Category Archives: War On Terror

Inside Donald Trump’s Selective Islamophobic Fear Machine

Jordan Charlton reports for Mediate:

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 12.24.43 PMOf the many dumbfounding things I observed on the campaign trail in 2016, one of the top head-scratchers was Republican voters’ selective fear and outrage toward what they call “Islamic terrorists.”

After I would follow up and ask if they’re equally concerned about the epidemic of disturbed, white Americans shooting up schools, movie theaters, malls, or spree-shooting while driving an Uber, I’d get a blank stare and an inability to speak coherent words.

This selective fear machine is what President Trump is preying on now: the fear that the “other” is a threat to our families, culture, and very existence.

Make no mistake: there is and will most likely always be a threat of foreign terrorists actively plotting to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. The president is not wrong to want to find ways to improve our border, cyber, and airport security within the bounds of the law, rights to privacy, and human rights.

But this is where he and the chorus line of neocons trying to manipulate him into another war are exposed as simple-minded bigots: in reality, Trump’s travel ban measure and “extreme vetting” philosophy aren’t aimed at keeping the country safe.

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Why the White House Wants the Media to Talk About Terrorism

Abigail Tracy writes for Vanity Fair:

Image result for Why the White House Wants the Media to Talk About Terrorism[…] When asked during Monday’s daily White House press briefing for examples of attacks the media allegedly failed to cover, Sean Spicer walked back Trump’s comment, proffering that President Trump merely meant press coverage of Islamic terrorism was lacking—not nonexistent. “He felt members of the media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said. “Protests will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.” A reporter demanded that Spicer release a list of the supposedly under-reported attacks the president had in mind, and Spicer agreed. Hours later, the White House delivered, releasing a list of 78 terrorist attacks.

The media pounced on the hastily compiled list, which was rife with misspellings and typos, and began picking apart the selection. Critics highlighted that many of the attacks the White House claimed were under-covered, such as the San Bernardino and Orlando nightclub shootings, actually fueled weeks of coverage. Others, which didn’t receive much coverage, were smaller incidents, far from the U.S. and Europe, which resulted in few or no casualties. Terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-Islamic extremists—such as white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church—were also missing from the list.

But in playing Trump’s game, the media may already have lost. For one, Spicer effectively moved the goalposts, turning a controversy over an obviously false Trump claim—“it is not even being reported”—into a broader conversation about what kinds of attacks journalists cover. TV news producers and assignment editors may think twice, in the future, about whether to cover smaller terrorist incidents or failed plots, of which the White House wants to increase public awareness. List-gate also forced the press to spend half a day debating the total number of attacks occurring across the world, drumming up fear and helping to buttress the president’s defense of his embattled immigration order.

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‘Human Slaughterhouse’: Amnesty International Claims Up to 13,000 Hanged at Syrian Prison

Amy Goodman speaks to Nicolette Waldman, an Amnesty International researcher who specialises in detention issues, about the report she co-authored which claims that as many as 13,000 people have been hanged in a Syrian government military prison in recent years. (Democracy Now!)

Trump Administration Preparing for Deeper Involvement in Yemen?

Gregory Wilpert speaks to CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin who says the recent failed US Navy Seal raid shows that the Trump administration’s plans for Yemen will contribute to making the horrific humanitarian crisis there worse. (The Real News)

It’s Not Foreigners Who are Plotting Here

Nora Ellingsen writes for LawFare:

A little more than a week ago, Benjamin Wittes posted a piece about the malevolence and incompetence of Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees—an order that, in his words, is both wildly over-inclusive and wildly under-inclusive. If we take the ban and its stated purpose at face value (which Ben argued we should not), at best, the ban is ineffective and fails “to protect Americans.” At worst, as many experts have suggested over the past few weeks, the Executive Order is completely counterproductive. As ten bipartisan former national security officials—four of whom were briefed regularly on all credible terrorist threat streams against the U.S. as recently as a week before the EO—said in a legal brief on Monday:

We view the order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer…It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships.

