Important Thoughts

Permanent Webstand III

Complete listing of all news quote pages.

CIA moved Gitmo suspects in 'game to hide detainees from the courts', Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press, August 6, 2010.
Four of the nation's most highly valued terrorist prisoners were secretly moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2003, years earlier than has been disclosed, then whisked back into overseas prisons before the Supreme Court could give them access to lawyers, The Associated Press has learned.

The transfer allowed the U.S. to interrogate the detainees in CIA "black sites" for two more years without allowing them to speak with attorneys or human rights observers or challenge their detention in U.S. courts. Had they remained at the Guantanamo Bay prison for just three more months, they would have been afforded those rights. "This was all just a shell game to hide detainees from the courts," said Jonathan Hafetz, a Seton Hall University law professor who has represented several detainees.

Removing them from Guantanamo Bay underscores how worried President George W. Bush's administration was that the Supreme Court might lift the veil of secrecy on the detention program. It also shows how insistent the Bush administration was that terrorists must be held outside the U.S. court system. Years later, the program's legacy continues to complicate President Barack Obama's efforts to prosecute the terrorists behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The welcome table, John Buehrens, UU World, May 15, 2010.
In countless places, progressive churches have welcomed new groups getting started to meet some unmet moral or spiritual need in the community: women’s groups, environmental groups, recovery groups. At the core of authentic religion is the spirit of hospitality. All three Abrahamic faiths recognize this. The tent of Abraham is open on all four sides to welcome the stranger from anywhere, say the rabbis. The infamous sin of ancient Sodom was not same-sex love, scholars say, but rather a brutal violation of strangers who should have been treated with hospitality.

There is much to forgive in this world. Those who have been hurt often know that best. But hospitality, rightly practiced, can be a powerful source of healing. The Rev. Patrick Thomas Aquinas O’Neill (I love that name!), now minister of the First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, tells this story from his own childhood: He was in first grade. One day that winter, some older boys pushed him, face first, into a snowbank. Outraged at the indignity, he sat crying on the front stoop of his house. A neighbor, Mrs. Boutellon, had seen everything. She came out, brushed the snow off his clothes, and took him to her kitchen table. She served him hot cocoa and told him, in her French accent, “Patrick, you are angry at those boys for what they did to you. And it is natural for you to feel that way. But now—you must let it go. This day has other things to give you.”
A Plan B For Afghanistan, Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, August 18, 2010.
Their Plan B entails a dramatic reduction in the American troop presence, a mission focused on the minimal Al Qaeda threat rather than on trying to defeat the Taliban, and a peace process that leads to power-sharing.

"[T]he way forward acknowledges the manifold limitations of a military solution in a region where our interests lie in political stability," says the forthcoming report from the Afghanistan Study Group. The group of 40 scholars, former officials and activists was assembled by Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation. "The United States should by no means abandon Afghanistan, but it is time to abandon the current strategy that is not working," the report concludes. "Trying to pacify Afghanistan by force of arms will not work, and a costly military campaign there is more likely to jeopardize America's vital security interests than to protect them. The Study Group believes that the United States should pursue more modest goals that are both consistent with America's true interests and far more likely to succeed."

Patrick Cronin, a South Asian expert at the Center for a New American Security and a member of the study group, calls the report an antidote to mission creep. "There's no significant Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan today, so the original purpose has largely dissipated," Cronin told the Huffington Post. By contrast, he said, American interests do not require the military defeat of the Taliban. Worse than that, "this strategy is actually being counterproductive for our interests."

Paul R. Pillar, a Georgetown University professor who formerly served as the CIA's chief intelligence analyst for the Middle East, wrote in an email to the Huffington Post: "For me, the most important part of this exercise is explicit recognition that: (1) there is a disconnect between waging a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and the professed goal of keeping Americans safe from terrorism; and (2) the costs to the United States of this war are all out of proportion to what is at stake in Afghanistan and how it affects U.S. interests."

"The report's main argument is that U.S. Interests in Central Asia are limited, and do not justify the costly and open-ended commitment in which we are currently engaged," Stephen M. Walt, a Harvard international relations professor and a group member, e-mailed HuffPost. "Instead of trying to build a unified central state in Afghanistan -- a task for which the United States and its allies are unqualified -- the United States and its partners should reduce their military footprint, focus on devolving power to local leaders and institutions, and concentrate on economic development. Our combat and intelligence effort should focus on the small number of Al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan."
Eight years after the torture memo, Obama should take a hard look back, David Cole, Washington Post, August 1, 2010.
Eight years ago today, two Justice Department lawyers -- John Yoo and Jay Bybee -- put the finishing touches on a secret memo to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales with the anodyne title "Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. § 2340-2340A." With this document, better known as the "torture memo," and a second memo issued the same day approving specific interrogation techniques, the United States officially authorized torture for the first time in its history -- including sleep deprivation for up to 11 days straight, confinement in cramped boxes, the use of painful stress positions for hours at a time and waterboarding.

