in France recently. So what you said is correct, that’s what I mean. If we defeat them here, and they cannot go back, this is where we help the others. If they go back, they will be a danger to the rest of the world.

Question 53: Like any war, there are two sides. Your forces have been accused of doing some terrible things. I’ve been here many times and I have seen some of the terrible things as a result of your forces’ airstrikes, bombardments, and so on. Do you believe one day you will face an international court?

President Assad: First of all, you have to do your job as a president. When you are attacked by terrorists, I mean as a country, you have to defend your country, and that is my job according to the constitution. So, I’m doing my job, and I’m going to keep doing it no matter what I’m going to face. Let’s be clear about this. Defending the country cannot be balanced with the personal future of the president, whether he is going to face a criminal court or anything like that, or to face death. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t want to face all these things, leave that position and give it to someone else.

Question 54: But the reason people are saying you should face a war crimes tribunal is that you are clearly using any means whatsoever. I mean, I know you don’t agree that there are such a thing as a barrel bomb. Never mind the metal, the charges that you are using, indiscriminate force, indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas. That’s true, isn’t it?

President Assad: First of all, those people, do they have any criteria that what the means that you should use with the terrorists? They don’t have. So, this is irrelevant. It has no meaning from a legal point of view and from a realistic point of view. Second, if you talk about indiscriminate, no army would use indiscriminate armaments in such a situation where there’s nearly intermingle between the two sides.

Question 55: With respect Mr. President, I have seen a bomb thrown from a helicopter. That was indiscriminate.

President Assad: Let’s say, technically, this is not the issue whether to throw it from a helicopter or from an aircraft. So, this is not the issue. The more important thing, if you want to talk about precise, let’s say we are using precise armaments like the Unites States using the drones and the highest precision missiles in Afghanistan, how many terrorists have they killed so far? They have killed many, many folds of civilians and innocents.

Question 56: Even if that’s true, that doesn’t make anything that you do right.

President Assad: No, no, no. I mean, first of all, the kind of armament that you are using is not related to what you have mentioned. It is not whether you use high precision or less precise armaments. There’s no such criteria. This is only part of the media campaign recently. I’m talking now legally. So, we had the right-

Question 57: With respect, it is not just a media campaign. The United Nations, as you well know, has spoken about this. Human rights groups have spoken about this, not just indiscriminate use of weapons against civilians, but the UN spoke this week about the problems in Aleppo, in Darayya, which is just very close to here, of the use of starvation as a weapon of war, sieges. That’s going on right now close to us, isn’t it?

President Assad: We’re going to talk about the siege. Now, regarding the armaments, the only thing that the government cannot use in any war is the armaments that’s been banned by international law. Any other armaments that you’ve been using against terrorism, it’s your right. So, it’s our right to use any armament to defeat the

Question 58: And you know there’s a charge that you have used chemical weapons, which you deny.

President Assad: We didn’t. So far, it has been three years and no one had offered any evidence regarding this, only allegations.

Question 59: There is plenty of evidence but you reject them.

President Assad: No, no. There is no evidence, actually, only pictures on the Internet and any one can-

Question 60: Photographic, scientific, eyewitness…

President Assad: Nothing. You have a delegation coming from the international organization of chemical weapons. They came to Syria and they didn’t have any evidence. They went and collected everything, samples and everything to offer evidence, but they couldn’t. There is no evidence. So, we didn’t use it, and there is no logic in using it.

Question 61: Let’s talk about the methods your forces are using close to here which is cutting off an area and besieging it, and there are thousands of civilians very close to here, who are starving. Do you recognize that?

President Assad: Let’s presume that what you are saying is correct, let’s presume that. Now, you are talking about encircled or besieged by the army for years now, not for months, for years. They don’t have food, and every basics because the government doesn’t allow them, but at the same time they have been fighting for two years, and they have been shelling us with mortars and killing civilians from their area. It means, according to this narrative, that we are allowing them to have armaments, but we don’t allow them to have food, is that realistic?

Question 62: That’s what the UN says. The UN says, for example, in Madaya it’s only managed to get four aid convoys in, in all these years.

President Assad: How do we prevent them from having food and we don’t prevent them from having armaments to kill us? What is the logic in this? This is contradiction. We either besiege everything or we allow everything. This is first. Second, the proof that this is not correct is that you have every video about the convoys coming from the United Nations to reach those areas. Otherwise, how could they survive for years if they are under the siege? It’s been years, they have been talking about the same narrative, repeating, reiterating for years now, but people are still alive, how could they live without food?

Question 63: As you know, targeting civilians in a war is a war crime and just recently, the family of Marie Colvin, an American journalist, has launched a suit in the United States charging you and your government with deliberately targeting and killing her. You know Marie Colvin; she was a friend of mine.

President Assad: Yeah, a journalist, yeah.

Question 64: Did your forces target Marie Colvin and her colleagues with an intention to kill her?

President Assad: No, very simply. First of all, the army forces didn’t know that Marie Colvin existed somewhere, because before that we hadn’t known about Marie Colvin. So, it’s a war and she came illegally to Syria, she worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she’s been responsible of everything that befall on her, this is first. Second-

Question 65: She is responsible for her own death?

President Assad: Of course, she came illegally to Syria. We can be responsible of everyone within our country when they come legally to Syria. She came illegally, and she went with the terrorists. We didn’t send her anywhere, we don’t know anything about her.

Question 66: As you know, that doesn’t explain why missiles hit the house that she was in in Homs?

President Assad: No, no, nobody knows if she was killed by a missile or which missile or where did the missile come from or how. No one has any evidence. This is just allegations, because it’s a conflict area, it’s a war. You know about crossfire, when you are caught in a crossfire somewhere, you cannot tell who killed who. So, these are allegations. Second, we had hundreds of journalists who came to Syria legally and illegally, and they covered for the terrorists, not for the government, and we didn’t kill them. So, why to single out this person in order to kill her? There is no reason. This is second. Third, tens of journalists working for the government and support the government have been killed, did we kill them? We didn’t. So, this is war. Have you heard about a good war? I don’t think that anyone has heard about a good war. It’s a war. You always have causalities, you always have innocent people being killed by any means, and no one can tell how.

Question 67: You see the impression you give, Mr. President, is of a man who feels he bears no responsibility for the terrible things that are done in his name to the Syrian people. You have an air of “oh well, it really does not matter.”

President Assad: You only bear the responsibility for the decision that you take. You don’t bear the responsibility for the decision that you didn’t take.

Question 68: But some of the decisions you’ve taken have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
President Assad: Like?

Question 69: Attacking certain areas, launching campaigns, airstrikes, the use of certain weapons.

President Assad: The only two decisions that we’ve taken since the beginning of the crisis are to defend our country against the terrorists, and that’s a correct decision. The second one is to make dialogue with everyone. We made dialogue with everyone, including some terrorist groups who wanted to give up their armaments, and we made it. We’re very flexible. We didn’t take any decision to attack any area that doesn’t include terrorists or where terrorists don’t shell the others’ cities
adjacent to them.

Question 70: Do you ever see pictures, photographs, videos of children, for example, in rebel-held areas? And I wonder if you have seen these photographs, what do you feel? Sorrow, regret, nothing?

President Assad: My question is, how could you verify that those children that you saw on the internet are in their area?

Question 71: You see, there you go again, Mr. President. An answer like that simply reinforces people’s view that you are evading responsibility-

President Assad: No, no, no.

Question 72: That actually you don’t care for the people on the other side that your forces kill.

President Assad: That question could be answered, if you answer that question: how can you blame now Bush for the one million Iraqis dead since the war in Iraq in 2003?

Question 73: I’m not talking about President Bush; I am here to ask you-

President Assad: No, no. I’m talking about the principle now; it’s about the principle. The same principle. He attacked a sovereign country, while I defend my country. If you want to use one standard, it is one thing, but if you want to do a double standard, that is another thing.

Question 74: You’re still not giving me the impression that actually you care very much.

President Assad: No, no. I talk to an American audience, so there must be an analogy between the two things, because it is about the logic that you use to explain something. It is not only about my answer. He attacked a sovereign country while we are defending our country. He killed Iraqi people on their land, we are defending mainly against terrorists who are coming from different places in that world. So, this is our right, while to talk about a clean war where there is no causalities, no civilians, no innocent people to be killed, that doesn’t exist. No one could make it. No war in the world.

Question 75: Is this how you explain the war, for example, to your children at the breakfast table, I am sure they are very-

President Assad: Of course, I’m going to talk about the reality, about the facts, while to talk about children being killed, children of who, where, and how? You are talking about propaganda and about media campaigns, and about sometimes fake pictures on the internet. We cannot talk but about the facts. We have to talk about the facts. I cannot talk about allegations.

President al-Assad2Question 76: Have you ever cried about what happened to Syria?

President Assad: Crying doesn’t mean you are a good man, and doesn’t mean you have a lot of passion; it’s about the passion that’s within your heart, it is not about your eyes, it is not about the tears. This is first. Second, as a president, it’s about what you’re going to do, not about how you’re going to feel. How are you going to protect the Syrians? When you have an incident, bad incident, and you have it every day, do you keep crying every day, or you keep working? My question is how I can help whenever I have a bad event or incident. I ask myself how can I protect the other Syrians from having the same problem.

Question 77: What are you going to do next? Are you just going to go on and on and on? You and your father have been in power for forty-six years, is that right?

President Assad: No, it’s not right, because he is a president and I am another president. So, it’s not right. The description is not right at all. He was elected by the Syrian people, and I was elected after he died. He didn’t put me in any position, so you cannot connect. I’m a president, and he’s a president. I have been in power for sixteen years, not for forty-five years.

Question 78: You have been in power for sixteen years, my question is: are you going to go on and on and on?

President Assad: Ah, in my position? In my position, you have to ask the Syrian people. If they don’t want me, I have to leave right away, today. If they want me, I have to stay. It depends on them, I mean, if I want to stay against their will, I cannot produce, I cannot succeed, and I do not think I have the intention not to

Question 79: How do you think history will remember you?

President Assad: How I hope history will remember me. I cannot foretell; I am not a fortuneteller. I hope that history will see me as the man who protected his country from terrorism and from intervention and saved its sovereignty and the integrity of its land.

Question 80: Because you know what the first draft of history is saying, that you’re a brutal dictator, you are a man with blood on your hands, more blood on your hands than even on you father.

President Assad: No, again, I will draw that example if you have a doctor who cut the hand because of a gangrene to save the patient, you do not say he’s a brutal doctor. He’s doing his job in order to save the rest of the body. So, when you protect your country from the terrorists and you kill terrorists and you defeat terrorists, you are not brutal; you are a patriot. That is how you look at yourself, and that’s how the people want to look at you.

Question 81: And that is how you see yourself, as a patriot?

President Assad: I cannot be objective about looking at myself. The most important thing is how the Syrians look at me, that is the real and objective opinion, not my opinion. I cannot be objective about myself.

Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much for answering NBC’s questions and for taking time to talk to me. Thank you very much.

President Assad: Thank you.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Assad: “The Supporters of those Terrorists Have the Endorsement of Some Western countries Including the U.S” ”Video”

USA: 60 Words And A War Without End


The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History

Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here’s how it came to be, and what it’s since come to mean.

Sunrise was still nearly an hour off when Nazih al-Ruqai climbed into his black Hyundai SUV outside a mosque in northern Tripoli and turned the key. The lanky 49-year-old had left the house barely 30 minutes earlier for a quick trip to the mosque on a Saturday. It was Oct. 5, 2013, and after more than two decades in exile, he had settled into a predictable existence of prayer and worship.

The homecoming hadn’t always been so smooth. Ruqai, who is better known in the jihadi world as Abu Anas al-Libi, was still feeling the effects of the hepatitis C he had contracted years earlier during a stint in an underground prison in Iran. Following overtures from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government, his wife and children had returned to Libya in 2010. But Libi stayed away, wary of the man he had once plotted to kill. Only when the Libyan uprisings started in early 2011 did he follow his family back to Libya. But by then it was already too late. His oldest son, Abd al-Rahman, the only one of his five children who had been born in Libya, was dead, shot while fighting for the capital.

After that, things moved in fits and starts. Qaddafi was killed weeks later in October 2011, and Libi eventually settled in Nufalayn, a leafy middle-class neighborhood in northeast Tripoli, alongside several members of his extended family. Life after Qaddafi was chaotic and messy — nothing really worked as the new government struggled to reboot after 42 years of dictatorship, often finding itself at the mercy of the heavily armed militias and tribes that had contributed to Qaddafi’s downfall.

Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda leader connected to the 1998 embassy bombings in eastern Africa. FBI / AP Photo

Libi knew he was a wanted man. He had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for more than a decade, following an indictment in 2000 for his alleged role in al-Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two years earlier. Along with Libi the indictment named 20 other individuals, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, as defendants.

“He suspected that at any moment he would be killed,” his son later told The New York Times. Still, on that Saturday morning in early October, much of the danger seemed to have passed. Libi had been living in the open for nearly a year, attending prayers and settling local disputes, where his history as a fighter and knowledge of the Qur’an made him a respected arbiter. Neighbors called him simply “the shaykh,” a sign of respect in the conservative circles in which Libi still moved.

He had also taken steps to address his past. Three weeks earlier, on Sept. 15, Libi had sat down with Libya’s attorney general to discuss his indictment, according to one report. (The Libyan Embassy in Washington did not respond to repeated requests to confirm Libi’s meeting.) But mostly he just wanted to move on with his life. He had applied for his old job at the Ministry of Oil and Gas and he couldn’t stop talking about how much he was looking forward to becoming a grandfather for the first time.

