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Do Wars Really Defend “America’s Freedom”?

By Lawrence Wittner | CounterPunch | November 17, 2014

U.S. politicians and pundits are fond of saying that America’s wars have defended America’s freedom. But the historical record doesn’t bear out this contention. In fact, over the past century, U.S. wars have triggered major encroachments upon civil liberties.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, seven states passed laws abridging freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In June 1917, they were joined by Congress, which passed the Espionage Act. This law granted the federal government the power to censor publications and ban them from the mail, and made the obstruction of the draft or of enlistment in the armed forces punishable by a hefty fine and up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Thereafter, the U.S. government censored newspapers and magazines while conducting prosecutions of the war’s critics, sending over 1,500 to prison with lengthy sentences. This included the prominent labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. Meanwhile, teachers were fired from the public schools and universities, elected state and federal legislators critical of the war were prevented from taking office, and religious pacifists who refused to carry weapons after they were drafted into the armed forces were forcibly clad in uniform, beaten, stabbed with bayonets, dragged by ropes around their necks, tortured, and killed. It was the worst outbreak of government repression in U.S. history, and sparked the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although America’s civil liberties record was much better during World War II, the nation’s participation in that conflict did lead to serious infringements upon American freedoms. Probably the best-known was the federal government’s incarceration of 110,000 people of Japanese heritage in internment camps. Two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, most of whom had been born (and many of whose parents had been born) in the United States. In 1988, recognizing the blatant unconstitutionality of the wartime internment, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the action and paid reparations to the survivors and their families. But the war led to other violations of rights, as well, including the imprisonment of roughly 6,000 conscientious objectors and the confinement of some 12,000 others in Civilian Public Service camps. Congress also passed the Smith Act, which made the advocacy of the overthrow of the government a crime punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment. As this legislation was used to prosecute and imprison members of groups that merely talked abstractly of revolution, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately narrowed its scope considerably.

The civil liberties situation worsened considerably with the advent of the Cold War. In Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee gathered files on over a million Americans whose loyalty it questioned and held contentious hearings designed to expose alleged subversives. Jumping into the act, Senator Joseph McCarthy began reckless, demagogic accusations of Communism and treason, using his political power and, later, a Senate investigations subcommittee, to defame and intimidate. The president, for his part, established the Attorney General’s List of “subversive” organizations, as well as a federal Loyalty Program, which dismissed thousands of U.S. public servants from their jobs. The compulsory signing of loyalty oaths became standard practice on the federal, state, and local level. By 1952, 30 states required some sort of loyalty oath for teachers. Although this effort to root out “un-Americans” never resulted in the discovery of a single spy or saboteur, it did play havoc with people’s lives and cast a pall of fear over the nation.

When citizen activism bubbled up in the form of protest against the Vietnam War, the federal government responded with a stepped-up program of repression. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, had been expanding his agency’s power ever since World War I, and swung into action with his COINTELPRO program. Designed to expose, disrupt, and neutralize the new wave of activism by any means necessary, COINTELPRO spread false, derogatory information about dissident leaders and organizations, created conflicts among their leaders and members, and resorted to burglary and violence. It targeted nearly all social change movements, including the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the environmental movement. The FBI’s files bulged with information on millions of Americans it viewed as national enemies or potential enemies, and it placed many of them under surveillance, including writers, teachers, activists, and U.S. senators Convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dangerous subversive, Hoover made numerous efforts to destroy him, including encouraging him to commit suicide.

Although revelations about the unsavory activities of U.S. intelligence agencies led to curbs on them in the 1970s, subsequent wars encouraged a new surge of police state measures. In 1981, the FBI opened an investigation of individuals and groups opposing President Reagan’s military intervention in Central America. It utilized informers at political meetings, break-ins at churches, members’ homes, and organizational offices, and surveillance of hundreds of peace demonstrations. Among the targeted groups were the National Council of Churches, the United Auto Workers, and the Maryknoll Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. After the beginning of the Global War on Terror, the remaining checks on U.S. intelligence agencies were swept aside. The Patriot Act provided the government with sweeping power to spy on individuals, in some cases without any suspicion of wrongdoing, while the National Security Agency collected all Americans’ phone and internet communications.