Today, Jay Bybee is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. John Yoo is a tenured law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. And no one responsible for authorizing these tactics has been held to account: not Yoo, not Bybee, not Daniel Levin and Stephen Bradbury, the Justice Department lawyers who succeeded them and continued to authorize brutal techniques until President Obama took office, and not former president George W. Bush and former vice president Dick Cheney, both of whom have, since leaving office, admitted in public statements to giving these tactics the green light.

When asked about accountability for torture, Obama has insisted that we should look forward, not back. But on this issue, we cannot move forward without looking back. Unless we acknowledge that what the United States did was not just a bad idea, but illegal, we risk treating torture as simply another policy option. As the new government in Britain has recently shown, it is possible to be responsible about allegations of torture even when it means examining the sins of a prior administration.
Air base expansion plans reflect long-term investment in Afghanistan, Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 23, 2010.
Three $100 million air base expansions in southern and northern Afghanistan illustrate Pentagon plans to continue building multimillion-dollar facilities in that country to support increased U.S. military operations well into the future. Despite growing public unhappiness with the Afghan war -- and President Obama's pledge that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 -- many of the installations being built in Afghanistan have extended time horizons. None of the three projects in southern and northern Afghanistan is expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011. All of them are for use by U.S. forces rather than by their Afghan counterparts.

Overall, requests for $1.3 billion in additional fiscal 2011 funds for multiyear construction of military facilities in Afghanistan are pending before Congress. The House has approved the money, as has the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full Senate has yet to vote on the measure. In addition, the United States has already allocated about $5.3 billion to construct facilities for the Afghan army and the national police, with most of the "enduring facilities . . . scheduled for construction over the next three to four years," according to a Pentagon news release this month.
The billionaire Koch brothers' war against Obama, Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, August 30, 2010.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
Guide for interrogators tells how FBI agent turned suspect into informant, Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, August 30, 2010.
When Gaudin took over, he did not confront the suspect about his lies. Rather, he said that the suspect failed as a soldier to successfully follow his counter-interrogation training. During the questioning, Gaudin confronted the suspect about his inconsistencies, finally getting him to admit that his clean clothes were not the ones he wore the day he was injured. They brought in another FBI agent, one who had broad knowledge of al-Qaeda from having interrogated the terrorists responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing. He gave the suspect a sense of status by asking about Osama bin Laden.

The suspect's "eyes narrowed and he stopped talking. A small smile appeared on his face," according to the study. Immediately asked for the first phone number he called after the bombing, the suspect - apparently caught off guard - gave the number of an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen and then remained silent. Over the next two days, the interrogators determined that the suspect "was emotionally affected by the attack and cared enough to defend his position and group's cause," the study said.

Within two more days, they realized that the suspect spoke and read English. An older Lebanese American FBI interpreter was brought in. With information from the Yemen phone number, the FBI team on Aug. 22 made the suspect listen as it demolished his cover story. At that point, Owhali dropped his alias and developed a new fallback position, based, he told Gaudin, on an expectation that he eventually would be released in a prisoner swap: "If you promise I'll be tried in the United States, I'll tell you everything. America is my enemy, not Kenya. I will tell you all about involvement with the bombings, bin Laden and al-Qaeda."

He did. He warned about future attacks, including one on the United States and another on a Navy ship refueling in the port of Aden. On May 29, 2001, Owhali was among four co-defendants convicted of the Kenya bombing. He was in prison on Sept. 11, 2001, just six blocks from the World Trade Center. He is now in the maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo., sentenced to life without parole.
Imam's Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad, Scott Shane and Souad Mekhennet, New York Times, May 8, 2010.
There are two conventional narratives of Mr. Awlaki’s path to jihad. The first is his own: He was a nonviolent moderate until the United States attacked Muslims openly in Afghanistan and Iraq, covertly in Pakistan and Yemen, and even at home, by making targets of Muslims for raids and arrests. He merely followed the religious obligation to defend his faith, he said.

“What am I accused of?” he asks in a recent video bearing the imprint of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “Of calling for the truth? Of calling for jihad for the sake of Allah? Of calling to defend the causes of the Islamic nation?”

A contrasting version of Mr. Awlaki’s story, explored though never confirmed by the national Sept. 11 commission, maintains that he was a secret agent of Al Qaeda starting well before the attacks, when three of the hijackers turned up at his mosques. By this account, all that has changed since then is that Mr. Awlaki has stopped hiding his true views.