A trio of cars around 6 a.m. ended all of that.

Inside the family’s apartment, Libi’s wife heard the commotion. From a window she looked out over the beige wall that surrounded their building and into the street where several men had surrounded her husband, who was still in the driver’s seat of his black Hyundai.

“Get out,” the men shouted in Arabic. “Get out.” Then they smashed the window. Most of the men were masked, but she could see a few faces, she said later in Arabic interviews. They looked Libyan; they sounded Libyan. Some of them had guns; some didn’t, but they all moved quickly.

By the time the rest of the family made it to the street, all that was left was a single sandal and a few drops of blood.

Early that same morning, nearly 3,000 miles away in the seaside city of Baraawe on Somalia’s eastern coast, U.S. Navy SEALs crept through the darkness toward their target, which a local resident later described to me as a walled compound more than 100 yards inland. The Americans had been here before. Four years earlier, in September 2009, a contingent of Navy SEALs had ambushed a two-car convoy just outside of town. Flying low in helicopter gunships, the SEALs quickly disabled the cars and then touched down to collect the bodies.

This time the target — Abd al-Qadir Muhammad Abd al-Qadir, a young Kenyan of Somali descent better known as Ikrima — was stationary. The SEALs would have to go in and get him. Pre-raid intelligence suggested that the compound housed mostly fighters with few or no civilians present. Only 130 miles south of Mogadishu and what passed for the Somali government, Baraawe had been under the control of al-Shabaab, a fragmentary militant group, since 2009. Fighters came and went freely, as al-Shabaab implemented its own narrow version of Islamic law in the city.

Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, aka Ikrima.

Moving up the beach and into enemy territory, the SEALs needed the element of surprise. Through the trees and scrub brush ahead of them, most of the city was dark. Baraawe had only a few hours of electricity each day, usually from evening prayers until midnight. But al-Shabaab’s members lived separately and, along with some of the city’s wealthier residents, got around the shortages by running private generators. The plan that night took this into account, calling for the SEALs to jam internet signals, apparently in an attempt to cut off communication once the raid began. That would prove to be a mistake.

Inside the compound, some of the al-Shabaab fighters were up late and online. And, according to a report in the Toronto Star, when the internet suddenly went out in the middle of the night, they went to look for the source of the problem. At least one fighter stepped outside, and as he moved around in the darkness he spotted some of the SEALs.

The plan to knock the internet offline and isolate the fighters in the villa had backfired, effectively giving al-Shabaab an early warning that the SEALs were on their way. (In the days after the raid, al-Shabaab would arrest a handful of local men who were known to visit Western websites, accusing them of spying and aiding U.S. efforts.)

The firefight lasted several minutes, although residents reported hearing gunfire throughout the night as members of al-Shabaab discharged their weapons into the dark for hours after the Americans had withdrawn, empty-handed.

In the span of a few hours, the U.S. had launched a pair of raids — one successful and one not — 3,000 miles apart, in countries with which the nation was not at war. Hardly anyone noticed.

More than a dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, this is what America’s war looks like, silent strikes and shadowy raids. The Congressional Research Service, an analytical branch of the Library of Congress, recently said that it had located at least 30 similar occurrences, although the number of covert actions is likely many times higher with drones strikes and other secret operations. The remarkable has become regular.

The White House said that the operations in both Libya and Somalia drew their authority from the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a 12-year-old piece of legislation that was drafted in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks. At the heart of the AUMF is a single 60-word sentence, which has formed the legal foundation for nearly every counterterrorism operation the U.S. has conducted since Sept. 11, from Guantanamo Bay and drone strikes to secret renditions and SEAL raids. Everything rests on those 60 words.

Unbound by time and unlimited by geography, the sentence has been stretched and expanded over the past decade, sprouting new meanings and interpretations as two successive administrations have each attempted to keep pace with an evolving threat while simultaneously maintaining the security of the homeland. In the process, what was initially thought to authorize force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan has now been used to justify operations in several countries across multiple continents and, at least theoretically, could allow the president — any president — to strike anywhere at anytime. What was written in a few days of fear has now come to govern years of action.

Culled from interviews with former and current members of Congress, as well as staffers and attorneys who served in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, this is the story of how those 60 words came to be, the lone objector to their implementation, and their continuing power in the world today. The story, like most modern ones of America at war, begins in the shadow of 9/11 with a lawyer and Word document.

Just over 24 hours after United Flight 175 flew into the south tower at 9:03 in the morning on Sept. 11, Alberto Gonzalez, the White House counsel, called one of his deputies into his office.

The U.S. still didn’t know for certain who was behind the attacks or how many people had been killed. The CIA thought it might be Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, and early casualty reports put the death toll at more than 5,000. Only one of those things would turn out to be true. But on that first day the only thing anyone knew for certain was that the U.S. had been attacked and that it had to respond.

Gonzales gave a key part of that task to Timothy Flanigan, a graying, slightly paunchy 48-year-old lawyer with a background in corporate law.

Gonzales wanted his deputy to draft the congressional resolution that would authorize the president to go after those responsible. Flanigan listened to the instructions, but he was out of his element. He had clerked for Warren Burger during the chief justice’s final years on the Supreme Court in 1985 and 1986, but most of those cases focused on things like antitrust laws and regulating adult bookstores, not national security and war. Still, he at least knew where to start. While the U.S. had never been attacked like this before, Congress had a long history of authorizing the use of force. What he needed was a precedent.

After a quick search online, Flanigan located the last time Congress had given the president permission to act: the 1991 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq. Then, according to an account in Kurt Eichenwald’s best-selling 2012 book 500 Days,

he copied and pasted the text of that resolution into a new document.

Next Flanigan called David Addington, a gruff, standoffish man in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. Addington had started his career as a lawyer in the CIA and he had a better sense of the issues at stake. So too did John Yoo, a 34-year-old law professor from Berkeley, Calif., whose innovative legal arguments in Bush v. Gore a year earlier had secured him a place in the Bush White House. Together the three men hammered out a first draft of the resolution, which they faxed to congressional leaders that evening.

Almost no one liked Flanigan’s initial offering. Everyone was working long hours and fighter jets were still patrolling the skies over Washington, but Congress wasn’t ready to give President George W. Bush a blank check to go after an ill-defined enemy no one knew anything about.

At a Democratic caucus in the basement of the Capitol building, several members complained that the wording was too broad. Republicans were similarly concerned. One part of Flanigan’s draft authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” both in the United States as well as abroad. What exactly did that mean? officials wondered. Could President Bush use the military domestically? What about the CIA? No one seemed to know.

Flanigan and Yoo spent much of Thursday, Sept. 13, walking scared and sleep-deprived congressional staffers through the brief text. At one of the meetings in the Roosevelt Room, tempers started to fray as Flanigan and Yoo dug in to defend their work. The day before, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had warned President Bush to be careful with his rhetoric, particularly his use of the word “war.” And now his staff was driving home a similar point. Mostly they wanted to make sure that the resolution adhered to the War Powers Resolution language, which Congress had passed in the wake of the Vietnam War as a way of checking the president’s ability to unilaterally wage war.

Crammed around a long wooden table with a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt as Rough Rider looking down on them, the two sides got to work. Deep into the meeting, one of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s aides returned to the War Powers language, which had already been debated and tabled several times. This was a deal breaker, she said.

Nothing had been settled. The two sides were going in circles. From around the table the frustration was palpable. Finally, House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, spoke up. “We don’t have time for this,” he blurted out from his seat in the back.

The 50-year-old Palmer saw his role in the meeting as a mediator and a prodder. His boss was second in the order of presidential succession, and he was convinced the U.S. was about to be hit again. The discussion in the Roosevelt Room was getting bogged down in legislative minutiae when the country needed action.

Let’s have a seminar on this next month, Palmer thought as he laid into Leahy’s aide. Part of the edge in his voice was due to his belief that it was exactly this type of narrow thinking that had led to the intelligence wall in the years leading up to the attack. But right now their job wasn’t to litigate past mistakes, it was to give the president the latitude he needed to go after the people responsible.

Palmer’s outburst got the meeting moving again, and when it broke up, a White House official wandered over. “Thanks for popping off,” he told Palmer. “We could have been here all night.”

By late that evening the White House and Congress had something resembling a working draft. They had even found a compromise to one of the more vexing phrases, which would have given the president the authority “to deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.”

Congressional lawyers had pointed out that the clause would give the president unprecedented power, allowing him to strike anyone anywhere in the world at any time. One even argued that given the potential activities that could be crammed into the word “aggression,” the president might never again have to seek congressional authorization to combat terrorism. He could simply target anyone he considered a threat and say he was preempting terrorism. Did Congress really want to give the president such open-ended and wide-ranging power?

Flanigan and Yoo agreed to remove the clause on the condition that they place similar language in the “whereas” section of the resolution. Convinced this was the best they could get and comforted by the fact that the whereas section carried no legal weight — it existed only to provide the context for the resolution — Daschle and the rest of the Democratic negotiators agreed to the deal.

They brought the revised draft — five whereas clauses, the 60-word body, and a War Powers section — back to the Capitol basement for the second Democratic caucus of the day. Hours earlier, a bomb threat had forced the Capitol to close for 45 minutes as security swept the building. Milling about on the grass outside the Capitol in suits and shoes designed for hallways and offices, the members tried to maintain their composure, but the long days and stress were starting to take a toll. Like the rest of the country, they wanted to hit back.

“I say bomb the hell out of them,” Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia had told The New York Times a day earlier. “If there’s collateral damage, so be it. They certainly found our civilians to be expendable.”

Not everyone was so sure. Barbara Lee, a 55-year-old congresswoman with short black hair and the worn-through voice of a lifelong activist, had stayed silent during the first caucus. There had been enough people talking, and as a second-term congresswoman from the liberal California San Francisco Bay Area, she was still relatively junior. But now, as support for the resolution seemed to be gaining momentum, she decided it was time to speak up.

Lee knew what she was about to say would be unpopular, but she had been unpopular before. As a child growing up in El Paso, Texas, during the 1950s, her mother sent her to Catholic school instead of segregated public schools, and later as a high school student in California she broke the color barrier to become the first black cheerleader at her high school.

“This is still a blank check,” she said when it came her turn to speak. The faces staring back at her looked somber and reflective, but Lee could sense the undercurrent of anger running through the room.

“Let’s take a step back,” she begged. “We don’t know what the implications of our actions will be.” A few heads had started to nod along with her, and as Lee sat down, several other members stood up to voice concerns about the dangers inherent in such a broad resolution.

By the end of the meeting, it was clear that this was the resolution, a single sentence and 60 words:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

That was it. After more than a day of negotiations between the White House and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, this is what had emerged. Congress could take it or leave it. There would be no going back to the drawing board.

Lee spent much of the night on the phone. Congress was moving forward with the resolution. The only question that remained was how she would vote. She needed to get a sense of what her district back in California was thinking, and she wanted to talk.

“I can’t believe this,” she kept saying into the phone. “Am I missing something?” None of her friends had an answer. They could tell her what they were hearing in California and list what they saw as the pros and cons of different votes. But that was it. No one wanted to give advice.

It was her vote, and it would have to be her decision.

The Senate moved first. Early on Friday morning, Minority Leader Trent Lott came to Daschle with a request. The Republicans in his ranks were getting restless. The White House was telling congressional allies that the resolution was ready, and with the attacks already three days in the past, Lott’s members were tired of waiting. They wanted action.

If Daschle wanted the Senate to speak with one voice, he needed to call a vote. Otherwise, Lott told him, some Republicans might start to move on their own. Typically, voting on something like this started in the House before moving to the Senate and then to the president, but typically the House would have taken the lead in drafting the resolution. The protocol was already out of order. Daschle agreed with Lott’s assessment, and when the Senate was gaveled back into session at 10:16 on Friday morning, he was ready with the resolution.

“Let me say, before I do read this request,” Daschle said as he fiddled with his reading glasses, “how much I appreciate, once again, the leadership of our Republican leader.” Glancing across the aisle to where Lott stood in the mostly empty chamber, Daschle continued: “As he has throughout the week, he has been remarkable. We could not be where we are today, this country or this institution, without the strong partnership and leadership he has shown.”

The White House had organized a prayer service at the National Cathedral for noon, and in an effort to save time, Daschle asked the senators to vote from their desks. Friday had turned into a dreary, rainy day, and they still had a nearly 15-minute drive uptown.

“We want to get on the buses just as quickly as possible after this vote,” Daschle told his colleagues. “They will be right down in front of the steps.”

Carl Levin, a portly 67-year-old senator from Michigan with boxy glasses perched low on his nose, addressed the floor. “This authorization for the use of force is limited to the nations, organizations, or persons involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,” he said. “It is not a broad authorization for the use of military force against any nation, organization, or person who were not involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”

Later that day, Levin’s Democratic colleague, Joe Biden, seconded his interpretation of what the Senate had passed to The New York Times. The current resolution, Biden claimed, was nothing like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had been used to justify military escalation in Vietnam for nearly seven years until it was repealed in 1971.

The Senate, Biden and senior Democrats like John Kerry suggested, had learned its lesson. No one wanted another Vietnam. That, after all, is why they had insisted that Flanigan and Yoo add the War Powers language. But in the rush to draft and pass the resolution, no one had managed to insert a sunset option — a time limit on the use of force. The legal authority Congress was giving to the president would last until Congress took it back. There was no end date, just a vague sentence and the broad authority to “use all necessary and appropriate force.”

On Sept. 14, 2001, no one was thinking about how the war would eventually end, only that it needed to begin.