The problem here lies not in some unique flaw of the United States but, rather, in the fact that warfare is not conducive to freedom. Amid the heightened fear and inflamed nationalism that accompany war, governments and many of their citizens regard dissent as akin to treason. In these circumstances, “national security” usually trumps liberty. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked during World War I: “War is the health of the state.” Americans who cherish freedom should keep this in mind.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner  is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Statelessness: Palestinians in East Jerusalem fighting complete erasure

By Jessica Purkiss | MEMO | November 17, 2014

This November marked 60 years since the 1954 United Nations convention which first promised to tackle the issue of statelessness was adopted. Today however the problem is far from resolved and being stateless – not considered a national of any state-effects at least 10 million people worldwide. To mark the 60th anniversary of the UN’s pledge, MEMO has produced a series of articles on Palestinian statelessness. The article below looks at statelessness in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, unlike their Jewish neighbors are not defined as citizens of Israel, nor are they considered citizens of Palestine. Instead they balance precariously in a state of half existence, battling through papers and bureaucratic barriers that have been put in place with the aim of completely erasing them.

Following the 1967 war, Israel took control of the whole of Jerusalem, annexing East Jerusalem which was under the control of Jordan at the time. After the annexation, Israel conducted a census in these areas and granted permanent residency status to those present. Persons not present, many who were forced to flee as a result of the violence, lost their right to reside in their beloved city overnight.

Decades on, the situation remains much the same for the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Despite being born in the city, they are denied the rights of a citizen and obtaining citizenship of any other country would bring an end to even their limited status. Becoming a citizen of a state that has illegally annexed their land also does not appeal.

As permanent residents they are passport-less, cannot travel freely across Israeli borders and cannot vote in Israeli national elections. For them, staying in their city is hinged on what is called the “Centre of Life Policy”. In December 1995, without prior notice, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior decided that permanent residency, unlike citizenship, was to be a matter of daily reality. The policy means to retain residency you must continuously prove that the center of your life is in Jerusalem.

In order to prove their “center of life” to the ministry, Palestinian residents must endlessly collect documents such as receipts of medical treatment in Jerusalem hospitals or school registration forms. The authorities scrupulously pore over these papers, even sending unannounced inspectors to investigate deeper.

Obtaining citizenship or permanent residency in another country, despite not being considered a citizen of any state, results in revocation of their status. Spending too long abroad can also lead to the same- all East Jerusalem Palestinians who had not lived there for seven year or more lost their right to after the 1995 decision. Since 1967, more than 14, 000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have had their status as permanent residents revoked by the State.

Those who have had their status revoked face a life in hiding if they wish to remain, unable to register for university studies, apply for a job, sign up for an HMO or open a bank account.

In contrast, seventy percent of Jewish Israelis may hold two passports and can travel freely and relocate without fear that their citizenship will ever be revoked.

“You are constantly under watch all the time, from the day you are born and it doesn’t leave you until the day you die,” said Noa Diamond from Israeli rights group HaMoked. “It is a life facing the unknown. You have to plan your life on the Ministry of Interiors decisions.”

The Ministry can be especially cruel when it comes to the checks, scrutinizing the amount spent on electricity and saying it is too little for the whole family to be using it or the size of the apartment on the tax bill will be highlighted and the authorities will question if all the children can actually fit in this. The impromptu investigations can include inspectors checking the wardrobe of the family and deciding whether there is sufficient clothing in it or opening the fridge and evaluating its contents. “We are talking about the poorest socio-economic population, and the Ministry of the Interior is using their terrible socio-economic situation against them,” added Diamond.

The myriad of rules and regulations make normal family life difficult, even impossible. For example if X who holds a Jerusalem permanent resident ID marries Y from the West Bank, Y will not automatically be granted the right to reside with his wife- the couple can apply for “family reunification” when Y is 35 years old or over.

X won’t be able to live with her husband in the West Bank without fearing her residency rights will be revoked as her “center of life” will no longer be in Jerusalem. If she did move to the West Bank, like many Jerusalemites are forced to as a result of an artificial housing crisis brought on by discriminatory planning regulations, she will also not automatically receive a Palestinian ID card.

If they did apply for family reunification, which is normally a process that results in citizenship or permanent residency for the spouse in other countries, Y will only ever be eligible to receive an army permit which has to be renewed yearly indefinitely and limits all their actions (children from 14 onwards who apply for family reunification also only receive this). A change is Israel’s policy following HaMoked’s petition to the supreme court finally allows holders of permits to work as of 2013, but Diamond insists this is just “lip service” since high taxes make hiring Palestinians in this situation uneconomical.