Ben’s piece touched a nerve. It has received nearly half a million pageviews, according to Google Analytics, and was featured this week on This American Life.

In this post, I want to follow up on and flesh out an aspect of the piece that has gotten a lot of attention but much of it in the vein of repetition, not elucidation. Specifically, Ben pointed to some of the most compelling empirical evidence on the issue of ineffectiveness: the EO wouldn’t have blocked the entry of any of the individuals responsible for recent terrorist attacks on American soil. Other media organizations have elaborated on the theme, with various news outlets running stories showing that no one from any of the seven countries included in the Executive Order has carried out a fatal attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. But there’s more to say on this subject and more data to share on it, and I suppose I’m as good a person as any to shed some light.

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TSA’s Own Files Show Doubtful Science Behind Its Behavior Screening Program

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Newly released documents from the Transportation Security Administration appear to confirm the concerns of critics who say that the agency’s controversial program that relies on body language, appearance, and particular behaviors to select passengers for extra screening in airports has little basis in science and has led to racial profiling.

Files turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act include a range of studies that undermines the program’s premise, demonstrating that attempts to look for physical signs of deception are highly subjective and unreliable. Also among the files are presentations and reports from the TSA and other law enforcement agencies that put forth untested theories of how to profile attackers and rely on broad stereotypes about Muslims.

The TSA has deployed behavior detection officers, or BDOs, at security checkpoints and in plainclothes throughout airports to look for travelers exhibiting behaviors that might betray fear, stress, or deception. According to the documents, these officers engage in “casual conversations” such that the passengers don’t realize they “have undergone any deliberate line of questioning.”

These spotters can pick people out for extra screening, refer them to law enforcement or immigration authorities, or block them from boarding a plane.

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Alleged Mastermind Tells Obama 9/11 Was America’s Fault

Carol Rosenberg reports for McClatchy:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed poses for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this undated photo.The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.

“It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, who he addressed as “the head of the snake” and president of “the country of oppression and tyranny.” It is dated January 2015 but didn’t reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantánamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office.

[…] The Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen of Baluch ethnic background, lists a long litany of U.S. overseas interventions — from Iraq and Iran to Vietnam and Hiroshima — to justify the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.But he is particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests, notably Israel and “the occupier Jews.” Israel gets 39 mentions while Osama bin Laden gets a dozen, including once to excoriate Obama for the mission that hunted down and killed the founder of the al-Qaida movement for the 9/11 attacks.

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Questioning the “Success” of Trump Raid That Killed 24 Civilians in Yemen

Amy Goodman speaks to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Baraa Shiban, the Yemen project coordinator and caseworker with Reprieve, about the questions surrounding the first covert counter-terrorism operation approved by President Donald Trump. (Democracy Now!)

Beware Trump’s Reichstag Fire

Paul Waldmam writes for The Week:

I like to think I’m a little less prone to panic than some of my liberal brethren. I haven’t called President Trump a fascist, mostly because the idea of him having a coherent ideology is absurd. Much as I fear how he’d act in a crisis — a fear that has only grown since he became president — I grant that most of what he’ll do in office is exactly what any Republican president would do. I don’t doubt that there will be an election in 2020. And while Trump has a remarkable lack of human virtues and an even more remarkable set of character flaws, I don’t think he’s Hitler.

That doesn’t mean, however, that certain historical events don’t offer us a warning of the kind of thing we should watch out for. In particular, the Trump administration’s move to shut America’s doors to refugees and stop all entry from nationals of seven Muslim countries has me thinking more and more about the Reichstag fire. There will come a moment when something awful happens, and Americans need to be ready for the Trump administration’s effort to exploit it.

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Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone Unreported

Andrew deGrandpre and Shawn Snow report for Military Times:

Image result for Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone UnreportedThe American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.

Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized. Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities.

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Kellyanne Conway Made up a Fake Terrorist Attack to Justify Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’

Zack Beauchamp reports for Vox:

Image result for Kellyanne ConwayIn an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that aired on Thursday night, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway managed to get two huge things wrong in a short, 19-second answer. First, she said that the Obama administration banned Iraqi refugees from entering in the United States for six months in 2011 — which is flatly untrue.