Just as Daschle had hoped, the voting was over in minutes. Each of the 98 senators present voted in favor of the resolution, and Jesse Helms, who had been stuck in traffic for much of the morning, later took to the Senate floor to tell his colleagues he would have voted yea. Only Larry Craig of Idaho, who years later garnered further national ignominy, failed to vote or explain his absence.

After speaking at the service for America’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, U.S. President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, Sept. 14, 2001, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Eric Draper/White House / Getty Images

On the other side of the building, in the Democratic cloakroom, Lee was still wrestling with her vote. She had already decided to pass on the memorial service. The House was scheduled to vote on the resolution on Saturday and she wanted to spend most of Friday making calls and thinking about what to do.

As everyone else was gathering to get on the bus, Lee sipped from a can of ginger ale and chatted with Elijah Cummings, a close colleague from Maryland. “Are you going?” Cummings asked.

“Well,” Lee hesitated. “I think I’m going to stick around.” But as she spoke, Lee could feel something inside her shift. She couldn’t explain it to Cummings then, or even to herself later. She just knew she needed to go. She needed to be present.

“You know what?” Lee interrupted. “I’m going.” Then she turned and walked out of the cloakroom still clutching the ginger ale as she moved down the steps, through the rain, and onto the bus.

Inside the neo-Gothic cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue, Lee found a seat in the left several rows behind the cluster of former presidents who had gathered in the front. For the next 30 minutes, as the church slowly started to fill, she sat silently listening to the organ and praying. Around her, a few people were already crying and several were whispering softly, a faint rustle that could be heard between hymns.

Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon opened the service with a short reading and a prayer. The next speaker, Nathan Baxter, a third-generation priest and dean of the cathedral, held to a similar script, reading from Jeremiah 31:15: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children and she refuses to be comforted because they are no more.”

The tall African-American priest paused briefly to look out across the darkened cathedral as he moved from Jeremiah’s words to his own. “Now let us seek that assurance in prayer,” he said in a slow, deliberate baritone. “That as we act we not become the evil we deplore.”

That’s it, Lee thought from her seat. For much of the past 24 hours, she had been looking for a reason to vote no. In her heart she knew that was the right vote, but she hadn’t been able to articulate why. Baxter’s words did it for her: “As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.”

She was as angry and heartbroken as anyone else. Her chief of staff had lost a cousin when Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania. But she wanted a measured response, not a blank check for a perpetual war. Something else was bothering her as well. Several of the speakers seemed to be more focused on retaliation than remembering the dead.

This is supposed to be a memorial service, Lee thought. Not a rush-to-war service.

Part of the tone was deliberate. President Bush and his advisers had wanted to strike a note of defiance. In his own remarks, Bush gave voice to the attitude that would come to define his administration. “Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history,” he said from the cathedral’s lectern. “But our responsibility to history is already clear: To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”

As Bush stepped down, everyone else stood. The marble and stone echoed as the congregation sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Late that afternoon, Lee received a phone call in her office. The vote that had been scheduled for Saturday had been moved up. The hours of prep time she had been counting on to get the language of her floor statement just right were gone. If she wanted to speak, she needed to get to the floor.

On the House Committee for International Relations, Stephen Rademaker, the committee’s chief counsel, received a similar message. Under normal circumstances, Rademaker, a tall, thin lawyer with the loose frame of a long-distance runner, would have taken the lead in drafting the resolution, as his committee typically had jurisdiction for the authorization of the use of military force. But the White House was in charge of the writing, and Rademaker was a spectator.

Stephen Rademaker. Julie Jacobson / AP Photo

Even though Rademaker’s legal skills hadn’t been utilized in drafting the resolution, he knew it would be a historic vote. The Republican immediately thought of his eldest son, Andrew, a high school freshman across the river in Virginia. “You should come in for this,” Rademaker told his son when he got him on the phone that afternoon.

The fall cross-country running season had just started, but with after-school activities still canceled because of the attacks, Andrew was looking for something to do. “Sure,” he told his dad. “I’ll come in after school today.”

“No hurry,” Rademaker replied. “This thing could take a while.”

On the House floor, Lee was hastily scribbling her floor speech on loose notebook paper. She dashed off a quick paragraph and started on a second before hesitating and scratching out half a line. Lee wrote for a few more minutes, pausing here and there to draw a line through something in the cramped cursive she didn’t like. She filled two pages with notes and then added a single line on a third sheet. She was ready.

At 5:45 on Friday afternoon, the House was called to order. One of Lee’s close friends, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a petite 64-year-old member of the black caucus from the District of Columbia, spoke early in the debate.

“The language before us is limited only by the slim anchor of its Sept. 11 reference, but allows war against any and all prospective persons and entities,” Norton warned. “The point is to give the president the authority to do what he has to do, not whatever he wants to do.”

But for all of Norton’s worries about a “slim anchor” and that the text could be stretched to go after those who had nothing to with the attacks, she still said she supported the resolution to authorize the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force.”

Barbara Lee, the one representative to vote against the AUMF. CSPAN

Lee came to the podium seven minutes later. “I rise today, really, with a very heavy heart,” she said as emotion cracked her voice. Then, from the well of the U.S. House of Representatives, she started to cry. The mother of two boys, who had agonized and prayed over her vote, Lee jostled the microphone and tugged nervously at the lapels of her jacket as she struggled to regain control. A pair of deep breaths helped.

“However difficult this vote may be,” she said, her voice steady once more, “some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ‘Let’s step back for a moment, let’s just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.’” Lee closed her brief remarks with Baxter’s line, the one that had convinced her to vote her heart. “As we act,” she said. “Let us not become the evil we deplore.”

In the cloakroom after her statement, several of Lee’s friends came up to her and begged her to reconsider. “You’re doing so much on HIV and AIDS that is going to drop if you aren’t here,” one implored. “Don’t let this one vote take you out.”

Fourteen-year-old Andrew Rademaker watched the House debate from the balcony overlooking the floor. He had taken his father’s advice and waited to have dinner before riding the subway into D.C. The enhanced security measures that would come to define post-9/11 America had yet to be installed, and he passed through a single metal detector and walked straight up to the House gallery. It would be the last time he’d ever enter the Capitol so easily.

Below him, the House debate stretched on for hours as representatives waited their turn to publicly declare their support for the use of force. Some wanted to declare war — a suggestion that had been dismissed days earlier when no one could figure out whom to declare war on — and some wanted to root out terrorism wherever it existed, but everyone supported the use of force.

Lee was on her way back to her office when the final vote was announced: 420-1. The nods of affirmation she had seen in the Capitol basement the night before had disappeared on the House floor. And Lee’s “some” had become one. Out of 535 elected officials in Congress, she was the only one to vote no.

Almost immediately her phone started to ring. “I knew it was you,” the mother-in-law of Lee’s oldest son said. She had been watching CNN when the cable network broke in with the news that the House had just passed the AUMF 420-1. “I knew you were the one.”

Lee’s father, a retired lieutenant colonel who had fought in World War II and Korea, called her soon after. “I’m proud of you,” he said.

Lee hadn’t reached out to close family the night before during her flurry of phone calls, worried that they would try to convince her not to oppose the resolution. That her father said he supported her both as a parent and as a former military officer meant a lot. She would remember his words often in the weeks to come, a comforting message amid the thousands of death threats and angry phone calls that flooded her office.

Andrew Rademaker found his father after the vote. The Transportation Committee was debating an emergency appropriations bill, and Andrew wanted to stay and watch. For the next few hours, exhausted members of the committee fought and argued over billions of dollars that some worried might be needed to save the airline industry from immediate collapse.

Finally, shortly after midnight, the debate was tabled. On the way out of the chamber, Rademaker, who was still in lawyer mode, started to explain to his son everything they had seen that night: the vote to authorize the use of military force and the appropriations debate. The morning rain had tapered off, and there was hardly any late-night traffic as the two drove over the bridge into Virginia.

From the driver’s seat, Rademaker saw the Pentagon come into view, leaking tendrils of smoke up into the sky. Slowing down on a whim, he pulled up next to Arlington National Cemetery, parking the car on a little hill that looked back into Washington. Rademaker gave up on his explanation of House procedures and what the vote meant for the country. There was nothing left to say. Together with his son, he stepped out of the car and stared down the slope into the hole in the Pentagon. Smoke, wreckage, and a giant American flag.

On Sept. 18, 2001, President Bush signed the joint resolution authorizing him to use “all necessary and appropriate force” into law.

One week later, on Sept. 25, John Yoo wrote Timothy Flanigan a memo. Yoo wanted to reestablish the preemption language Daschle and Congress had forced them to move to the whereas section during the negotiations, effectively stripping it of its legal weight. Yoo’s memo, less than two weeks later, made an end run around Daschle’s block and once again gave the idea of preemption legal cover.

“The President,” Yoo wrote, “may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist attack of September 11.”

In the pages of dense, legal prose that followed, Yoo acknowledged that while the AUMF is limited only to enemies connected to the Sept. 11 attacks, the president actually had greater freedom of action based on his powers as commander in chief under Article II of the Constitution.

Robert Chesney, a professor and expert on national security law at the University of Texas, described this idea to me as the “belt and suspenders approach” — a redundancy that allowed for greater flexibility. When the AUMF proved too narrow, the Bush administration relied on its own expansive reading of the president’s Article II authority.

For Yoo, this meant that the president could “take whatever actions he deems appropriate” when it came to combating terrorism. He could kill whomever he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants. At its most basic level, John Yoo’s legal analysis restated Richard Nixon’s famous line that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

For years, a small but outspoken group of legal scholars and outside experts had pushed back against Yoo’s idea of an unchecked executive. They argued at conferences and wrote op-eds, but they had little real power and no ability to effect change. Finally, toward the end of Bush’s second term, they saw an opportunity to influence policy and help steer the next administration. On Sept. 15, 2008 — almost seven years to the day that the AUMF had been passed — one of those scholars boarded an Amtrak train in New Haven, Conn., for the nearly five-and-a-half-hour trip to Washington, D.C.

Harold Koh testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 28, 2011. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The next day, Harold Koh, a short, intense man with jet-black hair that draped down the right side of his forehead, took his seat at the witness table in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 53-year-old dean of the Yale Law School had a reputation as a brilliant if grating opponent, often appearing more eager to humiliate those who disagreed with him than simply disproving them. In front of the committee, he was characteristically outspoken, calling the AUMF a “broadly worded law” that the Bush administration had used “to justify National Security Agency surveillance, indefinite detentions, and torture of foreign detainees.”

But in late 2008, with the presidential elections less than two months away, Koh was eager to give advice. He couched his remarks carefully, but as a former assistant secretary of state under Bill Clinton, it was clear that he favored Barack Obama over John McCain. The next administration, Koh said, should be very careful not to “construe the vaguely worded Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) Resolution to override existing legislation.” Already the AUMF had been in effect longer than the Vietnam-era Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and there was no end in sight.

Toward the end of his prepared remarks, Koh laid out what he saw as the key issue moving forward. “As difficult as the last seven years have been, they loom far less important in the grand scheme of things than the next eight, which will determine whether the pendulum of U.S. policy swings back from the extreme place to which it has been pushed, or stays stuck in the ‘new normal’ position.”

Two days after Barack Obama took the oath of office on the balcony of the U.S. Capitol building, he put Koh’s advice into action. In his testimony, Koh had recommended that “as soon as the new president takes office he should issue executive orders,” including one to close Guantanamo Bay by a certain date.

Sitting in the Oval Office, on Jan. 22, 2009, President Obama did just that. He signed a pair of executive orders announcing his intention to close Guantanamo within a year and setting up a task force to review current cases against the detainees.

President Obama signs an executive order to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in the Oval Office on Jan. 22, 2009. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is one of the best examples of the unanticipated power of the 60 words at the heart of the AUMF. Like a science experiment gone wrong, the words of that sentence have mutated and changed over the years, sprouting new meanings and interpretations that were never anticipated when Timothy Flanigan cut and pasted the text back on Sept. 12, 2001.

In June 2004, more than two years after Bush established Guantanamo, the Supreme Court decided in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that since Congress had given the president the power to kill, it must also have, at least implicitly, granted the president the power to capture and detain.

Congress built on the court’s expansion by endorsing another one two years later. In 2006, Congress said that military commissions had jurisdiction over al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and what had come to be called “associated forces,” a broad category of enemies who had allied themselves with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Eleanor Norton’s “slim anchor,” which held the language of the law to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, had finally broken loose. The AUMF had ceased to be a scalpel. Now it was broadsword that could be used against a wide variety of groups, many of which had not even existed in 2001. The fact that the 60 words made no mention of detention authority or associated forces no longer mattered. The sentence stayed the same, only the meaning had changed.

By the end of the Bush administration, even some officials who had initially been in favor of a broad reading of the authority enshrined in the AUMF began to grow wary of building so much of U.S. counterterrorism strategy on such a shaky foundation.

“It is like a Christmas tree,” John Bellinger III told me recently. “All sorts of things have been hung off of those 60 words.”

Bellinger, who worked closely with Condoleezza Rice first on the National Security Council and then at the State Department, favored revising and updating the AUMF instead of simply repealing it, a drastic measure he considered dangerous. In 2010, he wrote a piece in the Washington Post arguing the Bush administration had never sought to update the AUMF because it “did not want to work with the legislative branch.”

Obama was supposed to change all that. He was the president of hope and change, the man who would restore America’s reputation and once again restore a healthy respect for the rule of law.