If Y leaves the country and fails to renew this permit every year, he loses his right to ever return. Right of residency will not automatically pass onto their child. X will have to prove her centre of life is in Jerusalem before her child can be registered. Until she has done that the child will have no official residency status and will be exempt from certain social benefits.

People have a constant anxiousness about their status changing, noted Diamond. She said: “The main thing that strikes you when you meet people in this situation is they are constantly worrying about the bureaucracy to prove their centre of life is Jerusalem.”

“This is a tool Israel is using in order to push people out” said Diamond. “The goal is to have the minimum amount of Palestinians as permanent residents.”

Jalal Abukhater lived in this precarious situation for most of his childhood. Once a school boy studying in Ramallah, while living in East Jerusalem to retain his Jerusalem ID, he talked to MEMO about life being stateless. “I am not a full citizen of the state of Israel. Neither am I a full citizen of the Palestinian Authority. I am not even Jordanian. I do not hold any official nationality nor am I allowed to hold any.”

Life was like “living in purgatory,” he said. The separation wall that encircled Jerusalem turned the ten minute journey to school into a much longer ordeal as traffic waiting to get through the checkpoint clogged the road. His West Bank ID holding friends could not visit him.

But he added: “Staying in Jerusalem is resistance.”

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Statelessness: Palestinians in East Jerusalem fighting complete erasure

Palestinian man found hanged in suspected hate crime in Jerusalem

Ma’an – November 17, 2014

460_0___10000000_0_0_0_0_0_yousefJERUSALEM – A Palestinian bus driver was found hanged to death at a terminal northwest of Jerusalem late Sunday.

Yusuf Hasan al-Ramouni, 32, from al-Tur in East Jerusalem was a driver with Israeli company Egged. He was found hanged inside his bus at the Har Hotzvim terminal near Jerusalem.

Witnesses told Ma’an that other drivers saw al-Ramouni’s bus parked in the bus terminal during his working hours. A driver checked inside the bus and found al-Ramouni’s body hanging from a steel bar in the middle of the bus.

His colleagues cut the body down and he was taken to Hadassah hospital. Medics at the bus station tried to resuscitate him but he was later pronounced dead.

“According to an initial investigation, it appears there is no suspicion of criminal activity, in other words a suicide,” Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement, which said there were “no signs of violence on the body.”

But fellow bus driver Muatasem Fakeh said he had seen evidence to the contrary.

“We saw signs of violence on his body,” he told AFP.

“He was hanged over the steps at the back of the bus in a place where it would be impossible to hang yourself alone,” he added.

The victim’s brother, Osama al-Ramouni said the family did not accept the verdict of suicide, saying his body “had bruises on it,” suggesting he had been “tortured” before his death.

“My brother had children and was a happy man. It is impossible that he killed himself,” he told AFP.

“He had no problems that would make him do it,” he said, adding that a post-mortem would “reveal everything.”

“We reject the suicide theory. We all know it was settlers who killed him,” he said.

Several of al-Ramouni’s colleagues went on strike Monday in protest at his death.

An autopsy will be carried out later Monday. Al-Ramouni left behind a widow and two children.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out in the al-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem and Abu Dis following news of his death.

A photo taken of al-Ramouni’s body by relatives.

AFP contributed to this report

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Comments Off on Palestinian man found hanged in suspected hate crime in Jerusalem

Muslim scholars’ union slams UAE ‘terrorist’ label

yusuf-al-qaradawi

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
MEMO | November 17, 2014

The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) expressed its surprise on Monday over the decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to include the bloc on the country’s list of designated terrorist organisations.

In its statement, the union urged the UAE to “reconsider its unjustified position”.

The IUMS, established in 2004 and headed by Islamic scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, was among 83 movements and organisations that were labelled terrorist groups by the UAE on Saturday.

Also included in the list were the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State (ISIS), Yemen’s Shiite Houthi movement and the Egypt-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis militant group.

In its statement, the group said it rejects this labelling, asserting that since its establishment ten years ago, the IUMS “has promoted a moderate approach and discouraged extremism, terror and violence using cultural and educational means”.

“The IUMS has issued dozens of statements against terrorist and extremist groups,” it added.

On its website, the IUMS identifies itself as “an institution concerned with the call (Da’wah) to Islam by tongue, pen, and every contemporary legitimate medium; be it recorded, audio, or visual”.