Second, and more significantly, she made up a terrorist attack committed by Iraqi refugees that never happened — the “Bowling Green Massacre”.

[…] There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, committed by Iraqi refugees.

Conway claims that “most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.” Most people don’t know about it because it didn’t happen.

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The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’

Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones:

The Trump administration has insisted since Sunday that the president’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominately Islamic countries “is not a Muslim ban.” But as Mother Jones first reported in a series of investigations starting last summer, the two top Trump advisers who reportedly crafted the immigration crackdown—Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller—have a long history of promoting Islamophobia, courting anti-Muslim extremists, and boosting white nationalists.

For nearly a year before stepping down as the CEO of Breitbart News to lead the Trump campaign, Bannon hosted a SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, where he conducted dozens of interviews with leading anti-Muslim extremists. Steeped in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, the interviews paint a dark and paranoid picture of America’s 3.3 million Muslims and the world’s second-largest faith. Bannon often bookended the exchanges with full-throated praise for his guests, describing them as “top experts” and urging his listeners to click on their websites and support them.

One of Bannon’s guests on the show, Trump surrogate Roger Stone, warned of a future America “where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that’s what’s coming.”

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Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Will Only Make Terrorist Attacks More Likely

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

muslim-ban-protest.jpgDonald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and visitors from seven Muslim countries entering the US makes a terrorist attack on Americans at home or abroad more rather than less likely. It does so because one of the main purposes of al-Qaeda and Isis in carrying out atrocities is to provoke an overreaction directed against Muslim communities and states. Such communal punishments vastly increase sympathy for Salafi-jihadi movements among the 1.6 billion Muslims who make up a quarter of the world’s population.

The Trump administration justifies its action by claiming that it is only following lessons learned from 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers. But it has learned exactly the wrong lesson: the great success of Mohammed Atta and his eighteen hijackers was not on the day that they and 3,000 others died, but when President George W Bush responded by leading the US into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that are still going on.

Al-Qaeda and its clones had been a small organisation with perhaps as few as a thousand militants in south east Afghanistan and north west Pakistan. But thanks to Bush’s calamitous decisions after 9/11, it now has tens of thousands of fighters, billions of dollars in funds and cells in dozens of countries. Few wars have failed so demonstrably or so badly as “the war on terror”. Isis and al-Qaeda activists are often supposed to be inspired simply by a demonic variant of Islam – and this is certainly how Trump has described their motivation – but in practice it was the excesses of the counter-terrorism apparatus such as torture and rendition, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib which acted as the recruiting sergeant for the Salafi-jihadi movements.

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Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen, Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the Obama DOJ’s arguments for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.”

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the UK armed, supported and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the US/UK-supported air attacks. Because of the west’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.

In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.

But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.

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Are We One Terrorist Attack Away From Donald Trump Doing Something Really Crazy?

Ryu Spaeth writes for New Republic:

[…] As Beutler wrote, the institutions of civil society responded with alacrity to Trump’s Muslim ban, ensnaring his executive order in the courts. But the institutions of government are withering, starting with the moribund and morally decrepit Republican Party, the wound that allowed Trump to enter the body politic and hijack it. Meanwhile, the Western world is being buffeted by immense forces, from the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis to upheaval in the Middle East—the very forces that propelled Trump to the White House and continue to upend liberal democracy as we know it. The lesson of the 2016 election is that the system failed us utterly. If President Trump can happen, anything can happen.

All of this is to say that there’s a lot of gasoline lying around and it won’t take much to spark it. This is not to say we’re looking at some imminent version of the Reichstag Fire. Like everyone else, I took heart from the demonstrations at JFK and around the country; it was evidence that America is full of good people and that we are not doomed to some Trumpian dystopia. But just consider what would have happened if the terror attack in Quebec City had occurred in the United States (even if the attack targeted Muslims). With the ban already in place, wouldn’t such an attack become instantly politicized? Would such an attack not justify the ban in the eyes of the Trump administration, and give it grounds to expand it? Can anyone say, with any certainty, that we wouldn’t see tanks in the streets? I don’t think we should succumb to hysteria. But should we be afraid? Absolutely.