The day after his inauguration, the The New York Times editorial page crowed that it took Obama “less than 12 hours” to order a halt to the military tribunals at Guantanamo. It turns out, the paper said, that closing Guantanamo wasn’t actually “so hard.” All it took was a president with the courage of his convictions, someone who was willing to do what was right.

Inside the new administration, things looked a little different. President Obama had halted the tribunals and ordered Guantanamo Bay closed, but then the new president moved on leaving his aides and appointees to sort out the details. None of them really knew exactly what their boss wanted. And when they asked the White House for direction, their queries went unanswered.

“It was really a dysfunctional process,” one former government official involved told me. “There was a lack of leadership and engagement from the White House. It was a wasted year’s work — a lot of open-ended discussions and few decisions.”

Obama was also on deadline. An Algerian detainee at Guantanamo was challenging his detention, and John Bates, a district court judge in D.C., had given the new administration until March 13 to respond. Who exactly, the judge asked in essence, was the U.S. at war with? None of Obama’s lawyers felt like they had enough time, but the judge had already given them one extension and they needed an answer. What they came up with was a 93-word definition that attempted to articulate many of the expansions that had taken place in the eight years since the AUMF was passed.

During that time, the list of enemies had grown significantly. In addition to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks — al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan — the U.S. was now effectively at war with the broader, catchall category of “associated forces.” Government lawyers also claimed that the U.S. could detain — which given legal logic meant that the U.S. could also target for killing — anyone who “substantially supported” any of the three categories of enemies, although they failed to clarify exactly what constituted substantial support. The U.S. could also go after anyone who carried out an attack against a “coalition partner,” as well as “any person who committed a belligerent act,” which they also neglected to define. Eight years into the war and the enemies kept multiplying.

Judge Bates, a long-necked, willowy man who had been appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in the months after Sept. 11, pushed back on the government’s refusal to define either “associated forces” or “substantial support.” Both concepts drastically broadened the scope of the AUMF and who the U.S. could kill, and the judge wanted to know exactly what the government meant.

But, he wrote in his opinion, it had become clear to him that the government had no “definitive justification for the ‘substantial support’ concept in the law of war.” Bates said he was open to the idea of associated forces but this had to mean more than a “terrorist organization who merely share an abstract philosophy or even a common purpose with al-Qaeda — there must be an actual association in the current conflict with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.”

Obama’s speech on national security at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Bates issued his opinion on May 19, 2009. Two days later Barack Obama walked into the limestone and marble rotunda of the National Archives to address the nation. Standing beneath a pair of 1936 Barry Faulkner murals depicting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention, Obama pledged not to repeat the mistakes of the Bush administration.

“The last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable,” he said. “All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.” This, the president promised, would change on his watch.

To help him make this a reality, Obama asked Harold Koh, the Yale legal scholar, to join his administration as the legal adviser to the State Department. Koh’s new position brought him into direct conflict with another lawyer on Obama’s national security team. At 51, Jeh Johnson was a balding attorney who had been with Obama from the beginning.

During the Democratic primaries, Johnson had severed his ties with the Clinton family, who had given him his first high-profile government position, to join Obama’s campaign. The president never forgot the courage that took or the money Johnson brought in when Obama needed it the most. Even before Obama took the oath of office in January, he had tapped Johnson to be general counsel at the Defense Department.

From the time Koh arrived in Washington in late June, the two were at odds, both institutionally and temperamentally. Aggressive and often condescendingly brusque, Koh represented the more liberal State Department, which typically sought to make U.S. action more palatable to its international allies. Johnson had a more chameleon-like quality that led him to adopt the mind-set of those he represented, which in this case was the conservative, security-first Department of Defense.

Along with several other officials, throughout the summer and fall of 2009, the two clashed on nearly every aspect of U.S. national security law, with Koh consistently staking out the liberal position and Johnson the more conservative counterargument. No one ever quite came right out and said it, but everyone seemed to realize that they were fighting for the nature of Obama’s presidency. How should a Democratic president combat al-Qaeda? Who could he kill and whom could he capture? Was there a difference between the two, or should he be able to kill anyone he could legally detain? And, most importantly of all: What did it mean for a democracy to be in a multigenerational war with a terrorist group?

This was Koh’s attempt to push the pendulum of the Bush years back. Johnson wanted to push it back as well, just not nearly so far. Both agreed that the U.S. could go after al-Qaeda’s “associated forces,” but what about associates of associates? How much of a connection did the target need to have to Sept. 11 to be legal? After all, the AUMF was explicit in authorizing force only against those who were responsible for the attacks. The Sept. 11 attacks had been planned and carried out by, at most, a few dozen men, and now, in years of strikes around the world, the U.S. had killed thousands. How big should the circle of responsibility be?

The decisions made in these D.C. conference rooms often made the difference between life and death half a world away, and despite anonymous claims from government officials, both lawyers knew that innocent people were sometimes killed. Not as many as activists might claim, but still too many to maintain a clean conscience.

Besides, they were unelected officials making decisions about whom the U.S. should kill. Over the years since Sept. 11, Congress had acquiesced, mostly in silence, to the gradual expansion of the AUMF. Neither chamber had ever explicitly revisited the power they had granted the president in the hours after the attacks, or even questioned how that authorization was being interpreted and used.

That hadn’t always been the case. During the height of the Vietnam War, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, held a series of hard-hitting hearings in an effort to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and end the war. Like the AUMF, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution had passed with almost no opposition, unanimously in the House and against only two “no” votes in the Senate. Fulbright, who had initially helped sponsor the resolution, soon came to see it as an excuse for military expansion in a war the U.S. could never win.

John Kerry testifying before Congress in 1971 against the Vietnam War.

In 1971, he succeeded in repealing the resolution and subsequently called a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran named John Kerry as a witness. Kerry was the first veteran to testify, and his dramatic two-hour testimony helped shape the debate over the war that followed.

Thirty-eight years later, Kerry found himself in a similar position, as one of Fulbright’s successors and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But unlike Fulbright, who used his position to harass the administration on its expanding war, Kerry was more administration envoy than adversary. As Andrew Cockburn wrote in a recent piece in Harper’s, as soon as Obama took office, “Kerry stopped rattling cages.” Of course, Fulbright went on to lose his next election, going down in the Democratic primary; Kerry went on to become Obama’s second secretary of state.

Part of the reason is that the wars themselves are different. Vietnam captivated the country in a way the war against al-Qaeda hasn’t, at least not since the initial bombing of Afghanistan in 2001. There is no longer a single battlefield, and no one seems to know what victory looks like. Perfect security, we are constantly told, isn’t possible, but how many people does the U.S. need to kill until it is safe enough?

Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that Congress didn’t think about how the war would end when it passed the AUMF on Sept. 14, 2001, but after more than a dozen years, we are no closer to an answer.

“This is a bizarro war,” Jack Goldsmith told me recently. A tenured law professor at Harvard who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush, Goldsmith has written a pair of books on national security law. “What we don’t see, we don’t care about.”

And for most of us there is little to see. With the exception of Afghanistan, this is a war that is being fought out of sight with drones and small teams of special forces operatives. A war that is largely ignored at home has come to define us abroad.

The apathy lifted slightly in early 2010 when word leaked that the U.S. was actively targeting an American citizen for killing. The White House reacted to the increased scrutiny by rolling out Koh, the most liberal and publicly vocal critic of Bush-era policies, to make the case that Obama’s drone strikes were different. They were grounded in the AUMF and on solid legal footing.

Koh took to the podium at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington to address the American Society of International Law on March 25, 2010, in a conservative black suit and red tie. After a few jokes about the event being as close as most in the room would ever come to the Oscars and a red carpet, he got down to business.

Unlike the Bush administration, he said, which had relied on vague constitutional arguments about presidential power, the Obama administration had based its decisions “on legislative authority granted to the president by Congress in the 2001 AUMF.” Of course, he added, “construing what is ‘necessary and appropriate’ under the AUMF requires some translation.”

Gone was Koh the private scholar, who in 2008 had complained about the “vaguely worded” AUMF that had allowed the Bush administration to justify everything from NSA excesses to torture. Now, as a government lawyer, he rested the Obama administration’s legal edifice squarely on the foundation of the AUMF and those same 60 words. Everything the Obama administration did, he reassured the ballroom of legal colleagues and friends, “including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles,” was legal and just.

Koh wasn’t the only one whose opinion seemed to change with his job. A decade earlier, on Sept. 13, 2001, Denis McDonough had been a 31-year-old foreign policy advisor to Tom Daschle, working to limit the AUMF. Now McDonough was Obama’s deputy national security adviser and helping to preside over an expanding target list that rested on that very same piece of legislation he had once attempted to restrict.

While McDonough had aged, the targets had not. Many of the men the U.S. was killing were in their late teens and early twenties, men who had been boys on Sept. 11.

Months after Koh’s speech, in early 2011, Congress stirred briefly to life with some members suggesting that it might be time to start codifying the evolving interpretations of the AUMF. This, they argued, would put the U.S. on more solid legal ground. The AUMF, after all, governed both Guantanamo and drones and yet had made no mention of either. Surely, it would be better to make those authorities explicit.

Obama’s top aides pushed back immediately. This was not what the administration had in mind when it talked about repealing the AUMF and ending the war. Later that year at an event at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, Jeh Johnson explained why the administration had opposed any new legislation. “I think the reason that we in this administration have concerns about efforts to do that is because at the end of the political process, what I don’t want to end up with is something less than what we thought we already had by way of legal authorities through the authorities on the books and our interpretation of our authorities that are on the books.”

In other words, any attempt to update the AUMF, moving it from what was written in the hours after the 9/11 attacks to something that took into account the changes of a decade of war, might limit the president’s options. The Obama administration was happy to rely on a 2001 authorization to deal with a 2011 threat because its own internal interpretations gave it so much flexibility. If Congress started messing with the 60-word foundation, the administration’s whole legal edifice might come tumbling down.

What was supposed to be a rather routine Senate hearing early in Obama’s second term provided a glimpse into just how expansively the administration had been interpreting the sentence at the heart of the AUMF. On May 16, 2013, the Defense Department sent a quartet of officials to the Capitol to answer questions about the AUMF and the current state of the war against al-Qaeda. In the course of their joint testimony, Michael Sheehan and Robert Taylor, who were speaking for the four, both claimed that the 2001 AUMF and its 60 words were “adequate” for the administration’s needs.

Sheehan, a balding former counterterrorism official with the New York Police Department who looked like he had forgotten to shave that morning, spoke first. The administration, he told the senators, was “comfortable” with the AUMF as it was currently structured because it didn’t “inhibit us from prosecuting the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Sen. John McCain was incredulous. Shuffling through some papers, the 76-year-old senator pulled out a copy of the AUMF and started reading. Twenty-four seconds later he finished the 60-word sentence, and then he started to lecture. “This authorization was about those who planned and orchestrated the attacks of September 2001,” McCain said, staring down toward the witness table. “Here we are, 12 years later, and you’re telling us that you don’t think it needs to be updated,” he continued. “Well, clearly it does.”

Other senators piled on. Angus King, a professorial-looking Independent senator who had hosted a public access television program called Maine Watch for 17 years in the 1970s and 1980s, told the four officials that this was “the most astoundingly disturbing hearing I’ve been to.”

“The AUMF is very limited, and you keep using the term ‘associated forces’ — you use it 13 times in your statement — that is not in the AUMF,” King said, before adding, “I assume [the AUMF] does suit you very well because you’re reading it to cover anything and everything.”

Toward the end of the panel, as the chairman was preparing to dismiss the Pentagon officials, Sheehan raised his hand. “Just one clarification,” he said. “Certainly the president has military personnel deployed all over the world today, in probably over 70 to 80 countries, and that authority is not always under AUMF.”

Sitting behind the witnesses, waiting his turn to testify, Jack Goldsmith, the former Bush administration lawyer, was shocked. Exactly how many of the 70 to 80 countries where military personnel are deployed fall under the AUMF? he asked the next day on Lawfare, a legal blog he co-founded. “The phrase ‘not always’ suggests a high number.”

“The hearing made clear that the Obama administration’s long insistence that it is deeply legally restrained under the AUMF is misleading and at a minimum requires much more extensive scrutiny,” Goldsmith wrote. Goldsmith’s post and Sheehan’s public evasions raised a key question: Twelve years after 9/11, who exactly is the U.S. at war with?

When I contacted the Pentagon to get an answer, a spokeswoman emailed back: “The list is classified and not for public release.”

One week later, on May 23, 2013, President Obama walked into the auditorium at the National Defense University in southeast Washington to deliver a major national security address. Sounding more like McCain than Sheehan, his own assistant secretary, Obama made a series of pledges.

“I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing,” Obama said. “The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al-Qaeda is a shell of its former self.”

Standing on a raised platform in front of the crowd, which included members of activist group Code Pink who would soon interrupt him, Obama continued. “I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” he said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

But like his Guantanamo pledge five years earlier, this was more rhetoric than reality. In the more than seven months since Obama gave that speech, the White House has taken no public steps to roll back the AUMF. From the outside, the string of unfilled promises looked like a president who wants to end the war without giving up his powers to wage war. It’s easy to see why.

The 12-year-old sentence gives the president both incredible power — power that has been blessed by Congress and the courts — as well as maximum flexibility. Read inventively enough, the AUMF permits a wide range of military activities, all of which might at some point be necessary. Repealing or refining those 60 words would only tie the president’s hands and limit his options. It would also force him to reengage with Congress, which helped block him on Guantanamo, and to explain to the American people what the U.S. is doing and who it is fighting.

Then there is the issue of Afghanistan: the war Obama once called a “war of necessity,” and the war he has made his own. If he fulfills his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, the president will have effectively ended the war against the Taliban. And that will create its own problems.