“IUMS is not a local or a regional union, neither an Arab nor a national one, neither an eastern, nor a western union; rather, it represents all Muslims in the entire Islamic world, as well as all the Muslim [minority populations] and Islamic groups outside of the Islamic world.”

It also asserts that it “does not slant towards exaggerations and excesses, nor does it tilt towards default and negligence, but rather it adopts the centremost approach of the centremost Ummah (Islamic nation), an approach of mediation and moderation.”

The Egyptian-born Al-Qaradawi has been under fire by Egypt’s post-coup authorities for his vocal criticism of the military’s ouster – and subsequent imprisonment – of elected president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, last year.

Egypt branded the Brotherhood a “terrorist” movement late last year following the bombing of a security headquarters in the Nile Delta.

The label was attached to the movement amid a massive crackdown on its members, supporters and leaders on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and provinces.

Saudi Arabia also designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” movement in March of this year, following in Egypt’s footsteps.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia were amongst the first countries to welcome Morsi’s ouster. Both countries – along with Bahrain – withdrew their ambassadors from Doha last March, accusing Qatar of interfering in their affairs.

Many observers, however, linked the rift to Doha’s perceived support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Yet, the three countries agreed on Sunday to return their ambassadors to the Qatari capital following a surprise Gulf summit in Saudi Arabia.

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Redefining “Imminent”

How the U.S. Department of Justice Makes Murder Respectable, Kills the Innocent and Jails their Defenders

By Brian Terrell • Voices for Creative Non Violence • November 17, 2014

Political language can be used, George Orwell said in 1946, “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In order to justify its global assassination program, the Obama administration has had to stretch words beyond their natural breaking points. For instance, any male 14 years or older found dead in a drone strike zone is a “combatant” unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving him innocent. We are also informed that the constitutional guarantee of “due process” does not imply that the government must precede an execution with a trial.  I think the one word most degraded and twisted these days, to the goriest ends, is the word “imminent.”

Just what constitutes an “imminent” threat? Our government has long taken bold advantage of the American public’s willingness to support lavish spending on armaments and to accept civilian casualties in military adventures abroad and depletion of domestic programs at home, when told these are necessary responses to deflect precisely such threats. The government has vastly expanded the meaning of the word “imminent.” This new definition is crucial to the U.S. drone program, designed for projecting lethal force throughout the world. It provides a legal and moral pretext for the annihilation of people far away who pose no real threat to us at all.

The use of armed remotely controlled drones as the United States’ favored weapon in its “war on terror” is increasing exponentially in recent years, raising many disturbing questions. Wielding 500 pound bombs and Hellfire missiles, Predator and Reaper drones are not the precise and surgical instruments of war so effusively praised by President Obama for “narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among.” It is widely acknowledged that the majority of those killed in drone attacks are unintended, collateral victims. The deaths of the drones’ intended targets and how they are chosen should be no less troubling.

Those deliberately targeted by drones are often far from conflict zones, often they are in countries with whom the U.S. is not at war and on some occasions have been U.S. citizens. They are rarely “taken out” in the heat of battle or while engaged in hostile actions and are more likely to be killed (with anyone in their vicinity) at a wedding, at a funeral, at work, hoeing in the garden, driving down the highway or enjoying a meal with family and friends. These deaths are counted as something other than murder only for the curious insistence by the government’s lawyers that each of these victims represent an “imminent” threat to our lives and safety here at home in the U.S.

In February 2013, a U.S. Department of Justice White Paper, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force,” was leaked by NBC News. This paper sheds some light on the legal justification for drone assassinations and explains the new and more flexible definition of the word “imminent.” “First,” it declares, “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

Before the Department of Justice lawyers got a hold of it, the meaning of the word “imminent” was unmistakably clear. Various dictionaries of the English language are all in agreement that that the word “imminent” explicitly denotes something definite and immediate, “likely to occur at any moment,” “impending,” “ready to take place,” “looming,” “pending,” “threatening,” “around the corner.” Nor has the legal definition of the word left room for ambiguity. After World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunal reaffirmed a 19th-century formulation of customary international law written by Daniel Webster, which said that the necessity for preemptive use of force in self-defense must be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” That was in the past. Now, any possible future threat – and any person on earth who arguably might pose one – however remote, can satisfy the new definition. As far as the Justice Department is concerned, an “imminent” threat is now whomever an “informed high-level U.S. government official” determines to be such, based on evidence known to that official alone, never to be made public or reviewed by any court.