The tale that emerges from visits to his mosques, and interviews with two dozen people who knew him, is more complex and elusive. A product both of Yemen’s deeply conservative religious culture and freewheeling American ways, he hesitated to shake hands with women but patronized prostitutes. He was first enthralled with jihad as a teenager — but the cause he embraced, the defeat of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, was then America’s cause too. After a summer visit to the land of the victorious mujahedeen, he brought back an Afghan hat and wore it proudly around the Colorado State campus in Fort Collins where he studied engineering.

Later, Mr. Awlaki seems to have tried out multiple personas: the representative of a tolerant Islam in a multicultural United States (starring in a video explaining Ramadan); the fiery American activist talking about Muslims’ constitutional rights (and citing both Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown); the conspiracy theorist who publicly doubted the Muslim role in the Sept. 11 attacks. (The F.B.I., he wrote a few days afterward, simply blamed passengers with Muslim names.)

All along he remained a conservative, fundamentalist preacher who invariably started with a scriptural story from the seventh century and drew its personal or political lessons for today, a tradition called salafism, for the Salafs, or ancestors, the leaders of the earliest generations of Islam.

Finally, after the Yemeni authorities, under American pressure, imprisoned him in 2006 and 2007, Mr. Awlaki seems to have hardened into a fully committed ideologist of jihad, condemning non-Muslims and cheerleading for slaughter. His message has become indistinguishable from that of Osama bin Laden — except for his excellent English and his cultural familiarity with the United States and Britain. Those traits make him especially dangerous, counterterrorism officials fear, and he flaunts them.

“Jihad,” Mr. Awlaki said in a March statement, “is becoming as American as apple pie and as British as afternoon tea.”
My name is Glenn Beck, and I need help, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, September 1, 2010.
Any cursory search of Beck quotes also reveals the language of the addict:

-- "It is still morning in America. It just happens to be kind of a head-pounding, hung-over, vomiting-for-four-hours kind of morning in America."

-- "I have not heard people in the Republican Party yet admit that they have a problem."

-- "You know, we all have our inner demons. I, for one -- I can't speak for you, but I'm on the verge of moral collapse at any time. It can happen by the end of the show."

Indeed. After the hangover comes admission of the addiction, followed by surrender to a higher power and acknowledgment that one is always fallen.

These may be random quotes, but they can't be considered isolated or out of context. For Beck, addiction has been a defining part of his life, and recovery is a process inseparable from the Glenn Beck Program. His emotional, public breakdowns are replicated in AA meetings in towns and cities every day.

Taking others along for the ride, a.k.a. evangelism, is also part of the cure. The healed often cannot remain healed without helping others find their way. Beck, who vaulted from radio host to political-televangelist, now has taken another step in his ascendancy -- to national crusader for faith, hope and charity.
Ban Drone-Porn War Crimes, Ron Rosenbaum, Slate, August 31, 2010.
And there was something I noticed this time when I was rewatching the Pentagon's drone porn on YouTube: a minor but significant point in the case that drone-porn killings are war crimes. It's in the way that the videos are labeled by "dvids," a semi-official conduit of Pentagon videos. Check out the two of them you can see on Alternet: The first is titled "UAV Kills 6 Heavily Armed Criminals," and the second is titled "US Forces Kill Three Criminals and Destroy Rocket Rail."

Criminals? Did someone say criminals? The use of such a curious locution by an intermediary of the Pentagon, which supplied the drone-porn clips, was clearly not an accident. It suggests that "criminal" is the official euphemism we're using now for those we are at war with in Afghanistan. But since when are we spending a trillion dollars and sacrificing thousands of soldiers' lives to kill another nation's "criminals"?

This may be a throwback to the John Kerry "criminal justice" rationale for going after what were commonly known as terrorists. Criminals: it sounds like one of those Soviet-era euphemisms for anti-party dissidents. And it's self-subverting.

Criminals are by definition not enemy soldiers but people who have been arrested, charged with a crime, indicted, and convicted. If we call them "criminals" in the drone porn we distribute, in effect we are saying that we are not fighting a war but killing suspects convicted without a trial. What is their crime: driving while bearded? Loitering while being Muslim? Are they violating the strict gun-control laws of Afghanistan?

It raises serious questions about the war itself: Are we in Afghanistan to fight a religious sect because 10 years ago, when it was in power, it sheltered al-Qaida and might again in the future? Are, therefore, all members of the sect legitimate military targets? Are there no civilian Taliban, who, repellent as some of their practices are, nonetheless deserve protection from drone strikes?

Putative war crimes, repellent videos, porn mentality, the counterproductive creation of generations of terrorists: On grounds both moral and practical, the drone attacks must cease. Stop them now.