By building its detention authority on the AUMF, the Obama administration has forced itself into a corner. Once the war is the over, the power to detain disappears. What this means is that as soon as Obama declares an end to the war in Afghanistan, there will be a series of legal challenges from individuals still in Guantanamo Bay, claiming affiliation with the Taliban and demanding their release. The old legal authorities will no longer hold. The Obama administration will either have to find a new basis for holding them — 13 years after many of them were captured — or it will have to release people it has said are too dangerous to set free.

Perhaps the most interesting question about the AUMF and its 60 words is this: What does that sentence prohibit? What — more than 12 years after Congress passed it — is clearly out of bounds?

Several of the lawyers I talked to, officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations, spoke eloquently and at great length about the limits of the AUMF and being constrained by the law. And maybe that is true. But none of them were able to point to a case in which the U.S. knew of a terrorist but couldn’t target him because it lacked the legal authority. Each time the president wanted to kill someone, his lawyers found the authority embedded somewhere in those 60 words.

When the U.S. abducted Abu Anas al-Libi from the front seat of his car in October 2013, it transported him to the USS San Antonio, a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, far beyond the reach of any court.

Three days into Libi’s confinement at sea as word of his abduction leaked out in the press, a public defender in New York asked a federal judge to intervene and force the government to give Libi access to legal counsel. The judge refused, explaining that the government hadn’t actually arrested Libi. Instead he was being detained by the United States Armed Forces, which as federal prosecutors claimed, were “acting under their own legal authorities.” Until the government actually decided to arrest Libi, the judge declared, he could do nothing.

Libi, a man the U.S. had abducted in Libya in 2013 who had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks, was being held under the authority of the AUMF, the 60 words Congress had passed explicitly targeting only those who had been linked to the attacks.

One week after his capture, with his health deteriorating due to a hunger strike, the U.S. moved Libi off the ship and officially arrested him for his alleged role in the 1998 embassy attacks. Only then did the court appoint a lawyer to defend him.

“None of us, not one who voted for it, could have envisioned we were voting for the longest war in American history,” Dick Durbin, a Senate Democrat from Illinois, told Politico early in 2013. “Or that we were about to give future presidents the authority to fight terrorism as far-flung as Yemen and Somalia.”

One person, of course, did envision exactly this sort of open-ended, ill-defined war. But even now, more than a decade after her lonely vote, Barbara Lee still just wants the debate Congress never had in 2001.

“Let the congressional debate begin,” she told me recently. If the U.S. wants to use force in places like Yemen or Somalia and “if people think its worth it, for whatever reason, then let their member of Congress vote for it. That’s the point.”

A lot has changed in the 12 years since Stephen Rademaker and his son Andrew took their midnight drive to a smoldering Pentagon. The war that was authorized that night has now moved into its second generation, jumping from father to son. Stephen is out of government and Andrew, now a 27-year-old House staffer, is in. Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda, at least as it was configured on 9/11, is no more.

Analysts disagree over whether the new incarnation of al-Qaeda — smaller and more fragmented — is weaker or stronger than it once was. But one thing is certain. It is different. The only thing that has remained the same is that one sentence: 60 words and a war without end.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Eleanor Holmes Norton had voted for the resolution; as a representative of the District of Columbia, she did not have a vote, as pointed out by reader abp07.

Posted in USAComments Off on USA: 60 Words And A War Without End

Bush-Blair and The Great Iraq War Fraud


Last week, seven years after the Iraq Inquiry was set up, Sir John Chilcot finally delivered his long-awaited report. Although it stopped short of declaring the Iraq war illegal, and although it failed to examine the real motives for war, the report was not quite the whitewash that had been feared by peace campaigners.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, gave a succinct summary of the Chilcot report, listing four of the main findings (each followed by our own comment):

1. There was no imminent threat to Britain from Saddam Hussein, so war in March 2003 was unnecessary.

In reality: utterly devastated by war, bombing and 12 years of sanctions, Iraq posed no threat whatsoever towards Britain or the US. The idea that there was any kind of threat from this broken, impoverished country was simply a lie; a propaganda fabrication by warmongering cynics and corporate hangers-on eager for a piece of the pie.

2. The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was presented with a certainty that was not justified. It was never ‘beyond doubt’ that the weapons existed. None have been found in the subsequent 13 years.

In reality: it was completely clear, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the whole ‘weapons of mass destruction’ issue was a propaganda fabrication; a way of suggesting a ‘threat’ where none existed. Iraq only ever possessed battlefield biological and chemical weapons that were of no conceivable threat to the West. Iraq didn’t even use them when the West attacked the country in 1991. Not only that, but UN weapons inspectors had overseen the near-complete destruction of even these tinpot devices between 1991-1998; only ‘sludge’ remained: a known fact. Iraq was of no more threat to the West in 2002-2003 than Thailand or Iceland; that is all that needs to be said. Almost everything else is superfluous: cynical propaganda which was, and is, manipulated by violent Western leaderships that think nothing of smashing other countries to bits for whatever reason they declare ‘necessary’.

3. There was a failure of democratic government and accountability, with Blair keeping most of his Cabinet in the dark. This meant that he avoided telling them things which they ought to have known.

In reality: The Americans decided to exploit the dead of September 11 to wage war in the name of power and profit. Blair decided to take part in the crime, come what may, from the start. His whole intention was to make that possible, to trap Iraq into war and to use the UN to apply a veneer of legality to the monstrous crime. One million people paid with their lives, and a whole country was destroyed in the process. Bush at least had an ‘excuse’; he was, after all, a hard-right president operating out of a notoriously venal, violent and corrupt Republican ‘party’. (As Noam Chomsky has noted, it is wrong to consider it a legitimate party. It is merely a collection of greedy vested interests, qualifying it as a candidate for ‘for the most dangerous organization in human history’.) Blair, on the other hand, was prime minister on behalf of a supposedly left-leaning Labour party rooted in supposedly genuine ethical values. His rejection of democracy in the name of war was the perfect culmination of his coup transforming Labour into another power-serving Tory party.

4. George Bush and Blair worked to undermine the authority of the UN.

In reality: Bush and Blair sought to exploit the good name of the UN to provide a cover for their crime. The intention was to use the appearance of diplomacy as propaganda justifying war. If Saddam could be trapped into appearing intransigent in the face of UN resolutions, so much the better for war. Diplomacy was only ever perceived as a means to achieve war, not peace. The whole ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fraud had been concocted by conspirators intent on war. Why would those same fraudsters attempt to work through the UN to achieve peace? That was the last outcome they wanted.

In an already infamous phrase, Blair told Bush that:

I will be with you, whatever.

Those words will haunt Blair to his grave.There is no doubt that his reputation is now in tatters, even in ‘mainstream’ circles. There have been follow-up calls for him to be punished by being thrown out of the Queen’s Privy Council, impeached and put on trial for misleading Parliament, and charged with war crimes.

Unusually for the ‘mainstream’ press, Andrew Buncombe of the Independent wrote a piece focusing on the death toll in Iraq. As he notes, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the prestigious journal The Lancet in 2006, estimated the number of Iraqi dead at around 650,000. Even worse, a report (pdf) last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimated the Iraq death toll as around one million. Added to this ghastly pyramid of corpses, the Bush-Blair ‘War on Terror’ has led to 220,000 dead in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. These appalling figures hardly ever appear in the ‘mainstream’ media. As Les Roberts, one of the Lancet authors, observes, the media is guilty of ‘failing to report on uncomfortable truths.’

Burying The Facts And Stifling Dissent

As well as burying the Iraq death toll, the corporate media have been guilty of hiding or downplaying the following:

• Iraq’s people and infrastructure had already been crushed by a genocidal regime of UN sanctions, maintained with especially brutal vigour by Washington and London.

• Iraq had already been essentially disarmed of any WMD, as revealed by relevant experts; notably Scott Ritter, former chief UNSCOM weapons inspector. This was known well in advance of the war, as our media alerts from October 2002 make clear (‘Iraq and Arms Inspectors – The Big Lie’, Part 1 andPart 2).

• In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, there was an agreed-upon Washington strategy to start wars against seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) in five years, asrevealed by US General Wesley Clark.

• The infamous ‘Downing Street Memo’ showed that the intelligence and facts were being ‘fixed around’ the pre-existing policy of invasion. Indeed, this was nothing less than a conspiracy to launch a war. You will struggle in vain to find ‘mainstream’ commentators linking any of this to Blair’s ‘I’m with you, whatever’ pledge to Bush.

• The West’s desire to control oil resources was a key motivating factor for war.

• The role of corporations and financial interests in driving government policy; in particular, the profits demanded by the ‘defence’ industry and arms manufacturers.

• War crimes committed by US armed forces; for example, in Fallujah.

• The devastating long-term impacts of the invasion in terms of cancer rates and congenital abnormalities.

In 2004, when we challenged media editors to critique their own abysmal performance on Iraq, we were essentially told: ‘We have nothing to apologise for’. The response from David Mannion, then head of ITV News, summed up media complacency, indeed complicity, in channelling war propaganda:

The evidence suggests we have no need for a mea culpa. We did our job well.

Today, the body of media evidence that we have accumulated shows precisely the opposite. In particular, the bulk of BBC output on Iraq can be characterised by one word: ‘Newspeak’. In 2003, a Cardiff University report found that the BBC ‘displayed the most “pro-war” agenda of any broadcaster’ on the Iraq invasion. Over the three weeks of the initial conflict, 11% of the sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all the main television broadcasters. The BBC was less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to use independent sources, who also tended to be the most sceptical. The BBC also placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties, which were mentioned in 22% of its stories about the Iraqi people, and it was least likely to report on Iraqi opposition to the invasion.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Andrew Bergin, the press officer for Stop the War, told Media Lens:

Representatives of the coalition have been invited to appear on every TV channel except the BBC. The BBC have taken a conscious decision to actively exclude Stop the War Coalition people from their programmes, even though everyone knows we are central to organising the massive anti-war movement. (Email to Media Lens, March 14, 2003)

In 2003, Richard Sambrook, then head of BBC News, told staff not to broadcast ‘extreme’ anti-war opinion. His deputy, Mark Damazer, issued an email to newsroom staff ‘listing which categories of journalist should not attend’ the peace march in London in February 2003:

These include all presenters, correspondents, editors, output editors and “anyone who can be considered a ‘gatekeeper’ of our output”.

David Miller, then a professor of sociology at Strathclyde University and co-founder of SpinWatch,noted afterwards:

BBC managers have fallen over themselves to grovel to the government in the aftermath of the Hutton whitewash… When will their bosses apologise for conspiring to keep the anti-war movement off the screens? Not any time soon.

In a speech at New York’s Columbia University, John Pilger commented:

We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by MI6, the secret intelligence service. In what was called “Operation Mass Appeal”, MI6 agents planted stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All these stories were fake.

Pilger’s documentary on the propaganda role played by the corporate media, The War You Don’t See, is a must-watch.

‘Bringing Democracy And Human Rights’ To Iraq

It is worth reminding ourselves just what some media ‘gatekeepers’ were saying back in 2003. The BBC’s Nicholas Witchell declared of the US invasion, as it steamrollered its way into central Baghdad:

It is absolutely, without a doubt, a vindication of the strategy. (BBC News at Six, April 9, 2003)

Natasha Kaplinsky, then a BBC breakfast news presenter, beamed as she described how Blair ‘has become, again, Teflon Tony’. The BBC’s Mark Mardell agreed:

It has been a vindication for him.  (BBC1, Breakfast News, April 10, 2003)

ITN’s Tom Bradby said:

This war has been a major success. (ITN Evening News, April 10, 2003)

ITN’s John Irvine also saw vindication in the arrival of US armed forces:

A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery. (ITN Evening News, April 9, 2003)

On Channel 4 News, Jack Straw, then UK foreign secretary, told Jon Snow that he had met with the French foreign minister that day:

Did he look chastened?’, asked Snow wryly. (Channel 4, April 9, 2003)

Snow did not respond when he was asked on Twitter a few days ago by one of our readers whether the Channel 4 News presenter ‘felt chastened’ on being reminded of this.

In 2006, we noted that ‘embedded’ BBC reporter Paul Wood had asserted that US and British troops had come to Iraq to ‘bring democracy and human rights’. When we challenged Helen Boaden, then head of BBC News, to explain this propagandistic reporting, she sent us six pages of quotes by Bush and Blair as supposed proof of noble intent. The notion that ‘we’ are the ‘good guys’ is fully embedded in the mindsets of senior media professionals. When Boaden grew exasperated with Media Lens challenges about the BBC’s systematically biased reporting on Iraq, she changed her email address and joked about it to an audience of media professionals.

Boaden was not alone in her ideological fervour, however. Many MPs bought Blair’s rhetoric about ‘bringing democracy and human rights’ to Iraq. Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed notes that most of the Labour MPs now opposing Jeremy Corbyn are ‘stained with the blood of Iraq’. He adds:

nearly 100 percent of the Labour MPs who have moved to oust Jeremy Corbyn voted against an investigation into the Iraq war.

Ahmed continues:

Amongst the Labour MPs who had voted in 2003 on the Iraq war, an overwhelming majority who voted against Corbyn were in favour of the military invasion of the country, which paved the way for an escalation of sectarian strife, and ultimately the rise of the Islamic State (IS).

More generally, well over half of the Labour MPs against Corbyn are supportive of British military interventions abroad.

These so-called ‘chicken coup’ plotters attempting to oust Corbyn are now ‘in retreat’, pinning ‘their hopes on a challenge by Angela Eagle, despite many believing that she will not beat Mr Corbyn because of his support among members.’