The breadth of the government’s definition of “imminent” is murderous in its enormity. It is all the more ironic that the same Department of Justice will also regularly define the word so narrowly as to convict and imprison law abiding and responsible citizens who act to defend the innocent from genuinely imminent harm by the actions of the U.S. government. On example especially relevant to the issue of killing by drone is the case of the “Creech 14.”

After the first act of nonviolent resistance to the lethal use of unmanned and remotely controlled drones in the United States took place at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada back in April, 2009, it took more than a year before the 14 of us accused of criminal trespass had our day in court. As this was the first opportunity for activists to “put drones on trial” at a time when few Americans were aware they even existed, we were especially diligent in preparing our case, to argue clearly and cogently, not in order to keep ourselves out of jail but for the sake of those who have died and those who live in fear of the drones. With coaching by some fine trial lawyers, our intention was to represent ourselves and drawing on humanitarian international law, to offer a strong defense of necessity, even while we were aware that there was little chance that the court would hear our arguments.

The defense of necessity, that one has not committed a crime if an act that is otherwise illegal was done to prevent a greater harm or crime from being perpetrated, is recognized by the Supreme Court as a part of the common law. It is not an exotic or even a particularly unusual defense. “The rationale behind the necessity defense is that sometimes, in a particular situation, a technical breach of the law is more advantageous to society than the consequence of strict adherence to the law,” says West’s Encyclopedia of American Law “The defense is often used successfully in cases that involve a Trespass on property to save a person’s life or property.” It might appear, then, that this defense is a natural one for minor infractions such as our alleged trespass, intended to stop the use of drones in a war of aggression, the crime against peace that the Nuremburg Tribunal named “the supreme international crime.”

In reality, though, courts in the U.S. almost never allow the necessity defense to be raised in cases like ours. Most of us were experienced enough not to be surprised when we finally got to the Justice Court in Las Vegas in September, 2010, and Judge Jensen ruled in lockstep with his judicial colleagues. He insisted at the onset of our case that he was having none of it. “Go ahead,” he said, allowing us to call our expert witnesses but sternly forbidding us from asking them any questions that matter. “Understand, it is only going to be limited to trespass, what knowledge he or she has, if any, whether you were or were not out at the base. We’re not getting into international laws; that’s not the issue. That’s not the issue. What the government is doing wrong, that’s not the issue. The issue is trespass.”

Our co-defendant Steve Kelly followed the judge’s instructions and questioned our first witness, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, about his firsthand knowledge of trespass laws from working at the Department of Justice during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Steve specifically guided the witness to speak of “the cases of trespass … of lunch counter activities where laws stated you were not to sit at certain lunch counters” in the struggle for civil rights. Ramsey Clark acknowledged that those arrested for violating these laws had not committed crimes. Steve pushed his luck with the judge and offered the classic illustration of the necessity defense: “A situation where there is a ‘no trespassing’ sign and there is smoke coming out of a door or a window and a person is up on the upper floor in need of help. To enter that building, in a real narrow technical sense, would be trespass. Is there a possibility, in the long run, it wouldn’t be trespass to help the person upstairs?” Ramsey replied, “We would hope so, wouldn’t we? To have a baby burn to death or something, because of a ‘no trespass’ sign would be poor public policy to put it mildly. Criminal.”

Judge Jensen by this time was obviously intrigued. His ruling to limit the testimony to trespass held, but as his fascination grew, so his interpretation of his own order grew more elastic. Over the repeated objections of the prosecution team, the judge allowed limited but powerful testimony from Ramsey and our other witnesses, retired US Army Colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright and Loyola Law School Professor Bill Quigley that put our alleged trespass into its context as an act to stop a heinous crime.

I had the honor of making the closing statement for the accused, which I ended with, “We 14 are the ones who are seeing the smoke from the burning house and we are not going to be stopped by a ‘no trespassing’ sign from going to the burning children.”

Our appreciation for a judge’s extraordinary attention to the facts of the case aside, we still expected nothing but an immediate conviction and sentencing. Judge Jensen surprised us: “I consider it more than just a plain trespass trial. A lot of serious issues are at stake here. So I’m going to take it under advisement and I will render a written decision. And it may take me two to three months to do so, because I want to make sure that I’m right on whatever I rule on.”