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Trump’s Muslim Immigration Executive Order: If We Bombed You, We Ban You

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

[…] What all seven countries also have in common is that the United States government has violently intervened in them. The U.S. is currently bombing — or has bombed in the recent past — six of them. The U.S. has not bombed Iran, but has a long history of intervention including a recent cyberattack.

It’s like a twisted version of the you-break-it-you-buy-it Pottery Barn rule: If we bomb a country or help destabilize its society, we will then ban its citizens from being able to seek refuge in the United States.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy explained this irony in a tweet Wednesday morning:

We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.

[…] And consider that Iran, where al Qaeda, ISIS, and other anti-American terrorist organizations have no significant foothold, is included — but Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 9/11 hijackers came from and which has been a funding source for extremist groups, is not included.

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Visa Ban Excludes Countries with Direct Links to Terrorism and Where Trump Has Commercial Holdings

Kim Brown speaks to Phyllis Bennisa Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and the author of several books, who says Trump’s executive order is an effort to keep Muslims out of the country and has nothing to do with security. (The Real News)

Trump: No to Black Sites But Yes to Torture

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Reports early Wednesday claimed President Donald Trump was planning to reverse the ban on CIA black sites holding detainees around the world. These reports ultimately proved untrue, with the White House insisting the memo in question was not genuine, and that they have absolutely no plans to review the black sites policy at all.

The flurry of conflicting reports on the CIA black sites was confusing and ultimately didn’t amount to much in and of itself, but the putative memo did mention a return to torture, and got President Trump talking, and again loudly endorsing the idea of torture.

Trump insisted that he had been assured by several top intelligence officials that torture “works” and that he believes the US has to “fight fire with fire” in the war against ISIS. Trump noted that ISIS routinely tortures, and that it’s unfair the US is “not allowed to do anything,” saying the two sides aren’t “playing on an even field.”

Though Trump presented his comments as deferring to the experts, he also made it very clear he leans toward the idea of torture, saying he wants to do everything that the US can “do legally.” This is in keeping with his campaign rhetoric, which faulted opponents as weak for not being pro-torture.

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Trump Poised to Lift Ban on C.I.A. ‘Black Site’ Prisons

Charlie Savage reports for The New York Times:

The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the C.I.A. to reopen overseas “black site” prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Barack Obama shut them down.

President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” and obtained by The New York Times, would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the George W. Bush administration.

If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in American custody. That would be another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions, although statutory obstacles would remain.

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US Drone Killing Machine Now on Autopilot

Laurie Calhoun writes for The Drone Age:

photo credit: mikechurch.comFor years now I have been pointing out that Obama’s lasting legacy would be his ill-advised decision back in 2009 to normalize assassination, which his administration successfully rebranded as “targeted killing”. This was supposed to be the latest and greatest form of “smart war”: the use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), or lethal drones, to go after and eliminate evil terrorists without risking US soldiers’ lives.

It all sounds so slick and, well, Obama cool. The problem is that any sober consideration of Obama’s foreign policy over the course of his eight years as president reveals that the reality is altogether different. Judging by the murder and mayhem being perpetrated all across the Middle East, “smart war” was not so smart after all.

It’s not easy to tease out how much of the mess in the Middle East is specifically due to Obama’s accelerated use of lethal drones in “signature strikes” to kill thousands of military-age men in seven different lands. For he also implemented other, equally dubious initiatives. Planks of Obama’s bloody “smart power” approach included deposing Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and massively arming (from 2012 to 2013) a group of little-understood “appropriately vetted moderate rebels” in Syria.

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14 Senate Democrats Fall in Line Behind Trump CIA Pick Who Left Door Open to Torture

Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons report for The Intercept:

Fourteen Senate Democrats joined all but one Senate Republican in confirming Rep. Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director on Monday evening, failing a crucial first test of whether Democrats would present a united front to defend human rights and civil liberties in the Trump era.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the lone member of his party to vote against his confirmation.