Broken Promises, Regrets And Silences

Cast your mind back to April 9, 2003. US troops had just reached central Baghdad. Recall the footageof Saddam’s statue being pulled down in Firdos Square in what is now known to have been a staged public relations exercise to create a ‘propaganda moment’. The US army even admitted as much later.

That night, Andrew Marr, then BBC News political editor, addressed his audience on BBC News at Ten. It is worth recounting in full what he said:

Frankly, Huw, the main mood [in Downing Street] is unbridled relief. I’ve been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons.

The fact that Marr delivered this with his own happy smile was a portent of what was to come. He was then asked by BBC news presenter Huw Edwards to describe the significance of the fall of Baghdad:

Well, I think this does one thing. It draws a line under what had been, before this war, a period of… well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him – because they’re only human – for being right when they’ve been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I’ve said. But I think this is a very, very important moment for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics.

I don’t think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he’s somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.

This was BBC ‘impartiality’ in action. Although reading those words today and, especially, watching the clip is jaw-dropping, such propagandist comments about Blair and Iraq were not unusual then on the BBC, and elsewhere in the national news media. The next time BBC News praises itself as ‘the best news organisation in the world’, just think of that clip.

In the wake of Chilcot, we reminded readers about this – arguably now infamous – Marr clip. Weasked Marr for his thoughts about it now; he ignored us. However, he responded to someone else who asked him about it. He answered:

it was rubbish but it came after weeks when I’d been predicting Baghdad bloodbath – the Iraqi army gave up.

Gave up? Or were slaughtered under ‘Shock and awe’? As for the gushing praise for Blair, Marr was silent.

Marr’s successor as BBC News political editor was Nick Robinson. We reminded Marr of Robinson’s mournful comment:

‘The build-up to the invasion of Iraq is the point in my career when I have most regretted not pushing harder and not asking more questions.

(Nick Robinson, Live From Downing Street, Bantam Books, London, p. 332)

Robinson had been ITV News political editor from 2002-2005. We asked Marr whether he shared his colleague’s regrets. Again, the response was silence.

Of course, Robinson had earlier excused himself by saying that in his role as political editor:

It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking . . . That is all someone in my sort of job can do.

(Nick Robinson, ‘”Remember the last time you shouted like that?” I asked the spin-doctor’, The Times, July 16, 2004)

As the US journalist Glenn Greenwald later remarked:

That’d make an excellent epitaph on the tombstone of modern establishment journalism.

In the same Times column, Robinson had attempted to justify his lack of scrutiny of government propaganda:

Elsewhere on our bulletins we did report those who questioned the truth of what we were being told.

There is scant evidence of that being the case. Those with the expertise, not just to question, but to demolish, Bush and Blair’s ludicrous excuses for war were rarely seen.

In his article, Robinson had also made this solemn promise:

Now, more than ever before, I will pause before relaying what those in power say. Now, more than ever, I will try to examine the contradictory case.

To little or no avail, as we have seen in the intervening years. Those with the expertise, not just to question, but to demolish, Bush and Blair’s ludicrous excuses for war were nowhere to be seen.

As for Blair, John Pilger had already written back in 2010 that the former Prime Minister should be prosecuted for his shared responsibility for a war of aggression that had led to the deaths of a million Iraqis. But the responsibility does not stop there:

The Cabinet in March 2003 knew a great deal about the conspiracy to attack Iraq. Jack Straw, later appointed “justice secretary”, suppressed the relevant Cabinet minutes in defiance of an order by the Information Commissioner to release them.

Also sitting in the Blair Cabinet were Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary; Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who released the finances to fund the war; and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. Last Sunday, Prescott tried to dodge his part in the supreme international crime by claiming that he was ‘forced’ to sign up to what he now concedes was an illegal war by the devious, wily Blair. Prescott, we are to believe, was duped by Blair’s mendacious charm, even while millions of people saw through the lies and went out to march in protest on British streets.

As Lindsey German of Stop the War sums up:

Thirteen years after the war, the Middle East is in flames, Britain is a more dangerous place than it was and the threat of terrorism across the region is greater. Chilcot makes clear that this was a catastrophe both foretold and avoidable.

Chilcot would not have happened without the anti-war movement and we should not see it as the end.

‘There have to be consequences for those responsible for this terrible war.

Those responsible include not only those politicians who took this country into war, but also the media that facilitated the greatest crime of the century.

Posted in USA, UKComments Off on Bush-Blair and The Great Iraq War Fraud

Historic Law Suit Against Barack Obama

Historic Law Suit Against Barack Obama: White House Argues that Funding The War against Syria and Iraq Makes War Legal
“How could I honor my oath when I am fighting a war, even a good war, that the Constitution does not allow, or Congress has not approved?”

Global Research Editor’s Note:

Read this important article by Nika Knight, Common Dreams.

Let us take this case to the Supreme Court. War is an illegal and criminal undertaking. Obama is a war criminal. Obama’s counterterrorism operation directed against Syria is in violation of international law.

The evidence amply confirms that Washington is supporting the terrorists.  The US Congress has endorsed a criminal undertaking.

Let us support Captain Nathan Michael Smith in his endeavor. (M.Ch. GR Editor)

*      *      *

A lawsuit filed earlier this year charging President Barack Obama with waging an illegal war against the Islamic State (or ISIS) was met on Tuesday with a motion from the Obama administration asking the court to dismiss it.

In its motion to dismiss (pdf), the administration argues that Congressional funding for the war amounts to Congressional approval for it.

The lawsuit (pdf) was filed in U.S. district court by Capt. Nathan Michael Smith, an intelligence official stationed in Kuwait, in May. Smith has been assigned to work for “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the administration’s name for the nebulous conflict against the terrorist group ISIS.

To read the complete lawsuit (pdf) click screenshot below


“How could I honor my oath when I am fighting a war, even a good war, that the Constitution does not allow, or Congress has not approved?” Smith wrote.

“To honor my oath, I am asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress, under the War Powers Resolution, to wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”

Excerpt of Captain Smith’s lawsuit

According to the 1973 War Powers Resolution, “when the President introduces United States armed forces into hostilities, or into situations where hostilities are imminent,” Smith’s lawsuit reads, “he must either get approval from Congress within sixty days to continue the operation, in the form of a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, or he must terminate the operation within the thirty days after the sixty-day period has expired.”

The Obama administration has justified the legality of the war on ISIS by relying on the Authorization for the Use Military Force (AUMF) resolution, passed by Congress in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.

The single sentence, consisting of only 60 words, has now been relied upon by first President George W. Bush and now Obama to justify the unending wars waged by the U.S. in the 21st century.

The AUMF reads in full:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Those 60 words gave Bush far-reaching powers to combat forces associated with Al-Qaeda, once his administration determined the terrorist organization was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

But ISIS is an enemy group of Al-Qaeda, and it remains therefore unclear to many legal observers whether the AUMF technically applies to the U.S. combat operations against that group. That has not prevented the Obama administration from pursuing and ramping up U.S. involvement in the conflict, however.

As Buzzfeed‘s Gregory Johnson reported back in 2014, “Several of the lawyers I talked to, officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations, spoke eloquently and at great length about the limits of the AUMF and being constrained by the law[…] But none of them were able to point to a case in which the U.S. knew of a terrorist but couldn’t target him because it lacked the legal authority. Each time the president wanted to kill someone, his lawyers found the authority embedded somewhere in those 60 words.”

It is this authority that Smith’s lawsuit is challenging.

And in fact, Obama appears to have recognized—at least somewhat—the lack of clear legal authorization for the conflict, as he has requested several times that Congress issue an official declaration of war against ISIS and issue a new AUMF.

“There appears to be no real opposition to the war effort on Capitol Hill,” The Atlantic‘s Garret Epps notes, “But Congress has not held hearings or a vote of any kind.”

Yet the White House has also argued that Congressional approval for the war is unnecessary, because the 2001 AUMF provides legal cover for it. Attempts to repeal the AUMF have failed.

On Tuesday, the administration argued that the case should be dismissed because,

The President has determined that he has the authority to take military action against ISIL, and Congress has ratified that determination by appropriating billions of dollars in support of the military operation. Congress has made these funds available over the course of two budget cycles, in connection with close oversight of the operation’s progress, and with knowledge of the authority under which the operation is being conducted. The political branches have exercised their respective constitutional roles, and their joint effort in support of Operation Inherent Resolve is precisely the kind of mutual participation that courts have looked to in dismissing war powers challenges under the political question doctrine.

The New York Times observed that this justification for the war on ISIS amounts to the “most extensive public explanation yet of [the Obama administration’s] war powers theory.”

Yet as Epps wrote last month, “The relief Smith and other soldiers are actually seeking—and one they richly deserve—would be a decision by their political leaders to treat the Constitution, the nation’s commitment to military force, and the lives of American personnel as a serious matters, worthy of sustained attention.”

And as Earth Institute director Jeffrey D. Sachs argued in his remembrance of peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan, “America is quick to ask other countries to repent their sins and to remember their evil deeds. It is quick to haul other leaders to the International Criminal Court. But it is chronically incapable of looking inward.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Historic Law Suit Against Barack Obama

How Government Officials Deceive Themselves, To Deceive the Public


Especially the foreign services and the military of any country are being paid like lawyers are standardly paid: they’re paid to make the case for their employer. They’re ‘mercenaries’ wielding words not (merely) arms, who become the more effective to the extent that they can deceive themselves to believe the propaganda (or, in the military case, the justifiability of their killings) that they’re selling to the public.

Let’s therefore look at some of these ‘mercenaries’, in a video about U.S. policy toward China, so that we can tell, from their vocal inflections, and also from their facial expressions while they are saying blatantly false things, whether we think that they believe the lies that they are spouting, while they’re spouting them to us:

In the video, which is titled “World War 3 Between America and China — Full Documentary”, appears a former U.S. diplomat to China and to Taiwan, John J. Tkacik Jr., saying, at 9:55, that, “the real reason I think why America has a commitment to Taiwan is because Taiwan is a democracy.”

How, then, can the U.S. government ‘justify’ its longstanding alliance with the Saud family who are the dictators over — and who despotically claim to own — Saudi Arabia, and who champion head-chopping of any dissidents there (and who financed the 9/11 jihadists in the U.S.)? And that’s only one contrary example of our ‘democracies’.

But that official’s lie didn’t stop there. He continued: “It is in fact the most vibrant and dynamic democracy in east Asia. And it’s a democracy that came to fruition under the pressure of the U.S. government primarily the Congress, after forty years of very tight authoritarian rule by a regime that came from mainland China.”

He neatly avoided mentioning that, though “the real reason I think why America has a commitment to Taiwan is because Taiwan is a democracy,” the U.S. was equally allied with Taiwan back under the Chiang Kai-shek “regime” (as Tkacik himself called it), which stole from China “many national treasures and much of China’s gold reserves and foreign currency reserves”, as even the CIA-edited wikipedia allows to be said there.

So: if ‘democracy’ is “the real reason” why America is “committed” to Taiwan, why was America committed to Taiwan during the dictatorial period, 1949-1996, before “the first direct presidential election” took place there?

Obviously, the official is lying.

Furthermore, he is attributing the dictatorial regime to the fact that it “came from mainland China.” He’s indirectly attributing its dictatorship to the communist Mao Zedong. But the reality is that Chiang, and the original U.S. dictator there, Chen Yi, were enemies of Mao, not his allies, and that this is why the U.S. is “committed” to Taiwan — notwithstanding that the U.S. regime in Taiwan was long a dictatorship, which moreover had stolen so much from Mao’s regime on the mainland. (And, even today, the U.S. regime, which stole Taiwan from the Japanese regime, which had stolen it from the previous, royal, Chinese regime, refuses to allow today’s Chinese government to negotiate a re-unification of Taiwan with the country of which it had always been a part, which is China.)

As even the wikipedia article notes, Chen-Yi was set-up as being Taiwan’s dictator by U.S. forces, on 25 October 1945, when the island was freed from the Japanese regime, which was legendarily barbaric, and, “during this time [of Japanese rule], over 2,000 women were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial Japanese troops, now euphemistically called ‘comfort women’.” So: the U.S. established a new fascist dictatorship, to replace the fascist dictatorship that had previously existed there.

The next person to be interviewed in this video is James Liley, former head of the CIA in Asia, who says (11:15) that after World War II, “We were looking for a strong, unified, democratic, China.” Oh, really? “Well, we got two-thirds of it. Strong and unified, not democratic.”

He was referring there to the post-Mao regime on the mainland — not to the regime we installed in Taiwan. So, this conquest of Japan gave the U.S. the right to dictate to Mao’s successors, by backing brigands who had stolen from their country? “Now we’re calling China a responsible stakeholder.” Oh, it’s for the U.S. dictatorship to judge who is ‘responsible’, and who isn’t? “We’ve got half of it; we’ve got a stakeholder, but not a responsible one yet.”

People like this are dictators to foreign countries. That’s what America’s fighting forces are serving — U.S. dictators to foreign countries.

Lilley continues: “U.S. feels that we have an obligation, legal, moral, to Taiwan, that we cannot stand idly by and let this be taken over by an authoritarian communist-influenced power. This cannot be.” (He ignores the fact that Britain’s Margaret Thatcher did essentially this in regard to Hong Kong, and that the end-result was peacful, and productive, both for Hong Kong, and for China. By contrast, as the remainder of this video explains, America’s resistance against doing the same thing in its colony, Taiwan, is now increasingly posing a danger of nuclear war — which would be disastrous for everybody.)