When we returned to Las Vegas in January, 2011, Judge Jensen read his decision that it was just a plain trespass trial, after all and we were guilty. Among several justifications for convicting us, the judge rejected what he called “the Defendants’ claim of necessity” because “first, the Defendants failed to show that their protest was designed to prevent ‘imminent’ harm.” He faulted our case for not presenting the court with “evidence that any military activities involving drones were being conducted or about to be conducted on the day of the Defendants’ arrest,” seeming to forget that he had ordered us not to submit any such evidence, even if we had it.

Judge Jensen’s verdict was amply supported by the precedents he cited, including a 1991 appellate court ruling, U.S. v Schoon, that concerned a protest aimed to “keep US tax dollars out of El Salvador” at an IRS office in Tucson. In this protest, the Ninth Circuit ruled, “the requisite imminence was lacking.” In other words, because the harm protested was taking place in El Salvador, a trespass in Tucson cannot be justified. So, Judge Jensen reasoned, burning children in a house in Afghanistan cannot excuse a trespass in Nevada.

The NBC leak of that Department of Justice White Paper wouldn’t happen for two more years (call it suppression of evidence?) and as far as Judge Jensen knew, the dictionary definition of “imminent” was still operant. Even so, had we been allowed to testify beyond the narrow confines set at trial, we would have shown that with new satellite technology, the lethal threat we were addressing there is always imminent by any reasonable definition of the word. Although the victims of drone violence on the day of our arrest were indeed far away in Afghanistan and Iraq, those crimes were actually being committed by combatants sitting at computer screens, engaged in real-time hostilities in trailers on the base, not so far at all from where we were apprehended by Air Force police.

The government does not believe that it needs to have “clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future” to establish an imminent threat and so carry out extrajudicial executions of human beings anywhere on the planet. Citizens who act to stop killing by drones, on the other hand, are required to have specific “evidence that any military activities involving drones were being conducted or about to be conducted,” in order to justify nonviolently entering into government property. The government’s position on this lacks coherence, at best. Even after the publication of its White Paper, the Department of Justice continues to block defendants accused of trespass from even mentioning the fact that they were arrested while responding to an imminent threat to innocent life, and the courts obligingly accept this contradiction.

The defense of necessity does not simply justify actions that technically violate the law. “Necessity,” says West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, is “a defense asserted by a criminal or civil defendant that he or she had no choice but to break the law.” As Ramsey Clark testified in the Las Vegas courtroom four years ago, “to have a baby burn to death because of a ‘no trespass sign’ would be poor public policy to put it mildly.” In a time of burning children, the “no trespassing” signs attached to the fences that protect the crimes executed with drones and other instruments of terror hold no potency and they do not command our obedience. The courts that do not recognize this reality allow themselves to be used as instruments of governmental malfeasance.

There have been many more trials since the Creech 14 and in the meanwhile, many more children have been incinerated by missiles fired from drones. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, Georgia Walker and Kathy Kelly will go to trial in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Missouri, after they peacefully brought their grievance and a loaf of bread onto Whiteman Air Force Base, another in the growing number of stateside remote control killer drone centers.

Two years ago in that same court in a similar case, Judge Whitworth rejected the necessity defense offered by Ron Faust and myself, subsequently sentencing Ron to five years of probation and sending me to prison for six months. It is to be hoped that Judge Whitworth will take advantage of this second chance that Kathy and Georgia courageously offer and exonerate himself and his profession.

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

How Many Islamic State Fighters Are There?

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | November 16, 2014

Why was I reminded of Vietnam on Saturday when Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq to “get a firsthand look at the situation in Iraq, receive briefings, and get better sense of how the campaign is progressing” against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL?

For years as the Vietnam quagmire deepened, U.S. political and military leaders flew off to Vietnam and were treated to a snow job by Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander there. Many would come back glowing about how the war was “progressing.”

Dempsey might have been better served if someone had shown him Patrick Cockburn’s article in the Independent entitled “War with Isis: Islamic militants have an army of 200,000, claims senior Kurdish leader.”

Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, told Cockburn that “I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilize Arab young men in the territory they have taken.”

Hussein estimated that Isis rules about one-third of Iraq and one-third of Syria with a population from 10 million to 12 million over an area of 250,000 square kilometers, roughly the size Great Britain, giving the jihadists a large pool of potential fighters to recruit.