Pompeo is a far-right Kansas Republican who has in the past defended CIA officials who engaged in torture, calling them “patriots.” Last week, he left the door open to torture by acknowledging in his written responses to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would be open to altering a 2015 law prohibiting the government from using techniques not listed in the Army Field Manual.

As a member of Congress, he repeatedly appeared on the radio program hosted by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, and has portrayed the war on terror as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. He has also claimed that “Islamic leaders across America [are] potentially complicit” in terrorism because they supposedly don’t speak out against it, which is not true.

While Pompeo’s confirmation was opposed by Human Rights Watch, it netted votes from a variety of Senate Democrats, including the caucus’ leader: Chuck Schumer of New York.

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CIA Nominee Leaves Door Open to Torture, Making Senate Vote a Test of Principles

Zaid Jilani writes for The Intercept:

Image result for Mike PompeoCIA director nominee Mike Pompeo — whose confirmation vote in the Senate is set for Monday — has said he is open to changing the rules governing the interrogation of detainees, which could mean re-authorizing the use of the torture technique called waterboarding.

The vote is shaping up as a test for Senate Democrats, who will have to choose between letting Donald Trump fill a key national-security post, on the one hand, and supporting basic human rights on the other.

Pompeo’s admission came in a written response to inquiries from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Asked if he would refrain from taking steps that would reintroduce waterboarding or other similar techniques, he replied that he would “consult with experts at the agency and at other organizations in the U.S. government” on whether the Army Field Manual — which currently establishes the legal limits of interrogation — should be changed. In other words, he’ll follow the law, but he’s open to changing it

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Yemen Reports First US Drone Strikes Under Trump

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for trump droneA pair of US drone strikes in Yemen’s Bayda Province have killed at least 10 people over the weekend, according to Yemeni officials, marking the first drone strikes to be conducted under President Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday.

Both drone strikes were in roughly the same rural area, with the first killing three “suspects” on motorcycles, and the second strike also hitting a vehicle, and killing seven people. Yemeni officials, as they always do, labeled all of the slain “armed fighters of al-Qaeda.”

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America is About to go Backwards on Torture Under Trump

Rupert Stone writes for The Independent:

trump-lift.jpgTuesday’s UK Supreme Court ruling, allowing two Libyans to sue the British government for alleged complicity in their rendition and torture by the CIA, takes us back to the dark days after 9/11 when America kidnapped people and handed them over to squalid foreign regimes, like Colonel Gaddafi’s or President Assad’s.

However, it has gone unnoticed that US President-elect Donald Trump looks set to continue renditions when he takes office in a few days. True, his cabinet nominees told Congress last week that they would not use torture, despite Trump’s calls for waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse” on the campaign trail. But Mike Pompeo, his pick for CIA Director, has effectively confirmed that rendition will be an available policy. In response to written questions from Senators recently, he said that, if the CIA does conduct “rendition/transfers” of prisoners to foreign countries, he will seek “diplomatic assurances” from those countries that torture will not occur.

In other words, rendition is on the table. This isn’t surprising, because the US has been in the rendition business for decades, long before George W Bush came on the scene. It basically involves the extralegal transfer of prisoners from one country to another without going through formal extradition or deportation procedures.

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Trump’s Inaugural Address: A Call For Holy War

Kevin Gosztola writes for Shadowproof:

President Donald Trump at the Inauguration. (Screen shot from White House live stream)President Donald Trump used his inaugural address to call for the “civilized world” to unite “against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.” It received one of the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd in attendance at the National Mall.

The words evoked memory of President George W. Bush and his administration. After the September 11th attacks, Bush referred to the “war on terrorism” as a “crusade.” It suggested the Bush administration meant to fight terrorism as a kind of holy war against Muslims.

Trump did not use the word “crusade,” but there was a distinct Christian theocratic theme to his gung ho declaration to “reinforce old alliances and form new ones” in the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

 

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Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows

Jeremy Scahill reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the ShadowsErik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.