Isn’t it wonderful to have such a benefactor to the world, as today’s U.S.? Look at our other beneficiaries: Iraq. Libya. Syria. Guatemala. El Salvador. Chile. Argentina. Brazil, South Africa. Honduras. Palestine. Etc. Those people are much better off than are the ‘communist-influenced’ capitalists on China’s mainland? Really?

Here is how U.S. President Barack Obama phrased the matter, to graduating West Point cadets, on 28 May 2014:

“the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come. But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.”

There, the aspiring global dictator is telling America’s future military leaders: The U.S. is the only“indispensable” nation; all others are “dispensable,” and the enemies you’ll be fighting against are the dispensable nations now rising to compete economically against us, and which even “seek a greater say in global forums.” Mustn’t allow that, must we?

It’s just the latest version of the old American “gunboat diplomacy.” (Only, this time, with the modern danger of nuclear war, being thrown in.)

This is today’s American ‘democracy’, in macro; it’s this ‘democracy’, in micro. At either end, it’s today’s Sparta; not really today’s Athens (which it pretends to be).

Do its propagandists know they’re lying? Or do they hide it even from themselves?

An interesting fact about the interviewees that were cited here, Tkacik and Liley, is that they’re both retired. Why, then, do they still keep up the lying front (especially since they’re now feeding myths that could produce a nuclear war)? They’re no longer on the U.S. government payroll. But they do receive income as ‘experts’, based upon their past official positions. How much credibility would they now have if they said: “Oh, it was just lying — that’s what I did for a living”? They’re never really free. They’re always like horses that are harnessed to a carriage of frauds. They’ve simply got to keep pulling this carriage, until they die.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on How Government Officials Deceive Themselves, To Deceive the Public

Neo-Napoleonic War. Conquest, Plunder, Exploitation, Slavery and Killing


Ever since mankind emerged from the evolutionary stream, human life has been characterized by conquest, plunder, exploitation, slavery, and killing. Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun lived it. The Babylonians and Jews lived it. The Norse and the Swedes lived it. The Greeks and Persians lived it. The Romans and Carthaginians lived it. The Spanish and Portuguese lived it. So did the Dutch and the French and the English. Maybe all tribes have lived it. Human beings are still living it today. Conquest, plunder, exploitation, slavery, and homicide make up the human condition. Human beings comprise  a violent bunch! Kindness has never been a common practice in human tribes.

One after another, tribes have picked up the sword to fulfill their desires to take what they wanted from others. They have lived and died by it. They are attempting to live by it and are dying by it today. In spite of everything, nothing fundamental really changes.

In fact, things have gotten worse. This mayhem has historically been carried on by tribes, but since 1789, its character has been expanded. In 1789, the French revolted. In the ensuing decade, they overthrew the monarchy. They also beheaded lots of people, especially “aristocrats.” These beheadings sent a shiver of fear throughout the European aristocracy. Just like the United States has done today, those aristocrats formed an alliance of European monarchies to oppose the revolution and restore the monarchy. It took a long time, but in fifty years it was over. Napoleon, the defender of the revolution, had been defeated, the monarchy was restored and then abolished again, and the Second Republic was formed. Some thought the Second Republic was a restoration of the revolution, but in reality, it was a restoration of the ancien regime in a different guise. France had become a conventional pseudo “democracy” with hegemonic goals of its own, a characteristic it has maintained. The reactionaries had won. Europe’s aristocracy no longer feared the revolution.

The wars against France and the revolution were very much like the incessant wars today, except today’s wars are against changes taking place in the Arab world, the Arab world that was organized by the English and French after the First World War. In 1916 it was the Sykes–Picot Agreement. Today that arrangement is coming apart and the same Western European aristocracy in addition to the United States of America is desperately trying to reestablish it. In 1789, it was Napoleon and the French. Today it is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIL. The West wants its Middle Eastern conquests back so it can continue its exploitation.

Since 1830, the West’s agenda has been “no more French revolutions, not anywhere.” The progress of people to extract themselves from tyranny must be stopped; it cannot be tolerated. The world belongs to the Western money grubbing aristocracy. So the Arab Spring has been converted into Winter, the color revolutions have all turned gray, Latin America must always be the United States’ back yard, Africa, England and France’s. Progress must never be permitted; regress must always prevail. The only difference between today and Europe in 1800 is that in 1800 monarch’s were in charge; today non-governmental organizations are. The bankers have taken over. Organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderbergers took charge when they realized that enough money could buy anything including governments. Elected governments are now the tails the wealthy dogs wag.


Posted in USAComments Off on Neo-Napoleonic War. Conquest, Plunder, Exploitation, Slavery and Killing

Watch the US State Department Try To Explain Why US Weapons Keep Ending Up in Al-Qaeda Hands ”Video”

guns usa

US State Department officials refuse to comment on reports that CIA weapons meant for ‪‎Syrian‬ “rebels” are magically stolen, again, and somehow ended up in Al Qaeda / Al Nusra hands. Funny how that keeps on happening.

“No Comment.”

“It’s an ongoing investigation.”

Then AP’s Matt Lee says, “How long should I hold my breath”.

Referring to how long it will take for some explanation as to why, mysteriously albeit, US weapons meant for “moderate Syrian rebels” keep on ending up in Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS hands.


Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Watch the US State Department Try To Explain Why US Weapons Keep Ending Up in Al-Qaeda Hands ”Video”

Terrorism with a “Human Face”: The History of America’s Death Squads

Death Squads in Iraq and Syria. The Historical Roots of US-NATO’s Covert War on Syria

Image: El Salvador Death Squads

This article was first published by Global Research on January 4, 2013. It is also published as a chapter in Michel Chossudovsky’s book  The Globalization of War, America’s Long War against Humanity. Global Research Publishers, 2015

In recent developments the Chilcot Report has revealed the role of Latin-american style death squads in Iraq.

The recruitment of death squads is part of a well established US military-intelligence agenda. There is a long and gruesome US history of covert funding and support of  terror brigades and targeted assassinations going back to the Vietnam war. 

As government forces continue to confront the self-proclaimed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA),  the historical roots of  the West’s covert war on Syria –which has resulted in countless atrocities– must be fully revealed.

From the outset in March 2011, the US and its allies have supported the formation of death squads and the incursion of  terrorist brigades in a carefully planned undertaking.

The recruitment and training of terror brigades in both Iraq and Syria was modeled on the “Salvador Option”,  a “terrorist model” of mass killings by US sponsored death squads in Central America. It was first applied in  El Salvador, in the heyday of resistance against the military dictatorship, resulting in an estimated 75,000 deaths.

The formation of death squads in Syria builds upon the history and experience of US  sponsored terror brigades in Iraq, under the Pentagon’s “counterinsurgency” program.

The Establishment of Death Squads in Iraq

US sponsored death squads were recruited in Iraq starting in 2004-2005 in an initiative launched under the helm of the US Ambassador John Negroponte, [image: right] who was dispatched to Baghdad by the US State Department in June 2004.

Negroponte was the “man for the job”. As US Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. Negroponte played a key role in supporting and supervising the Nicaraguan Contras based in Honduras as well as overseeing the activities of the Honduran military death squads.

“Under the rule of General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, Honduras’s military government was both a close ally of the Reagan administration and was “disappearing” dozens of political opponents in classic death squad fashion.”

In January 2005, the Pentagon, confirmed that it was considering:

” forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency [Resistance] in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago”.

Under the so-called “El Salvador option”, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders, even in Syria, where some are thought to shelter. …

Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret.

The experience of the so-called “death squads” in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region.

Then, the Reagan Administration funded and trained teams of nationalist forces to neutralise Salvadorean rebel leaders and sympathisers. …

John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85.

Death squads were a brutal feature of Latin American politics of the time. …

In the early 1980s President Reagan’s Administration funded and helped to train Nicaraguan contras based in Honduras with the aim of ousting Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime. The Contras were equipped using money from illegal American arms sales to Iran, a scandal that could have toppled Mr Reagan.

The thrust of the Pentagon proposal in Iraq, … is to follow that model …

It is unclear whether the main aim of the missions would be to assassinate the rebels or kidnap them and take them away for interrogation. Any mission in Syria would probably be undertaken by US Special Forces.

Nor is it clear who would take responsibility for such a programme — the Pentagon or the Central Intelligence Agency. Such covert operations have traditionally been run by the CIA at arm’s length from the administration in power, giving US officials the ability to deny knowledge of it.  (El Salvador-style ‘death squads’ to be deployed by US against Iraq militants – Times Online, January 10, 2005, emphasis added)

While the stated objective of the “Iraq Salvador Option” was to “take out the insurgency”, in practice the US sponsored terror brigades were involved in routine killings of civilians with a view to fomenting sectarian violence. In turn, the CIA and MI6 were overseeing “Al Qaeda in Iraq”  units involved in targeted assassinations directed against the Shiite population. Of significance, the death squads were integrated and advised by undercover US Special Forces.

Robert Stephen Ford –subsequently appointed US Ambassador to Syria– was part of Negroponte’s team in Baghdad in 2004-2005. In January 2004, he was dispatched as U.S. representative to the Shiite city of Najaf which was the stronghold of the Mahdi army, with which he made preliminary contacts.

In January 2005, Robert S. Ford’s was appointed Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte. He was not only part of the inner team, he was Negroponte’s partner in setting up the Salvador Option.  Some of the groundwork had been established in Najaf prior to Ford’s transfer to Baghdad.

John Negroponte and Robert Stephen Ford were put in charge of recruiting the Iraqi death squads. While Negroponte  coordinated the operation from his office at the US Embassy, Robert S. Ford, who was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish, was entrusted with the task of establishing strategic contacts with Shiite and Kurdish militia groups outside the “Green Zone”.

Two other embassy officials, namely Henry Ensher (Ford’s Deputy) and a younger official in the political section, Jeffrey Beals, played an important role in the team “talking to a range of Iraqis, including extremists”. (See The New Yorker, March 26, 2007).  Another key individual in Negroponte’s team was James Franklin Jeffrey, America’s ambassador to Albania (2002-2004). In 2010, Jeffrey was appointed US Ambassador to Iraq (2010-2012).

Negroponte also brought into the team one of his former collaborators Colonel James Steele (ret) from his Honduras heyday:

Under the “Salvador Option,” “Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980′s, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi’ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance. Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiralled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq.

Intentional or not, the scores of tortured, mutilated bodies which turn up on the streets of Baghdad each day are generated by the death squads whose impetus was John Negroponte. And it is this U.S.-backed sectarian violence which largely led to the hell-disaster that Iraq is today. (Dahr Jamail, Managing Escalation: Negroponte and Bush’s New Iraq Team,., January 7, 2007)

“Colonel Steele was responsible, according to Rep. Dennis Kucinich for implementing  “a plan in El Salvador under which tens of thousands Salvadorans “disappeared” or were murdered, including Archbishop Oscar Romero and four American nuns.”

Upon his appointment to Baghdad, Colonel Steele was assigned to a counter-insurgency unit known as the “Special Police Commando” under the Iraqi Interior Ministry” (See ACN, Havana,  June 14, 2006) 

Reports confirm that “the US military turned over many prisoners to theWolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry’s special commandos” which so happened to be under supervision of  Colonel Steele:

“US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing,” while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.  An interview conducted by Maass [of the New York Times] in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade’s US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

Another notorious figure who played a role in Iraq’s counter-insurgency program was Former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik  [image: Bernie Kerik  in Baghdad Police Academy with body guards] who in 2007 was indicted in federal court on 16 felony charges.

Kerik walks amidst a phalanx of bodyguards during visit to the Police Academy in Baghdad, July 2003.

Kerik had been appointed by the Bush administration at the outset of the occupation in 2003 to assist in the organization and training  of the Iraqi Police force. During his short stint in 2003, Bernie Kerik –who took on the position of interim Minister of the Interior– worked towards organizing terror units within the Iraqi Police force: “Dispatched to Iraq to whip Iraqi security forces into shape, Kerik dubbed himself the “interim interior minister of Iraq.” British police advisors called him the “Baghdad terminator,” (Salon,December 9, 2004, emphasis added)

Under Negroponte’s helm at the US Embassy in Baghdad, a  wave of covert civilian killings and targeted assassinations had been unleashed. Engineers, medical  doctors, scientists and intellectuals were also targeted.

Author and geopolitical analyst Max Fuller has documented in detail the atrocities committed under the US sponsored counterinsurgency program.

The appearance of death squads was first highlighted in May this year [2005], …dozens of bodies were found casually disposed … in vacant areas around Baghdad. All of the victims had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and many of them also showed signs of having been brutally tortured.  …

The evidence was sufficiently compelling for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), a leading Sunni organisation, to issue public statements in which they accused the security forces attached to the Ministry of the Interior as well as the Badr Brigade, the former armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), of being behind the killings. They also accused the Ministry of the Interior of conducting state terrorism (Financial Times).

The Police Commandos as well as the Wolf  Brigade were overseen by the US counterinsurgency program in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior:

The Police Commandos were formed under the experienced tutelage and oversight of veteran US counterinsurgency fighters, and from the outset conducted joint-force operations with elite and highly secretive US special-forces units (Reuters, National Review Online).

A key figure in the development of the Special Police Commandos was James Steele, a former US Army special forces operative who cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador at the height of that country’s civil war. …

Another US contributor was the same Steven Casteel who as the most senior US advisor within the Interior Ministry brushed off serious and well-substantiated accusations of appalling human right violations as ‘rumor and innuendo’. Like Steele, Casteel gained considerable experience in Latin America, in his case participating in the hunt for the cocaine baron Pablo Escobar in Colombia’s Drugs Wars of the 1990s …

Casteel’s background is significant because this kind of intelligence-gathering support role and the production of death lists are characteristic of US involvement in counterinsurgency programs and constitute the underlying thread in what can appear to be random, disjointed killing sprees.