While the Kurdish estimate may be high – it certainly exceeds “the tens of thousands,” maybe 20,000 to 30,000 that many Western analysts have claimed – the possibility that the Islamic State’s insurgency is bigger than believed could explain its startling success in overrunning the Iraqi Army around Mosul last summer and achieving surprising success against the well-regarded Kurdish pesh merga forces, too.

So, on his flight back to Washington, Dempsey will have time to ponder whether he has the courage to pass on this discouraging word to President Barack Obama about ISIS or whether he will put on the rose-colored glasses like an earlier generation of commanders did about Vietnam, where Westmoreland insisted that the number of enemy Vietnamese in South Vietnam could not go above 299,000.

Unfortunately, those obstinate Vietnamese Communists would not observe that artificial, politically inspired limit. Westmoreland was aware of the troubling reality but knew that acknowledging it would have undesired consequences in the United States where many Americans were souring on the war.

The inconvenient truth finally became abundantly clear during the Tet offensive in late January and early February 1968, but still the misbegotten war went on, and on, ultimately claiming some 58,000 U.S. lives and millions of Vietnamese.

Westmoreland’s gamesmanship with the numbers was known to some CIA officials – first and foremost, a very bright and courageous analyst named Sam Adams – but CIA Director Richard Helms silenced them out of fear of political retribution. “My responsibility is to protect the Agency,” Helms told them, “and I cannot do that if we get into a pissing match with a U.S. Army at war.”

Today’s CIA Director John Brennan is similarly at pains to protect the Agency on a number of fronts. Is he likely to tell the truth about ISIS if it means the prospects for a renewed war in Iraq and a new war in Syria are especially grim? If not, are there no Sam Adamses left at the CIA?

Honest Analysts?

Honest intelligence analysts played a key role in the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” which helped thwart Bush/Cheney plans to apply Iraqi-type “shock and awe” to Iran during their last year in office. The NIE concluded, unanimously and “with high confidence,” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003.

In his memoir, Decision Points, President George W. Bush called the NIE’s findings “eye-popping.” He openly bemoaned how the estimate deprived him of the military option, writing “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

The NIE on Iran was issued seven years ago. One has to hope that a few honest analysts on the Near East have survived the CIA directorships of Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus and John Brennan and have the courage to tell the truth about ISIS – including how U.S. military intervention now is swelling ISIS’s ranks, much as the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq in 2003 created the conditions for the group’s birth, then called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

If honest intelligence analysts are silenced, as Sam Adams was 47 years ago, they need to plumb their consciences and see if they have the guts to make public both the undercounting of enemy forces AND the fillip given to their multiplication by further U.S. military involvement.

Though having worked within the system to get the real enemy troop estimates to senior U.S. officials, Sam Adams went to an early, remorse-filled death, unable to overcome the thought of what might well have happened to shorten the war if he had broken with the CIA’s demands for secrecy and made the actual enemy numbers public.

Possibly, the armed conflict might have ended in 1968. Or, to put it another way, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington would have no need for a western wall since there would be no names to chisel into the granite.

If Gen. Dempsey decides to ape Westmoreland and dissemble about the realistic obstacles to military success against the Islamic State fighters and about the counterproductive effects of U.S. intervention, well, our country will need a new Sam Adams willing, this time, to blast the truth into the open.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence

Sam Adams’s memory is invoked each year as Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence make their annual award for integrity. SAAII is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms — roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus.

Gen. Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. And his deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, specifically warned Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.

A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Abrams on Aug. 20, 1967, stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’s “higher figures” were correct. Senior intelligence officials were aware of the deception, but lacked the courage to stand up to Westmoreland. Sadly, Sam Adams remained reluctant to go “outside channels.”

A few weeks after Tet, however, former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion. Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond.

Someone else promptly leaked to the New York Times Westmoreland’s troop request, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ story. Ellsberg had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” It was his first unauthorized disclosure. On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Lyndon Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”

On March 31, 1968, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels” — and failed. He died at 55 of a heart attack, nagged by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled, many lives might have been saved. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a close colleague of Sam Adams; the two began their CIA analyst careers together during the last months of John Kennedy’s administration. During the Vietnam War, McGovern was responsible for analyzing Soviet policy toward China and Vietnam.

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , | Comments Off on How Many Islamic State Fighters Are There?