In July, Prince told Trump’s senior advisor and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

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U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan May Now Be Riskier For Civilians

Abigail Fielding-Smith and Ruhullah Khapalwak report for Newsweek and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Predator Drone[…] By early 2015, the American war against the Taliban was supposed to be over. President Barack Obama had drawn down the troop force—roughly 100,000 at its height—to about 10,000, most of which remained only to train the Afghan security forces. U.S. planes continued to kill militants loyal to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (ISIS), but airstrikes against the Taliban were allowed only in self-defense.

There was one exception, however: American aircraft could pursue the Taliban when Afghan allies were about to be overrun. This scenario became increasingly common as the insurgent group took advantage of the security vacuum created by U.S. troop withdrawals in 2014 and 2015. Losses among Afghan security forces shot up by nearly 30 percent in those two years. Last September, the Taliban took control of most of the northern city of Kunduz. U.S. commandos set out to help Afghan forces retake it, and American gunships scrambled to support them. In the fog of the ensuing battles, the U.S. accidentally bombarded a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 42 doctors and patients.

Later, as the Taliban continued to rampage through Kunduz and Helmand provinces, America adjusted its rules. In June, the U.S. announced its forces would now be allowed to attack the Taliban proactively.

This has resulted in an anomalous situation: a conventional aerial campaign but with virtually no American forces on the ground to provide reliable intelligence to guide it. The U.S. is now broadly dependent on its Afghan partners and the notoriously limited insights of drones.

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Get Ready For Another Year of Global Tumult

Stephen Collinson reports for CNN:

Image result for Get ready for another year of global tumultThe political tumult that rocked the world in 2016 might be an appetizer for 2017.

Crucial elections loom this year in France and Germany, where the same anti-establishment backlash that produced Donald Trump and Brexit could offer an opening to nationalist leaders who oppose Muslim immigration and further erode the European unity that has been a signature of the post-World War II era.

The Middle East is spiraling deeper into the mire of fraying borders and sectarian disorder while violence in places such Syria is unleashing a tide of desperate refugees that is destabilizing Europe. Meanwhile, rising powers such as China, Russia and Iran are closely watching the developments to determine whether the convulsions in the West give them an opening to advance their own interests.

Of course, the 15 years since the September 11 attacks have been dominated by war, strife and economic disruption. But what makes 2017 so unique is that America — long a force for stability — is poised to inaugurate one of the most impulsive presidents ever to walk into the Oval Office.

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It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group Says

Rainer Buergin reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group SaysU.S. unilateralism under Donald Trump, China’s growing assertiveness and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make 2017 the “most volatile” year for political risk since World War II, according to Eurasia Group.

“In 2017 we enter a period of geopolitical recession,” the New York-based company said in its annual outlook. International war or “the breakdown of major central government institutions” isn’t inevitable, though “such an outcome is now thinkable.”

With Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an America First platform, the global economy can’t count on the U.S. to provide “guardrails” anymore, according to Eurasia, which advises investors on political risk. Trump’s signals of a thaw with Russia, skepticism toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and his “alignment” with European anti-establishment parties such as France’s National Front could weaken the main postwar alliance protecting the global order, according to the report released Tuesday.

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Pentagon Again Dramatically Underreports Civilian Deaths in Iraq, Syria Bombings

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Image result for Iraq, SyriaThe Pentagon has once again offered a new statement on the civilian casualties which have resulted from the US-led coalition air war against ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria, adding 15 more “unintentional civilian deaths” in the month of November, bringing the official death toll overall to 188.

As has been true throughout the war, the official US figures are dramatically lower than the estimates from monitor groups, and indeed far lower than what has been documented by the media, with most of the incidents not even being fully investigated by the US, but just deemed “non-credible.”

Exactly how much larger the death toll is remains a matter of some speculation, but monitors like Air Wars have suggested the toll at about 2,100 civilians killed overall, and even more conservative estimates put the figure around 1,000 reflective of just how absurdly low the official figure is.

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