Such centrally planned genocides are entirely consistent with what is taking place in Iraq today [2005] …It is also consistent with what little we know about the Special Police Commandos, which was tailored to provide the Interior Ministry with a special-forces strike capability (US Department of Defense). In keeping with such a role, the Police Commando headquarters has become the hub of a nationwide command, control, communications, computer and intelligence operations centre, courtesy of the US. (Max Fuller, op cit)

This initial groundwork established under Negroponte in 2005 was implemented under his successor Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.  Robert Stephen Ford ensured the continuity of the project prior to his appointment as US Ambassador to Algeria in 2006,  as well as upon his return to Baghdad as Deputy Chief of Mission in 2008.


Operation “Syrian Contras”: Learning from the Iraqi Experience

The gruesome Iraqi version of the “Salvador Option” under the helm of Ambassador John Negroponte has served as a “role model” for setting up the “Free Syrian Army” Contras. Robert Stephen Ford was, no doubt, involved in the implementation of the Syrian Contras project, following his reassignment to Baghdad as Deputy Head of Mission in 2008.

The objective in Syria was to create factional divisions between Sunni, Alawite, Shiite, Kurds, Druze and Christians. While the Syrian context is entirely different to that of Iraq, there are striking similarities with regard to the procedures whereby the killings and atrocities were conducted.

A report published by Der Spiegel pertaining to atrocities committed in the Syrian city of Homs confirms an organized sectarian process of mass-murder and extra-judicial killings comparable to that conducted by the US sponsored death squads in Iraq.

People in Homs were routinely categorized as   “prisoners” (Shia, Alawite) and “traitors”.  The “traitors” are Sunni civilians within the rebel occupied urban area, who express their disagreement or opposition to the rule of terror of the Free Syrian Army (FSA):

“Since last summer [2011], we have executed slightly fewer than 150 men, which represents about 20 percent of our prisoners,” says Abu Rami. … But the executioners of Homs have been busier with traitors within their own ranks than with prisoners of war. “If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick,” says the fighter. According to Abu Rami, Hussein’s burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising.” (Der Spiegel, March 30, 2012)

The project required an initial program of recruitment and training of mercenaries. Death squads including Lebanese and Jordanian Salafist units entered Syria’s southern border with Jordan in mid-March 2011.  Much of the groundwork was already in place prior to Robert Stephen Ford’s arrival in Damascus in January 2011.

Ambassador Ford in Hama in early July 2011

Ford’s appointment as Ambassador to Syria was announced in early 2010. Diplomatic relations had been cut in 2005 following the Rafick Hariri assassination, which Washington blamed on Syria. Ford arrived in Damascus barely two months before the onset of the insurgency.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA)

Washington and its allies replicated in Syria the essential features of the “Iraq Salvador Option”, leading to the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its various terrorist factions including the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra brigades.

While the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was announced in June 2011, the recruitment and training of foreign mercenaries was initiated at a much an earlier period.

In many regards, the Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen. It is upheld by the Western media as a bona fide military entity established as a result of mass defections from government forces.  The number of defectors, however, was neither significant nor sufficient to establish a coherent military structure  with command and control functions.

The FSA  is not a professional  military entity, rather it is a loose network of separate terrorist brigades, which in turn are made up of numerous paramilitary cells operating in different parts of the country.

Each of these terrorist organizations operates independently. The FSA does not effectively exercise command and control functions including liaison with these diverse paramilitary entities. The latter are controlled by US-NATO sponsored special forces and intelligence operatives which are embedded within the ranks of selected terrorist formations.

These (highly trained) Special forces on the ground (many of whom are employees of private security companies) are routinely in contact with US-NATO and allied military/intelligence command units (including Turkey). These embedded Special Forces are, no doubt, also involved in the carefully planned bomb attacks directed against government buildings, military compounds, etc.

The death squads are mercenaries trained and recruited by the US, NATO, its Persian Gulf GCC allies as well as Turkey.  They are overseen by allied special forces (including British SAS and French Parachutistes), and private security companies on contract to NATO and the Pentagon. In this regard, reports confirm the arrest by the Syrian government of some 200-300 private security company employees who had integrated rebel ranks.

The Jabhat Al Nusra Front

The Al Nusra Front –which is said to be affiliated to Al Qaeda– is described as the most effective “opposition” rebel fighting group, responsible for several of the high profile bomb attacks. Portrayed as an enemy of America (on the State Department list of terrorist organizations), Al Nusra operations, nonetheless, bear the fingerprints of US paramilitary training, terror tactics and weapons systems. The atrocities committed against civilians by Al Nusra (funded covertly by US-NATO) are similar to those undertaken by the US sponsored death squads in Iraq.

In the words of Al Nusra leader Abu Adnan in Aleppo: “Jabhat al-Nusra does count Syrian veterans of the Iraq war among its numbers, men who bring expertise — especially the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — to the front in Syria.”

As in Iraq, factional violence and ethnic cleansing were actively promoted. In Syria, the Alawite, Shiite and Christian communities have been the target of the US-NATO sponsored death squads.  The Alawite and the Christian community are the main targets of the assassination program. Confirmed by the Vatican News Service:

Christians in Aleppo are victims of death and destruction due to the fighting which for months, has been affecting the city. The Christian neighborhoods, in recent times, have been hit by rebel forces fighting against the regular army and this has caused an exodus of civilians.

Some groups in the rugged opposition, where there are also jiahadist groups, “fire on Christian houses and buildings, to force occupants to escape and then take possession [ethnic cleansing] (Agenzia Fides. Vatican News, October 19, 2012)

“The Sunni Salafist militants – says the Bishop – continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive.”  (Agenzia Fides 04/06/2012)

Reports confirm the influx of Salafist and Al Qaeda affiliated death squads as well as brigades under the auspices of the Muslim Brotherhood into Syria from the inception of the insurgency in March 2011.

Moreover, reminiscent of  the enlistment of  the Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war, NATO and the Turkish High command, according to Israeli intelligence sources, had initiated”

“a campaign to enlist thousands of Muslim volunteers in Middle East countries and the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would house these volunteers, train them and secure their passage into Syria. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011).

Private Security Companies and the Recruitment of Mercenaries

According to reports, private security companies operating out of Gulf States are involved in the recruiting and training of mercenaries.

Although not specifically earmarked for the recruitment of mercenaries directed against Syria, reports point to the creation of  training camps in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In Zayed Military City (UAE), a secret army is in the making”  operated by Xe Services, formerly Blackwater.  The UAE deal to establish a military camp for the training of mercenaries was signed in July 2010, nine months before the onslaught of the wars in Libya and Syria.

In recent developments, security companies on contract to NATO and the Pentagon are involved in training “opposition” death squads in the use of chemical weapons:

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday. ( CNN Report, December 9, 2012)

The names of the companies involved were not revealed.

Behind Closed Doors at the US State Department

Robert Stephen Ford was part of a small team at the US State Department team which oversaw the recruitment and training of  terrorist brigades,  together with Derek Chollet  and Frederic C. Hof, a former business partner of Richard Armitage, who served as Washington’s “special coordinator on Syria”. Derek Chollet has recently been appointed to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ISA).

This team operated under the helm of  (former) Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern AffairsJeffrey Feltman.

Feltman’s team was in close liaison with the process of recruitment and training of mercenaries out of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya (courtesy of the post-Gaddafi regime, which dispatched six hundred Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) troops to Syria, via Turkey in the months following the September 2011 collapse of the Gaddafi government).

Assistant Secretary of State Feltman was in contact with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal,and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. He was also in charge of a  Doha-based office for “special security coordination” pertaining to  Syria, which included representatives from Western and GCC intelligence agencies well as a representative from Libya. Prince Bandar bin Sultan. a prominent and controversial member of Saudi intelligence was part of this group. (See Press Tv, May 12, 2012).

In June 2012, Jeffrey Feltman (image: Left) was appointed UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, a strategic position  which, in practice, consists in setting  the UN agenda (on behalf of Washington) on issues pertaining to “Conflict Resolution” in various “political hot spots” around the world (including Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Mali). In a bitter irony, the countries for UN “conflict resolution” are those which are the target of  US covert operations.

In liaison with the US State Department, NATO and his GCC handlers in Doha and Riyadh, Feltman is Washington’s man behind UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahmi’s “Peace Proposal”.

Meanwhile, while paying lip service to the UN Peace initiative, the US and NATO have speeded up the process of recruitment and training of  mercenaries in response to the heavy casualties incurred by “opposition” rebel forces.

The US proposed “end game” in Syria is not regime change, but the destruction of Syria as a Nation State.

The deployment of “opposition” death squads with a mandate to kill civilians is part of this criminal undertaking.

“Terrorism with a Human Face” is upheld by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which constitutes a mouthpiece for NATO “Humanitarian Interventions” under the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).

The atrocities committed by the US-NATO death squads are casually blamed on the government of Bashar Al Assad. According to UN Human Rights Council High Commissioner Navi Pillay:

“This massive loss of life could have been avoided if the Syrian Government had chosen to take a different path than one of ruthless suppression of what were initially peaceful and legitimate protests by unarmed civilians,” (quoted in Stephen Lendman, UN Human Rights Report on Syria: Camouflage of US-NATO Sponsored Massacres, Global Research, January 3, 2012)

Washington’s “unspeakable objective” consists in breaking up Syria as a sovereign nation –along ethnic and religious lines– into several separate and “independent” political entities.

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Crimes Against Peace: The Chilcot Inquiry, Tony Blair and Iraq


Britain is in political turmoil, but even prior to that, there was that old problem of why Her Majesty’s government went to war in a disastrous conflict that had no immediate, security related grounds. The reasons for invading Iraq were more ideological than scientific, more evangelical than rational.

One of the greater evangelists in this mission of folly was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Britain may well have been in search of a role after empire, and here it was by way of redux, a traditional stomping ground in the Middle East.  The hope was also personal. Ego, and the desperate sense of purchasing goodwill in Washington, seemed to preoccupy Blair.

The result of going into Iraq in a fit of moral outrage and strategic bravado was disastrous. Actually, it was more than disastrous. Virtually every murderous spin off in the Middle East has its provenance in the disturbances of the Coalition of the bungling willing in 2003.

That war suggested much about what was wrong with the Anglosphere, with its various satraps and misguided assumptions.  The United States was charging into a bloody engagement hoping its not too questioning followers, the UK and Australia, would join in. They were right, with Blair giving a pre-determined commitment of British forces on July 28, 2002, a good deal prior to the formal Parliamentary vote on whether military intervention against Iraq was warranted.

Sir John Chilcot as Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry was hoping to do much. The inquiry, he hoped, would give us lessons that would “help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.”[1]

For all of that, the history of this inquiry is characterised by chronic, mind numbing delay.  Britain’s gift to the world was not merely a civil service but one of uncivil disservice when required.  Such pursuits have their own rationale and powers of justification.

While the inquiry’s process has been unsatisfactory, Chilcot’s findings are now the stuff of pure affirmation.[2]  There is noting new in it.  Iraq’s previously sponsored dictator Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to Western states in 2003. Peaceful options prior to the use of force, a grave decision in international relations, had not been exhausted.

When the UK Ministry of Defence had committed to the bloody effort, it found itself woefully underprepared. Its inventory was poor, lacking in essential equipment such as armoured patrol vehicles and helicopters.  The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the great deliverer of asymmetrical warfare, was not taken seriously.

The rest of the stage for the day was set by Blair’s apologetics.  “The report,” claimed Blair in a statement, “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.” This is standard Blair: muddle the issue, obfuscate the finding.  Regard sorrow and faith as forgivable faults.

Conveniently missed is a vital fact: fanatical, uninformed belief has been the basis of some of history’s most blood sodden decisions. And to say that deception was not part of it is to misread the report, which notes the desire on the part of President George W. Bush and Blair, to invade for reasons of regime change.

Few ever go to wars, legal or otherwise, without faith.  That hardly constitutes grounds for letting planners of the hook.  Crimes against peace, articulated by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, are arguably the gravest of crimes. Whatever the faulty evidence, the diplomatic option or a continued strategy of containment, none of these mattered with a decision taken well in advance, a common plan of aggression.

Blair did make a feeble attempt to comb through the minute details by way of exoneration.  In an attempt to appease the British public, and his God, he asserts that Chilcot did not find “falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4).”  He notes the finding that he did not deceive Cabinet (para 953 vol 5) and claims that Chilcot found against a “secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1).” There are lies, and then there are lies.

One can sense Blair’s relief that the inquiry did not make a finding on one of the most fundamental points that would make a prosecutor’s brief stick: whether the action to attack Iraq was itself legal.  He makes much hay out of the point of a “finding” by the Attorney-General that there was a lawful basis by March 13, 2003 for possible military action (para 933 vol 5).  On that score, Chilcot could have done much more.

Blair then gives us his reflection about consequences, which sound all too much like a defence before a future criminal tribunal – as well as it might.  He accepts the errors of his administration, treating them like desk job miscalculations, only to then claim that it was perfectly right to remove Saddam.  Forget the “underestimated” consequences, as Chilcot rather blandly calls them.

Furthermore, he continues in his refusal to accept that “the cause of terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world” had anything to do with this adventurous gamble.  Object and belief trumped procedure and execution.  Such reasons are as good any for a formal conviction.

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